Great Female Characters? Here’s My List!

My last blog post (please read it) was kind of half rant, half personal exposition.  A fellow pop-culture blogger, Angry Mongo, commented asking me a fantastic question that I thought I’d love to answer in blog form.  For the record, Angry Mongo’s blog is about 100x better than this one, so if you’re reading me, you should be reading him!  He writes more frequently and his content is witty, relevant and an overall really good read.

He writes:

So, I have to ask, in a pop culture world with too many Black Widows and not enough Ripley’s, who are your favorite heroines in media? Did you cheer or roll your eyes at the thought of President Glitch rather than Princess Vanellope? Does the fact that they try to make Felicity Smoak (Arrow) and Velma from Mystery Inc. out to be the “sexy nerds” anger women? Can COD ever have a female character play a prominent combat role in future titles?

This guy speaks my language!  To be clear, I don’t think that any “feminine” female character is inherently bad.  My opinion is that any female character need to be “herself”, meaning that she’s not a certain way because that is what society expects of her.  If she’s feminine, weak and stupid, that’s okay.  As long as that is her character, and not just her standard position as a female.

I guess I feel like, although Black Window gets shafted as a character, so does Hawkeye so I try to tell myself that it’s because of runtime constrictions and not bad writing… even though Black Widow has been in more movies than Hawkeye… let’s just try to give the writers benefit of the doubt.  Then again, if every female character was written like Ripley from the Alien movies, it would be not only unbelievable but also tiresome and static.  In general, I don’t mind “sexy nerds”; I think there are sexy nerd male characters as well so I guess at least it’s equal.  And no, COD will never have a female character in a prominent combat role, because that’s simply not their target audience.  More males play video games than females; I believe that’s a firm statistic, and the writers of video game plots simply know who pads their pockets.  I don’t know if that’s misogynistic or just marketing.  Is it ageism that the makers of Legos advertise to children and not to the 35+ group?  No; it’s just marketing.

In general, to meet my qualifications of a great female character, they must have the majority of their conversations about things other than men, and they must not be defined by their gender (i.e. could this character be male and still be in the same or a similar situation?).  That being said, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite female characters of all time, and I don’t mind telling you exactly why they’re well-written, modern females who any girl should be proud to look up to.  These are in no particular order…

Juno MacGuff, “Juno”:  Ok, so the character of Juno, the unwed teen mom, obviously wouldn’t be in her situation without a guy around, but I still say she’s a hero.  Why?  She thinks for herself.  She tries to do what’s right, no matter what those around her are saying.  She respects the opinions of others, ultimately sees things clearly and with a level head, and makes decisions that are mature, clever, and not self-serving.  Juno is a hero in her own right; what can easily be seen as a mistake (her pregnancy) has been turned around into many eventually positive things simply because of Juno’s perspective and way of dealing with things.

Marion Ravenwood, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”:  We all remember the scene in the bar in Nepal, right?  Marion Ravenwood literally drinks the bar patrons under the table to win bets.  But besides that, let’s think about Marion’s life for a minute.  Her father was the mentor to Indiana Jones.  That tells me that she’s basically just as educated, just as experienced and just as cultured as Indy himself.  They grew up together; Indy, Abner and Marion going on digs and studying artifacts… they were family for a period of time, and although Marion was in love with Indiana, after he left she guarded herself accordingly.  She ran her father’s bar in Nepal, so she’s got business skills.  She was witty enough to gain wagers against her alcohol tolerance to make some extra cash.  She knew how to use the power of being female to her advantage, as we see in the scene with Belloq in the tent.  The way I see it, there could have been movies made about Marion Ravenwood, her life as a child learning archeology along side her father and a devilishly handsome older teen, her life in Nepal, running the tavern and dreaming of coming back to the states, then her eventual return and her running her bar in 1940’s New York, and raising Mutt as a single mom with help only from the eccentric but well-meaning Oxley.  Marion Ravenwood is actually THE SHIT and deserves her rank as #1 on my list.  For the record, I’m not as crazy about her character development in the more recent Indy flick (feel free to ask me for details on how I feel the real Marion Ravenwood would have raised Mutt)… but my summary of her character overall remains.

Hermione Granger, The “Harry Potter” books and movies:  Hermione is in the top half of a lot of the “Female Character” lists floating around the internet, but I feel like many people think that she’s a role model only for the nerd crowd and that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  To be honest, I think her situation reflects and represents the struggle that many people go through when they feel that they don’t belong somewhere because of race, ethnicity, religion, heritage or culture.  Due to the fact that Hermione is “muggle-born” which means her parents have no magic abilities at all, she’s looked down on by a lot of the wizarding community.  As anyone who’s been a victim of prejudice knows, the key to getting past it is resilience, persistence, staying true to yourself, and proving yourself valuable when given the opportunity.  These things, in addition to NOT having a chip on her shoulder, make Hermione a great female character.  Also… if you’ll notice… she rarely needs help from Ron and Harry and in fact ends up saving their asses more often than not.

