I stay out of the internet drama because as far as this site is concerned my focus is on the end product. Despite what the creator’s sociopolitical viewpoints are, did he or she create something good that I can enjoy. If said politics are why the story was ruined, as in heavy-handed preaching, I’ll call it out, but I don’t think being conservative or liberal has any bearing on talent and the ability to tell a story. Now SJW or alt-right is another story since they often represent extreme viewpoints and extremists love to shove their message into your skull or shut you out but that’s a whole other conversation. I want nothing to do with extremists, whether they (allegedly) share my opinions or not (and most of them fall under “not” even if they think they do). I have other things to worry about.
However, whenever a female-led movie or show comes out, the response is rather curious. I have nothing against “representation” (although I can think of few characters I enjoy who are “just like me” beyond the color wheel and things like “requires air to breathe”–and given some of the shows I watch we don’t always have that in common either) but I don’t think you have to sacrifice story quality in order to have representation. You can have both. And yet when folks complain about the rebooted Ghostbusters, She-Ra, or the MCU Captain Marvel (which I STILL believe only exists to keep Billy Batson from regaining his superhero name in the movies like Marvel Comics has been doing to DC Comics) the defenders go to “they hate women action heroes in main roles” or “it’s not for you” (even though it totally was or at least was something I could get into). I’m not going to get into this argument. I haven’t seen either of them to review them. I do reject the notion that it’s the fact that it’s a woman as the focus that’s the problem, especially after the response to Wonder Woman, Alita Battle Angel, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Xena: Warrior Princess, the calls for a Black Widow movie (which I support if they find a good script and not just having it to have it because I want it to be good, not just “present”) and the shows I grew up with.
I grew up with plenty of strong female heroes, who either were the stars of the show or worked equally with their male partners in crimefighting. I would like to tell you about these heroes since I have done so in the past for the black heroes, who also don’t get credited alongside Black Panther or other such heroes. (All-black cast? Not only did The Meteor Man do it first but M.A.N.T.I.S. was better when it had an all-black cast in the pilot. Also, I really do want to see Black Panther. It looks like a good movie.) There were plenty of girl heroes before having girl heroes was cool. I grew up with them. Characters like…
The Bionic Woman
She was based on a man like Supergirl or She-Ra so this argument may not fly with some of the extreme feminists, but as I got through saying I don’t care what extremists think. Regular feminists embraced Wonder Woman while the extremists got her kicked out of the UN for have breasts or something. Like a rule 63 Zardoz or something. However, Jaime Sommers was a rather strong woman given an accident left her near-paralyzed who only survived by becoming a cyborg. Serving as both a teacher and a government agent, Jamie tangled with spies, assassins, killer androids, and super-strong dopplegangers while making friends with a bionic dog. She was strong but also caring. I have nothing against Buffy The Vampire Slayer (who would be on the list but I don’t do horror and I wouldn’t have grown up with her anyway–Jamie’s show I only saw in reruns) but not every woman hero has to be tough and butt-kicking. For that matter, not all male heroes either, but that’s another list.
Teela (He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe)
Frankly any woman from that show could be on this list. The Sorceress was wise and protected the secrets of the universe mostly by herself. Queen Marlena showed she was tough enough to rescue her family and smart enough to recognize Adam as He-Man because “a mother knows”. (Ignore that YOU can tell the difference. In the show nobody else can and you can blame it on magic if it shuts you…I mean helps you move past it.) Evil-Lyn, one of the villains, was probably the only competent member of Skeletor’s team on Eternia and even on Primus there were strong women. Heck, most of the guest-starring females showed great strength in each their own way, and the one time a woman didn’t, becoming stronger was her character arc. This is what got She-Ra: Princess Of Power made in the first place.
The award for strongest (unless you count She-Ra) has to go to Teela. Still in her early 20s (and even younger in the 2000s reboot–probably closer to 16) and already she’s captain of the royal guard. And while she made her share of mistakes, it was her age and not her gender that was to blame. Even in the more Conan-inspired mini-comics she was He-Man’s equal not in physical strength–obviously since only She-Ra can claim that–but still an equal on the battlefield. She had to be rescued, sure, but there were also times it was her doing the rescuing, even saving He-Man. When He-Man was homesick on Primus it was Teela the Sorceress sent for a short visit. If you say Teela isn’t a strong female character, you didn’t actually pay attention to the show.
