Friday, October 29, 2010

You Never Forget your First... Tough Chick

You young'uns have it so easy. Nowadays everytime you turn around, there is yet another kick butt heroine to admire. Movies, TV, comics, books... no matter the medium, you can find some woman to satisfy your tough chick cravings.

In my day, we had to walk five miles in horrible conditions... uphill... both ways... to find something - ANYTHING! - related to a woman who could handle herself and all the guys around her.

Sure, there were a few, but in such drips and drabbles that you were just about to give up hope when the next one arrived.

Wonder Woman was the start of it. Sure, you can look back at her BDSM origins and propensity for having phallic shaped objects hurtling towards her and roll your eyes, but even those could not conceal the fact that finally there was a woman that the bad guys should run away from.

Several decades later, Ellen Ripley was introduced. Ripley - from the 'Alien' movie franchise - did not have superpowers of any kind, and that made her all the more amazing. She kept her head, fought moved forward in spite of her fear, and would never have been stupid enough to go weaponless outside and ask, "Is anybody there?" The part of Ripley was originally written for a male; bless the producers of 'Alien' for casting the amazing Sigourney Weaver.

A tough chick in the same mold as Ripley, we later met Sarah Conner from the 'Terminator' franchise. In the first movie, Sarah was as any of us, with man troubles, a horrible job, and who probably would go "Who's there?" at a strange noise. By the second movie, the woman could strip an AK-47 in less than a minute and break out of a maximum security institution. More than perhaps any other female character, Sarah represents the inner strength of women, of how we will transform ourselves to meet any challenge, especially when it comes to protecting out children.

There are a few other female characters whose advent preceded the tough chick revolution and help it come about, but I want to talk mostly about a character who had an impact on my own young life.

That character was She-Ra.

You heard me. She-Ra. Go ahead and laugh. I'll wait. Are you done?

Look, I get it. She-Ra in many ways was analogous to early Wonder Woman. The woman wore more make-up than most burlesque performers and had the same wardrobe to boot! (Speaking of boots, hers were high heeled.) A chunk of her powers were of the "Let's all be friends, kum by ya" variety. And she couldn't have been the sharpest blade of the bunch if she was the General of the Army but didn't realize she was in service to the big bad.

Yes, yes, yes, got it. I do get it. But you also have to look at what other female role models were available. That would be none. All other girls were there to look pretty and nothing else.

She-Ra had some problems, but in that show, the women were unapologetic about being the ones who kicked butt and ran operations. It was the guys who kept needing to be saved - and I discovered even then that I like the alpha boys, because I always thought She-Ra needed to dump that guy who she kept rescuing and find someone who she could actually count on to fight beside her and not be captured.

We may be in a more wondrous age as it concerns our tough chicks, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't remember those characters who helped blaze the way. Which tough chick made the most impact on you?


  1. Well, I'm a Southern girl so the character who made the most impact on me was Scarlett O'Hara. That was one tough broad. Seriously flawed, but tough as nails--and paid for it. Sure, she spent the whole time pining over the wrong guy while the right guy walked away from her. But kickass? Oh yeah.

  2. Xena, Warrior Princess. And Buffy...but mostly Xena. Though I dug Red Sonja, too...

  3. Hmmm- well TV I'd say Buffy and Xena as well. In the literary world the first "tough chicks" I'd say were Diana Tregard (Mercedes Lackey) and Anita Blake (LKH).

    Great post!

  4. Great post, Danielle! I have to say, I did enjoy She-Ra back in the day! lol I still have a couple of those books from when I was young.

    Okay, the tough chicks that impacted me the most were Xena, Catwoman, and a little later on... Anita Blake. =) I agree with Maureen and Marie though, Buffy was pretty awesome too.