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Fiction’s Fearless Females

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!).

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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!

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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 –

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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 –

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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 –

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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 –

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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.

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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.”

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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!

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