Kick-Ass Women of SciFi & Fantasy: Princess Leia

 
“Somebody has to save our skins.”

I opened the old draft of this blog post this morning immediately after seeing another one of the saddest headlines of what has been a brutal year: “Iconic Star Wars Actress Carrie Fisher Dead at 60.” I found that I started this blog post over a year ago. It was actually the first ever of this series that I tried to write. I just couldn’t come up with words good enough to honor her. Of all the women of science fiction, no one has meant more to me than Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia.

I knew I was going to love her the first time I saw her. Growing up, there just weren’t any sharp-tongued, strong women in action movies. And those were the ones I loved to watch with my brothers. They were exciting and adventurous. The only problem was it was men having all the adventures. Women were sidekicks, or worse, damsels in distress. Then my mother introduced my brothers and me to Star Wars and not only was it the greatest, most exciting adventure story I’d ever seen, it featured a main girl character right alongside the boys. At first it seemed typical: They were going to rescue the Princess. But it quickly became apparent that Leia didn’t need saving, and in fact, she was probably going to keep Han and Luke alive.

From the moment we meet Leia, she’s talking back to Imperial oppressors, and she’s not the least bit afraid:

Leia: Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader’s leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.

Tarkin: Charming to the last. You don’t know how hard I found it, signing the order to terminate your life.

Leia: I’m surprised that you had the courage to take the responsibility yourself.

Tarkin: Princess Leia, before your execution, I’d like you to join me for a ceremony that will make this battle station operational. No star system will dare oppose the Emperor now.

Leia: The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.

I immediately and irrevocably fell in love with her bravery and audacity.

Later, she quips to Han Solo, a strong personality himself whom she has no trouble handling:

“I don’t know who you are or where you came from, but from now on you’ll do as I tell you, okay?”

Leia was always more General than Princess.

She also has no qualms about calling out the boys’ lack of mission skills:

“This is some rescue. You came in here, you didn’t have a plan for getting out?”

Due in large part to Princess Leia, when I was a little girl, no one was a bigger Star Wars fan than I was. And yet, I never saw one girl in any Star Wars toy commercial. Even upon the release of Episode VII, there wasn’t a Rey action figure to be found. “Girls just don’t buy toys” or “Star Wars isn’t really for girls” came the standard, ignorant reply. Or even better: Rey has finally made Star Wars for girls. But Star Wars has always been for girls. Only now I see little girls in commercials flying X-Wings made from cardboard boxes and this seemingly simple thing is actually so significant it brings a tear to my eye every time.

Fisher herself also spoke to my feminist bones in a way few can. She put body shamers in their place when she said:

“Please stop debating about whether or not I aged well….Youth and beauty are not accomplishments, they’re the temporary happy by-products of time and/or DNA. Don’t hold your breath for either.”

She’s also said:

“My body is my brain bag, it hauls me around to those places and in front of faces where there’s something to say or see.”

Carrie Fisher, I will miss you so much on such a deep level. I know you didn’t always love the Star Wars icon you became, but I truly couldn’t imagine a life where I didn’t grow up with Princess Leia in my favorite movie. I am forever grateful that you gifted Princess Leia to me and to the world. May you now forever find peace, one with the Force.

Princess Leia lives on, forever sarcastic, smart, quick-witted, and tough, deadly with a blaster and strong with the Force. She will always have played as important a role as Luke and Han in the Rebellion.  She was the first Princess I ever saw or read about that was in no way in need of rescuing, and Carrie Fisher’s is the first celebrity death that I am feeling as deeply as a personal loss. But she will live on through me and through every other little girl her character helped shape into strong, sarcastic, sharp-tongued, independent, kick-ass princesses.

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Kick-Ass Women of SciFi & Fantasy: Olivia Moore

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“You can skulk around, lamenting all that you’ve lost, try to keep yourself numb and isolated. Or you can embrace who you are.”

Liv of the new hit show iZombie spends her time kicking ass and taking brains, acquiring a new job in a morgue to get her fix.

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She also helps solve crimes, even if she has to get physical to do it. Check out her Kung Fu moves!

