I think Hollywood sometimes has a problem understanding what truly makes a strong character, especially a strong female character. Being a strong female character does not have to mean that you can kick some literal ass. Often, being a kick-ass lady can simply mean being intelligent, confident, and in control. It’s nice when lady characters fight and kick ass, but as with all things, we need diversity.
We need lady characters who kick literal and metaphorical butt. Sadly, trends seem to lean towards having female characters that are fighters in order to prove their badassery. So in no particular order, I’ve compiled a list of my top five female characters who kick ass without literally kicking ass.
1. Morticia Addams (The Addams Family)
One of my life goals is to be Morticia Addams—or at least for my love life to be something like hers. Morticia is always effortlessly beautiful, and despite Gomez being the patriarch of the household, Morticia is clearly the one who runs the show. In the first Addams Family movie, Gomez falls into depression after his brother, Fester, takes everything from them and kicks them out of their family home. It’s Morticia who rallies the family and financially supports Gomez while he is trapped in this depression. Furthermore, she is the one who decides to go to Fester to convince him to reconcile with Gomez and is ultimately the one who discovers the plot to steal the Addams family fortune that is being planned by Fester’s adopted mother and the family lawyer, Tully. Morticia wields power and authority, all while looking fabulous.
2. Charlotte “Chuck” Charles (Pushing Daisies)
Chuck, from the short-lived but excellent TV show Pushing Daisies, is a fantastic heroine who saves the day without having to throw a literal punch. Chuck helps her male cohorts, Ned and Emerson, solve murders. She is Ned’s first love who was murdered on a cruise, but brought back to life by Ned. Ned tries to prevent Chuck from going out into the world after her resurrection, but Chuck refuses to let the boys solve her murder without her. Furthermore, Chuck, who was often cloistered away at home by her aunts, is now determined to live her life. She works at Ned’s pie shop and insists on turning Emerson and Ned’s crime-solving duo into a trio, despite their objections. Chuck is not afraid to stand up for herself and make her own way in her life. She may not shoot a bow and arrow, but she is definitely one of the strongest female characters out there.
3. Fantine (Les Misérables)
Considering how beaten and broken Fantine is by the time she dies, you might think she shouldn’t be on this list. But if you think that, then you need to reconsider what qualities makes a strong woman because, in my eyes, Fantine is one of the best. She was a single mother in a time when single mothers were considered pariahs (sadly not much has changed); but, despite this, Fantine manages to make do. She asks the Thénardiers to take care of her daughter since a married couple taking care of Cosette would give Cosette better opportunities in life than if she lived with Fantine. In exchange, Fantine pays the Thénardiers a good portion of her wages for living expenses. To afford this, Fantine first works as a low-income factory worker where she had little recourse against her boss, who constantly sexually harassed her. When Fantine is fired from her job, she still refuses to give up and let Cosette live a poor life like hers. In order to support her daughter, Fantine sells her locket and even her hair, before finally becoming a prostitute. Her dying words are still of her daughter and making sure Cosette’s future is secure by asking Valjean to raise her. If Fantine isn’t a strong female character, then I don’t know who is.
4. Belle (Beauty and the Beast)
Before characters like Mulan and Merida, Belle was one of the only characters that feminists saw as a good Disney princess. While she has never fought Huns or shot an arrow, she is definitely one of the most competent and intelligent of the Disney princesses. Belle, first and foremost, fosters a love of reading and learning which makes her highly intelligent. She refuses to let men dictate her life for her, whether it’s Gaston or Beast, both of whom try to bully her into doing what they want at different points in the movie. Belle, furthermore, has a strong will and will not take any of Beast’s shit. It’s ultimately her spitfire attitude which forces him to turn his life around and stop acting so… well, beastly. On top of all this, she trades her life and her desire for freedom in order to save her father. Belle is certainly not a Disney princess to be brushed aside.
5. Narcissa Malfoy
Let’s face it, out of the three members of the Malfoy family, Narcissa is definitely the most intelligent, and is most likely the reason the Malfoys aren’t sent to Azkaban after the war. Narcissa, unlike her son and husband, doesn’t trust or support Voldemort (at least at the point in the books that we finally see her). She doesn’t seem to care much for Dumbledore or Harry either, but she does care about her family. She defies the Dark Lord to ask Snape to protect Draco on his mission to kill Dumbledore. And in her greatest moment, she saves Harry’s life when she lies about him being alive in the Forbidden Forest. Her actions give Harry a great advantage against Voldemort and, one could argue, ends up deciding the outcome of the war. And that’s on top of saving her family from being imprisoned in the long run.
So there you have five female characters that kick all kinds of ass without actually having to beat anybody up! It’s important for female characters to be diverse. We need just as many lady characters who run the world without needing to know hand to hand combat. Women are diverse and deserve a wide range of characters to reflect that diversity. Having lady characters who fight is a good thing, but sometimes it’s nice to know that women can kick some ass without wielding a sword. Are there any ladies you think I should have mentioned? Tell me in the comments!
My only real problem with Belle is that, as awesome as books and learning are, and as much as I loved her as a kid, there is this horrible underlying message with that movie that ‘if you love him, he will change’ that gets so many people trapped in abusive relationships. Perhaps wrongly, but for me that sort of spoils her as a female character I can truly appreciate.
Morticia Addams all the way! 🙂 I live by her quote ‘Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.’ Truly badass!
Irene Adler!!! She was the only person who ever beat Sherlock Holmes. Twice.
Inara Serra from Firefly. She’s awesome and so powerful, albeit in a stealthy and “ladylike” way. And B’Elanna Torres from Star Trek Voyager.
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