Search

Graphic Novelty²

Tag

Fiction’s Fearless Females

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Wendy Torrance

The last of our planned eight piece series on Fiction’s Fearless Females is here! In celebration of Women’s History Month and beyond, both of us here at Graphic Novelty² joined forces with some amazing bloggers to celebrate women. Kalie of Just Dread-full features Wendy Torrance, the scream queen of the Stephen King movie The Shining, and brings us home with her post. While Wendy might seem an atypical choice for this series, Kalie expertly shows how Wendy persevered despite her fear. And while you are checking out Kalie’s post, make sure you read the rest of her blog about horror books and movies, for her writing is dread-fully insightful!

Guest Blogger: Kalie of Just Dread-full

Photo Credit — The Shining

One of my favorite scenes in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a two or three second shock during which a series of terrifying events happen.  At this point in the film, Danny has been replaced by Tony, who’s saying “Redrum” in a voice that’s robotic at first and amplifies in intensity and urgency as Jack’s presence gets closer.  As Danny—or “Tony,” his psychic alter-ego—screams “Redrum,” Wendy reads the words backward in the mirror.  The camera pans in on the word “murder” written in childish handwriting with blood-red lipstick.  Almost as soon as we, the viewers, read “murder” in the mirror, we hear the unnerving sound of an ax chopping through wood and the camera moves to Jack, who wields the huge, sharp, silver device and uses it to slice through the wooden door of the caretaker’s quarters, where Danny and Wendy reside.  As if this nexus of sensation weren’t enough to alarm us, the viewers, and pull as even a little more deeply into The Shining’s sinister, unpredictable world, Wendy’s voice intercepts this moment with a simultaneously frenetic and bone-chilling scream—a scream that we’ll hear different variations of for the rest of the movie.  In turn, we, as the viewers—at least a little bit—start feeling Wendy’s maddening fear, and our cognition is ultimately forced to accept a mis-en-scene and narrative moment that’s eliminated anything reassuring or comforting for us to latch onto.  We are, in a sense, in the void, and we are there with Wendy.

Photo Credit — The Shining

Wendy may seem like an unusual choice to write about for a series entitled “Fiction’s Fearless Females,” for as any cursory fan of The Shining knows, Wendy—played by scream queen Shelly Duvall—is a flawed, often anxious character who lapses into a state of unbridled, near hysterical terror as the horror in The Overlook Hotel intensifies.  It occurred to me shortly after electing my character for this series that I may have chosen a character who I happen to love, but who doesn’t quite qualify as “fearless.”  Isn’t fearlessness something like maintaining impeccable sangfroid in the face of sometimes unspeakably horrifying, life-or-death situations?  Maybe fearlessness is only Princess Leia’s impressive, almost unwavering calmness and confidence, despite every obstacle she faces, in Episodes IV-VI of Star Wars.  Maybe fearlessness is only Ripley’s stolid leadership and remarkable competence as large, gooey, sharp-toothed, aggressive otherworldly beings invade a vulnerable ship floating around in outer-space.  Maybe—as some of my students suggested when we watched The Shining in my Reading the Monster class—maybe Wendy reifies some stereotypes of the quintessential “hysterical” woman.  Maybe she exercises bad judgement when she stays in the hotel with Danny as long as she does.  Maybe she exercises bad judgement because she’s stayed with Jack for so long, period.  Maybe she’s a door-mat.  Maybe she’s a chicken-shit.

Photo Credit — The Shining

Maybe.  The aforementioned observations are all compelling ones.  Reasonable minds could agree with all of them.  Most reasonable minds might agree with some of them.  For myself, personally, I’m inclined to think that by the time Wendy has reason to make her way down a mountain in what kind of equals a glorified snowmobile, Jack has annihilated all her escape options.  And it’s quite possible that she’s been emotionally abused by Jack throughout their whole marriage—at least, in Kubrick’s rendition of King’s story—and therefore is trapped in a typical cycle of abuse, a cycle that often precludes even the “strongest” women from breaking free as soon as they otherwise could or as soon as we often estimate they should.  What’s more, when it comes down to it, Wendy is plenty willing to sacrifice Jack to save herself and Danny.  After all, she conks Jack over the head with a bat and locks him in a freezer, with the intent of leaving him there while she escapes from The Overlook with Danny on a trip down a mountain, in the snow-cat, in the middle of fierce Colorado winter. And she befriends a sizeable kitchen knife during her ordeals so that she can stave off her raving husband by any means necessary.  So, we may be able to argue against some assertions that would make us question Wendy’s alleged “strength.”  But despite all of the possible arguments and counter-arguments about Wendy’s fortitude, at the end of the day, I’m not so sure any of it matters.  Wendy is evidently under insuperable distress.  In some ways, she’s a little bit of a mess before and during this distress.  Therein, I argue, lies not only her charm, but her ticket into this series.

Photo Credit – The Shining

I was having a conversation about courage once a long time ago.  One wise friend asserted that courage is that calm feeling of reassurance you have in your heart, the absence of fear in the face of incredible f***ing danger.  Shit, I thought to myself, in that case, I don’t know that I’ve ever had courage in my life. Luckily for me, another friend interjected and argued that courage was the decision to move forward, to take action, no matter how afraid you are.  Fearlessness, in this analysis—however paradoxically—lies not so much in the absence of fear, per se, but in the ability to push through that fear and act, no matter how much trepidation lies in your heart, no matter how riled up you might appear.  It is the refusal to let fear stop you when you’re called to action, and to perform the action anyway.  This definition, I’ll admit, I much preferred as I listened to the conversation, and it’s the one I tend to adopt in my life, though not always successfully.  It turns out that even being “fearless” in this way—demonstrating fearlessness by acting, no matter how scared you are—is a fairly daunting goal—as anyone who’s lived a few years on this earth can probably understand.  But it is this sort of fearlessness that Wendy accomplishes, despite whatever flaws she may have, despite her indisputably evident outward terror—and that, I think, is why I love her.

Photo Credit – The Shining

It would be easy, after all, to give up in Wendy’s situation.  She’s in a secluded hotel in the middle of the winter, and I would be inclined to argue that not only does she have a psychic son who’s a partial victim of his own power, not only is she warring against a mad husband who is malicious and mean beyond reason, to the point of murderous nefariousness, but she has—as I view the film—an entire, active pantheon of ghosts, an essentially vengeful, psychic hotel that encapsulates a wide range of unhappy spirits, acting against her.  It’s a force that exists beyond human force, a force that wants to kill her, a force that wants to subsume her husband and eliminate that pesky psychic son.  The situation is, in some senses, hopeless.  But, as the saying goes, “nevertheless, she persisted.”  Wendy shrieks and jumps and screams and cries and fights, and she plans and she reasons and she fights some more, and she puts Danny’s life first while simultaneously trying to preserve her own, if, primarily, for his well-being.  In fact, I’d argue that in the midst of traumatizing absolute terror, she makes smart decision after smart decision, and as a result, she and her unusually smart son beat the hotel at its own game.

Photo Credit — The Shining

Wendy is a jolting, electric force without being perfect, and I like that about her because in my own life, I find that coveting perfection can be beneficial, but it can also be counterproductive.  I often envision a more organized self who moves effortlessly and quickly through her PhD program, who is a dynamic, engaging teacher every single day and at the same time a perfect friend, girlfriend, sister and daughter – someone with strong convictions and a good heart, who keeps a meticulous house and eats leafy greens with every meal.  I want to be a grad student who’s always dressed impeccably and stylishly, but whose savings account is always ample as well.  I want to be centered and peaceful, to create the perfect interior and exterior—and maybe, if I have time, the perfect social media persona.  Sometimes, in fact, my ideal self becomes so exhausting to think about (and so far from the real story) that it’s no wonder I resent perfection. It definitely has its place in film; there are a lot of almost “perfect” film characters that I adore—and I certainly believe in striving to be better in my own life, despite how I might meander, at times—but good God, trying to live up to my own ideal of perfection is exhausting.  And I think that’s kind of how perfection works for most of us—the desire to improve is a motivator, for sure, but taken to extremes, visions of perfection can also be barriers to fulfillment.