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But what I’m far more interested in is Liv’s emotional strength. Like vampires, zombies are highly metaphorical creatures. Liv’s whole life is destroyed in one night. She is turned into a zombie against her will and consequently loses her job, her friends, her family, and much of who she was. This is symbolic of any number of derailing disasters that can affect humans in their lives. Think about losing a fiance to a breakup, a family member to illness, or yourself due to a mugging or a rape, or even something less traumatic like a mid-life crisis. I mention rape because afterwords, Liv feels half dead. She doesn’t know who she is anymore, but she is different and not whole. A strange man has infected her with a zombie virus against her will and it has changed her, made her darker. Her mood has plummeted to more depressed territory and it takes its toll on everyone she loves. Her romantic relationship falls apart and her family and friends believe she has PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) which of course she does, though not for the reasons they think.

So keeping in mind that zombieism is metaphoric for any number of emotional stressors that can affect a person, Liv shows tremendous strength in picking herself back up and getting back out into the world. Losing her fiance isn’t the worst thing that could happen, nor is having your family and friends become mad at you. Nothing is ever the end of the world, as long as you’re still alive. And Liv is still alive. Despite the horror that has befallen her, she is still Liv. She’s still the hardworking, helpful, caring person she always was, so she has two choices:

She can wallow, and become a true emotionless, flesh-eating zombie, or she keep acting on her lively personality by pursuing a career. So she can’t be a doctor anymore, and she won’t make as much money. Big deal. It isn’t her relationships that define her, but who she is as a person. And she’s a person who wants a career where she can make a difference.

Every week, Liv makes the conscious choice to keep living, and that even though she makes a friend at the morgue who knows her secret, she herself is enough to live for. In fact, some of the most interesting aspects of the show are the ways in which Liv chooses life. She can’t taste foods anymore, she can’t have the career of her choice, and she isn’t getting married. But there are other journeys to be had. Liv eats brains in order to remain somewhat human (if you go too long without eating, you become The Walking Dead). But brains are like a drug, and one of the side effects is gaining flashes of that person’s life (which is how Liv helps solve crimes) and their personality traits. So one week, Liv is a painter, drawing masterpieces, and feeling passion for everyone and everything, gaining an appreciation for all the beauty in the world. The next week she may be cold and logical but gain an extensive knowledge of facts. In the latest episode, she got to experience life through an old friend’s eyes who Liv described as a “death is a consequence of life kind of girl.” Now that she’s a zombie, Liv can speak languages other than English, perform martial arts, and essentially live an infinite number of lives.

Hence Olivia’s nickname, Liv. “Liv Moore.” Get it? The underlying meaning, of course, is that we have the power and ability to experience this variety of new things whenever we wish. We can learn a new language, or skill, broaden our horizons and choose to live no matter what injustices we suffer. We can choose to enjoy life to the fullest. We can “live more.”

The final message: Always choose life. You are enough.

I hope iZombie stays on the air and Liv keeps kicking ass for years to come.

Kick-Ass Women of SciFi & Fantasy: Colonel Samantha Carter

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“I logged over 100 hours in enemy airspace during the Gulf War. Is that tough enough for you? Or are we going to have to arm wrestle?”

Samantha Carter is still an Air Force Captain when she’s introduced on Stargate SG-1. Until her appearance, the pilot episode, and prior Stargate movie, centered around Colonel Jack O’Neill, and Doctor Daniel Jackson. The first episode picks up where the movie left off: with Jack leading a team to extract Daniel from an alien planet. As this mission briefing commences, General Hammond declares to the table of men that he’s assigning Sam Carter to the mission. Jack gripes that he prefers to assemble his own team (one apparently comprised entirely of men). The General insists that Carter is the leading expert on the Stargate, so Jack asks “Where is he transferring from?” And the rest is gold:

Carter appears saying, “She is transferring from the Pentagon. I take it you’re Colonel O’Neill. Captain Samantha Carter reporting, sir.”

Here is the rest of that scene’s dialogue from “Children of the Gods:”

KAWALSKY
But of course you go by Sam.

SAM
You don’t have to worry, Major. I played
with dolls when I was a kid.

KAWALSKY
G.I. Joe?

SAM
No. Major Matt Mason.

KAWALSKY
Oh.Who?

FERRETTI
Major Matt Mason, astronaut doll. Did
you have that cool little backpack that
made him fly?

HAMMOND
Let’s get started. Colonel?

