Strong Women, Terrifying Women

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I often use “terrifying” as a compliment when describing women. That’s not a compliment when describing a woman’s hair or breasts or complexion (or any aspect of a woman’s appearance, really), but it is a compliment when I say that a woman herself is “terrifying.” I would probably say “awesome” if people would understand that I mean it in the archaic sense—awe-inspiring in nature.

It is not the dream of every young woman to be described in such a manner, but it is a role to which to aspire. A powerful woman whose personality can dominate a room. One who can eviscerate men and women with a few words or with just a look.

These are your Sue Sylvesters (I may not still watch Glee, but I’ll put on imaginary hipster glasses long enough to say that I watched Glee before people wouldn’t shut up about it). Remember Portia DeGeneres’ character on Better Off Ted (one of the best comedies that I have ever seen), Veronica Palmer? She is definitely in this category.

Both of these are comical parodies of this type of character. But the real world is full of these powerful, inspirational female characters (Margaret Thatcher, anyone?). And so is the fictional world. Women do not need superpowers to be terrifying badasses, even in fictional universes that are filled with superpowers. Amanda Waller* from DC Comics is an excellent example: she is female, significantly overweight, and black—in the world of comic books, even more so than in real life, these are three tremendous disadvantages. But she has such a powerful force of personality that she intimidates supervillains into obeying her.

Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife. Brenda Leigh Johnson on The Closer. Sharon Raydor on The Closer and Major Crimes. The amazing Dr. Elizabeth Weir on Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis (who ranks among my favorite fictional characters of all time). Adele DeWitt from Dollhouse. Captain Kathryn Janeway from Star Trek Voyager. Nan Flanagan on True Blood. Ivanova on Babylon 5. Sumiregawa Nenene on Read or Die! Maxine Gray on Judging Amy. Avery Jessup on 30 Rock. . . . Fox on Gargoyles, because I am all kinds of nerdy and have the best taste. Elizabeth Donnelly from Law & Order SVU.

Also, Elaine Barrish from Political Animals. But I think that “marvelously terrifying” describes just about every character whom Sigourney Weaver has ever played. Hot damn, I love Sigourney Weaver.

Beyond highlighting examples, do you guys think that women with powerful personalities have a greater psychological and social presence in a room or in a book or on television than male characters who have just as powerful and domineering personalities?

I remember reading in a how-to-draw-manga book when I was in high school (spoiler alert: I have never drawn manga) that, if you did not draw a female as being noticeably shorter than a male character, she would visually dominate any scene with just the two of them.

As you may have guessed, a powerful woman, in real life or in fiction, seems more “real” to me than a powerful man. But, then again, my first role model was Maleficent from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.


*For these purposes, I am referring to the real Amanda Waller from DC Comics, who has been voiced on Justice League: Unlimited and in Superman/Batman: Public Enemies by the magnificent CCH Pounder. I am not referring to the skinny sociopath “Amanda Waller” in the most recent Suicide Squad issues who is just . . . no. Just no.

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Nerd Alert: Just Girls

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On a list of current television shows, Young Justice rates among not only my favorites, but those shows which I most highly recommend. To anyone. It’s one of those shows that I forget that kids watch, too, because I am pretty accustomed to watching it and discussing it with my friends (we’re all in our twenties).

Created by Greg Weisman (maker of Gargoyles, one of the best shows of all time) and the talented Brandon Vietti, Young Justice has an interesting story, beautiful animation (and character-designs), and excellent voice-acting. And it also has wonderful characters. Of particular interest is its wonderful cast of powerful female characters—who are not simply “painted with the same brush.” These are wonderful characters for girls to look up to, or to broaden how boys see female superheroes (and females in general). They are also just really genuinely enjoyable characters to watch.

Young Justice follows a covert team of young (adolescent) DC superheroes (initially “side-kicks”) who work under the instruction of the Justice League but who are not official members of the League. In a world where big-name superheroes have celebrity status, that can have its advantages. Initially composed only of Robin (Dick Grayson), Aqualad (an original Aqualad conceived especially for this series), Kid Flash (Wally West), and Superboy (a clone, grown by supervillains as a weapon), numerous characters join the team. Miss Martian (M’gann) is first, followed soon by Artemis (an archer who is the only non-supervillain member of her family). Before the …

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Does Angelina Jolie Make You Feel Bad?

My favorite source for silly journalism, The UK Daily Mail Online, has posted an article entitled: “Why Angelina Jolie movies give girls the feelbad factor.”

Apparently Ms. Jolie has been voted both a better role model than Kathy Bates, but at the same time Jolie’s pouty lips and big boobs cause women to feel subconsciously worse about themselves by encouraging unrealistic expectations. But that’s rather the point of …

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The Guardian’s ‘Women 100′ List Celebrates International Women’s Day

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The UK’s Guardian is celebrating the centenary of International Women’s day by asking it readers to help compile an inspirational list of the top 100 women in the world.

In celebration of this, here at Zelda Lily we thought we’d have a little look at who you might choose. Given the wealth of choice – about half of the population of the world – you’d think coming up with who to vote for would be a doddle, but it’s not actually as easy as you might think. My initial thoughts were ‘Oh great! I’ll get nominating!’ But then, when I actually stopped and though about who to nominate, the task became a little trickier… The Guardian states that:

‘As a general rule, we think the 100 women who make the list should be there for their ability to inspire. They should be successful in their own right, but also have achieved something for other women – whether through their work by acting as role models.’

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