This winter packs some major milestones for science fiction television and film. Star Wars will once again grace the silver screen with J.J. Abrams' The Force Awakens on December 18. It is sure to redefine, once again, the use of lens flare. X-Files will also be returning to our homes on January 24, hopefully with the same 1990s optimism and charm.
While most will be sitting with bated breath for Harrison Ford’s swashbuckling cowboy entrance or to find out what really happened to David Duchovny’s eyebrows (the truth is out there), this self-proclaimed feminist sci-fi junkie will be adorned in her best hair buns and rocking the shoulder pads to watch Carrie Fisher and Gillian Anderson reprise their roles as Princess Leia and Dana Scully. And if you’re into strong leading women that can save their own damn selves, then check out where science fiction has come since the fall of the Empire and that last episode of X-Files no one should ever speak of again.
We assure you, for all the "Twilight Bellas" that permeate pop culture, science fiction has been busy bending the damsel in distress archetype in addition to the laws of physics. Which is why we've rounded up the very best feminist sci-fi characters in recent pop culture history. Of course, this is not a comprehensive list. And yes, we know that it doesn't include any characters from Star Trek. (To those interested in such a list, we say: Stay tuned.)
Trinity from Matrix
While she may be the Mary Magdalene of this epic “Passion of the Christ” saga featuring evil computers, Trinity gives hope that one day we too can download the ability to drive a motorcycle off a moving truck in skin tight black leather. Actually, Carrie- Anne Moss performed that stunt on her own so maybe Carrie-Anne Moss should get this coveted title.
H.G. Wells from WareHouse 13
Holy shit! H.G. Wells is a woman! We do not need to say any more.
Eve from Wall- E
Many may not associate this Pixar film as a sci-fi classic, but Eve (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Examiner) is as true of a sci-fi heroine as Ripley from Alien. She dares to break from her program directive, defies insurmountable odds, and saves the whole damn world in the process.
Astrid Farnsworth from Fringe
Truthfully, how many people have learned five languages, are down with cryptology, and are a stellar investigative research assistant despite having to contend with a supervisor’s not so keen sense of reality? Astrid is proof that ladies too can keep a cool head in a tough situation and save everyone’s asses in the process.
Eleanor Arroway from Contact
Based on the book by our favorite scientist Carl Sagan and featuring one of the most often repeated lines in cinema history, Contact showed the importance of being “ok to go”. Especially when no one really believes in you and Mathew McConaughey ends up being a douche to you right before you leave for an unknown expedition in an alien spacecraft. Also, Jodie Foster’s performance of do-good scientist turned rebel is on point.
Every character Tatiana Maslany plays on Orphan Black
Orphan Black features female characters that kick ass in a bunch of different ways. But wait, they’re all clones! Between the writing and stellar acting, this import from our neighbor up North reminds us why we need more Tatiana Maslany and Canadian television in our lives.
Anastasia Dualla from Battlestar Galactica
Yes, we know there is Starbuck. Yes, we know there is President Laura Roslin. And yes, there is Number Six. But why rehash what everyone knows when other female characters abound in the Battlestar Galatica universe? While Anastasia Dualla's story line may ultimately be tragic, it does offer an important glimpse at what it means to be human.
Furiosa from Mad Max
This retelling of the 1979 cult classic has been updated to feature not only superior special effects, but a superior hero: Imperator Furiosa. With a war rig and some grease wiped on her forehead, the post-apocalyptic world is more than safe in this heroine's hands . Hopefully the sequel will have her name featured as the title rather than that grunting Max Rockatansky.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Zoe on Firefly
All the female characters from this one season wonder could make this list, but Zoe is a particular force that should not to be reckoned with. Calculating, adept, and great with a gun, Zoe is all about getting shit done. And despite her intense loyalty to Captain Mal Reynolds (Brown Coats for life), she’ll defy his orders if she thinks there is a better tactic to take. If you need more than 14 episodes of this impeccable Western set in space, check out the film sequel Serenity. It’ll break your heart in a way only Joss Whedon knows how.
The TARDIS herself
This is not a typo. The TARDIS is in fact female. Need proof? Watch episode four of Doctor Who season six and you will find the proof you seek. So while the companions of this series may fall under the category of “damsel in distress” more often than we would like from a show that attempts to push the boundaries of time and space, it’s reassuring to know that’s it’s all really being controlled by a feminine sentient being. Thanks, Neil Gaiman! Also, if you’re still needing proof, remember that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.
If after finishing this list you want to up the ante for all that sci-fi has to offer in the field of running amuck with our perceptions of gender, race, and sexuality, then we recommend that you to read anything by Octavia Butler or find a feminist film series near you (they exist more frequently than you might think) and see Lizzie Borden’s 1983 film Born in Flames. Enjoy the paradigm shift.