JACK
Thank you. Those of you on your first
trip through the Stargate, (obviously referring to Sam) you should
be prepared for what to expect.

SAM
I’ve practically memorized your report
from the first mission. I’d like to
think I’ve been preparing for this all
my life.

KAWALSKY
I think what the Colonel is saying is,
have you ever pulled out of a simulated
bombing run in an F-16 at 8-plus Gs?

SAM
Yes.

KAWALSKY
(pauses, stunned) Well, it’s way worse than that.

FERRETTI
By the time you get to the other side,
you’re frozen stiff like you’ve just
been through a blizzard. Naked.

SAM
That’s a result of the compression your
molecules undergo during the millisecond
required for reconstitution.

JACK
Oh, here we go, another scientist. General,
please.

SAM
Theoretical astrophysicist.

JACK
Which means?

HAMMOND
It means she is smarter than you are,
Colonel. Especially in matters related
to the Stargate.

Kawalsky and Ferretti laugh.

SAM
Colonel, I was studying the Gate technology
for two years before Daniel Jackson
made it work and before you both went
through. I should have gone through
then. But sir, you and your men might
as well accept the fact that I am going
through this time.

JACK
Well, with all due respect, Doctor.

SAM
It is appropriate to refer to a person
by their rank, not their salutation.
Call me Captain, not Doctor.

HAMMOND
Captain Carter’s assignment to this
unit is not an option, it’s an order.

SAM
I’m an Air Force officer just like you
are, Colonel. And just because my reproductive
organs are on the inside instead of
the outside, doesn’t mean I can’t handle
whatever you can handle.

JACK
Oh, this has nothing to do with you
being a woman. I like women. I’ve just
got a little problem with scientists.

SAM
Colonel, I logged over 100 hours in
enemy airspace during the Gulf War.
Is that tough enough for you? Or are
we going to have to arm wrestle?

Carter ends the discussion by confidently stating that she can handle anything the guys can. Like, why does this even need saying? She then attempts to alleviate the Colonel’s misgivings by saying “You really will like me when you get to know me.” To which he replies, “Oh, I adore you already, Captain.” And it’s certainly lucky he does, seeing as she ends up saving his life and the lives of her team members on countless occasions through her tenure in the Stargate program. Carter is as smart as Daniel, as tough as Teal’c, and as strong a leader as Jack.

In the show, after Sam corrects Jack for calling her Doctor, Jack jokes that Sam is “Captain Doctor” because she has so many rankings and degrees. She has no problem putting him in his place when he refers to her as doctor, saying it is appropriate for her superior officer to address her by rank. He won’t forget it. Captain Carter is so tough, smart, and capable, that over the course of the show, she is promoted to Major, and eventually Colonel, taking over leadership of the team in the final seasons.

While Carter is always strong, her physical abilities are showcased in three particular episodes that stand out. In “Emancipation,” she helps liberate a tribe of women who are thought of as property in their culture. The girls can be bought or sold by their fathers to other men to be used as brides, and for cooking, cleaning, and other menial duties. Girls are also forced to cover their faces in public, and if they disobey a man, they can be stoned to death. Does this planet sound like any place we might know right here on present day Earth? Hmm…. After a tribe leader makes the mistake of trying to buy Carter, she challenges him for authority, kicking his ass in hand-to-hand combat in front of a crowd, and demanding freedom for his daughter whom he’d planned to marry off. To show they will remember Carter’s influence, the women of the village remove their facial veils. View her fight below:

In “The Warrior,” SG-1 agrees to provide supplies and weapons to a group of Jaffa fighting for their freedom. The mostly male group of Jaffa appreciate the gesture but insist that their weapons are far superior to Earth ones. Jack tells Sam to demonstrate the P90’s effectiveness. The Jaffa leader scoffs at the idea of an Earth woman providing any kind of weapons demonstration. Jack, now fully aware of all Carter is capable of, adds something to the challenge: he wants her to hit a moving target. What I love about this scene is that Jack chooses Carter, his second in command, as his best shooter.  he shows so much confidence in her abilities (because he knows full well by now) that all the while he’s smirking at the Jaffa’s dubiousness, just waiting for her to show them all up. View Carter’s demonstration below:

