Television women (and film women, and literature women, and theatre women, and real life women, and anything in between) can be strong in a whole variety of ways. I’ve talked about this before. It’s not the same as Strong Female Characters, but it’s characters who are strong and oh, look, women. Tonight I’m exploring some reasons why characters exhibit strength. This is by no means a comprehensive list, of course, I haven’t seen nearly close to everything there is to see. But here are a few things off the top of my head.
5. Because of family.
Dear. Dear god. There are few things more tiresome than a stock Mother character, whose only purpose seems to be to blandly care for the children and her husband, cook dinner, clean house, and look pretty. But being a mother does not by any means negate a character’s strength, and oftentimes it motivates it at least to an extent.
- Alma Garret Ellsworth (Molly Parker), the wonderfully flawed adoptive mother to darling little Sofia (Bree Seanna Wall), who I’ve discussed at length in the past. Does she make mistakes in her life when acting as a mother? Of course. Does she love that little girl, despite the accidental circumstances of their becoming a family? Of course.
- Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley), who… okay, yeah, I’ll own that the show hasn’t always done Catelyn right. There are plenty of discussions of that on the internet already, so I’ll skip it, and just say: okay, but Catelyn Stark is actually pretty badass.
- Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), who I have to bring up just because of those woe-inducing discussions about loving her children, even if Cersei and family is a much slipperier slope than that as a whole.
- Sarah Connor (Lena Headey), who I won’t say that much about because I’ve still only seen season one of this show (I know, chastise me) but who I would feel wrong not including.
- Joyce Summers (Kristine Sutherland), as long as we’re talking about moms…
- …and Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Dawn Summers (Michelle Trachtenberg) because family strength can be a sisters/daughters thing too. Oh, the Summers women. Again: they had their flaws, they did, but in the end theirs was a ridiculously strong family.
- River Tam (Summer Glau), because Simon (Sean Maher) spent the entire series taking care of her, but then it was her turn.
- Priya Tsetsang (Dichen Lachman), because I’m sure that having a baby in the apocalypse isn’t easy, if it doesn’t lead to terrible death (I’m raising my eyebrows at you, Walking Dead), and knowing that said baby’s father is off living on a flash drive can’t be easy, but there she was, looking out for T (Brandon Dieter) with everything she could.
- Gemma Teller (Katey Sagal), because while she has been in a very consistent downward spiral, but family is what she’d like her guiding light to be and that counts for something.
- Tara Knowles Teller (Maggie Siff), who is mother to both of Jax’s sons and even though Abel isn’t hers by blood, he’s her son. And if you screw with those kids, or with Jax for that matter, Tara is not going to forget it.
- Luna Garza (Janina Gavankar), who has had to actively work to get her Emma (Chloe Noelle) back before, but who loves that little girl, no matter what animal she grows to turn into.
4. Because of friends.
Since as I always say, family ain’t always blood. I’ve discussed all of this before, basically, but I’m just going to list it out anyway.
- Pam de Beaufort (Kristin Bauer van Straten), Tara Thornton (Rutina Wesley), Nora Gainesborough (Lucy Griffiths), Jessica Hamby (Deborah Ann Woll), who are family but aren’t family and did some ass-kicking for the sake of such things to some extent (also for other reasons, listed below). Special shout-out to Tara (because taking a bullet for someone, even if they misguidedly get you turned into a vampire after, is pretty badass; also because “and you still owe Pam”).
- Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), who regularly kicks ass in the name of her friends (and [former] lovers too, and her brother sometimes but whatever Jason) even when it’s maybe not the best of ideas and especially when nobody else will.
- Echo (Eliza Dushku), and at this point it’s easier if I just restrict this to talking about mid-season two and onward Echo so there aren’t issues of Caroline thrown in there (other people, again, can discuss Caroline much more intelligently than I), who leads her friends into the fight to save the world, then has to deal with the fact that the world hasn’t been saved and continues to fight anyway…
- …and here I’m just going to list off Priya again and Adelle DeWitt (Olivia Williams) and Mag (Felicia Day) and whoever else, everyone involved in the Epitaphverse. These guys. Fighting to protect themselves and those they love and whatnot. And while Echo is inherently a fighter, these guys are largely not. Priya fights when she has to, but it is not her default. Adelle is much more of a fighter-with-words. Mag, as I’ve previously discussed, probably wasn’t Combat Girl pre-thoughtpocalypse. Etcetera.