Photo Credit – The Shining

Jacques Lacan said that human existence is defined by lack. This is how I understand his point: To some extent, our inner selves are always consciously seeking a more perfect version of the ego, a better “self” to replace the self that we perceive doesn’t have enough of one quality or another.  When I first heard this concept, it really resonated with me, because I think I’m someone who’s always been far quicker to register what she lacks than what she possesses.  But to Lacan, this is a universal element of being human; we all wish we had certain attributes that we don’t, and so we define ourselves by what we aren’t, instead of what we are.  This is the appeal of characters like Wendy, characters who don’t embody complete perfection.  As someone who tends to wish she were a little more “calm and collected,” a little more pulled together than she is, I get Wendy when she’s screaming and crying and wheezing while she’s trying to stave off her maniacal, murdering husband, even though I could never fully imagine being in an ordeal like hers.  And I doubt, most of the times, that I’d be doing her job as competently as she does it toward the conclusion of Kubrick’s film.  She is a spasmodic mess at points in the film, but she gets the job done—and she’s a good person, on top of it all.

Photo Credit — The Shining

When we walk away from Kubrick’s narrative, after all, we leave behind a Jack Torrance who’s an opaque shade of candy-colored white-blue, sitting, frozen stiff, in the cold.  Wendy and Danny have escaped.  We’ve seen them run to the snow cat that Dick Halloran drove when he demonstrated his own act of fearlessness and traveled to The Overlook to try and help the family.  The blustery winter is still formidable, and it may well be a symbolic harbinger of the blustering winter that lies ahead for Wendy and Danny—a life that will never feel completely safe or comfortable, a life without Jack, a life that will never be the same since madness and malice have further disrupted their already seemingly tumultuous relationships.  After all, any realistic viewer knows when they watch Wendy and Danny run through the snow to the snow cat, that should they make it down the mountain, it’s not the whimsical happily ever after that I perhaps imagined when I first watched the movie at age eleven and sighed with a sort of exultant relief at their surprising escape.  Life, which is just sort of inherently hard, will be harder for them, yet.  And still, they are alive.  And they are still alive, in large part, because of Wendy—a Wendy who emits maddening screams and tears, a Wendy who has her own flaws, a Wendy who can be hysterical to the point of spastic, but a Wendy perseveres and ultimately triumphs.

[Kalie’s Note: I wrote this piece as part of an epic blog team-up aimed at celebrating Fiction’s Fearless Females. The series launched on International Women’s Day and continues through…my belated post. Other awesome bloggers in this super-awesome series include: Kathleen and Nancy of Graphic Novelty2 , Green Onion of The Green Onion Blog, Jeff of The Imperial Talker, Michael of My Comic Relief, Rob of My Side of the Laundry Room, and Kiri of Star Wars Anonymous. ]

Catch up on all the other Fiction’s Fearless Females:

Ellen Ripley

Captain Janeway

Amy Pond

Wonder Woman

Scarlett

Princess Leia

Rey 

 

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Rey

In celebration of Women’s History Month and beyondboth of us here at Graphic Novelty² have joined forces with some other amazing bloggers to celebrate women under the auspicious blogging series title of: Fiction’s Fearless Females! This is the seventh of our planned eight piece series, and Kiri of Star Wars Anonymous features Rey of Star Wars!  In Kiri’s Star Wars blog she shares heartfelt reasons why Rey is fearless and connects the theme to love and her own life. Make sure you check out out her site and her thoughts on a galaxy far, far away…

Guest Blogger: Kiri of Star Wars Anonymous 

I have heard that the opposite of love is fear, not hate, which may be first emotion that comes to mind due to the love/hate analogies we often make. If we go by that assumption, then someone who is fearless, or without fear, is someone who loves immensely.

When asked by My Comic Relief to join in on the #FictionsFearlessFemales and write about a character from Star Wars, I immediately thought of Rey. Not Leia, like so many people often think of when they think about a fearless woman from Star Wars. Not Leia, but Rey.

Why is that?

As I dove deeper into my own exploration of Rey versus Leia and why I think Rey epitomizes a fearless woman more, I realized that much of why I like Rey is due to her relatability. Leia is stone, Rey is warmth. It’s not to say that Leia is not fearless, but more that I believe Rey is easier for me to relate to in her fearlessness.

When going by the theory that the opposite of fear is love, Rey demonstrates that in full capacity. When loving to your fullest extent, you:

  1. Love yourself
  2. Love others
  3. Love life

That is how you are fearless.

My past 6 months have been a whirlwind of horrible fear. In a nutshell, I have been bombarded with heavy subjects like drugs, addiction, overdose, death, and loss of money. I was not fearless. Even just writing this makes my heart rate rise and I get clammy hands. It was like an earthquake happened in my life. I am still dealing with aftershocks of this earthquake which namely include my lack of sleep due to hypnic jerks which leave me awake until 2 or 3am that happen night after night, physical symptoms that have been knots in my stomach for months so much so that I can’t distinguish happy or tense emotions from general anxiety, and pins and needles in my chest from sleeping in the fetal position every night.

I am not fearless. I am fear-filled.

To break away from fear, you need to love. You need to accept your limitations and others and love the life you have.

LOVE YOURSELF

Rey loves herself. I think she had to learn to love herself and be okay with waiting days on end for parents to return to her. This was part of her core and it gave her hope on Jakku. Even after the horrible realization that her parents were nobodies in The Last Jedi, she did not give into fear. Giving into fear would have been joining Kylo Ren because he would then represent the safety that she had been looking for in her parents. But Rey realized, or had possibly been beginning to realize through her training and with the mirror, that the safety and home she was looking for could only be found in herself.

Loving yourself means having a strong conviction and not deterring from it. Rey shows that stronger than any other Star Wars character, except possibly Luke in the Original Trilogy. In The Last Jedi, we are bombarded with the message of the movie: hope. But I think the message of the movie is always doing what you think is right, no matter what others think. Rey exemplifies this throughout both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, but especially in The Last Jedi. I would not be able to continue to do what was right after

being turned away by Luke. She followed her feelings and went to save Kylo, even if it didn’t work out. She went back to the Resistance, instead of going back to Luke at the end of the movie even though it may have made more sense to continue her training. She knew she was needed with the Resistance, to bring them hope again. Rey’s sense of self makes her more fearless than many people I know in my everyday life.

LOVE OTHERS

Rey shows her love for others unabashedly. It’s one of the character traits that I aspire to – the fact that she can show her emotions and not fear her emotions.

So often our society tells us to hide our emotions and Hollywood perpetuates this with their definition of “strong”. I think it is the main reason that I could not relate to Leia when I grew up but related more to Luke. The one scene that I would act out over and over again when I was younger was when Luke tells Leia about Vader being her father. It’s the one scene where she lets her guard down, where her emotions overtake her and she needs to be held by Han at the end. It’s a glimmer of emotion.

I immediately connected to Rey after the first viewing of The Force Awakens. She laughs with such joy over simple fixes in the Millennium Falcon, her excitement over meeting Han Solo is so real, and her devastation over Finn’s possible death and serious wounds tugged my heart strings. Rey wears her heart on her sleeve and I love her for that.

She continues this in The Last Jedi. Her anger at Kylo erupts from her when she yells at him for not appreciating his father, her frustration with Luke at his unwillingness to help culminates in physical fight, and her delight in seeing Finn at the end of the movie reminds us of her loyalty to her friends and the Resistance.

I hope that we see more women like this in movies as Hollywood continues to evolve. Not only for women, but also for men. It’s okay to cry and it’s okay to be unrestrained in your joy. We don’t need to act like toddlers with no control whatsoever, but we need to get over our fear of showing our emotions. We need to become fearless, like Rey.

LOVE LIFE

 

 

 

 

 

We love life by walking through it without fear holding us back. We take leaps of chance, hoping it turns out okay, and if it doesn’t, knowing that we will be okay in the end. When you’re filled with fear, you don’t follow your passions, it’s hard to make attachments and your focus is keeping yourself safe.