The third moment comes from “Death Knell” where Carter is stranded on a planet alone with an Anubis super-soldier drone hunting her. If you haven’t seen the show, these things are scary deadly and all but indestructible. Injured from an explosion, Carter hobbles around the woods, dripping blood, and somehow eluding the drone, though there are a few close calls. By the end of the episode, dehydrated, bleeding, wounded, exhausted Carter saves herself by finding a downed SGC drone and configuring it to fire a missile at her enemy. This buys her enough time for Jack to find her with the only weapon capable of stopping the super-solider.  When they finally do, Jack asks Carter if she’s ready to go home, completely perplexed as to why she’s not on her feet, putting on a tough front. He stares at her, confused, as she says she needs to rest for a minute. And then you realize, Jack is thrown off because in seven years, he has never seen her this vulnerable. This moment shakes him so much, that he sits down beside her and puts an arm around her for comfort: a big military no-no. And she’s never needed comfort before. That she accepts it in no way diminishes her strength. It accentuates it.

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Carter no longer has anything to prove to Jack, or any other member of her team, or any other man in the military. Jack knows. They all do.

Alright, so we’ve covered the toughness. What else? Samantha Carter is so smart…. “How smart is she?” She’s so smart that you can barely understand half of what she says. “Could the beam we saw be a means to access the gate’s subspace field in order to create some kind of time inversion outside of subspace?” An uncomprehending Jack stares back at her.  She says, “I’m going to go run some simulations.”

Which leads me to another thing I love about Carter. When she isn’t out exploring strange, new worlds, kicking ass on every planet in the galaxy, she is in her science lab on base doing experiments, inventing world-saving technology, and writing books on Astrophysics and Wormhole Theory. Is she out at the bar trying to find a man? No. Is she worried about aging as a single woman? No. Is she worried about getting married and having kids? As if! She is married to her work. You mean, gasp, a woman can be completely happy and fulfilled by something other than romance and family life? Who wouldn’t be? She has the best job in the world! Who wouldn’t drop everything right now to travel through the Stargate? Why should men have all the fun?

One last thing, Sam is a problem solver who never gives up. Given enough time, her brain will devise the solution to any problem whether it’s saving a planet or an individual life. And if there’s a sun in her way?

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Yes, one time, Samantha Carter actually blew up a sun! I should leave it there, because that one’s pretty difficult to top. But then there’s that time she punched Ba’al in the face because he was stupid enough to question her intelligence:

Simultaneously, she makes Teal’c smile: a rarity indeed. Alright. I’ll leave it there, or else I’ll go on all day. But the evidence speaks for itself. Colonel Samanta Carter is and always shall be a kick-ass woman of Scifi.

Kick-Ass Women of SciFi & Fantasy: Dana Scully

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“Baby’ me, and you’ll be peeing through a catheter.”

Dana Scully….

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She was on The X-Files in 1993, and as one fan says:

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If you don’t understand what we mean by most women on T.V. today being portrayed as complete idiots, watch two seconds of any episode of Two and a Half Men. Go on, try to formulate an argument that women on Two and a Half Men are portrayed in any quasi realistic way.

indexBut as it always has, the science fiction genre shows women in strong and intelligent roles. On the cult SciFi classic The X-Files which aired in 1993, Dana Scully became an inspiration for strong women everywhere.

Despite her small stature, rest assured that Dana Scully can kick ass. She’s handy with a microscope as well as a gun, physically fit, can take down a man twice her size, and has on multiple occasions. Remember when she beat the bajesus out of Donnie Pfaster, destroying her apartment in the process? Man, did that guy have it coming. In addition, Scully is mentally and emotionally strong, not only holding her head high through her sister’s murder but always demanding answers, even if she had to find them herself. The characters on this show go through a lot–A LOT–of emotional destruction, and Scully is strong through it all, even giving Mulder a shoulder to cry on when he breaks down over his mother’s death.

Dana Scully is a medical doctor, forensic scientist, and an FBI agent, making it all look easy in a “man’s world.” She gave up a promising career in medicine to the disappointment of her father, because she’s a strong, confident woman who does what she wants, and doesn’t live her life to please others. Scully thought she could make a difference at the FBI. And she has.

