Katherine B. Shelor – Jenna from Waitress:

Waitress pic

Fox Searchlight Pictures

I expect a lot of people have forgotten about this movie, but when I cast back through movies I’ve seen and women I’ve admired, Jenna stood out as the most relatable female character and also one of the strongest. She is in an unhappy and abusive marriage, faces an unwanted pregnancy that could further trap her in that marriage, has an affair with an unhappy man, but in the end finds strength through the child she didn’t want, and leaves both her abusive husband and her lover because neither offered her anything worth having. She is an ordinary woman with ordinary fears and struggles, and I admire her for the way she ultimately casts off the men that were holding her captive (while still being all she knew, and thus representing a familiar life), and goes forward independently.

It must be noted that it is a gift of money from a dying man that allows her to be so independent, but I like to think she would’ve gotten there on her own, anyway.

Redhead at the Movies – Merida from Brave:

Walt Disney Studios

Walt Disney Studios

While it’s increasingly apparent that we need more complex, interesting female characters in film–female characters who don’t simply fall into superficial categories like “strong” or “weak” but who have a wider palate of emotional responses and personality traits–I’d still say there are a lot of female characters out there to be inspired by, if you know where to look. The reason I’m picking Merida–an animated, Disney princess (essentially)–is because she was the first “Disney princess” who I felt I could relate to. Maybe I am biased because people often joke that I look like her, but in a way, even that’s related to what makes her so admirable to me as a character; she is a Disney princess who doesn’t look or act like any other Disney princess who’d come before. She is strong but still exhibits fear and vulnerability and has to grapple with those emotions rather than let them overcome her. She is funny and dynamic. She is athletic and beautiful and charming but also clumsy and silly and childlike. She doesn’t need a prince to save or fulfill her, and she takes initiative and responsibility for her own mistakes and stays true to herself and her own goals. I admire Merida, but mostly I admire Disney and Pixar for finally coming together to create a character like Merida, one which I wish I’d had when I was growing up. But better late than never, and we can only hope that more princes and princesses will continue to come along that do things on their own terms just like Merida.

Grace Porter – Maude from Harold and Maude:


“Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can’t let the world judge you too much.” -Maude

I’m not sure how many of my peers have seen this 1971 cult classic. Harold and Maude is a weird fuckin’ film but still my favorite to this day. There are many multidimensional, female characters worthy of this list: the strong, likeable, witty, powerful, smart, badasses who certainly deserve more recognition than they get. But in determining the female character I most admire, that is certainly Maude. Maude is a car-stealing, funeral-crashing, 79-year-old woman, whose traumatic past has seemingly ignited in her a quest to live and love fully. She’s brazen, unapologetic, and certainly eccentric, and Ruth Gordon’s brilliant performance keeps this unforgettable character from turning into a mere caricature. While I identify more with Harold and readily admit Maude and I have little in common, I admire the hell out of her.

Schyler Martin – Lisa Simpson from The Simpsons:
Lisa Simpson
Has there ever been a more inspiring female character (and maybe character in general) than eight-year-old Lisa Simpson? I doubt it. Lisa embraces her femininity and realizes that being a woman isn’t a weakness at all but a strength. She isn’t afraid to speak her mind, she’s smarter than just about everyone around her, and she strives to be worldly and cultured. Lisa cares about things, really cares, in a way that most people don’t even attempt. Though she sometimes doubts herself, at the end of the day, Lisa knows who she is, and she’s proud of it. When Lisa wants to change something in the world, she gets up and changes it. Lisa Simpson is the ultimate TV feminist, and what a blessing it was to grow up watching her.

Tea Lacson – Mulan from Mulan

Yes, the Asian picked an Asian woman as the woman she finds most admirable. Despite my insistence to avoid a cliche selection, I cannot deny the fact Mulan continues to inspire me, even through adulthood. My greatest takeaways from Mulan are:
1. Think and act quickly.
2. Show the guys how a woman handles training sessions.
3. Be outspoken.
4. Don’t deny your true self.
These run in the back of my mind, and I continually find a way to make these manifest in myself. Whenever a change occurs in my life, it calls for going Mulan by chopping off all my hair.