- All of the Scoobies. Period.
- All of the women of Serenity. Period.
- Trixie (Paula Malcomson), going to shoot at Hurst (Gerald McRaney) as revenge for Ellsworth (Jim Beaver) with no thought to the consequences, just to her complete rage. Among other things.
- Also Alma, and Joanie Stubbs (Kim Dickens) and Jane Cannary (Robin Weigert) and everyone else ever on Deadwood. Period.
3. Because of self-preservation.
Surviving can take special effort sometimes. And I celebrate it always.
- Yet again Priya. I’m just going to let the instances of “Belonging” speak for themselves.
- Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), because my darling is literally the definition of this category.
- Can I just say all of the Scoobies again? Because all of the Scoobies, in one way or another. Buffy persevering through countless ordeals, Willow (Alyson Hannigan) struggling her way out of a dangerous addiction at least somewhat, Anya (Emma Caulfield) learning humanity, Tara (Amber Benson) finding a voice amongst everyone, Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) and her personal journey that I am largely unfamiliar with on Angel, and I’m just going to say Fred (Amy Acker) of Angel too even though I’ve seen literally three of her episodes yet but I know she is this kind of strong especially, Faith (Eliza Dushku) fighting to redeem herself, Dawn working to be taken seriously amongst the group, everyone.
- Tara Thornton is getting some extra credit here, too. Damn, that woman has been through a lot, and maybe it took her being a vampire for me to actually get affectionate toward her for whatever reason, but special points given for literally trying to destroy oneself right off the bat and then learning the reasons why, even if she still isn’t forgiving Sookie for arranging it, being a vampire might actually be working for her.
- Joanie Stubbs, holy moly. Joanie who could easily have collapsed under the weight of all that was on her shoulders, after her failed business venture particularly, but who soldiered on as best she could.
- Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), because surviving her d-bag brother all those years and finally ending up the stronger for it is the greatest ever, and because self-preservation is also a good way to encompass the fact that I love that my Dany learns from her mistakes.
- Bennett Halverson (Summer Glau), because I can’t get through a list like this without mentioning her somewhere. Requisite “yes, she made some questionable choices, particularly re: her torturing Caroline-Echo plan” comment, requisite “but holy crap, she was a genius and did not let anything diminish that” comment.
2. Because of injustices that need to be combated.
Injustices of all sorts.
- Joan Holloway Harris (Christina Hendricks) and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) both, in their ways, combat the injustice that is icky 1960s sexism. And also the injustices of (in Joan’s case) d-bag husbands/lovers and (in both cases) d-bag bosses.
- Caroline Farrell, who I am mentioning here briefly to note that she was seeking to combat the injustice of animal and then human testing. Among other causes, I’m sure.
- Echo, on the other hand, joins the abovementioned entire cast to, in one way or another, combat the injustice that is the thoughtpocalypse.
- Nora Gainesborough is getting a shout-out here, because I can’t not, and also because combating the injustice of the Vampire Authority that she had recently defected from after a moral epiphanyis pretty hardcore.
- And yet again, all of the Scoobies. Combating the injustices of high school, college, demons, vampires, the Watcher’s Council, each other, personal struggles, interpersonal relationships, evil, and anything in between.
- And all of the women of Serenity. Combating the injustices of the Alliance, d-bag criminals, d-bag clients, interpersonal relationships, and anything in between.
- Margaret Schroeder Thompson (Kelly Macdonald), combating the injustice of poor reproductive health education for mothers in the 1920s (among other things, but the “come talk about your vagina” line is my favorite forever).
1. Because why the hell shouldn’t they be.
This is the part where I point out how many of these listed women repeat. Because strength is for everyone, for every reason, for anyone, for any reason.
–your fangirl heroine.