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Scully totally legitimizes Mulder’s division, the X-Files, which is often subject to ridicule due to the paranormal nature of the cases he investigates. Let’s be honest. Mulder is such a nutbar when we first meet him that he was going nowhere fast. Dana Scully humanizes him and evens him out, providing a logical counterbalance to his crazy.

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Chris Carter has said that when he created the show, women were still generally thought of as emotional, artistic, right-brained characters. He wanted to do a role reversal in making Mulder the emotional one, and Scully the scientist. The result? Dana Scully’s character has inspired hundreds of little girls to go into STEM majors, particularly the sciences. Scully made it not only normal for a woman to go into this kind of work, but cool. It’s what’s known as The Scully Effect–the noticeable uptick of women in STEM majors since 1993. Gillian Anderson still receives letters from girls she inspired with her character, and we owe her for bringing Scully to life, because she’s the absolute perfect actress for the job.

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Chris Carter has also said that the role of Scully was meant to be played by a tall, blonde, voluptuous vixen.  Don’t forget this was the era of Baywatch, and Pamela Anderson was the epitome of what was considered sexy. You might be thinking that today “geek chic” is all the rage with shows like CSI, NCIS, Bones, and Fringe. Well let me tell you, that’s only because The X-Files took a risk by going in a completely different direction. In walks Gillian for her audition at 5’3 with red, unruly hair, freckles, and a healthy body weight that would make most models want to throw up their 3 daily calories. Luckily for us, her chemistry with David Duchovny was phenomenal and she was cast in the part. I’m so glad it was Gillian above anyone else, and here’s why:

Gillian Anderson, of course, is gorgeous. But she wasn’t the “ideal woman” people wanted to see on T.V. She was short, un-anorexic, hadn’t yanked out all her eyebrow hair, and since it was the 90s, dressed in baggy clothes with enormous shoulder pads, and wore short heeled shoes, doing nothing to elongate her short stature. She was beautiful, but she was REAL, not some plastic, airbrushed, complex-inducing swimsuit model. Scully looked like a woman you might actually see working at the FBI. She was real, and she was gorgeous anyway. Dana Scully never compromised a damn thing about herself or her appearance.

To illustrate this point, Scully falls in love with Mulder, and watches for seven years as past flames, and a few new ones, come in and out of his life. These women are always beautiful, tall, and thin, and sometimes wearing short shorts (Bambi), or undressing in his apartment for no apparent reason (Diana Fowley). Scully never changes her appearance or her clothes to get Mulder’s attention. She never wears a shorter skirt, or unbuttons her blouse. Her outfits become more modern as the seasons progress, but that’s more the styles of the time changing than her character. She is a complete professional, never allowing Mulder to see her out of full FBI attire (I think we see her in jeans a total of once, while she’s on vacation) and always closes her bathrobe tightly before answering the door in her pajamas. Scully is what’s known as a lady–something that’s becoming out dated, and old-fashioned.

But guess what. She get’s Mulder anyway! And she doesn’t have to compromise one iota of her integrity to do it.  He falls in love with her without the short shorts, or overt sexual advances. Scully did it with brains, wit, grace, strength, personality, and often by showcasing her unadulterated honesty in telling him the truth. Scully doesn’t try to be anything other than what she is (she has rather more important things to do, like discover the origins of an ancient alien virus) and gets exactly what she wants because of it, whether it be a job, answers to a case, or a relationship.

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Earlier this week concerning a post on strong female television characters,  I read a lot of comments complaining that we are just looking at actresses, and that actresses are nothing special–not like strong women in real life. I disagree. Little girls watch T.V. and see that it’s not only men in exciting professions, and that it’s not only normal, but cool to speak your mind, be authoritative, strong and go on adventures. Fictional characters can inspire real greatness, just like Uhura inspired a young Whoopi Goldberg, and just like Dana Scully inspired thousands of girls to go into science majors. Words matter, and so do fictional characters. They can make a difference. If I may borrow a magnificent quote from Albus Dumbledore: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?

