By Arlett Ramirez
Web Content Contributor
The month of March is known as Women’s History Month where we honor the contributions of women to history. International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8 and it’s a public holiday in some countries while others ignore it or even protest. For this year’s IWD, I thought I would share eight empowering female movie characters that have made me cheer them on throughout their time on the screen.
The Bride from “Kill Bill”
Uma Thurman portrays The Bride in Quentin Tarantino’s film “Kill Bill” who is a member of the “Deadly Viper Assassination Squad” a group of assassins. The Bride was attacked on her wedding day and the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad left her for dead, yet she survived. She is comatose and her baby is taken from her by Bill, the leader of the squad. Two years later, she wakes up and seeks revenge on the other Vipers. The Bride is resilient and a master of kung fu. Plus, she dug herself out of her own grave! (You’ll have to watch “Kill Bill” to see how she manages to do that!) While I watched this movie, I was in awe of how quickly The Bride recovered after waking up from a two-year coma and immediately went after the people who betrayed her. That’s resilience!
Okoye from the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Okoye, played by Danai Gurira, was introduced to MCU fans in 2018 in the film “Black Panther.” She’s the general of the Dora Milaje, the head of Wakanda’s armed forces and intel. She is fiercely loyal to her country and her king. Okoye knows many forms of combat, is an excellent markswoman and spear master. In her most recent appearance in “Avengers: Infinity War,” she survived with no injuries and fought Thanos. Okoye has become a great representation of a strong female to all communities of women by being a woman of color who can handle herself against threats and enemies. I’m stoked to see her in the upcoming Marvel movies and I hope her character continues to inspire others.
Mulan from Disney’s “Mulan”
Most of us have seen the film “Mulan” when we were kids. I’ll be honest and say that I’ll watch it whenever I see it on TV. Mulan is strong, independent and doesn’t need a man. She leaves home disguised as a man to take her father’s place in the war, learns how to protect her country, and saves it from the Huns. Growing up and watching Mulan accomplish the same tasks as men made me realize that anyone can do anything with hard work and perseverance. Also, don’t judge someone by their appearance, because people will surprise you! I definitely recommend watching Mulan whenever you think that you can’t achieve something, because Mulan proves anything is possible no matter the odds.
Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan from “Hidden Figures”
There was no way I could split up the ladies from the film “Hidden Figures.” Their accomplishments helped NASA in the Space Race. Throughout the film, they face misogynistic and racial attitudes towards them. Johnson is thought to be inferior to men in the Space Task Group because she’s a black woman, yet she helps create successful landing patterns. Jackson wants to become an engineer and successfully petitions a judge to allow her to attend an all-white school. Vaughan taught herself and her team how to program a new computer. These ladies achieved their dreams and uplifted their other women colleagues. Young (especially black) girls who are interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) finally have the chance to see someone like them on the big screen. That’s huge! It inspires girls to pursue careers in those fields and lets them know that being smart is something to be proud of.
Clarice Starling from “The Silence of the Lambs”
I’ll admit that I barely saw this film a couple of days ago even though it is a cult classic. I was reluctant to watch it because I’m not a big fan of horror movies and was scared to watch it. However, after finishing the movie I was stunned—not in a bad way! Jodie Foster plays the character Clarice Starling, a young woman who is training to become an FBI agent in a male-dominated field. Throughout the film, Starling is often surrounded by men and looked down on by men, but it doesn’t faze her at all. The character of Starling was a turning point for women in crime films because they were usually depicting victims or sexualized sidekicks instead of a strong female lead. The film was released in 1991, less than 30 years ago! Why did it take so long for movies to stop portraying women as helpless in crime films?
Elle Woods from “Legally Blonde”
One of Reese Witherspoon’s most beloved characters, Elle Woods, finds herself wanting to go to Harvard Law to win back her boyfriend Warner Huntington III after he breaks up with her. She soon realizes that he doesn’t love her and she’s wasting her time. Instead of dropping out of Harvard and going back home, she becomes a top law student. Plus, she realizes that she doesn’t need to depend on a man who clearly doesn’t love her! Like Ariana Grande says, “Thank you, next.” What I love about Elle Woods is that she remains true to herself and never compromises her character, no matter what others think of her.
Hermione Granger from “Harry Potter”
Emma Watson played Hermione Granger in all seven films of the Harry Potter franchise and there’s no way to imagine someone else playing Hermione. Hermione showed girls that it’s okay to be smart and nerdy and to not be afraid of showing it. It’s completely okay for girls to be smart, and if they’re smarter than boys in class, that’s okay too. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. What’s not okay is shaming girls for being smart!
Black Widow from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)
Scarlett Johansson was introduced to moviegoers as Natasha Romanoff in “Iron Man 2,” playing a secret agent. She’s made countless appearances in MCU movies. She’s known to be one of the best spies and lethal assassins in the world. She can certainly handle her own against MCU villains like Loki, Ultron, and the Winter Soldier. Black Widow has demonstrated multiple times that she is just as (and maybe more) smart and strong as her Avenger male colleagues. One important thing to mention is that she doesn’t have superhuman abilities like Antman, Captain America, or The Hulk.
As Women’s History Month begins, let’s not forget to celebrate women’s contributions and accomplishments in history and in media. There needs to be more positive female representation in media and more celebration of women in general. Check out this TED Talk about the importance of female representation in media.
Featured illustration by Arlett Ramirez.