I should probably begin this post by acknowledging its inspiration. A couple of days ago, one of my fellow Write Clubers, Bill Chance, wrote a very insightful piece about the movie Kick-Ass. Now, I’ve never seen the movie myself. Those sort of bloodbath flicks aren’t really my style, but what inspired me was the conversation that transpired as a result of his post, during this week’s meeting of the minds. The notion of this ass-kicking little girl made me think of all the other ass-kicking “girls” that I love so much, both on film and in print. I recommend you take a minute and read Bill’s blog yourself – (here).
I’ve always been drawn to strong female characters. These are characters who aren’t afraid of getting a little grime beneath their perfectly manicured fingernails, or speaking their minds and educating the ignorant masses in the ways of the world. Women who know how to handle a weapon, any weapon, and aren’t scared to use it – relish in using it, even. These female characters would never need a man to do their saving. They can save themselves, thank you very much, with much more finesse and efficiency than any male counterpart – in heels and a cocktail dress, no less. They have chutzpah – or balls for my non-Yiddish speaking friends. I love that.
If you know me, then you’re probably well aware that one of my all-time favorite television characters is Alias‘ Sydney Bristow. I got to know her quite well when I was in the midst of getting my formerly fat butt into shape. She got me through hour after hour of seemingly endless pedaling to nowhere. I have a special place in my heart for Sydney Bristow. To me, she is the epitome of ass-kicking greatness. She’s smart, tough as nails, focused – and who isn’t just a little bit turned on by the over-the-top costumes she dons? All in the name of saving the world from evil masterminds hell bent on destroying us all.
Of course, she isn’t the only strong female character out there. There’s The Closer’s Brenda Leigh Johnson – a powerful woman with a dogged determination that keeps her obsessively focused on getting her suspect’s confession. Her balls of brass tenacity coupled with her “bless your heart” southern drawl makes her a formidable foe to many a bad guy. Then, there is Lisbeth Salander from Stieg Larssen’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. Not your traditional heroine, I will concede, but strong and admirable, nonetheless. Of course, you have to get passed the emaciated, Goth thing she’s sporting and overlook her very disturbed mind brought about by an equally disturbed childhood. Peel all that away and you will find a girl who will stand up for herself and those she loves, no matter what the cost. I mean, how could you not love a character that will break into her rapist’s apartment, hog-tie him to a bed and tattoo his crimes in red ink across his chest? Not necessarily how I would have gone about enacting my revenge, but it shows she’s got chutzpah.
There are a slew of other woman – a list that I am surely not doing justice – but the few that pop into my head at this particular moment are: Sigourney Weaver’s alien ass-kicker Ellen Ripley, Tomb Raider’s Lady Lara Croft, Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta, Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan, Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, Resident Evil’s Alice, Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia, In Plain Sights’ Mary Shannon, Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet. Yes, Elizabeth Bennet – the future Mrs. Darcy – an inspiringly strong woman, especially in the context of her time. No, you’re not going to see Lizzy packing a Glock 38, riding a motorcycle through the English countryside to save Mr. Darcy from the evil clutches of Mr. Wickham and Mr. Collins. I agree, that would certainly make for some great entertainment. I’d watch it. However, for a late eighteenth/early nineteenth century, middle class woman she was remarkably defiant against the walls society placed around her. She mocked the status quo. Sure, she ended up marrying the handsome, rich guy and living happily ever after, but she did it on her terms and without compromise. Something I greatly admire in a female lead. Perhaps this is the very reason I can’t jump on board the Twilight crazy train. Bella is a character I would kill off the minute an opportunity presented itself. Grow a backbone, girl! Get yourself a gun that shoots silver bullets and a big wooden stake. Do the world a favor – get rid of those obnoxious werewolves and sparkling vampires. Go find a real man – or don’t – just stop sniveling over those two pathetic saps.
These kick-ass women, and countless more, are the kind of characters I find intriguing and aspire to create within the pages of my own work. A daunting task to be sure, especially in a literary world where so many female characters are portrayed as damsels in distress. What about you? Who are a few of your favorite kick-ass women in the world of fiction?