With their courage, intelligence and toughness, these women were/are the ones I idolise/d, from Disney girls to the heroines from literature, film and TV today. ‘Heroine’ doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be indestructible ninjas, although the ones in this list did quite a bit of ass-kicking. And it’s the more realistic, not-always-perfect girls that are the true fighters.
So, without further ado, the list, in no particular order:
Mulan, Mulan (1998) (also Mulan 2, but that’s...not worth mentioning)
Between the ages of 4 and 7, I think I watched this movie at least 10 times. Whenever Dad took me down to the video shop, I’d choose it, ignoring his subtle suggestions that I choose something else for a change (Dad was forced to sit through all viewings of Mulan too. Sorry Dad.). But it’s a great story. Set in China, Mulan’s father is an old, weak man, yet the army still wants him to fight. Mulan doesn’t want him killed, so she does the obvious thing: she disguises herself as a boy and enlists in the Chinese army, knowing it’s the only way she can save him. With impeccable courage and quick wit, she manages to defeat the Huns, save China and keep her secret under wraps...almost to the end. But Shang, the army leader, falls in love with her, so it all works out Disney-ly well. I have to mention Mushu the talking dragon too, simply because he’s hilarious and at one stage I could recite nearly all his lines. Mulan was brave, resourceful and determined, and one of the first Disney girls who didn’t need a man to save her.
Hermione Granger, Harry Potter books/movies
Well, it’s Hermione, constantly referred to as the brightest witch at Hogwarts. She was gifted at magic, always one step ahead and saved Harry and Ron too many times to mention. Yes, Harry was the hero of the series, but arguably if it hadn’t been for Hermione, he would’ve died several books ago. Famous for the quote, ‘It’s leviosa, not leviosaaaaaa’. Everyone in the Potter-verse would be stuffed without her, basically.
Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games trilogy
Katniss, to be, frank, is a legend. Like Mulan, she put herself in danger to save her family. In this case, she couldn’t bear the thought of her little sister being in the Hunger Games, the annual national contest where 24 kids enter a giant arena and forced to kill each other until one survivor is left (yes, it is as horrific and brutal as it sounds), so she takes her place instead. Katniss goes through a hell of a lot in the trilogy. She must survive the games, suffering numerous nightmares that the area conjures up, and things don’t get easy even once she makes it out alive. There’s the sinister, murderous Capitol to worry about too. Katniss isn’t neccesarily a nice girl. She isn’t polite or sweet or notably pretty. She can be snarky and mean and violent. It's a refreshing change from the usual nice-as-pie protaganists. She’s a good shot with a bow and arrow, and fights damn hard to get what she wants. She’s epic.
Romana, Doctor Who
Romana was a companion of the fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) in the 1970s. A female Time Lord (same species as the Doctor), her full name was Romanadvoratrelundar and she gained a Triple First at the Academy on Gallifrey, their home planet. She took no nonsense from the Doctor, delivering such speeches as this: ‘Of course, now I realize that your behaviour simply derives from a sub-transitory experiential hypertoid-induced condition aggravated by multi-encephalogical tensions.’ (What?!) She helped the Doctor find the pieces of the Key to Time, and when they finally parted ways she became President of Gallifrey. Much-loved by the fandom and one of the first of the Doctor’s companions who was more than just a shrieking assistant.
Buffy Summers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Well, of course I have to mention Buffy, the Chosen One, the vampire slayer who had supernatural powers and saved the world too many times to mention. Anyone who doubted the tiny, cute-looking blonde could even fight a butterfly shortly found themselves being proved very, very wrong. She destroyed vampires, demons, even Hell-Gods, all while juggling school (later college), friendship and romance. Even in her less-than-well-written hours (late Season 6 and most of S7, I’m looking at you), you couldn’t help but cheer for her, whether she was decapitating an uber-vamp or killing her boyfriend and sending him to hell. Buffy Summers, I salute you.