Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My Favorite Strong Female Characters

There are a lot of strong female characters in books, TV, and film. They've always been there, but now I'm noticing them more. At least my daughter notices them and brings them to my attention, characters such as Phryne Fisher from "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries", Amy Pond from "Dr. Who", Buffy from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", and others.

I decided to take a look at some of my favorite female characters and why I believe they are strong role models. This task was meant to be an easy blog subject, something I could pound out on the keys in 20 minutes or so...right.

Here are just a few of my favorites:

Margret Lechow - The Ark by Margot Benary-Isbert
     This is a story of post WWII Germany. Mrs. Lechow and her 4 surviving children are refugees in their own country. Margret is the oldest daughter who is dealing with her own grief for her twin brother and working to find her way in a new world with a whole different set of rules and expectations. Margret has a quiet, steady strength about her.

Meg Murray - A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle   ,
     Meg is imperfect, angry at times, insecure about how she looks, and impulsive in her actions. In other words, I can relate to her. In the series of books about her family, Meg works on her own issues while dealing with all sorts of other challenges - like rescuing her father from a distant planet. Despite her issues, and in some ways because of her faults, she is able to save her father and her younger brother from the evil IT... and that's just in the first book.

Emily Pollifax - The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, etc by Dorothy Gilman
Wouldn't she have made a great
Mrs. Pollifax?
     Ah, Emily... she's a wonderful role model for women over 50...or 60. What could be better, after being widowed and finding yourself alone and bored, than to become a spy? These stories are very dated, some of the dialogue borders on ridiculous, but I've read every Mrs. Pollifax book written - some twice. Strong woman? Emily volunteers at the hospital gift shop, attends her garden club, and takes Karate classes. There's just enough romance and lots of action.
     There was at least one movie made from these stories, but I didn't like it at all. In the 1971 movie, Mrs. Pollifax is played by Rosalind Russell (His Girl Friday, Aunty Mame). If I had been casting, I would have chosen someone more like Frances Bavier (Aunt Bee from The Andy Griffith Show). This is how I picture Mrs. Pollifax and it makes her more accessible as a role model if the actress is someone a little like the rest of us.

There are many others, of course: Hermione Granger, Phryne Fisher, pretty much any character from a Tamora Pierce novel, Ellis Peters also has strong female characters. For pure fun, I love Thursday Next from the Jasper Fforde novels and Granny Weatherwax from Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. There are too many to list.

My favorite female characters are in stories where there are also strong male characters and they don't build up women at the expense of men or vise versa. I like to see a range of different types of strengths in male and female characters. Women should be able to be warriors, but they don't need to be "like men" to be considered strong. I think this is why Margret Lechow was my first pick.

One female character didn't make the cut:

Charlotte - Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
     Don't get me wrong. I love the book and love the characters. I'm just not sure about Charlotte as a role model. She works and works and works and doesn't even get credit for it. In the end, she dies and all the glory goes to a spoiled, whiney, male pig. Bacon anyone?

Who are your favorites?