Sarah Connor, “Terminator” & “T2: Judgement Day”:  She was just a totally normal 80’s chick when she got thrown into a war that she herself would never get to fight.  Time travel plot holes aside, Sarah Connor went from girl-next-door to total war machine in a matter of years, because once she became a mother she wanted her son to be as prepared as possible for his militaristic future.  Locked in the mental hospital for years, she refused to go soft.  Working out relentlessly every day, shaping her bod into unbelievable kick-assery, and shaping her mullet into one hell of a ponytail while she was at it.  Go, mom!

Cher Horowitz, “Clueless”:  This blonde, ditzy beauty doesn’t top many lists of best female characters… she may be a rich beverly hills teen hottie, but when you remove the fluff and look at her character, it’s hard not to give the girl some credit.  Sure, many of her deeds are self-serving at first, but as we get to know Cher better we realize that her value system and desire for harmony in general is really on point, and although she’s sheltered and seemingly shallow at times, she’s an accurate representation of a popular high school girl who comes from money.  And you know, being a popular girl who comes from money isn’t always sunshine and butterflies; those girls need role models too!  We can see in this movie that Cher is not all selfish; she REALLY wants her driver’s license, and we can see that she completely screws up her driving test simply because she feels “icky” about a social situation.  My takeaway from the movie is that anyone, no matter how young and dumb, can make a difference in people’s lives and if you can put aside your selfishness, even temporarily, you’ll see that there’s a lot more to others than just what brand their shoes are.

Clarice Starling, “Silence of the Lambs”:  One of my favorite things about Clarice (other than the way Hannibal says her name… admit it, you hear his voice every time you see the word… Clarice… Clarice… Hello, Clarice…) is that she’s SO real.  She’s not a badass incarnate (see Sarah Connor in T2), she’s just a young girl who has something to prove.  She’s afraid, but perseveres anyway because she’s brave and wants to prove to everyone, most of all herself, that she’s got what it takes for the FBI.  She works her ass off to be sure that she won’t be outdone by anyone else, regardless of their sex.  She pushes herself mentally, physically, and psychologically to stay ahead of her peers, her supervisor, Buffalo Bill, and Dr. Hannibal Lecter.  The odd thing is that none of these people really see her as equals… except Lecter.  In a way, he pushes her in the same ways that she pushes herself.  Think harder, be better, run faster…  and she wins the day due to facing and eventually conquering her fears.

Ellen Ripley, “Alien” & “Aliens”:  OMG she tops every single list ever.  She’s amazing, no doubt.  I don’t feel the need to explain this one since every other blog on the planet which has published a list similar to this one has already done it for me.  She’s just awesome, okay?  You can go and read a full character analysis of her on thousands of other blogs, so I don’t feel the need to re-write history.

Irene Adler, many “Sherlock Holmes” books, movies and television shows:  The most recent incarnation of Ms. Adler (BBC’s ‘Sherlock’) slated her as a dashing and bold dominatrix, and many thought that was quite a stretch for the character.  Directly previous to that, she was little more than a love interest to RDJ’s Holmes in Guy Ritchie’s version.  However, the truth is, these newer interpretations of Adler are more “old fashioned” than how the author, Arthur Conan Doyle, ever wrote her.  The way that Doyle wrote her character is far more progressive.  In Doyle’s story, Adler is able to outwit Holmes twice, and she doesn’t do it by using her body, sex, or anything of the sort.  She simply matches Holmes step for step in brain power.  To top it all off, she is seen in the end as an honorable character who will honor her word; a rare way to view a woman even in some of today’s stories, much less back in those days when the world was ruled only by men and a “man’s handshake” was his promise.  Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy the new takes on Adler’s character, and it’s all in good fun to see Holmes be the sort of character who is viewed as asexual, then see him get his brainpower met by, well, pussy power for lack of a better term.  But for me, I quite prefer Doyle’s version of “The Woman”.

Those are just a few of my favorite fictional women; I didn’t even get to Mary Richards in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, nor Daria Morgendorffer in “Daria”.  I guess I’ll save those for another time!

– T. Ham

Netflix… It’s a Love/Hate Relationship

I have been a Netflex customer for several years. I don’t know that there’s any better service to be had for only $8.99 per month. When Netflix’s infamous rate hike tossed their customers far and wide, I left with the masses. Their streaming selection had been dwindling and I was rarely using the mail service anymore. So the increased rate seemed like too much to pay for a service that I was feeling sort of ‘meh’ about.

