Captain Marvel. Wonder Woman. Princess Leia. Shuri. Natasha Romanoff the Black Widow. Mon Mothma. Okoye. Arya Stark, Elsa, Maz Kanata. In the last decade, there has been an explosion of strong women in movie and television’s science fiction/fantasy genre.
(I started this piece in 2017 when it was announced that Jodie Whittaker would take over the mantle of the BBC’s Doctor Who. I never published it because it wasn’t quite ready. Now it is.)
Wonder Woman made 821 million in 2017. In 2016, Mad Max: Fury Road ended up with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) in charge. It was nominated, but lost, for Best Movie at the Academy Awards. Numerous women in HBO’s Game of Thrones have come into their own. Disney gave us the young princess Moana and the regal Elsa in Frozen. We’ve come a long way.
In the early 200os, I was part of an online Star Wars group that bemoaned the absence of women in the universe. I finally asked them what they wanted if they could talk to the marketers. They had no answer. They couldn’t imagine what they’d want for themselves; they only wanted tee shirts for their daughters. Skip fifteen years, and the moms have a number of sources of merchandise for themselves as well as their girls.
The animated series, the 2008’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars, gave young girls a role model in Ahsoka Tano, the apprentice to Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. When Disney bought Star Wars, and rebooted the movies with a female protagonist, Rey, in The Force Awakens, (2015) they opened that world to women (beyond Princess Leia). Star Wars: Rebels (2014) gave us Hera Syndulla the pilot and leader of the spaceship Ghost who supports the Rebellion.
The Force Awakens gave us Rey, the strong athletic young woman whose story would lead us forward in the Saga. The stand alone film, Star Wars: Rogue One, has Jyn Orso, daughter of the Death Star’s creator, who leads a team to find the plans for the Death Star to get them to Princess Leia and the Rebellion. Unfortunately, she dies.
Since 1963, Doctor Who has been a man for his last 12 regenerations, (an opportunity to switch the lead actor.) Changes came to the series when in 2014, his eternal enemy, The Master, showed up in a female incarnation, Missy. Now the Doctor is Jodie Whittaker.
Now for a dose of realism. Why the “sudden interest” in women? It’s not just only the protests of younger generations for equality. It’s that marketers see women as those who will buy, not only for their children, but for themselves. The actress who voiced Tano in The Clone Wars, Ashley Eckstein, started her own clothing and jewelry company, Her Universe, to provide women with fannish clothing, something that men had had for decades.
What does this mean for the future? Hopefully more strong women. I define “strong” in that she leads by example, whether or not she’s the lead character. Her actions leads new generations to admire and seek to emulate her.
We will always have Princess Leia, Imperator Furiosa, Dana Scully, Elsa, Carol Danvers. The future looks bright. So many others yet to be revealed.