Web Woman (The Super 7)
I’ve spoken about this character and show a bit before, but while I didn’t need to be obscure to complete this list I wanted to make it fun for me. Even before she received her amazing insect powers Kelly Weber was a hero, saving the life of a space alien who fell into a raging river. When she got her powers, her cool flying bug car convertible (eat your heart out, Ted Kord), and her alien sidekick she became the superhero Web Woman. Spinner would help but he didn’t really have any powers. He pushed buttons and she did the heavy fighting and calling insects for help. The intro said she protected the galaxy but I don’t remember her ever leaving Earth in the show. That’s fine because she had plenty of villains on Earth to fight and if she lost a battle or two she still overcame and saved the day just as well as any of the other men in the anthology.
In fact The Super 7 had quite a few strong women in its various shows. Microwoman was the equal of her husband Super Stretch (and the pair were also TV’s first black superheroes, or among them at least–someone claimed Astra from Space Sentinels was but I haven’t done the math), Moray didn’t have Manta’s underwater powers but she did all the land work, and then you have…
Isis (The Freedom Force and The Secrets Of Isis)
Before poorly-animated (and you complain about Filmation?) spy comedies and real-life terror groups ruined the name–and DC ruined the character–Isis was a superhero in Filmation’s pantheon and probably their best as far as original characters go. (You can argue for the aforementioned boy Captain Marvel but in the live-action show he rarely fought criminals; that would have to wait for the cartoon.) In the animated Freedom Force the “goddess of the elements” was arguably the leader of the group, protectors of the Valley Of Time, connected to time somehow. The only other hero to show up outside of this version was Hercules, part of the Space Sentinels I mentioned earlier, but I’m not sure if either hero is the same version on both shows. The Valley Of Time is some kind of time crossroads or something so you never really know. It’s possible that this Isis is the ancestor of the live-action version, and that’s the theory I’m going with.
The live-action version, which I’ve also gone over before, starred science teacher and amateur archaeologist Andrea Thomas learned she was the descendant of Isis and heir to her powers, which she used to protect Unnamed City from criminals and save her dunderheaded students when they got into trouble. She liked toying with the baddies, giving them a chance to give up or sometimes reform before they fall into a life of crime. And when she did team with Captain Marvel they were equals, seeking each other out for help on a number of occasions. However, I’ve saved the strongest of this list for last.
Whether in the comics, cartoons, or her live-action series by Linda Carter (I don’t think there will be a more perfect choice to portray her), Diana of Paradise Island/Themyscira is one of the greatest superheroines ever! And she doesn’t need to be the classic Greek Amazon warrior/Xena type hero. Wonder Woman can fight without a sword and shield. She just needs her own amazing skills, great powers, a lasso that forces others to tell the truth or makes them forget, and that sweet invisible jet they keep taking away from her because it isn’t believable. They even screwed up her origin by making her another of Zeus’s illegitimate offspring. Like he doesn’t have enough of those.
Diana isn’t just physically strong but emotionally strong. Not every problem has to be solved by violence as she’s the ambassador of peace and love the hippies liked to think they were. She never gives up, never leave any doubt that she can handle most anything that can be thrown at her, and is surely an equal among the males of the Justice League/Super Friends. Like everyone on this list, and I could easily add more, she isn’t a hero because she’s a woman but she is a good role model for girls everywhere. When she’s written right anyway.
While we had a low count of strong heroines at one point it wasn’t and the rise of strong heroines, super or not, is making a comeback. At least as long as they paired with good stories that makes them as good, and as bad, as their male counterparts. No hero should be perfect, since seeing them overcome obstacles and villains serves as inspiration or at least catharsis for us overcoming our own obstacles. Every woman, man, adult, and child should be able to cheer and support them, but representation, while important, isn’t enough. Give us good stories and good characters and everyone can support them. You won’t please everyone but if your story is good you show that women can do anything and be the hero. Just being there isn’t enough. That’s what separates good characters from bad regardless of gender. And I can make this a longer list if I have to in order to prove it because there’s a lot of evidence it can be done.