While safety is important, if we are always full of fear about something happening, we miss out on the beauty life offers us.

Rey waited around on Jakku for her parents to return for a long time and with a lot of patience. But when Finn and BB-8 were thrown into her life, she accepted the change and went along with what life threw at her. She had an adventure of a lifetime.

Rey loved herself enough to know that she would harness life and try new things without fear. She felt the Force, and used it to get out of her jail cell. She went off in search of Luke Skywalker and stayed there until she knew life was pushing her in a different direction. Rey could have stayed on Ahch-To long past when she left, insisting on doing things the “right” way and getting a complete training. But instead, she followed a different path and believed that life and the Force would take her where she needed to be.

We may not have the Force, but we do have gut feelings. We are only given one life, as far as we know. Don’t give into the fear of feeling like nothing will work out and that you need to remain safe. That is a fear trap.

If you made it to the end of the post, I hope you are swayed on how Rey is fearless, and perhaps more fearless than Leia. Today is my birthday and while I was writing this, I knew that this next year had to be one of less fear and more love. To stop worrying because what will be, will be. I no longer want to feel the chains of fear, but instead to have more conviction in my beliefs, show more emotion, and take chances that throw me into an adventure.

In short, I hope to be more like Rey and be FEARLESS.

******

I’ve joined forces with some other exciting bloggers and YouTubers – Nancy and Kathleen of Graphic Novelty2, Rob of My Side of the Laundry Room, Jeff of The Imperial Talker, Kalie of Just Dread-full, Mike of My Comic Relief and Green Onion of The Green Onion Blog – for a little salute to “Fiction’s Fearless Females.” Starting on International Women’s Day and going forward over the next couple months, a different contributor will offer their take on a favorite female who harbors a fearless spirit. Click on the links below to read about the other women being profiled.

Fiction’s Fearless Females

Ellen Ripley

Captain Janeway

Amy Pond

Wonder Woman

Scarlett

Princess Leia

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Princess Leia

In celebration of Women’s History Monthboth of us here at Graphic Novelty² have joined forces with some other amazing bloggers to celebrate women under the auspicious blogging series title of: Fiction’s Fearless Females! This is the sixth of our planned eight piece series, and Jeff of The Imperial Talker features Princess Leia of Star Wars! I do not think it was a coincidence he posted the feature on his site the day before the first trailer dropped for Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (OMG, the movie looks fantastic!). Read on to find out what this Star Wars expert has to say about the indomitable Leia Organa!  

Guest Blogger: Jeff of The Imperial Talker

There is a line in Star Wars: A New Hope which often gets lost in the greater scope of the film, a quote which points to the toughness of the movie’s lone female protagonist, Princess Leia. It comes when Darth Vader, the movie’s villain, speaks to Grand Moff Tarkin, the secondary villain in the film. Pacing back and forth as if annoyed, Vader admits that, “Her [Leia’s] resistance to the mind probe is considerable. It will be some time before we can extract any information from her.” Prior to this admission, we saw Vader enter Princess Leia’s prison cell with an interrogation droid floating behind him, a needle protruding from the droid and Leia’s face giving off subtle apprehension. Now, Vader states that it was for not, that the Princess has resisted this “mind probe” and that breaking her will take more time.

I have always loved this line; it has always resonated with me because it points directly to the fearless resolve which resides in the heart of Princess Leia. Even before Vader utters these words, we know that Leia is a force to be reckoned with, a whirlwind of confidence capable of holding her own. After all, it is Leia who was leading the mission to Tatooine to find Jedi General Obi-Wan Kenobi at the film’s outset. When the ship fell under attack, Leia created a new plan to secure Kenobi’s help EVEN AS IMPERIAL SOLDIERS STORMED THE VESSEL! Dispatching the droid R2-D2 to Tatooine’s surface, Leia awaited her inevitable capture, and even shoots/kills an Imperial stormtrooper before she is apprehended.

Leia and Vader
Leia confronts Darth Vader after her ship is attacked and she is captured.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Captured by the Empire’s white-armored soldiers, Princess Leia is escorted before Darth Vader, the nefarious and imposing villain we were JUST formally introduced to as he lifted a man by the neck and crushed his windpipe. The black-clad Vader towers above the petite, white dressed Princess, an obvious visual meant to represent the power of the evil Empire towering over the small, fledgling Rebellion. But Leia is far from intimidated. Oh no, not only does she stand tall next to this masked monster, she speaks first AND is the one who chastises him with palpable disdain!!!

In just a few frames, Leia presents herself as competent and fearless, especially under pressure. Rather than quivering and backing down, she boldly stands her ground against imposing odds. It is no wonder then that later, when Darth Vader assaults Leia, probing her mind for the “location of the Rebel base”, her resistance is “considerable.” Princess Leia is the embodiment of fearless resolve, the very heart and soul of the small Rebellion against an Empire which spans a galaxy. There was never a chance the mind probe would work, it was always going to be an act of futility on the part of Vader.

An Alternative Form of Persuasion

It is Grand Moff Tarkin who chooses a new tactic to extract the information they seek following the failure of the mind-probe. Rather than probing her mind, Tarkin gives Leia a choice: give up the location of the Rebel base OR watch as her home planet of Alderaan is destroyed by the Death Star superweapon. It is a brilliant move on Tarkin’s part, one that catches Leia off-guard. Pleading with him, the Princess turns into a supplicant as she tells the Grand Moff her planet is “peaceful” and has “no weapons.” Tarkin, of course, does not care and, presenting the question again, demands to know where the Rebel base is located. It is now that Leia gives in: “Dantooine. They’re on Dantooine.”

Leia Stares Down Tarkin
Leia and Grand Moff Tarkin square-off.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

That Leia gives in to Tarkin is shocking, but all the more painful as Leia must continue to stand and watch as Alderaan is destroyed. This is an unsurprising move on Tarkin’s part, an obvious example being made to the whole galaxy (and the Princess) that no one, not even “peaceful” worlds, are safe from Imperial military might. Now, the fearless young woman who stood her ground at the film’s opening, who chastised Vader and resisted his mind probe must steel herself as she watches her home world and her family perish in a ball of fire.

And yet, what we do not realize in this moment is that Leia has tricked Tarkin. Presented with the choice of Alderaan being destroyed OR the Rebellion being destroyed, the quick-thinking Princess chose a different route: an open-ended lie. We do not discover this right away, not until an Imperial officer informs Tarkin that scout ships discovered a deserted Rebel base on Dantooine. Furious, but more importantly humiliated, the Grand Moff orders the immediate execution of the Princess.

That Leia lies about the location of the Rebel base is brilliant, a narrative misdirect that leads Tarkin and the audience alike to THINK this strong-willed woman has caved under pressure. It is easy to forget this, as later we DO discover the real location of the Rebel base. But in this instance, we are led to believe Leia has given it up, that Dantooine is, in fact, the location. Instead, what we discover a few scenes later is that Princess Leia was in control the entire time, and while her plea to the Grand Moff that “Alderaan is peaceful” is certainly genuine, it, too, was also part of her quick thinking plan to save both Alderaan AND the Rebellion.

Awaiting Tarkin’s Fury

Knowing she has lied to Grand Moff, we can surmise that after being returned to her cell that the Princess sat and waited for Tarkin’s fury. Surely, too, she sat there in mourning, the loss of her world and family weighing heavily on her heart. One could hardly criticize the fearless female if she did break down and cry, although it is hardly necessary to know whether she did. The imagination is enough in this case.

Regardless, when we next see Leia she is reclining on the hard bench in her detention cell. Luke Skywalker, wearing stormtrooper armor, barges in to the rescue and, without missing a beat, the reclined Princess – certainly suspecting Tarkin’s fury has arrived – directs a shot of insulting sarcasm at the soldier: “Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?” While Vader’s comment about her resistance to the mind-probe directly points to Leia’s strong-willed personality, this shot of sarcasm – coupled with the sarcasm she throws at Tarkin earlier (see video clip) – highlights her constant disposition towards her Imperial foes. Basically, Leia is always ready to level an attack against the Empire, even if that attack is in the form of words alone.

