These girls teach me to be strong. A strong WOMAN. Because being strong is not a man’s trait, and what’s so wrong with being a girl, anyway?
1. BUFFY SUMMERS (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Buffy is perhaps a little more “masculine” than some of the other women on this list. She is not only a fighter, but a true loner. She doesn’t nurture, because she doesn’t have time. Her friendships, while meaningful, often prove to make Buffy’s life more difficult, and so her willingness and attempt to dedicate herself so fully to her friends is extraordinary. We’ve often seen Buffy mistreat her friends, or distance herself. This is because, like Jack Shephard in Lost, Buffy walks alone in her position of leadership, and this forces all interpersonal matters to fall by the wayside. Buffy is selfless in that she recognizes herself as an idea above an individual. She understands that, to be the Slayer is, not just to save lives, but to be the very embodiment of heroic. Her job is more important than her identity. To live this life is to live a life of complete isolation, a theme that is thoroughly explored throughout the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Buffy is my hero, I think, because she bears her isolation with ferocity and grace. She does not bemoan her role, nor does she fight it. She is willing to recognize that there are forces and things in this world that are more important than the individual, and this is hard, I think, for most people to accept.
Also, understand that, when I say Buffy is “masculine,” I don’t mean she’s more like a man. I just mean that she’s a lot of things that are more commonly associated with being a man. Buffy is such a strong female character particularly because she shows how a lot of these traits I’m talking about may be considered “masculine,” but they are not always gendered. The word “masculine” does not always have to be rhetorical. Sometimes, it is what it is.
2. KATE AUSTEN (Lost)
Kate can do everything the boys can do. Seriously. Though Kate, unlike Buffy, is not “masculine.” She is, I think, intensely “feminine.” Much of her appeal is soft, nurturing, and sexual in nature. She is neither stoic nor lonesome–despite her propensity to run, or her ability to fend for herself. Remember, much of what Kate does, she does for love. And while she is not selfless, she is certainly not selfISH. Sort of like John Locke (at least in the early seasons), Kate offers a much-needed feminine, analytical counter to the highly masculine “do now/think later” leadership offered up by Jack and Sawyer. She uses emotion and empathy where Jack and Sawyer may just feel like shooting their guns at people. Both are equally important factors in keeping people alive on a mystical island infested with Others, polar bears, the smoke monster, and Danielle Rousseau’s booby-traps.
Also, I’m just thinking about how, as the series progresses, Kate becomes an extreme nurturer for both Jack and Sawyer. Both men, at one time or another, lay their heads down in her lap. This is part of her role as a hero on the show.
ASIDE: I feel like, before I saw Lost, had I been in a plane crash and gotten deserted on a magical island with a bunch of other people, I would have been weak and scared and sort of helpless (like Shannon). But since watching Lost, I feel like, in a time of crisis, I’ll try to be more like Kate–strong, independent, and in control. A leader. And there’s nothing I love more about Lost (other than the whole “people coming together in a time of crisis” thing) than all of the women in Lost, and the episodes in which Sun and Kate and Claire and maybe like, Rousseau or Juliet, all get together and go on a hunt, or a hike in the jungle, or they go on a secret mission to the Staff so that Sun can look at her baby on the ultrasound machine. No boys allowed! These episodes seem so important to me. Themes of fertility and femininity are just running rampant Lost, which is part of why I love it.
3. CORDELIA CHASE (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel)
Cordy is a champion. Angel teaches her how to fight with swords, and that’s awesome. Like a lot of the women on this list, she plays the role of both nurturer to a great hero AND a hero herself, and she goes through a profound transformation. Cordy is not merely Angel’s Girl Friday. Not that there’s anything wrong with Girl Fridays–I’m just saying. In the end, she’s kind of like a savior. She’s Angel’s angel. In my opinion, she wins first prize in the Buffyverse competition for Greatest Hero of Them All. And that’s really all I have to say about that.
4. SUMMER ROBERTS (The O.C.)
While Summer Roberts may not be fighting evil or saving the world or like, rescuing Jack from the Others, she’s really no one to f#ck with. In fact, she’s like a skinny little pillar of F#CK YOU. She also plays nurturer to a neurotic hero (well, I think Seth Cohen is pretty heroic) while simultaneously kicking ass and, you know, changing the world. Summer’s a good antithesis to the kind of academic elitism that I hate. She DOES go to an Ivy League school, and she DOES tour the country with an environmentalist cause. She’s intelligent, aware, and incredibly motivated–WITHOUT having any pretensions about it. She is simply Summer. Her willingness to make certain sacrifices for her relationship with Seth demonstrate a kind of loyalty to love as well. For Summer, love and commitment are just as important as her professional development. She sees her relationship with Seth to be, not a hindrance to her growth as a human being, but a part of it. While this may not be true for everyone, we have to give credit to Summer, because she is showing maturity by being true to herself. It’s something that I think a lot of girls can learn from–Being strong is not about doing what others expect of you or what other people think is right. It’s about doing what YOU think is right and sticking to your guns no matter what. Like Summer.
5. VERONICA MARS (Veronica Mars)
Veronica Mars is the daughter of a private investigator. She’s a detective. Like Buffy, she is a masculine hero. She walks alone. The men in her life, with the exception of her father, often cause her great despair, and her abandonment issues due to the absence of her mother make her noncommittal and antagonistic. She doesn’t have many friends. In fact, Veronica’s only non-familial relationship is with a boy she, in fact, saves in the very first episode, Wallace Fennel, who serves as her Boy Friday for most of the show.
Veronica is one of my heroes because she’s a dog who’s been kicked, and she’s biting, but she’s not giving up. She’s ruthless, but she’s not heartless. At one point in the series, she attempts a more nurturing role during her relationship with Logan Echolls–but that ultimately fails due to her trust issues and serious emotional unavailability. The loss of Logan, while inevitable, nearly destroys her. She’s a little cold, sure. But she’s not dead.
The thing about Veronica Mars, despite its poppy aesthetic, is that it’s not a fluffy, happy, kid-friendly show. It is, in fact, quite dark, dealing heavily in issues like incest, rape, murder, and class warfare. While it takes place in the sunny suburbs of San Diego, thematically, it is anything BUT sunny, which is probably part of why it only lasted three seasons. Nonetheless, it’s a fantastic show, and Rob Thomas (who also created Party Down) is really really good at hurting his characters and allowing them sadness and flaws, which, as a writer, I have to say, is pretty damn admirable.
Anyway, that’s all my chick heroes for now. There may be a part II in the works. What about Lorelai Gilmore? What about Chloe Sullivan and Ally McBeal? I’m just saying. But who knows?