My life without Netflix was, as you might expect, better in some ways and worse in some ways. But no matter what, the thing that stuck out in my mind is that when I wanted to watch something specific, I yearned for Netflix.

I rejoined Netflix and agreed to pay only for streaming, and have been trying my best to convince myself that I should just get rid of the dish and put all my eggs in the Netflix basket. If I want to be entertained by my television, I would either be watching Netflix, playing Xbox or making a purchase on the Apple TV. But I just can’t get myself to cancel the regular TV programming. There’s a weird reason for this that I will get back to…

But what I’ve come to realize about the available selection on Netflix Instant is this: there are tons of TV shows. Great ones even! But some of them don’t have all the seasons. Why? I think that their service would be FAR more valuable, and make FAR more money, if they would just completely convert to an instant service for TV shows. I know people will say “but that’s the same as DVR/TiVo” but it’s not. It’s not the same because Netflix offers these TV shows without commercials. No crap to fast-forward past. Also, it’s not the same because the selection is larger than what my DVR would ever hold, meaning that I can watch an episode or two of a show, decide if I like it, and move on with my life. It’ll be there waiting for me if I decide I want to watch more, not taking up any storage capacity space. Also, I can watch Netflix on SO MANY devices. I would gladly pay $20 per month or MORE for Netflix if they would get all the seasons of the TV shows they offer (Dexter, anyone?) and implement just one more feature that I can’t live without…

Netflix needs some kind of playlist feature, continuous play feature, or ability to automatically play the next episode or thing on your queue or something. Some people look at me like I have an arm coming out of my ass when I say that, but here’s my thing: Sometimes when I turn on the TV, I’m not looking for anything specific. I don’t want to actively “watch” anything. I kind of just want to…. chill out with something going on in the background. TV is perfect filler for that. I fall asleep with the TV on every night (keeps the bad dreams away, true story), I just put it on Adult Swim and turn the TV sleep timer on 90 minutes. About an episode and a half later, I’m snoozing. But I need to be ALL THE WAY asleep before the TV cuts off. If it goes dark and silent and I’m not asleep, I am not happy. Bad dream city. My inner thoughts lead me to dark places when there’s no outside influences… but I digress.

So, Netflix, the ball’s in your court. Why not just compete with television providers? You’d put cable companies out of business if you offered all the TV shows you do now, plus adding in new ones, with ALL the seasons, as they become available. But first, please integrate some kind of damn autoplay! I don’t care if there’s commercials in between, or ads on the screen where I am choosing what I want to watch, if that’s what you gotta do to get the show producers to agree to it.

What’s the average income on Spooner Street in Quahog Rhode Island?

In Fox’s hit television show “Family Guy” (maybe you’ve heard of it?  It’s not like it’s a popular show or anything) the four main characters of the show all live on the same street – Spooner Street – although they all have completely differing careers and even more different salaries.  In fact, it doesn’t look like any of the wives work outside of the home at all, so they’re all just living on a single income.

So I started wondering…what is the average income of the residents of Spooner Street?  Let’s go over it:

Glen Quagmire: Commercial Pilot – His annual salary falls somewhere between $108,891 and $136,452.

Cleveland Brown: Deli Owner (Entrepreneur) – Depending on how well the deli business is in Quahog, he could be grossing anywhere between $50k and $250k.  It’s wide open.  Even more ambiguous is the fact that we don’t know what his wife does for a living, if she does anything.

Joe Swanson: He’s a police officer.  His wife, Bonnie, who’s perpetually pregnant, is a housewife.  Assuming he’s a slick-sleeve and doesn’t get any more or less pay because he’s handicapped, Joe’s annual salary range is $43,311 to $61,339.

Peter Griffin: Although Peter has held many professions (a fisherman, a workerbee at Pawtucket Patriot Brewery and even a jousting knight), he was an assembly-line worker at a toy company for the majority of the show, so we’ll use that as his career of choice.  His salary would range between $21,197 and $27,708.  Lois teaches Piano lessons on the side, but throughout the entire show we’ve only seen her give a handful of lessons, so I would only count her salary as an extra $10k, max.

Do you see a LACK of pattern?  Have you ever seen a neighborhood with such diverse incomes?  By all rights, Peter would live in an apartment, Joe would live in an average home and Cleveland & Quagmire would have moderate to huge houses.

I will say that although Quagmire’s house looks average on the outside, he must have spent an absolute fortune on all the interior gadgets and gizmos that make for such a groovy love shack.  I mean, when you turn the lights down, a wall flips around to reveal a fully stocked bar, a disco ball drops from the ceiling and total porno music starts playing.  Nice.