But she is also more than happy to criticize her own allies, in this case her rescuers: Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca. Cornered by Imperial soldiers in the detention center, the Princess chastises the films heroic men, noting that it “Looks like you managed to cut off our only escape route.” What makes this all the better is that the quick-thinking Princess – who, we should remember, was not anticipating a rescue – immediately comes up with a plan and puts it into action. Taking the blaster from Skywalker, Leia blasts open the wall across from her and demands that everyone jump into the garbage chute. Before objections can be raised, Leia is already on her way into the depths of a Death Star trash compactor.

To be perfectly honest, this has always been my favorite “Leia Moment” in A New Hope. On one hand, her action makes the film’s heroes – Luke and Han – look incredibly foolish for not actually thinking about HOW they should go about completing their rescue mission. On the other hand, and more importantly, this moment demonstrates a clear reversal in fortune for the Princess. When the film begins, and her ship falls under attack, the protocol droid C-3PO tells R2-D2, “There will be no escape for the Princess this time.” True in that moment, C-3PO is ultimately proven wrong as Leia not only escapes, but does so by taking control of her own rescue when she and her allies are quite literally backed into a corner.

Into the Garbage Chute
“Into the garbage chute, flyboy!” – Princess Leia
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

But there is an additional element of control which Leia brings to her escape: her decision to travel directly to the Rebel Base on Yavin 4. Why, if Leia knew the Millennium Falcon was being tracked, would she willingly lead the Empire to the Rebel Base, the location she resisted sharing with Vader and Tarkin? For some time, I felt this was a curious move on her part, a clear flaw in her thinking. Yet, the deeper I have considered it, the more I have realized that it is the safest choice given the stakes. With Alderaan destroyed and Obi-Wan Kenobi dead, Princess Leia is left with the only choice that makes any sense: getting the Death Star schematics stored in R2-D2 to the Rebel High Command as quickly as possible. A detour to another world, or a stop to acquire a new ship, runs the risk of Imperial capture, while traveling directly to the Rebellion ensures that the Death Star information (not to mention her own life) is protected. Besides, the sooner the schematics are delivered, the sooner the Rebellion can craft a plan of attack to destroy the planet-killing superweapon.

A Beacon of Hope

Once Leia and company arrive at the Rebel Base on Yavin 4 her role in the film becomes primarily observational. While Luke Skywalker will jump into an X-Wing to participate in the impending engagement, and Han Solo will get a reward and leave before the fight begins, Leia will stand in the Rebel Command Center watching the battle unfold on display screens. Admittedly, it is a bit odd that with the Death Star approaching and preparing to destroy the Rebel Base, Leia (along with others) choose to stand-around watching rather than evacuating. On some level, this sorta gives away what we know the inevitable outcome of the battle will be: the Rebels will win and the Death Star will be destroyed.

On another level, though, that Leia remains in the Command Center puts the final stamp of bravery on her fearless nature. With the Death Star approaching and preparing to destroy Yavin 4, it is conceivable that the Princess was asked (perhaps even ordered!) to evacuate before the battle begins, her safety and importance to the Rebellion being tantamount. Instead, by remaining, Princess Leia reveals once more that she is the very heart of the Rebel cause, a beacon of hope for the Rebel soldiers fighting the Imperial war machine. She may not be in an X-Wing or Y-Wing fighting the battle, nor giving orders as a General, but Leia’s stoic presence in the face of imminent death testifies not only to her personal resolve, but also the resolve of the Rebel Alliance.

Given her status and importance to the Rebellion, it is unsurprising that Princess Leia is the one to bestow medallions upon Luke Skywalker and Han Solo following the Battle of Yavin. With the Death Star destroyed, the two men (accompanied by Chewbacca) will march down the center of a great hall, flanked on both sides by the entire assembly of Rebels on Yavin 4. Arriving at the bottom of a staircase, the trio ascend the steps until they are standing before, albeit slightly below, the magnificently dressed Leia. This is the only point in the film in which Leia has changed clothing, and she is now without the iconic hair “buns.” Wearing a gown, with her hair in a braided updo and jewlery drapping her neck, Leia now, officially and formally, looks like a Princess. Never-the-less, while she is resplendent in her royal attire, we also know that there is far more to her than meets the eye, and that what makes Princess Leia truly regal is her considerable fearlessness and capacity for hope in the face of overwhelming odds.

The Princess
The Princess
Gif Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope


I’ve joined forces with some other exciting bloggers and YouTubers – Nancy and Kathleen of Graphic Novelty2, Rob of My Side of the Laundry Room, Kiri of Star Wars Anonymous, Kalie of Just Dread-full, Mike of My Comic Relief and Green Onion of The Green Onion Blog – for a little salute to “Fiction’s Fearless Females.” Starting on International Women’s Day and going forward over the next couple months, a different contributor will offer their take on a favorite female who harbors a fearless spirit. Click on the links below to read about the other women being profiled.

Fiction’s Fearless Females

Ellen Ripley

Captain Janeway

Amy Pond

Wonder Woman

Scarlett

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Scarlett

In celebration of Women’s History Monthboth of us here at Graphic Novelty² have joined forces with some other amazing bloggers to celebrate women under the auspicious blogging series title of: Fiction’s Fearless Females! This is the fifth of our planned eight piece series, and Rob of My Side of the Laundry Room features Scarlett of the GI Joe franchise who was one of his first introductions as a child to a fearless female. Rob’s blog about 80’s nostalgia (and much more) has now evolved into an incredible YouTube channel, and also often features his good friend Chris. So make sure you check out his videos and subscribe! 

Guest Blogger: Rob of My Side of the Laundry Room

When the subject of fearless women in fiction ever comes up, my thoughts instantly go to the first woman I ever idolized. Her name was Scarlett and she was a member of G.I. Joe. When I was a kid growing up in the 80s, G.I. Joe had three separate “universes”. There was the toyline, the cartoon, and the comic book. These three things weaved together from time to time but usually they distanced themselves from each other, only coming together with one goal in mind…making Hasbro Toys money.

One of the things that remained a constant between these three “universes” was the strength and awesomeness of the character of Scarlett. In this weeks video I take a look at some of these moments of strength and awesomeness from my childhood.

To help celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8) and Women’s History Month (March), I along with some of WordPress’s best bloggers are teaming up to shine a spotlight on some of our favorite fearless females from movies, comics, television, and beyond.

Other Fearless Females:

Ellen Ripley by The Green Onion

Captain Janeway by Nancy

Amy Pond by Michael of My Comic Relief

Wonder Woman by Kathleen

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Wonder Woman

Nancy and I, as well as six other bloggers, continue to celebrate Women’s History Month with this latest installment in our #FictionsFearlessFemales series! Each post written thus far has featured a female character from mass media such as movies and TV shows. Green Onion started us off, with his excellent post about Ellen Ripley, from the Alien movie series. Nancy followed with her phenomenal ode to Captain Kathryn Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager. Then, Michael over at My Comic Relief penned a loving tribute to Amy Pond of Doctor Who. Man, I remember following Michael for our Great Chris Debate series too, and wondering how I could possibly top his post! (But, perhaps vainly, I assure you, dear readers… I didn’t feel that way this time ;D)

I know, I know… you guys are all are on tenterhooks wondering who I picked…

My post features Wonder Woman! The character was created by William Moulton Marston in 1941. Marston is also renowned for his psychological work and for creating the polygraph lie detector test. He wanted to create a new kind of superhero who didn’t use violence to solve problems, like the male superheroes who dominated the market at the time. He based his new character and her appearance after two women in his life: his wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, and their polyamorous life partner, Olive Byrne. Thus, Wonder Woman was born.

marstons-wiki
Marston, pictured with Holloway and Byrne. Note the silver bracelet on Byrne’s wrist, which was the inspiration for Wonder Woman’s own bullet-deflecting bracelets! (Source)

Raised on a utopian island populated only by women, Wonder Woman was the miracle child of the Queen Hippolyta: sculpted from clay and blessed with life by the Greek pantheon. The overjoyed queen named the child Diana. She grew up worshipping the Greek gods and training in the art of war, but is also taught to only use violence as a last resort. Her world is turned upside down when a plane crashes on Paradise Island, and she rescues a man from the wreckage. The Amazons nurse him back to health, and learn that the man – Steve Trevor – is an intelligence agent for the United States of America, and that he needs to get home to report vital information to his superiors to turn the tide of World War II in the Allies’ favor. Queen Hippolyta holds a tournament to grant one Amazon the privilege of returning Steve to his homeland and to preach the Amazon ways to Man’s World. Diana triumphs in the tournament, garbs herself in the colors of Steve’s home country, and escorts him home to aid the fight against the Nazis.

