5 Unfrequented Strong Female Characters in TV and Film in the 21st Century

There’s a lot of talk these days about better representation and diversity in various storytelling mediums, and that has even included better representation of female characters. They’re not just eye candy or the love interest, and there should not be as much emphasis as there is on what they wear, what they look like, what they’re interests are and what not.

Obviously, this conversation transcends beyond the storytelling world, for it’s characters like these that set up the idea in people’s heads on what a female is like and how to treat them. The weaker a female character is developed, the likelihood that idea is going to transcend onto someone’s mind. That’s why it’s cool to see efforts made now than ever before on more female-driven stories; from female characters as the lead in action films, to a female director guiding the way, and in the case of the literary world, female authors writing awesome female characters.

This is a subject that I definitely haven’t touched on on my blog yet. While I’ve had the idea to do so for a while, I wasn’t sure how to go about it, especially with so many people already saying really important things on the subject matter. I needed the right motivation… and that came in the form of a sexist, homophobic lunatic attempting to set up meetups all over the world for men who are pro-rape, who then canceled them when he felt he wouldn’t be able to “ensure safety;” especially when an all-female boxing club threatened to track down the location of the Toronto meetup.

That’s why having better developed female characters in storytelling now more than ever before is really important, for to have people actually be pro-rape is completely messed up. Which is what brings me to today’s listicle. There have been a lot of listicles lately that feature strong, well-developed female characters in TV and movies nowadays, but they tend to leave out particular characters that I know of that I believe also fit that category. So for today’s listicle, I’m going to discuss 5 unfrequented strong female characters in TV and film in the 21st century (sorry Mulan and Katniss, but in this case, you’re going to have to sit out on this one):

  1. Chihiro from “Spirited Away” (2001)
    Anyone who is familiar with Hayao Miyazaki’s films are aware of his well-developed heroines. Chihiro is one of them, as she goes on a hero’s journey from a whiny, apathetic child, to a confident, self-assured girl, via working at a bathhouse in the spirit world, in order to save her parents. It’s a very subtle transition that feels really natural, and this may bounce off of Miyazaki’s aim for the character to “draw on something already inside them, brought out by the particular circumstances.” It’s because of this character development that serves as a reason why “Spirited Away” is one of my favorite films.
  2. Paikea (Pai) from “Whale Rider” (2002)
    Based on the book of the same name by Witi Ihimaera, Pai is a young girl who, as the eldest of her generation, feels that she can become the next chief of her Maori tribe, as the descendant of the whale rider Paikea. Her grandfather, bound by tradition, only sees the “mess” she caused by being born female rather than male, and sees no use for her. Bounded by love for her grandfather and knowing of her potential, Pai is willing to do whatever it takes to prove herself, even if it means sacrificing herself to save Paikea’s original whale. This is a powerful film that tends to be overlooked when it comes to its young heroine in today’s time, for Pai shows strength in a slightly offbeat way; through perseverance and a quiet determination.
  3. Katara from “Avatar: The Last Airbender” (2005-2008)
    This is probably one of the most beloved series to come out of Nickelodeon, and part of it has to do with the female characters on the show. Katara is sort of the initiator on the show, as she narrates the opening credits, is the first bender seen bending, and one of the last characters seen at the end of the series. Strong-willed, hopeful, and determined, she’s a masterful waterbender who isn’t afraid to show her soft side. She’s another character who knows what she’s capable of, and not even sexist attitudes will stand in her way.
  4. Kono from “Hawaii 5-0” (2010-present)
    In the original series, the character of Kono Kalakaua was a male. However, I think it worked well for the revival series by making Kono female. She’s a self-motivated character who’s good at what she does. She knows how to fight and has rescued many people from dangerous situations. She too has a soft side that most surely hasn’t been overlooked, which lends well with the overall development of her as a character. Maybe it’s because “Hawaii 5-0” has been on the air for a while now that she isn’t immediately thought of when it comes to these ongoing listicles, but as someone who actively watches the show, trust me when I say that she shouldn’t be overlooked.
  5. Rey from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015)
    The film has been out for about a month and a half now, which is likely why Rey hasn’t been mentioned as frequently yet, but for many who have seen it already, knows what a cool character she is. Abandoned at a young age and forced to grow up primarily alone, Rey is a skilled scavenger, pilot, and fighter. She knows how to take care of herself, and is now on the ultimate of hero’s journeys. She’s a strong-willed character who I look forward to learning more about in the upcoming films.

These are just a handful of characters that I feel have been overlooked or unfrequented in the ongoing discussion of better developed female characters. I’m sure there are more out there that I’m missing out on. Please feel free to let me know what your favorite female characters are and also your thoughts about the push for better representation of females in storytelling.


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