Remember our discussion on Uhura, and if any little girls out there were paying attention? They were. They still are. I was a nerd in school, in both Science and English. I still am a nerd. I’m short, and certainly don’t have the face of a model– something the mean people in my school never failed to call attention to. I’ve had friends say “you seem like the kind of girl I’d have hated in high school because you’re blonde and skinny,” (It doesn’t matter. Mean people can, and will, find something wrong with you) and “I always just assumed you were popular in high school because you’re always so confident.” Part of the reason I’m confident today is because when I was growing up, Dana Scully made me feel cool even though I was a smart “nerd,” beautiful even though I was short and imperfect, tough even though I was a small girl, and strong especially when it was most difficult to be. For still inspiring girls all over the world to this day, including myself, Dana Scully is and always will be a kick-ass woman of SciFi.

Needless to say, The X-Files was my absolute favorite show growing up, and still is. We X-Philes have been waiting with bated breath for the return of Dana Scully in the show’s revival later this year. Perhaps it’s fate that the week I decided to write about Scully, Fox confirmed six new episodes! I’m moving my post up, in conjunction with this most joyous event!  I can’t wait to see this kick-ass woman back on T.V.!

Kick-Ass Women of SciFi & Fantasy: Rose Tyler

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“You don’t just give up. You don’t just let things happen. You make a stand! You say no! You have the guts to do what’s right, even when everyone else just runs away.”

Let me ask you something: does that look like the face of someone you want to mess with? I didn’t think so. Don’t let the fact that she’s a pretty, 100 pound, blonde girl lull you into thinking she won’t kick your ass if you mess with the people or the planet she loves. If you piss her off, you better run for your life, because this girl is capable of carrying twice her body weight in guns:

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For this week’s kick-ass woman of SciFi,  I give you the big Bad Wolf herself, Doctor Who’s Rose Tyler, Defender of the Earth.

Rose Tyler is strong and brave, throwing herself into any new situation with guts and zeal, like the first time she entered the T.A.R.D.I.S., dropping everything to travel to other eras–other planets–with The Doctor in exploration of time and space, despite the inherent dangers in such an adventure.

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Rose running into the T.A.R.D.I.S. with speed and a smile

Rose Tyler is resilient. She doesn’t have it in her to give up. Ever. Even in “Doomsday,” when The Doctor said she could never see him again because they existed in two separate universes that couldn’t be crossed, she sought him out when the universes converged again in “Journey’s End,” at least getting to say a proper goodbye to The Doctor before the final, tragic separation. By proper goodbye, I mean one that doesn’t end like this:

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The words you may have noticed missing there, before he disappears, are “I love you.” Yeah. As per usual, for a freaking Time Lord, The Doctor has just awful timing and leaves us all in tears. Speaking of which, if you’d like to cry today, click below.

In addition to her resilience, especially in this moment, Rose is brave and fiercely loyal. Even though she knows she’ll lose her family–everyone and everything she knows and cares about–to an alternate universe forever, she is firm and sure in her choice to stand by The Doctor’s side in defense of Earth. Rose knows what she wants, and no one, not even The Doctor, is going to tell her otherwise.

I made my choice a long time ago, and I’m never gonna leave you.

Can we just talk about this quote for a minute? Think for just a moment how dedicated to someone you would have to be, how strong you would have to be, to accept that you will never see your own mother again, that you might very well die if you stay, but still to say with conviction “You are not sending me off to safety. I am going to stay right here with you, and we are going to save the world damn it!” Like I said before, Rose basically has two settings:

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 adorable        and      I will destroy you.

Doctor Who hints at the fact that Rose isn’t book smart, didn’t like high school, and at 19-years-old, is working in a shop instead of attending college. However, she possesses an intelligence about people and situations that can’t be measured in report cards or tests, often seeing key patterns in mysteries that The Doctor himself overlooks. What’s more impressive, is she keeps the strength to go on saving the world even after she loses him. That’s introspective intelligence. Rose is confident in and sure of herself. She derives self-worth not from the opinions of people around her, and not from the men in her life, but from her opinions of herself.  Rose loves who she is. You go, girl.

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This means she has to get over this emotionally devastating, tragic separation, (metaphoric for a breakup). Even though you can see the hurt clearly dripping down her face, Rose picks herself up, and realizes that life still matters even after she’s lost her romantic partner–a strong and admirable trait I can’t stress enough for young women to emulate when going through a breakup. There’s more to life. You are more than what a boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse makes you.