Wonder Woman broke the superhero glass ceiling, so perhaps is a role model by default, but she has many other qualities of one. Marston based her upon women of the ’40s, who were asserting their worth and independence during WWII and going to work to keep the country running while young men were away at war. In the early comics, Wonder Woman disguises herself as Diana Prince, and works as an army nurse while she’s not doing her superhero thing. Marston, also an outspoken feminist, designed the character also to be “psychological propoganda” for the newly liberated girls and young women of the ’40s, whom he believed could – and should! – use their feminine strengths to run the world (Wikipedia). In fact, the seventh issue of Wonder Woman, published in 1942, has the famous “Wonder Woman for President” story; even that early on in her history, Wonder Woman was doing what no one thought women could do!

739997
Cover for Wonder Woman #7 (1942). Source: MyComicShop

Wonder Woman was a hit when she was released, with both girls and boys. By a fan vote early in her publication, Wonder Woman was inducted as the first female member of the Justice Society of America (All Star Comics #12, 1942), as their secretary. Of course, they expanded her role as time went on, but she had to start somewhere, right? =P Though Marston passed away in 1947, he continued to write Wonder Woman until his death, and DC has published her stories continuously since then (save for a brief hiatus in the mid ’80s). She is a flagship character for the publisher, alongside Superman and Batman; together, they are known as the Trinity. Notable writers and artists who have worked on her title are George Perez, Greg Rucka (Down to Earth, The Hiketeia, and Rebirth), Gail Simone, John Byrne, and J. Michael Straczynski.

Not only has her comic book been long-running, the character has appeared not only in other DC comics, but in multiple mass media. Perhaps the most recognizable incarnation of the character before the DCEU was the TV show, starring Lynda Carter, that premiered in 1975. Wonder Woman was also in the cartoons Super Friends, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, and DC Superhero Girls, to name a few. I’d even say that after the unprecedented, genre-redefining success of 2017’s Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot, there is sort of a Wonder Woman Renaissance going on: not only this character, but other female superheroes are stepping into the spotlight and claiming their space.

lynda_carter_wonder_woman
The indomitable Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman from the iconic ’70s TV show (Source).

Wonder Woman was written to be a different kind of superhero, as mentioned above: one who used love, compassion, and understanding to resolve conflicts instead of violence. The nuances depend on the individual story, but overall, the Amazon code preaches peace through submission to a loving authority; love, acceptance, and compassion to all; and diplomacy always before violence. Wonder Woman, therefore, is first and foremost an ambassador; spreading the Amazon ways to Man’s World. Greg Rucka’s run beginning with Down to Earth (linked above) in particular highlighted Diana’s ambassador role: in his story, Themyscira is recognized as a nation by the UN, and Diana becomes their official ambassador. She publishes a book during this time too, over which public opinion is polarized. There is a passage in which she’s on a talk show, and though the host and other guest try to heckle her, Diana responds calmly and patiently. Not everyone is receptive to her message, but that doesn’t mean she won’t try to get through to everybody.

There is an interesting dichotomy explored in many of her stories about Diana’s role of princess and ambassador versus her role as a warrior. The Amazons are a race of warrior women, and yet, they do not seek war. In George Perez’s run (linked above), the mighty Hercules travels to the Amazon’s home to conquer it. Queen Hippolyte meets him on the battlefield, garbed in armor, but speaks to him first. She gives him a chance to surrender before actually crossing swords, after she realizes there is no other choice. Diana is very much the same way. Later in Perez’s run, after she discovers Valerie Beaudry, the Silver Swan, is only the villain because her husband brainwashed her into doing it, seeks her out and tries to reason with her. It’s unlikely Wonder Woman ever strikes first – and if she does, it is only to protect innocent lives.

WWRebirth
Wonder Woman can be threatening, but she chooses not to be until there is no other alternative (Source).

My favorite quote about Wonder Woman comes from Gail Simone. In her introduction to The Circle (linked above), she writes:

“When you need to stop an asteroid, you get Superman. When you need to solve a mystery, you call Batman. But when you need to end a war, you get Wonder Woman” (AZ Quotes).

This quote speaks volumes about the character. Wonder Woman is arguably the best of the DC trinity at shutting down conflict, because she doesn’t use physical force to do so. She tries to negotiate first. She tries to see the other side of the story and offers compassion and understanding. She offers help, if help is needed, and asks for peace. Only when all other methods have failed does she resort to violence. At this point, after she’s exhausted all alternatives, she doesn’t hesitate to do whatever needs to be done – including taking a life, should the situation call for it (it only has once in her entire career!).

wonder-woman-kills-maxwell-lord-3
This controversial page, from Wonder Woman #219, is just before Wonder Woman kills Maxwell Lord to free Superman from his mind control. This was shocking to fans, but made sense for her character. She asks four times how to free Superman from Lord’s control, and only kills him after it’s clear there is no other alternative. Neither Batman nor Superman would have killed, it’s true, but Wonder Woman is versed enough in the ways of war to know that the cost of one life is worth the continuation of many (Source).

The reason I personally love Wonder Woman so much is because of her unbreakable commitment to compassion, love, and trust. She sees the good in people, even villains, and gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. She accepts everyone as they are, but knows when someone needs help, and is the first to offer it. She loves and trusts everyone she meets, unless they give her a reason not to. She opened herself to new experiences, to a whole new world, simply because she wanted to learn about it. These are incredibly powerful messages, not only to women, but to everyone.

I am not naturally this way – I am inclined to distrust and see the bad in people first – but I strive to emulate Wonder Woman, and do the same she does. I try to be compassionate and open to new experiences and ways of thinking, as she is. In this divided world, we can all stand to exercise a little more understanding and compassion in our every day lives.

0565df3bca2bf4b5a8f9bca881a8c799
I want to be Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman when I grow up! Please? Please??? (Source)

Wonder Woman is one of, if not the most, important fictional female characters in history. She was the first superhero in an industry dominated by male characters. She showed us, has continued to show us, that not all conflicts have to be resolved using violence. Diana Prince might have super strength and the ability to fly, but I think that her greatest power is her heart, and its’ boundless capacity for love and empathy. We might not be able to attain her superpowers – but we can strive to fill our own hearts with her ideals, to fill the world with a little more love.

Kathleen

Next up will be Rob of My Side of the Laundry Room, Kiri of Star Wars Anonymous, Jeffrey of The Imperial Talker and last, but certainly not least, will be Kalie of Just Dread-full. We absolutely can’t wait to share the rest of this series with you guys! Please keep checking back in the next few weeks to see more of fiction’s fearless females, and follow the hashtag on Twitter!

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Amy Pond

In celebration of Women’s History Month, both of us here at Graphic Novelty² have joined forces with some other amazing bloggers to celebrate women under the auspicious blogging series title of: Fiction’s Fearless Females! This is the third of our planned eight piece series, and Michael of My Comic Relief brilliantly shows how a companion of Doctor Who becomes as integral to the show as the Doctor himself. 

Guest Blogger: Michael of My Comic Relief

There was an idea. Jeff knows this. The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable bloggers to see if they could become something more. To see if they could work together when we needed them to, to celebrate a collection of incredible female characters we never could on our own. This week it’s my turn and I’m shining my spotlight on the incomparable Amy Pond, my all-time favorite companion to ever set foot inside the TARDIS in the world of Doctor Who.

