In honor of International Women’s Day (March 8th), here is a short list of my personal favorite female characters in literature, film, and television (in no particular order).
Jean-Louise “Scout” Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird, & Go Set a Watchman
Having just finished Go Set a Watchman recently (against my own better judgement), I am reminded of how much I loved the character that author Harper Lee had created. Scout was the epitome of everything I wanted to be in a young girl: the unconventional, motherless-tomboy groomed in the small fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama. Scout was unabashedly adventurous and “unladylike”. Along with her brother Jem, she didn’t care much about the disapproval (mostly coming from the women in the town) of others about how she carried herself. All Scout knew was that if it didn’t make her feel particularly comfortable, she wouldn’t do it; she was too preoccupied climbing trees and running around barefoot, you know, things any regular girl was entitled to feel total freedom in doing. But perhaps what shapes Scout’s character for me the most, is that she has the unfair advantage of having Atticus Finch’s parenting that grounds and molds her. However, when her world begins to shatter as she returns to Maycomb after 15 years in Go Set a Watchman, the most poignant thing I have picked up about Jean Louise, is that despite her clashing morals with the man who raised her, Atticus still managed to groom her to be an independent young woman who holds a strong conviction about fighting for justice in her heart.
2. Amber Braverman, Parenthood (TV)
Arguably one of the Bravermans with the biggest character arc throughout the course of the show, Amber (portrayed brilliantly by Mae Whitman) begins in season 1 as every single-parent’s biggest nightmare. In her teenage years, Amber is reckless and rebellious, kind of a black sheep of the Braverman clan. But we soon realize how big her heart is, and how much she wears it on her sleeve. Her biggest heartache in life is being unable to escape the hurt and shadows of her father who left them behind, but because of this tremendous wall and guard she puts up, Amber grows to be fiercely independent and daring, even when she is completely terrified and unsure of the outcome. She is extremely protective and caring toward her younger brother Drew, and was also one of the first Braverman to be able to connect with her younger cousin Max, who suffers from Asperger’s. Life has probably thrown Amber more curveballs than someone in their early 20s is allowed, but the sense of responsibility with which she rises to the challenge makes her one of my favorite characters to watch.
3. Liz Lemon, 30 Rock
Tina Fey is my spirit animal, let’s just get that out of the way. She has hits, she has misses, but one thing’s for sure, she knows how to capture the essence of a cynical, single New York working woman. Penned from her experiences working at SNL, Liz Lemon is the head of TGS, who manages to fit in running a weekly sketch show, taking care of disasters, creating disasters, taking care of meltdowns, juggling celebrity egos, being the best and closest non-sexual female friend her mentor has ever had, and dating a laundry list of semi-attractive to “say whattt?!” men, in between gorging any food she can get her hands on, and effortlessly making low-maintenance looks both attractive and repulsive at the same time. This description is probably just the tip of the iceberg on what Liz has to offer. She is borderline offensive and racist, and only makes matter worse when she tries to explain herself to others. What I learned best from Liz is the value of finding a good mentor (doesn’t matter male or female) in your field, and to not be apologetic about running your ship with authority like the tyrant that you are, because to quote Tina Fey on Weekend Update, “Bitches get stuff done.”
4. Lucy Pevensie, The Chronicles of Narnia
The youngest of the Pevensie siblings, Lucy is full of curiosity and wonder, and is the one who discovers Narnia through the wardrobe and leads the rest of them to Aslan. In the literary world, Lucy embodies the biblical traits of having a childlike faith, and thus she has never stopped believing in Narnia, deemed “Queen Lucy the Valiant” by the people. Some can say that’s completely ignorant and stupid, but I’ve always felt that Lucy understood the awe and power of something so magnificent once she encountered it. It’s not that she never has a mind of her own, but she willingly places her trust in something or someone she believes can triumph. I think that’s the best measure of a character. Of course it’s easy to trust yourself when you know the measure of your own person, but to turn that over to the hands and mercy of someone else requires so much risk and courage. Lucy’s faith in Aslan reminds me that sometimes I can’t always do it on my own, but when I have found someone who I know is trustworthy, there is immense freedom in leaning on that person.
5. Hermoine Granger, Harry Potter
The final spot on this list was a hard call. I’m sure somewhere down the line I’ll come across another character again and think to myself, “Why didn’t I think of her?” But there’s no way a girl growing up in the 90s and 2000s can leave out Hermoine on the list. As if Hermoine isn’t already kick-ass enough with her smarts and wits, the cherry on top is that she is played by Emma Watson in the films. I don’t think I need to say anymore about Emma Watson to convince anyone to like her, she does and says plenty herself for us to get a good picture of who she is. Thanks to Hermoine, for the first time in adolescent era, you actually want to pay attention to the books because you realize how much better being intelligent is. Hermoine is girl-ish and gentle, but that doesn’t mean one can push her around. Because of her brains, she is one of the strongest character in the Potter universe. Basically, if you’re ever stuck, you want Heromine to be on your team. She probably also wears the pants in the relationship, but you wouldn’t mind it a single bit.
- Ofelia, Pan’s Labyrinth
- Hit Girl, Kick-Ass
- San, Princess Mononoke
- Priscilla, Bible