But my absolute favorite aspect of Rose Tyler: she is the Bad Wolf. The part of the show I’m referring to here, is the story arc in which Rose and The Doctor keep seeing the words “Bad Wolf” wherever and whenever they go. They don’t know what the words mean, and neither does the audience, until in “The Parting of the Ways,” when faced with certain death, The Doctor tricks Rose into safety by sending her home in the T.A.R.D.I.S. to protect her while dying himself at the hands (er, robotic plunger arm things) of the Daleks. Rose would never willingly leave him, especially in times of crisis, so she kicks and screams the whole way home, then immediately starts working on a way to get back to him. That’s my girl!

Knowing what she is about to do is dangerous, and unpredictable, she looks into the heart of the T.A.R.D.I.S. as a last resort. The T.A.R.D.I.S. gives Rose all the knowledge of time and space–all The Doctor has and more, so that she can operate the ship and find her way back to him. When she arrives, she is no longer “just” Rose Tyler, but the Bad Wolf. She emerges from the T.A.R.D.I.S., to The Doctor’s shock and awe, as a glowing, powerful goddess, finally revealing the mystery of the words saying: “I am the Bad Wolf. I create myself. I take the words; I scatter them in time and space. A message to lead myself here.”

 As the Bad Wolf, Rose stands up to an entire Dalek army poised to exterminate everyone on Earth and says:

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Hell yeah! She saves the Doctor and the Earth, though she herself is dying from far too much knowledge of the universe burning her brain. The Doctor saves her with a kiss, taking her pain into himself which would cause him to die, and regenerate. I love the way they sacrifice for one another 🙂

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“I think you need a doctor.”

But the best part of Bad Wolf, is what’s not explicitly said in the episode. To me, Bad Wolf means that a girl–just a regular, small, young, girl who isn’t brilliant or rich, and who otherwise wouldn’t stand out in the world–is anything but “just” a girl. Bad Wolf means “I am the big bad wolf. Not a little girl in a cape. Not a victim. I have the power to decide who I want to be (I create myself) and I have the power to shape my destiny” (a message to lead myself here).

The other really cool thing about Bad Wolf is and always has been a theme of the show: that words are more important and more powerful than any physical weapon. How does Rose save The Doctor and the world? Ultimately, by writing two words all over time and space: Bad Wolf.

Finally, at the long list of her awesome qualities, Rose is inspiring. Let’s not forget this wonderful little tidbit:

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Long after Rose is gone, her spirit, her resilience, her loyalty, love, and courage will be inspiring The Doctor to go on and stand up in the face of danger and do what’s right. He knows how strong, and how courageous and capable she is, as evidenced in this dialogue from “The Satan Pit:”

“If I destroy this planet I destroy the gravity field. The rocket. The rocket loses protection, falls into the black hole. I’ll have to sacrifice Rose. {the Beast laughs.} Except that implies—in this big grand scheme of Gods and Devils—that she’s just a victim. But I’ve seen a lot of this Universe. I’ve seen fake gods and bad gods and demigods and would-be gods. And out of all that, out of that whole pantheon, if I believe in one thing—just one thing—I believe in her.” {he breaks the vase.}

The Doctor knows that Rose can take care of herself, and she does save herself. He never has to worry about protecting a damsel in distress. Rose is the hero of her own story.

In “The Shakespeare Code” he professes his faith in her again:

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A witch tries to hurt the broken-hearted Doctor with the name “Rose”

For her bravery, resilience, loyalty, confidence, and ability to inspire, Rose Tyler will forever be a Kick-Ass Woman of SciFi.

What are your favorite Rose Tyler moments? Please leave a comment below 🙂

Kick-Ass Women of SciFi & Fantasy: Lieutenant Nyota Uhura

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Sulu: “I’ll protect you, fair maiden.”
Uhura: “Sorry, neither.”

Let’s set the time machine for 1966. Gene Rodenberry’s iconic original series, Star Trek, airs for the first time featuring a 23rd Century Starfleet crew of black, white, female, male, Asian, Russian, Scottish, and alien members. Why was that such a big deal? Did I mention it was 1966, and that to have a woman, let alone a black woman, on T.V. with a cast of mostly white males was unheard of? Of course this decade would later be remembered for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership of the modern American Civil Rights Movement, as well as social strides in feminism. Rodenberry’s black woman of rank, Lt. Uhura, was a beacon of hope on both fronts.