Played by Karen Gillan over three series, Amelia Pond entered the Doctor’s world in “The Eleventh Hour,” the first episode of the fifth series of Doctor Who (as the show is English, I’m using “series” over the more American “season”). She joined the show along with Matt Smith who had taken over from David Tennant, when the Doctor entered his eleventh regeneration. As the Doctor once so beautifully told Amy, “You were the first. The first face this face saw, and you’re seared onto my hearts, Amelia Pond. You always will be.” She’s one of my favorite characters on the show – she’s one of my favorite characters ever – and she’s easily my favorite of all the Doctor’s companions.

Amy Pond 5
The one and only Amy Pond / Photo Credit –Doctor Who

The relationship the Doctor has with his companions is important. (Note, while the Doctor’s current regeneration is female, as the Doctor was male when Amy travelled with him – and because English awkwardly lacks a universally-accepted gender-neutral third person singular pronoun – I’ll be using masculine pronouns in this piece when referring to the Doctor.) Behind all the adventures, all the smiles, all the exuberant joy in creation, the Doctor is a very lonely character. The modern incarnation of Doctor Who begins after the Great Time War, fought between the Time Lords (the alien race the Doctor belongs to) and the Daleks (his greatest enemy). To end the war and protect all of space and time, the Doctor made the choice to destroy both races. This condemned him to a lifetime as the last of his kind, a particularly lengthy punishment given how Time Lords age. Essentially without any surprises, mistakes, or accidents a Time Lord can live forever. When a Time Lord hits old age or an illness or mortal injury strikes, they will regenerate – a process of rebirth causing complete physical and psychological change. Unless they are killed too quickly/violently to allow for regeneration, killed in the process of regeneration, or willfully decide to not regenerate from a fatal wound, a Time Lord will live forever.

Eternity is a long and lonely road to walk alone, even when you can go anywhere in time and space. To be alone forever breeds an unimaginable darkness and an unbearable pain. As such, it’s the Doctor’s companions who keep him company; keep him grounded; and keep the all-important lights of life, love, and compassion burning within him. Yet they always bring a special sort of sadness too. While the Doctor can live forever, his human companions can’t. In the Doctor’s words, “Some left me. Some got left behind. And some, not many but some, died.” No matter what happens, he will ultimately lose them all.

Amy Pond 14 (2)
Rory and Amy travel with the Doctor to Venice, in 1580. / Photo Credit – Doctor Who

Over the years (and regenerations) the Doctor has had many great friends and a few important loves travel with him in the TARDIS but there’s only ever been one Amelia Pond – “Oh, that’s a brilliant name! Amelia Pond, it’s like a name in a fairy tale.” She’s always been my favorite of the Doctor’s companions, even though Eleven isn’t my favorite Doctor (if you’re curious, Ten is with Thirteen being a close second (and if Jodie Whittaker’s run continues as brilliantly as it began, she may take the title)). It’s not just the way Amy balances the Doctor nor what she adds to his adventures that makes her so remarkable in my eyes. It’s how Amy Pond – “the mad, impossible Amy Pond” – refuses to accept anything less than the life she wants, no matter how complicated or unattainable it may seem.

Amy Pond 6
Photo Credit – Doctor Who

As we grow up, we tend to accept more and more limitations, things we never would have seen or yielded to in our youth. Our dreams become just that – dreams. In The Alchemist Paulo Coelho, speaking as our hearts, writes, “Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits them…[but] people no longer want to go in search of them…Most people see the world as a threatening place, and because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place…We never stop speaking out, but we begin to hope that our words won’t be heard: we don’t want people to suffer because they don’t follow their hearts” (131). Not Amy Pond. And what can be more fearless than having the courage to never deny the desires of your heart, no matter how complex or contradictory they may seem?

The Doctor first meets Amelia Pond when she’s only seven-years-old, crashing the TARDIS into her garden after having just regenerated. As she ventures outside alone to see what’s landed in her yard, it’s clear she’s already a bold, curious, inquisitive, and brave young girl. Talking with the Doctor over fish sticks and custard (the only meal to appeal in the moment to his freshly regenerated taste buds) she tells him, “I’m not afraid.” The Doctor replies, “Of course you’re not! You’re not scared of anything! A box falls out of the sky, a man pops out of the box, man eats fish and custard…and look at you. Just sittin’ there.”

Amy Pond 4
Amelia and the Doctor share a snack of fish sticks and custard on the night they first meet. / Photo Credit – Doctor Who

Needing to quickly run the engines so the damaged TARDIS doesn’t explode, the Doctor leaves Amelia promising to be back in five minutes to take her on a trip and help her deal with the mysterious crack in space and time on her bedroom wall. The Doctor returns, slightly missing the mark…twelve years later. Amy has grown up but, despite more than a decade passing and four therapists who insisted her childhood friend was imaginary, she’s never fully abandoned belief that her “raggedy doctor” is real. Along with her “kind of boyfriend” Rory (Arthur Darvill), Amy helps the Doctor save the Earth from an intergalactic police force bent on planetwide incineration. The Doctor takes his newly restored TARDIS on a quick spin, returning to take Amy on a proper trip…two years later, missing his mark once again. So, fourteen years after first landing in her garden, “the girl who waited” goes in search of adventures through space and time with her “madman in a box.”

Amy Pond 13 (2)
Amy and the Doctor inside the TARDIS. / Photo Credit – Doctor Who

As the closing shot of that first episode shows, Amy has run off with the Doctor on the night before her wedding. One of the subplots in those early episodes was whether Amy wanted to be with Rory, the man she was about to marry, or the Doctor, the spaceman who’s captivated her imagination since childhood. In the poignant episode “Amy’s Choice” (S5E7), the mysterious Dream Lord forces Amy to choose between Rory and the Doctor. While she ultimately realizes Rory is the man she loves, she doesn’t chose between Rory and the Doctor. She chooses both. The Doctor is her best friend, Rory her lover and eventually her husband. She never sacrifices one for the other. She manages a life of time travel and planet hopping adventure alongside getting married and living a “normal” life. Rory quickly becomes part of their adventures too! Amy makes her worlds fit together. She wants it all. It’s all the life she’s chosen and because she won’t abandon her heart’s desires, it all fits.

Amy – “Hey, look at this. Got my spaceship. Got my boys. My work here is done.”

Rory – “Uh, we are not her boys.”

The Doctor – “Yeah we are.”

Rory – “Yeah we are.”

Amy Pond 9
Rory, the Doctor, and Amy deal with a planet-wide invasion of little black boxes…that don’t do anything at all but sit there. / Photo Credit – Doctor Who

Despite narrative clichés and our cultural default presumption of Twilight-inspired love triangles, women and men can naturally have incredibly strong, life-affirming friendships without ulterior romantic motives. And after the first flush of a crush on her space-faring adventurer fades, that’s exactly what Amy finds with the Doctor. With Rory, we see a strong marriage. With the Doctor, an important friendship. Both those relationships exist harmoniously in her life, each enriching the other. (Bringing Rory into the TARDIS and the Doctor’s adventures is another reason Amy Pond is my favorite companion! I love Rory so much too!) In addition to presenting a healthy depiction of female-and-male friendships, this also opens up more interesting narrative possibilities as well, freeing the stories from the sort of narrative loop that can come with yet another companion pining – unrequited or not – over the Doctor.

Through their adventures, Amy’s wit, compassion, and resolve always impressed me. Her will always felt as strong as the Doctor’s too and she was every bit as courageous as he was. Of all the Doctor’s companions, she’s the only one I always felt could handle everything on her own as capably and competently as the Doctor. From the far-flung past to the distant future to all manner of alien races, worlds, and wars, she shares the Doctor’s life but she refuses to give up a “normal” life either. She and Rory still hold regular jobs on Earth which they go to in between their travels with the Doctor. They have “regular” friends. They have a “normal” routine. Amy even eventually has a child. This, as with everything else in her journey, only serves to expand her world in powerful ways. As the outlaw Dr. Kahler Jex observes in “A Town Called Mercy” (S7E3):

Jex – “You’re a mother, aren’t you?”

Amy – “How did you know?”

Jex – “There’s kindness in your eyes. And sadness. And a ferocity too.”

