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Female Heroes

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  • Female Heroes

    I believe it might be interesting and instructive to consider Buffy against the background of her peers and predecessors among female heroes in popular culture.

    I use the term "female hero" deliberately to distinguish between conventional heroines, and women like Buffy who take the heroic role traditionally reserved for the male protagonist. Nor is it necessary for the female hero to have super-powers, although they seem more tolerable in some quarters if they do. Wonder Woman, who started in the 1940s would not have been so generally acceptable unless she had been a kind of female superman. The Annie Oakley type was accepted only in a specialized role, as crack shot in her case.

    Two formidable female heroes come to mind who had no special power: Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley in the Alien movies, and Helen Mirren's superbly flawed and gritty Jane Tennison in the Prime Suspect TV series. Jane relies on her brains and force of character, whereas Ripley kicks ass, especially in the second Alien movie, which was directed by James Cameron.

    In the first two Terminator movies James Cameron made Linda Hamilton's character Sarah O'Connor grow from a frightened waitress into the co-savior of the human race.To date I would say Sarah O'Connor is my favorite female hero in the movie/tv medium--closely followed by Buffy Summers.

    Buffy can be nicely contrasted with Xena, who enjoyed a vogue which was much more short lived than Buffy's. In fact Buffy continues as a cult figure whereas Xena has faded. I think Xena began well, with an excellent cast, but they made a mess of it. They made a mess of it because they did not take it seriously. Xena, most of the time, was ludicrously invincible fighting and winning battles against odds which simply insulted the intelligence of the viewers.

    Then there was the violence done to history. In one episode Xena would be helping Helen to escape from Troy, and the next week she would be having a ragged affair with Julius Caesar, which would have involved a time jump of more than a thousand years. Eventually the rating plummeted. A little more thought and work would have given Xena a longer life.

    Buffy's vulnerability, on the other hand, makes her more sympathetic and creates more dramatic tension.

    What do we want in our female heroes now? Do we need more super-powered girls? Or do we want more normal women with plenty of brains and guts? Somebody did float the idea of a Buffy season in which she would have no slayer powers but had to fight the Big Bad anyway, as in the Season 3 episode Helpless. I confess this idea has a powerful attraction for my imagination and sympathy.But would the fans buy it?
    Last edited by Michael; 23-06-08, 02:08 PM.

  • #2
    The female hero that Buffy reminds me most of is Halo Jones from 2000AD. Sure, Halo doesn't have superpowers, but she does share one important thing with Buffy - she's "just a girl", or that's how she sees herself. She's someone living her life in extraordinary circumstances, doing extraordinary things, and yet, she's not the messiah, she's a very naughty girl

    They also both like men with fangy teeth and brooding glowering temperaments and a tendency to mass murder.

    -- Robofrakkinawesome BANNER BY FRANCY --


    • #3
      I can manage glowering and brooding, but mass murder presents problems. What will the neighbors say, for example?


      • #4
        I like my heroes normal, male and female. The idea that you don't need superpowers or be super smart/brave to be a hero, gives me the best feeling. To be special, because you're nothing special. That's why I hate the whole idea about turning potentials into slayers = female empowerment in Chosen. Because it states that you need superpowers to be strong or special.

        Is Cordelia less of a hero than Willow or Buffy, because she doesn't have superpowers? She gives her dreams up to help saving the world without being forced or without getting glory ... she is just the girl behind the warriors, but without her ... they can't save the world, she is brave enough to fight without powers and she was strong enough to go on after everything what happened to her in season 4. This doesn't mean that people with superpowers can't be heroes, but I despise the idea that superpowers are needed to be a hero.

        I love Donna in Doctor Who, she isn't a docter like Martha, a time agent like Jack ... but she is so strong and important without having amazing gifts. She is Donna, a random person ... and she saves the world.

        Donna is my female hero with Cordelia as a close second. I love Buffy, WonderWoman etc. and I think that they are heroes too, but I enjoy normal people as heroes more.
        Last edited by Nina; 23-06-08, 04:24 PM.


        • #5
          If you have not seen it you might enjoy Alfred Hitchcock's film Spellbound made in 1945 and starring Ingrid Bergman when she was at the peak of her popularity. She plays a doctor, a psychoanalyst, who rescues Gregory Peck, who is in the grip of various delusions of guilt, and she unmasks the real villain in a superb climax. The musical score is a little intrusive but this was done without Hitchcock's say so. It was out of character for Hitchcock to make a film with such a positive female role, and I don't think he did again even though Spellbound was one of the most popular films of the 1940s.


          • #6
            I've never seen it before, but I will look out for it. Thank you.


            • #7
              Great thread!!

              I have so many heroines I would love to talk about.

              First Micheal: I love that you bring up Ripley, Sarah O'Connell, and Xena...I love all these woman to. I think Ripley set the tone for a new kind of heroine in my opinion because she is great a mixing strength and vunerablilty. So many times tough heroines end up bitches before anything wlse, it is hard to find the balance..Sigorney Weaver does find it especially when putting Alien and Aliens together to see her journey. Going for a hidden attack to an in your face showdown both fabulous.

              Love Sarah's journey from timid to kick ass and Linda Hamilton does a great job at making the transition believable.

              Xena..yes things faltered in the end but she really was a great layered character and even now sometimes I miss her presence on tv.

              Others for me: Leia from Star Wars...she is another who set a foundation on giving a mix of femininity while being atrong and being able to take charge. And little which would make Buffy proud One of my all time favorites. (And unlike some, I enjoy her when she is in bitch mode)

              Eowyn from Lord of the Rings: Defies what she is suppose to do yet still has grace and beauty throughout.
              Survives a battle many men don't and defeated a enemy no man could
              Also deals with unrequited love and I think handles it pretty well

              Elizabeth Bennett: Head Strong and sets the tone to be able to be on the same level as a man, shows her flaws but is able to become better and learn from them. She may not get to kick ass, but then again I think she does in her own way when she stands up to Lady Catherine

              I would like to go on but I have to go for now. Buffy has some great predecessors imo. And I like that she was able to evolve the role of heroine and make it her own. Although she was suffering from wirters regressing her for a long while...but slowly I think she is coming back around to the amazing heroine she once was.