As the ship’s communications officer, Uhura was fluent in many alien languages, scientifically astute, and proficient in the technical aspects of her station.  Because of her diverse talents, Uhura was also useful in the field, bravely accompanying the captain to strange, new planets in exploratory landing parties. Male officers, like Kirk and Spock, would ask her on numerous occasions for assistance with navigation, running the main science station, and even commanding the helm, just as they would any other competent officer. In other words, Uhura was treated like an equal. Gasp!

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Uhura: “I’m connecting the bypass circuit now, sir. It should take another half hour.”
Spock: “I can think of no one better equipped to handle it, Ms. Uhura. Please proceed.”

But my absolute favorite Uhura moment comes from “The Naked Time,” when Sulu, infected with the Psi2000 virus, tells Uhura “I’ll protect you, fair maiden.”

Facepalm.

Uhura replies, “Sorry, neither.”

What’s that?

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Uhura apologizes. She couldn’t hear you over the sound of how awesome she is.

Despite her inherent kick-assery , early on in the series Uhura’s role was being overshadowed by Kirk and Spock commanding the majority of story lines. One of Uhura’s most well-known quotes on the show was “Hailing frequencies open, sir.” After seeing the phrase so often repeated in the script, Nichelle Nichols said: “If I have to open hailing frequencies one more time, I’ll smash this goddamn console!”

It began to eat at her so much that she contemplated leaving the show, until a little known Trekkie by the name Martin Luther King Jr. convinced her to stay. Nichols said he encouraged her using these words: “I am the biggest Trekkie on the planet, and I am lieutenant Uhura’s most ardent fan.” King understood well the impact a black woman in a position of power on television could and would have.

In the episode “The Savage Curtain,”  Uhura was introduced to Abraham Lincoln. (Yeah, this kind of shit happens on Star Trek. Suspend your disbelief!) Upon meeting her he says, “What a charming negress,” and then realizes he may have offended her with his choice of words. “Oh, forgive me, my dear,” he says, “I know that in my time some used that term as a description of property.”

Uhura replies as always, with brilliance and eloquence: “But why should I object to that term, sir? You see, in our century we’ve learned not to fear words.”

Oh, Gene Rodenberry, thank you. For your imagined world was so much more peaceful, educated, and understanding than your real world at the time, or even the world now.

Of course, never being satisfied with pushing on the world what it should have readily accepted, Star Trek also chose to show the first interracial kiss between a white man and a black woman on a fictional American television program. The episode featured sadistic aliens, who had taken control of Kirk and Uhura, inflicting psychological torture by forcing them to kiss. After southern T.V. stations threatened not to air the episode, NBC wavered on their decision. In the end, did they go through with it?

You bet your ass they did.

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Okay so why is this all such a big deal? Why is Uhura a kick-ass woman of SciFi, and Nichols one of racial and gender equality?  If you think no one was paying attention, if you think no one was inspired, ask a little girl named Whoopi Goldberg what her reaction was to seeing Lt. Uhura on the bridge of The Enterprise for the first time.

Whoopi Goldberg asked Rodenberry for her role on Star Trek: The Next Generation. By the time it aired in 1987, she was already a well-known movie star on the big screen. The conversation between Rodenberry and Goldberg went like this:

“You’re a big screen star, why do you want to be on a little screen, why do you want to be in Star Trek?
“Well, it’s all Nichelle Nichols’s fault.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well when I was nine years old Star Trek came on. I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, ‘Come here, mom, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!’ I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be, and I want to be on Star Trek.”

Rodenberry wrote Goldberg the role of Guinan, a wise and caring listener. But that’s a post for another day.

Today, J.J. Abrams’s vision of Star Trek has Zoe Saldana’s Uhura taking an even more active role on the team. She is seen here clearly intimidating the captain:

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“I sure hope you know what you’re doing, captain.” Her legacy continues.

Gene Rodenberry’s original vision was far ahead of its time, and we’re glad it was. Without doubt, every Scifi show or movie I write about from this point forward will have been influenced in part by Star Trek. Uhura sets the precedent for strong female characters in Science Fiction roles. Her charisma, and Rodenberry’s bravery to boldly go on television where no one had gone before, allowed gender and racial equality to fly, not crawl, into the future.