The Most Super Women on Film
For the ladies: These gals are beauty, brains, and brawn. They'll give any super guy a run for his money!
1. Ripley: why? She’s a woman, but no one notices. Except the forgettable Alien3 , there is nary a moment where femininity is mentioned. She has zero super powers. She’s human throughout the first three films. She’s so fantastic, she doesn’t show off, smart mouth, nor demean her male counterparts. Throughout the series, she just happens to be the last person standing and able to pick up the big gun or wear the “Tonka” armor (see: Aliens.) What makes her super? This is a man’s role, but it absolutely doesn’t matter that a woman plays it. The audience briefly glimpses at her inherent femininity when discovering, protecting, and saving Newt becomes her priority. Yet, you could still insert a man who had a daughter seamlessly into the same role. This is not to say that a woman has to act manly, this is to say the vision of heroics is not gender specific. This spotlights Cameron’s brilliance as much as casting Arnold as the cyborg instead of the hero in Terminator.
2. Buffy: why? The world of TV is still more base and basic than world of movies, yet not only does this teenage blonde escape hair-colored and teen stereotyping and lame sexual harassment, she gets stronger, craftier, and more dominating each season. She’s killed the love of her life twice, physically beaten at least two boyfriends (not in that domestic abuse, she should be on Cops sort of way), a troll, an evil demi-goddess, and sacrificed herself for her mystical sister. Not to mention she survives high school all the while! Now if only those that made the series had grown more creative in the last two seasons.
[Honorable mention: Dark Angel, Alba is terrific, but this show is nowhere without a Buffy carrying the torch first.]
3. Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter): why? She really started it all. Not only is she super, she’s a patriot as well. She always trumps men. She is the American dream. Only poor scripts and a lack of creativity could defeat her over time. Her biggest enemy: the Adam West Batman set a template that the networks were afraid to stray from silly and slapstick superheroes. [ Notable mention: Justice League the cartoon, Wonder Woman is truly modern.] In print, she’s nearly as powerful as Superman, but sexy enough to flirt with Batman, and escape stereotyping at the same time.
4. Bionic Woman: Lindsay Wagner (ignore the most recent lame re-imagining) not only exceeded expectations, but managed to become as interesting and nearly as strong as the male version from which she was spun. The show was a true success in an era where girl power meant smashing the gender roles. All the while, Jamie Summers was strong, resilient, and beautiful. She never needed to burn a bra.
5. Princess Leia: Audiences had to wait for the third movie wherein truly proved that beauty was a cover for strength. Not only did she kill a giant slug while wearing a metal bikini, she corralled Ewoks, softened, and purified Han Solo, and inspired Luke to defeat not just Vader, but the purely evil Emperor. She went from damsel in distress to pillar of strength and the core of the Rebel movement.
6. Sarah Connor: Linda Hamilton started out like Leia, damsel in distress to maternal commander in the field. By the second movie, not only was she physically equivalent to any human man on screen, her drive, ambition, and craft exceed those of male counterparts for years to come…and a little scary at the same time. Should be noted, this probably would not have happened without Ripley’s success and credibility. (Thank you, James Cameron, again.) Hamilton’s Sarah Connor predates the era wherein everyone does flying kicks in pseudo-martial arts style (curse you Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).
7. Invisible Woman: Although Fantastic Four suffers from bizarre choices in casting and a silly script, she is obviously the physically most powerful of the quartet and a role model. She’s so tough, she tells her man to be a man! That’s a lot of woman!
8. She-Ra: again a spinoff that was nearly equal her male base. More importantly, she led a mostly male supporting cast against a mostly male group of nemeses. In the early to mid 80’s who else was showing tweens and teen girls what power resides within and without?
9. X-Men women: Do note Rogue, Storm, and Jean Grey are represented here by the 90’s animated series. The movies do no justice to these super gals. The animated series illustrates their beauty, shows their being the most powerful members on the team, as well as being the most multilayered characters of any superhero on TV or film. Let it be known, this was nearly a direct translation of twenty years of comic book stories-they did not halve combine nor “spice” up any of their stories. Other than Wolverine, their male associates couldn’t carry their own single episodes. They only suffered from the 90’s costumes as their male counterparts did.
10. Emma Peel, “The Avengers” This is not the cinematic Uma Thurman. Dianna Rigg originated Mrs. Peel in the spy team ‘Avengers.’ She was smart, sexy, and a physical threat. Without Mrs. Peel, there may not have been “Police Woman,” “Charlie’s Angels,” or “Alias.” She is the best representative of women of the time. She didn’t bake cookies, she kicked butts while being a lady.
Last honorable mention: Supergirl. Not just because she’s cute, because the version of Clark’s cousin that appeared in Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited was special. She literally fought to escape Clark’s shadow. She was orotund and had a punch to go with it. Yet, that same (over)confidence often lead her headfirst into battle only to get thumped…and needed Superman’s assistance. Who knows, the next version may change things (in an ongoing series).
In finishing who is the next super woman? Could a She-Hulk movie/show be viable? Is Ms. Marvel (Marvel Comics) multi-layered enough to be something other than Marvel’s Wonder Woman? Will the Wasp in the Avengers be the next super lady?
Whoever decides to develop the next power gal, s/he must look at the ladies that have come before, the ladies that can stand up to the big boys, seek a normal life, and never ever become masculine to show their equality to their male counterparts. There have been new attempts. The new “Bionic Woman” was a microbe infected super spy. She was hollow, bionic in name only, and the show was not engaging for either gender—hence cancellation. Kara (Supergirl) on “Smallville” was poorly written and terribly acted. Other than her shape, she was no improvement on Helen Slater’s movie version. Claire on “Heroes” showed some verve and had potential. Ultimately, she became a whiner, and the show never attempted to do anything with her ability to heal.
Thankfully, we live in a day and age wherein women have been CEO’s, NASCAR drivers, heads of state, and space shuttle commanders. It will probably take a woman to write and, or direct the next superheroine on film, whether she’s original or an adaptation from novels or comic books.
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