Kindness. Sadness. Ferocity. Wit. Compassion. Enthusiasm. Trust. Faith. Love, in all its forms. Amy Pond shows us the magic our lives will hold when we have the courage to always follow our hearts and refuse to accept anything less than their greatest desires.

Amy Pond 2 (2)
Amy’s adventures with the Doctor begin, as he returns twelve years after their first meeting. / Photo Credit –Doctor Who

As you may’ve gathered, I’ve joined forces with some other charismatic and exciting bloggers and YouTubers (in Rob’s case, as he’s cool enough to know how to work YouTube) – Nancy and Kathleen of Graphic Novelty2, Rob of My Side of the Laundry Room, Kiri of Star Wars Anonymous, Kalie of Just Dread-full, Jeff of The Imperial Talker, and Green Onion of The Green Onion Blog – for a little blogging salute to some of our favorite fearless female characters in all of fiction. It’ll be fun and it alliterates! Starting on International Women’s Day and going forward or the next couple months, a different blogger will be featured each week saluting one of their personal favorite female characters. Be sure to follow these amazing blogs (if you don’t already) and be sure to check back each week to soak in all the excitement of the latest installment of this EPIC TEAM-UP.

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Captain Kathryn Janeway

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Kathleen and I have joined up with some other amazing bloggers to celebrate! A group of eight of us (and perhaps more if others wish to join in) are each picking a fictional fearless female to feature.  I had the pleasure of participating in another blogging series last year, The Great Chis Debate,  in which several of us argued who the best cinematic Chris was (Chris Pine was absolutely the winner) but in this series, there are no winners, as each woman featured in the next few weeks are fabulous and ALL are deserving of praise.

Our series was expertly kicked off by the Green Onion, who wrote about Ellen Ripley of Alien movie fame. Ripley was a perfect starting point as her first 1979 representation showed “She represents all that is great in a heroic character and being a woman doesn’t define her, it’s just a part of who she is”  and led to other excellent portrayals of women in film and on television. That now leads me into my choice for our #FictionsFearlessFemales series: Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Star Trek Voyager crew, played brilliantly by Kate Mulgrew.

Star Trek is my favorite fandom, as many of the posts on my blog revolve around the movies, television and webseries that have been inspired by the original classic. In the first series we were introduced to Uhura, who was beautiful, smart, ambitious and an equal to the men- she was the original Star Trek role model. All strong female Star Trek characters owe a debt to her, and we were blessed with other great women in the Star Fleet universe such as Doctor Beverly Crusher and Deanna Troi of The Next Generation series, plus Kira Nerys and Jadzia Dax of Deep Space Nine. But Star Trek took the next logical and needed step of having a new series feature a female captain, with subsequent series Enterprise and Discovery building off Janeway’s pioneering role.

In 1995 Voyager premiered with the perfect captain who I picked as best captain in my earlier  post My Perfect Star Trek Crew. The series premise was for the newly launched U.S.S. Voyager crew to track down an infiltrated Maquis ship and bring them to justice.  The Maquis were a paramilitary terrorist group in which Janeway had sent her Security Officer in as an undercover operative and had enlisted a disgraced former Starfleet officer who had been a gun for hire for the Maquis to help find them.  Voyager’s crew and the Maquis fighters are accidentally drawn 70,000 light years to the far side of the Delta Quadrant by an alien seeking survival, calling itself “The Caretaker.” The Voyager and Maquis crews have to form a tentative bond to survive once both ships are compromised and they have to unite into one crew as they face the reality that it will take them 75 years to get back home.

Through seven seasons the Voyager crew explored and engaged with alien species they were completely unfamiliar with as they journeyed home. Through several dangerous maneuvers and a battling of wits they were able to get back into Federation space in seven years. Janeway was the perfect captain for this journey, for faced with extraordinary pressures, she united two warring factions and built a unified crew out of former enemies. Faced with an untenable situation, she came out stronger than ever. There were times she made some questionable decisions, including cutting off her glorious long hair (I loved her ever changing hair styles and  buns), but her imperfections and quirks made her relatable.

As with many iconic characters, the real life actors and actresses become forever tied to their roles, and Kate Mulgrew is no exception. She just recently wrapped a well regarded six season arc as Red in the television series Orange is the New Black but she will always be remembered as Captain Janeway. Thus, I loved finding this tweet on International Women’s Day, which was also the day this blogging series launched.   She is fully supportive of a new captain in our universe- Captain Marvel! Having females support other females is so important, and never detracts from the original’s glory.

Star Trek presents an idealistic and Utopian future, with Earth moving past it’s racial and cultural differences, and ready to explore space. The tagline was “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!”. And boldly go it did- the series gave us a ground breaking captain that was not defined by her being a female. She was an example of grace under fire who exemplified remarkable leadership skills. Janeway not only is a hero but a role model and a perfect example of a fearless female!

As I wrap up this post, I now pass the baton to Michael of My Comic Relief who will then pass off to my writing partner Kathleen. Other bloggers in queue after Kathleen are Rob of My Side of the Laundry Room, Kiri of Star Wars Anonymous, Jeffrey of The Imperial Talker and bringing us home will be Kalie of Just Dread-full. Please check in weekly as this series unfolds.

Live Long and Prosper, my friends.

-Nancy

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Ellen Ripley

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, and both of us here at Graphic Novelty² have joined forces with some other amazing bloggers to celebrate women under the auspicious blogging series title of: Fiction’s Fearless Females! For the next eight weeks we will have a blogger a week sharing who they believe is a fictional woman to be admired, and we will share each entry of the series on our blog. First up is the Green Onion– whose blog is must reading! 

Guest Blogger: The Green Onion Blog

One big happy International Women’s Day which logically coincides with Women’s History Month. As a middle-aged white male who proudly would identify as a feminist, I believe these types of celebratory acknowledgements are well-deserved and necessary. Ladies, you’re killing it, and what you have overcome is heartening and inspirational. Men have a lot to learn from your strength and compassion.

Anyways, what the hell am I doing here?

Well, in order to celebrate women and all that they offer, a special project has been born: Fiction’s Fearless Females! A group of some of the best bloggers I know including, but not limited to, Graphic Novelty2, My Comic Relief, My Side of the Laundry Room, Imperial Talker, and more, have come together to create this original series. Each blogger will contribute a post that will focus on one of the greatest female representations in fiction – I would give you hints about who some of these fantastic characters featured will be, but where’s the fun and surprise in that? However, stay tuned and keep an eye out for each of the contributing posts that I will gladly share here on my blog, as well as on social media. But you should probably be following all of these great bloggers already.

I should also mention that despite me having the privilege of kicking this series off, I am but a member of this Mighty Bloggers group, and I was invited to participate by those much more clever than myself. In fact, I kinda forced my way in by throwing my own two-cents in on last year’s memorable cross-blog series, the Great Chris Debate. They must have felt bad for me, but I will take the pity invite because I am quite proud to contribute my piece to Fiction’s Fearless Females. I probably earned the honour of starting the series because a) I was eager to get started, and b) I have chosen the greatest fictional female of them all: Ellen Ripley!

FutureIsFemale-aliens.jpg

Lieutenant (First Class) Ellen Louise Ripley, known more simply as ‘Ripley’, is the female lead and star of the Alien franchise. Played by the ridiculously talented Sigourney Weaver, Ripley’s encounters with the alien’s known as Xenomorphs harboured our first introductions with the pop culture icons. Over the course of a quadrilogy of films, Ripley developed the most intimate and evasive relationships with space’s deadliest beasts. She may not have the largest kill count, yet she is easily the leading expert on how to kill a xenomorph. It is Ellen Ripley’s transformation over the four movies that makes her not only one of fiction’s greatest females but one of cinemas greatest characters all-round.

Simply put, Ripley goes from an innocent young mother desperately trying to reach home to be with her daughter to a superhuman alien-killing machine with every possible conflict along the way. Now, Ripley, like all great characters is not limited to her cinematic appearances but has appeared in novels, video games, and comic books. For the sake of simplicity, and as to not miss anything, this article will only focus on Ripley’s development in film. Her saga is a fantastic representation of a strong female, but each movie on their own showed why Ripley is a positive role model for women. So, I wanted to explore her transition and strengths one film at a time.

