At the age of twelve, I was introduced to Ridley Scott’s sci-fi/horror classic, “Alien.”  A year later, I vividly remember watching James Cameron’s sequel, “Aliens” with my dad.  I thought both films were excellent, but there was something in them that made them stand out from all the other movies I had seen – a strong female character.  Even at a young age, I realized that women in these genre-based films and television series were mostly used for their sexuality, or had a minor role next to a dominant male lead.  Sigourney Weaver’s portrayal of Lt. Ellen Ripley in 1979 changed all that.  The extraordinary aspect about Ripley’s character, is that she transcended her sex in a way that I’d never seen before.  She was still a woman, both stunningly beautiful and intelligent, but when it came time to kick ass, she was there.  The final thirty minutes of “Aliens” is still, for me, the best female-on-female battle ever portrayed in film history.  Ripley not only saves a little girl, but she saves an injured special-ops Marine while battling the alien queen.  Ripley is not simply there for her looks, she’s the heroine of this franchise, and only she can stand up to these monsters.  In sticking with the sci-fi genre, I’d like to look at another female soldier that the men struggled to keep up with.

Capt. Kara “StarBuck” Thrace not only stole many of the more memorable highlights from SyFy’s Emmy award-winning “Battlestar Galactica,” but she simultaneously exemplified the qualities of both a female, and male lead.  The beauty of her character is that the viewer never lost sight of the fact that she was indeed a woman.  Starbuck, with all of her stubbornness refused to accept the cliche stereotypes of male-female relationships that we are accustom to.  Instead of having her heart broken by other men, Kara breaks their hearts first.  She’s not afraid to get into fisticuffs with her superior officers, and she can hold her own in a boxing ring.  Like with all these wonderful women, Kara understands and is comfortable with her sexuality, but unlike most female characters, she dictates when and where that will happen.  One of my favorite scenes is when she and Anders are alone, and she simply says, “I want to Frak.  All I really want to do right now is Frak.”  Watching her take on both male and female stereotypes are some of my favorite moments of the show.  Ok, so let’s diverge from science-fiction, and take a look at the beautiful women that inhabit the world of fantasy.

Although she’s technically not yet a woman, Arya Stark from “Game of Thrones” is probably my favorite female-fictional character in modern literature.  If you haven’t read the books, or seen HBO’s adaptation, then you’re missing out.  George R.R. Martin knows how to write strong female characters, and Arya is my favorite.  As with all of the characters that I have mentioned so far, Arya is not simply a girl who wants to do what boys do, but desires to be a woman while doing it.  Throughout the show, and in the books, Arya is constantly battling her society’s perceptions of what a woman should be.  While her sister (Sansa) is off meeting princes and improving her sewing skills, Arya is hard at work practicing her swordplay with her “dancing master,” Syrio.  With Arya’s perseverance and strength, also comes intelligence.  She may not undertand the ways of the royal court, but her street smarts and adaptability make her one of the more intriguing characters to follow in Martin’s epic.  Arya knows that she’s female, and if someone tries to tell her she looks like a boy, her defensive nature kicks in as she declares, “I’m not a boy, I’m a girl!”

My final leading women come from Terry Goodkind’s epic-book series, “The Sword of Truth.”  I have to start off by saying that I have only watched the television series, and have yet to read the books, which I hear are incredible (they’re on my summer reading list).  With that being said, the show did a good job at portraying some memorable female characters.  Khalan Amnell and Cara of the Mord-Sith were women that I enjoyed watching every week.  Honestly, they were the one reason that I watched the show.  In the television series, we see Khalan battle with her feelings for Richard (The Seeker), and her desire to protect him for the greater good of all humanity.  Cara, on the other hand, fights a battle with her past as she attempts to fit in with Khalan and the rest their fellowship.  Both of these women are warriors, and their fierce determination and strength is clearly displayed throughout the series.  It’s a shame that film and television don’t give us more of these wonderfully strong women.  They are a joy to behold.

So what do you think?  Who are some of your favorite female heroines from the worlds of Science-fiction/fantasy?

-David Griffin (Follow @griffinde on Twitter)

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