Here it is, at last. This post has been coming for a long time–I mean that literally; I wrote pieces of this seven months ago in February– I’ve just not had the guts to finally finish writing it until now. And before I can talk about certain characters, I need to get some things off my heart and on the table. It has taken a lot of rewriting to get this to the way I wanted, so I hope it’s all clear.
While I understand the importance of knowing Biblical gender roles in real life, I do love a good female superhero or agent in films or tv shows any day–I’ve not kept that a secret either; most of you know that about me already. Having lacked a lot of decent female roles models in my own life, I’ve loved finding heroines I can look up to, ones who’ve been able to give me help by setting examples that I can observe and learn from. Women like Princess Leia and the Black Widow are important to me for such reasons.
However, I have felt judged for liking strong female characters by fellow Christian teens and kids, starting back when I was sixteen. I have had friends, personal friends whom I’ve known for years, frown and question my sister and I when they learned we liked characters like Princess Leia and Natasha aka Black Widow, often giving their own unthoughtful opinion whether we asked to hear it or not. I’ve heard things said along the lines of ‘Leia’s a feminist because she wasn’t submissive to Han in the first movie and she’s engaged in the political world and she’s sassy’. And in regards to Natasha, ‘no woman could ever fight a man and win, she’s not realistic at all; she’s a warrior woman, she needs to learn her place at home’.
Statements like these scared me into silence because I didn’t want to get into debates that I didn’t want to participate in. Even if we don’t see certain friends anymore, it’s hard to ignore that overall opinion because a lot of Christian kids feel the same way and talk about it in their own web circles. And that’s fine, because that is their business. They can and should be able to like and dislike who they please.
However, what I’m tired of is feeling bad or “less Christian” for liking the characters they categorize as ‘umbilical’ ‘unrealistic’ and ‘not good’.
I will say right here and now: there is no perfect character, in books or in movies or TV shows. Everyone, including Leia and Natasha, have downfalls. The root of the real problem that I’ve faced boils down to this; fellow Christians are exercising their right to speak but neglecting the need to be gracious of other’s opinions and convictions. You should be able to believe, like and dislike what you will but it needs to be balanced with grace. But I can’t wait for everyone to understand that before I can feel ‘safe’ to share what I personally like.
So. This post is me letting go of hurt feelings from the past and standing up for what I like, because I can. I can no longer let other people’s opinions dictate what I say or feel out of fear of being judged. I’ve learned that how other people feel is their business and I shouldn’t have let it hurt me the way it did, even though it wasn’t right that they couldn’t have been more respectful of how I felt. However, other people will also have to learn that I dang well like Black Widow and the fact that I thought she complimented The Avengers beautifully. I don’t want to be scared of admitting that or anything else anymore.
There are reasons why I admire and look up to these strong women in particular, even for all the crap I’ve gotten for liking them. This is not a list of me trying to clear these fictional women of accusations my friends have given them. It is instead the reasons why they are still my heroines after all these years. I’m going to start my recovery by not being ashamed of them anymore.
Let me introduce you to the four women who always stand out to me to the most time and time again, who’ve showed examples of courage, and that’s it’s okay to cry when you need to and that you can still get up to fight back at things that are trying to hurt you.
Princess Liea from the Star Wars franchise.
Oh, the pretty Princess Leia, she was my first introduction to cinema’s tough women! She had strength to withstand torture to protect her people, she could hold her own ground and think on her feet in the middle of life and death situations, she knew when to not throw her trust immediately on two men she didn’t know. She’s a capable leader in a time of need; she could help her father and then take his place in command when she had to. She can hold her own verbally. She can hold her own with a weapons. She wasn’t rendered into a puddle of uselessness when she was separated from her man and instead helped rescue her friends first and then him later on. I could go on and on about Princess Leia. But overall, she’s absolutely amazing. She deserves the iconic role in history that she has and I think more girls could stand to look up to her.
Natasha Romanoff from Iron Man 2 and The Avengers.
Oh, Natasha Romanoff; how I’ve been saddened seeing so many people say, “The Avengers would have been perfect if she hadn’t been there.” I wish more people could appreciate the good qualities in her, like, her intense loyalty to people who’ve helped her in the past, her clear head on and off the job, her ability to keep most of her emotions separate from her job, too. Her willingness to go beyond her skill set as a spy to be a soldier when the world most desperately needed her to be. Her fighting skills that can get her out of harms way even when it appears she’s in over her head. Her strong will that helps her be able to get up and move on after traumatic experiences even though it shook her up a bit–something I wish I was better at. These are things that made me really love the Black Widow and I can’t wait to see her in Captain America’s sequel!
Sarah Conner from The Terminator and Terminator Two: Judgement Day.
I really really like Sarah Conner and the development her character took between those two movies. She wasn’t always a tough gal, which is what makes her character so good. What I like about Sarah is that she thinks and prepares for the future. She faced the truth instead of running from it. When she became unhappy with what she thought was her future, she decided to do something about it. Even though she was mentally exhausted and hurting, she pushed through obstacles to achieve her goals. She learned to work systems to her advantage. She was self-sacrificing and good mother. In many ways, I really identify with her because I’ve gone through emotionally traumatic experiences myself (I have never had my life threatened by an actual Terminator but I think most emotional trauma is a lot like that anyway.) I’ve had to make a choice too, if I was going be fearful of what my future might hold or if I’m going to instead learn to grab it by the neck and say, “You’re not crushing me, not today.” And Sarah really set an example of a women able to do just that.
Myka Bering from Warehouse 13.
Where to start? Myka is a great character in a fun show but she showed an example of being hurt but dealing with it and letting go. She’s also incredibly smart, can stand on her own but also accept help from her partner when she needs help. She steps out of her comfort zone when she has too, she learned to roll with the punches when things don’t go her way. She can both think of others but also of herself in what she personally needs, which is a great balance. She sets high standards for herself which sometimes isn’t always great but is better then setting no standard at all. Myka is that the feminine “tom boy”, she knows and likes that she’s a women but she doesn’t hide that fact that she grew up different from other girls. She’s different which in so many ways makes her so relate-able.
Yes, I’m focusing on only four women. There are lots of heroines out there, like Catwoman from The Dark Knight Rises or Kate Becket from Castle, and they are strong women too. But Catwoman felt under-developed, and she and her high heels irked me through most of the movie, which made me sad because I wanted to like her. And Kate Becket is a good character but she’s also not a personal role model to me either because she hasn’t been able to let go of things in her past and move on to become a more healthier person.
However, I also understand that heroines and their stories are very different; if all heroes or heroines where healthy mentally, physically or emotionally, you’d loose a lot of what makes their story so good. And it gets even better if we get to see them work through their problems. So even if they aren’t my personal heroines, I should still be able enjoy what they give to their movie or TV show, even if I wouldn’t view their choices in life as something I would want to follow.
In summary, I think it’s important to be a strong woman; emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally. You never know when life is going to throw a lightening bolt into your face. But besides that, it’s important to have good role models of strong women in your life to watch, whether they are real or fictional. Seeing good examples of strength is important.
Princess Leia showed me that it’s okay to independent from guys until you know the ones around you are trustworthy. Black Widow showed me that if you have a clear head and a strong will, you can do almost anything, even save the world from monsters. Sarah Conner showed me that it’s possible to get back up after traumatic experiences and be more strong then when you were first knocked over. Myka Bering showed me that it’s okay if you’re different from others and that you can work through your past to let go of things that have hurt so you can move on.
These are my heroines. Maybe one day, I will be able to be as heroic as they are.