Alien –

images.jpg

Funny enough, Alien is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. All of those years ago, Ridley Scott developed an action-horror movie that would change the genre. Scott created a film that would make an audience squirm by touching on themes like fear of the unknown, artificial intelligence, and sexual violation. What separated Scott’s movie was that instead of a creature bent on killing or eating their prey, the monster of this story would capture its victims in the hopes of involuntarily impregnating them with its spawn. Despite the horrific theme, Scott intentionally kept it from being gender specific. There was a goal of making the audience squirm by the perversion regardless of sex. In the original script for Alien, no character was defined by gender, and each one could be played by a man or a woman. Meaning, Ripley could have easily been a man, important because there is universal equality when you eliminate genders entirely.

Ripley herself appears in Alien as a hardworking, capable member of the crew of the Nostromo. Though she does get undermined and disrespected at times, she does her job the same as any other crew member. In fact, the way the film begins it would be difficult to predict that Ripley would be the “sole survivor of the Nostromo” as each character in the movie was represented equally.

What we find in Ripley is we have a great hero, regardless of gender. She is not a typical strong muscled-up hero that wins the day by force. Instead, she represents a true hero by showing resourcefulness, competency, and persistence. In a situation where the mass majority of us would be hiding in a corner peeing ourselves, Ripley takes matters into her own hands and saves herself. She also finds a way to defeat the enemy in a situation that the fans have seen as hopeless.

Aliens –

ripley-560.jpg

Aliens is easily the best example of Ripley’s prominent capabilities as a woman and a hero. This film is celebrated as an achievement for its voice of equality for women in media and has been mentioned by psychologists and experts for its representation for feminism. Actually, everything that makes Ripley what she is in all four films can be found in this one movie, like it is a microcosm of the entire series. So, I will try to touch on a few points that are prominent here or do not appear in any of the other films, so as to save myself some stuff to talk about.

The most significant part about Aliens is Ripley’s overcoming of her PTSD of the original film, her psychological revisit to her greatest fears, and her adaptability to step into the role of the leader and hero. At the beginning of the movie, Ripley is beaten and in a world that is no longer hers. She has lost her job and demoted to low-level work, she lost her daughter without being able to watch her grow up, and all of her friends are dead. Meanwhile, she has been through the most traumatic of events that would really mess anyone up. She is so defeated that the only logical step is to face her fears head-on when the opportunity presented itself. And, with nothing left to lose she transforms herself from her weakened state into a downright ass-kicker. Female empowerment at its best.

One of the things that make Ripley such a capable hero is her ability to lead by example in this film. Forced to cooperate with a military outfit predominantly filled by men, Ripley has no problem showing any of them their mistakes and weaknesses. When the survivors are left without leadership Ripley is able to step in and take control of the situation. Despite having no military training, she is resourceful enough to take as many tips and lessons as she can so to best arm herself in a situation that is becoming more desperate. And, even her makeshift flamethrower/machine gun can be seen as obviously too cumbersome for her, yet she presses on and fights not with strength but determination – then she gets in a power loader and simply kicks some ass, which is cool too.

Ripley is able to do all of the things any action hero can do all while never losing her femininity. A minor love interest is only possible because Hicks is a decent man that shows valuable qualities. But, it is Ripley’s compassion and maternal instincts that shine in Aliens. Finding a small, fragile girl, Newt, is the immediate trigger Ripley needs to fight and take control of the situation. In the parental role, Ripley comforts, compliments, protects, provides security and emotional support. Ripley is as great at being a mother as she is at kicking alien tail. Her compassion is also what allows her to trust Bishop even though she has every reason to hate androids. She is able to trust this robot and let him prove himself, where a man in this situation probably would have torn him apart already.

Aliens 3 –

alien5.jpg

The third instalment of the Alien franchise is either considered the weakest link or, by some, the greatest entry. What happens in this film is we go back to the sexual perversion that was prominent in the first film. The fear of being impregnated by these aliens is accentuated by the risks of being trapped in a prison of sexually repressed males.

Up until this point, Ripley had been represented without sexual objectification. Where the majority of female leads are played by supermodels with perfect bodies, Sigourney Weaver provided us with a female hero that was not your typical big breasted, tanned body hero. Though she is still beautiful in her own right. Despite being in a situation filled with aggressive masculinity, objectification never became an issue. Ripley doesn’t have to push men back, get slapped in the ass, or complain about her role as a female up until this film.

Ripley continues to show the same characteristics that have carried her thus far, but she is being broken. She has lost everything all over again. And, this sexual undertone of the Alien concept becomes human with a scene that involves her becoming the victim. Though this is the weakest we see Ripley she still never complains and continues to push forward. And, when she discovers that she has been impregnated by an alien queen, she is not defeated by the violation and again takes control of the situation. Granted she kills herself, but how else would you kill an alien in your chest?

Aliens: Resurrection –

32165

Of course, there is Alien: Resurrection, where Ripley is cloned, brought back to life, and is given the strength and power that is equal to her competency. Even though we finally have a superpowered female action star equivalent of any superhero, she is still very much the Ripley that we have come to appreciate. She still doesn’t dress in inappropriate clothing, or wear make-up. She still carries the same maternal instincts, showcased in her protection of Call. She’s still a woman trying to survive, just with a few more tools in her belt.

This brings up another great point about Ripley as a woman and a hero, she never lectures about her moral superiority, she shows it through her actions. Alien: Resurrection is probably the movie where Ripley speaks the least. She has nothing to prove to anyone any more. She is merely pissed off that these xenomorphs are still kicking. Now it has become her versus them. And, stopping to explain that to the men of this film would just be a waste of her time. Her maternal instincts have taken over to more than just the one character, but for her entire species. The final scenes with the human/alien crossbreed is a representation of her entire people being violated by these creatures, and while she cares for the beast in a motherly way, she still has to destroy it.

clipboard01_539.jpg

Basically, Ripley has been through hell, and still, she holds firm to her character, morals, and femininity. There is a lot to be said about this amazing female hero. I found this quote from the talented John Scalzi, author of Old Man’s War, that kind of nails what makes Ripley so wonderful:

“She’s not a sidekick, arm candy, or a damsel to be rescued. Starting with Alien, Ripley was a fully competent member of a crew or ensemble — not always liked and sometimes disrespected, but doing her job all the same. As each film progresses, she comes to the fore and faces challenges head-on — she’s the hero of the piece… Ripley isn’t a fantasy version of a woman. Science fiction film is filled with hot kickass women doing impossible things with guns and melee weapons while they spin about like a gymnast in a dryer. As fun as that is to watch, at the end of the day it’s still giving women short shrift, since what they are then are idealized killer fembots rather than actual human beings. Ripley, on the other hand, is pushy, aggressive, rude, injured, suffering from post-traumatic syndrome, not wearing makeup, tired, smart, maternal, angry, empathetic, and determined to save others, even at great cost to herself. All without being a spinny killbot.”

images.jpg


Lt. Ellen Ripley has always been one of my favourite characters and heroes regardless of her gender. It is often difficult for me to choose favourites of anything, but Ripley has always been a hands down winner for me. In fact, my Ripley action figure is one of the only things that I have cherished from my childhood, and it is still displayed proudly in my room beside my children’s artwork. She represents all that is great in a heroic character and being a woman doesn’t define her, it’s just a part of who she is. Which brings me back to the fact that she could have just as easily been cast as a man. When a character is not defined by gender, when that separation is eliminated, we find equality. Equality is what feminism is all about.


Thanks for visiting the first instalment of Fiction’s Fearless Females! I believe the plan is for the amazingly talented, and wonderful friend of mine, Nancy of Graphic Novelty2 to take the baton with a piece next week, so keep an eye out for that. If there are any bloggers that would like to join in the fun of this series and write about your favourite fictional fearless female feel free to message me, or any of the other writers I mentioned.

Happy Women’s History Month!

Happy International Women’s Day!

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