And Joe probably had to spend a great deal in making his home handicapped accessible.  I hear that’s pretty pricey.  They gotta have special toilets and bathtubs and everything.

My only thought could be that one side of Spooner Street is mansions and the other side is average houses and a few shacks.  I mean, we do know that Cleveland lives on the opposite side of the street from Peter, so the theory stands…

Anyway, this is what I was thinking about on my way to work this morning.  Just thought I’d share.  Random, I know.  That’s how I roll.

-T. Ham

p.s.  All my figures and statistics came from salary.com and I used the zip code for the real Quahog, Rhode Island.

More Futurama Episodes Coming?

Futurama!Reports are flying through today that say Comedy Central has ordered 26 more episodes of the awesome and excellent Matt Groenig show, Futurama.

After being cancelled in 2003 by Fox, Futurama fans have been gobbling up DVDs and the “movies” that have been airing on Comedy Central as new episodes.  I guess this has finally convinced someone to bring the series back.

I will be beside myself with joy if I find out that I can have 26 more episodes of Fry, Leela, Bender and Professor Farnsworth!

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Hollywood must be out of ideas…

The A TeamI just found out that an A-Team movie is in the works, and I’m not real sure how I feel about it.  Get Smart…Transformers…GI Joe…Land of the Lost…when will it all stop?  Why is it that Hollywood feels the need to feed us these regurgitated characters/plots?  I know that a remake/sequel of any kind is the quickest way to make a buck because it has a built-in audience and people will turn out at the theater just to see what the studio has made out of it, but come on people, let’s be real for a minute.

Are we so afraid of change that we can’t handle new and exciting plot lines?  Are we so latched down to the “good old days” that we lack the distinguished taste of good cinema?  Yes, in a word.  Obviously!

I have to admit however that not all of Hollywood’s recent regurgitations have been complete cinematic abortions.  In fact, I quite enjoyed the new ThundercatsIndiana Jones.  Was it an example of great filmmaking?  Not so much.  Was it enjoyable to watch?  Absolutely!  Same traffic for Transformers.  The trailer for GI Joe makes me want to have a root canal though…  I’d love to see a live action version of ThunderCats though, that’d be spectacular!

But I digress.  Back to the A-Team movie.  Apparently, Joe Carnahan will be directing.  Who?  Joe Carnahan.  Who’s that?  No idea.  He has roughly eight movies filed under his name on Wikipedia, all of them complete failures.  So…good luck with that.

Liam NeesonAnyway, news articles have touted Liam Neeson as being signed on for the role of Col. John “Hannibal” Smith.  Seriously?  Liam Neeson?  Back that thang up.  You’re telling me that a grade ‘A’ actor like LIAM FREAKING NEESON is going to be in this movie?  Hmm.  Maybe Joe Carnahan will be rich after all.

No word yet on who’s going to play Mr. T’s B.A. Baracus.  Why not just let Mr. T himself do it?  He’s not dead, right?  (quick Google…)  No, whew, no…he’s still alive.  And he’s only 57!!!

So….lots to look forward to….thanks Hollywood….

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Zack Morris Makes a Comeback!

Saved By The Bell CastHow much do I love Saved By The Bell?  A lot.  So, how surprised and excited was I to see Zack Morris (the coolest guy at Bayside High) on Jimmy Fallon’s late night show??  Very.

**Sidenote – if you’re wondering who that top left guy is in this photo, don’t be scared and confused.  It took me a minute too, but I believe he’s the guy that always worked at their little burger shop hangout joint.**

In addition to cracking up the audience and sending waves of nostalgia across America, actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar (now an adult who plays in “real” TV shows such as Raising The Bar on TNT) also confirmed plans for a Saved By The Bell reunion.  All recognizable cast members are currently on board except Tiffani Thiessen and Dustin Diamond, who played Kelly and Screech respectivly.  Thiessen and Diamond haven’t said that they wouldn’t do a reunion, they just haven’t been signed formerly or made any public mention about it.  I don’t know that a reunion would work without those two… Dustin Diamond is a pretty huge douchebag these days but he made the show work.  And Kelly was America’s sweetheart!  There just can’t be a reunion show without Kelly!!

Zack – er, Mark-Paul’s appearance on the show was classic and made for a great interview.  Check it out here.

What do you guys think?  Would a Saved By The Bell reunion be completely awesome or a big flop?

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Adam Lambert – Out of the Closet

Adam LambertAll the rumors are true – American Idol Superstar Adam Lambert is gay. He confirmed to Rolling Stone magazine in an interview which will be in the issue that hits stands tomorrow.

He says, “I don’t think it should be a surprise for anyone to hear that I’m gay. I’m proud of my sexuality, I embrace it. It’s just another part of me.”

Seriously….did anyone NOT see this one coming?

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