things i love: Tough Girls

First I want to give props to both Patricia and Brian for writing excellent things i love posts. Both their posts got me thinking about their topics, and it’s this energy we can all get from sharing that I’m most interested in. If you want to join in the fun, feel free to write your own post about something you love. If you pingback here or to the original things i love post I’ll mention you in future posts and on Twitter when I find you. And of course, I’ll be over at your blog reading away!

Now… as the BFF likes to say, “You only like movies where the girl is tough.” Which isn’t entirely true. I like movies about other things, but a girl who can hold her own definitely piques my interest.

That’s not to say I want women to be men. I like that each of the sexes have their unique strengths and traits and I like men to be men and women to be women. But that doesn’t mean a woman must be a frail, frightened thing to be a woman. On the contrary, a woman who is confident in herself and in what she believes, I think that’s what makes her strong. But I do like watching girls beat up the boys sometimes. Especially when the boys are villains.

Rainbow BriteI’ve been trying to think of where the love of tough girls started. There have been great women characters over the years, but probably one of the earliest renditions of a girl power character was honestly Rainbow Brite. Not only was she in charge of Rainbow Land, but she always went riding off on her horse to save the day, faced down bad guys and came out victorious. And she had super powers—always super cool. And let’s not forget her cool outfit. She was still quite feminine and powerful at the same time.

RipleySomeone else I really loved (and still do) was Ripley from Alien. Sigourney Weaver made us believe that not only can women save the day from scary aliens, but somehow that she’s the only one that could probably pull it off.

She kind of reminds me of the ’80s version of Katherine Hepburn, another great tough girl I should mention. It’s a lot thanks to Katherine Hepburn that girls aren’t whimpering, fainting rabbits all the time. She took on roles that broke conventions and changed the way we thought about women in film. One of my favorite films of hers is The Philadelphia Story where three beaus are vying for her attention. She’s got both the power of presence on film and still looks good and feminine to boot.

Philadelphia Story

Katherine Hepburn with Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, and John Howard.

Buffy Vampire SlayerThat’s a lot of the reason Buffy the Vampire Slayer appealed so much to me. She’s about as unlikely a heroine as they come in the beginning. Dumb blond cheerleader saves the world from vampires? Yep. She’s still concerned with the things teenage girls are concerned with, friends, boys, clothes, yet when trouble hits she’s first on the scene. If you really want some great strong Buffy entertainment, check out a YouTube video called Buffy vs. Edward. You can thank me later—and you will.

I disagree with a lot of feminists who seem to want to erase completely anything we’ve ever known that’s been associated with women. Again, I don’t want women to be men or vice versa. I wanted people to be judged by the content of their character, not their gender. Men and women can be equally capable at accomplishing a task in their own unique ways. We should celebrate differences, not erase them.

All right, so all of this is leading up to one of my favorite tough girls of all time, someone I wanted to be like for a long time and I probably still am trying. That, ladies and gentlemen, would be Lara Croft, best known from the series Tomb Raider.

tomb raider

New Lara from the 2013 Tomb Raider game.

Yeah, today I looked longingly at the upcoming video game pics on Amazon. March 5th can’t come soon enough. Oh wait, yes it can. I need to work on Shade first. So, I like video games, but I don’t play many. There’s a handful that include the Diablo series, Legend of Zelda, Batman (the recent PS3 ones), Uncharted (yeah, I could do a whole blog post on this, and I might), and of course Tomb Raider.

Most ladies probably love Indiana Jones, and a few of us love the idea of being Indiana Jones. Who better to be than Lara Croft? Rich, tough, beautiful, and adventurous? Yes please. But being her is extremely tough. Believe you me, you’ve got to be toned to the max and insanely brave. I’m working my way up to it… I hope to one day own a pair of HK USP Match Pistols. Maybe when I’m a little richer.

Tomb Raider

I think the new game’s gonna be awesome!

But do you know how difficult it is to shimmy along a wall? Forget all the ridiculous parkour skills you’ve got to have in addition to that. I guess when you’re rich you have the time to train in all that.

Lara Croft AngelinaI did like the movie portrayals, in case anyone was wondering. I think Angelina Jolie made a decent Lara. It’s a shame in recent years Angelina looks too Hollywood anymore. Stay too long in Hollywood and they turn you into a wraith. Was it just me or when she came out onto stage during the Oscars that one time was your first thought, “Geez Angie, eat a sandwich!”

Not that I really watch the Oscars other than clips on YouTube if friends mention something funny happened. I’m just a little disgusted that we’re watching the self-congratulatory fest of a bunch of smug Hollywood-ites who think they’re oh so clever. What am I talking about? Oh, the Oscars are things they award each other, no audience going input considered. Why else are there some movies listed you’ve never heard of or thought sucked? Yep, don’t watch the Oscars.

ZhaanAnyways, back to tough girls. They’re awesome, they’re strong, even better when they’re feminine and make it great to be feminine. In fact one of the best characters on Farscape, something I’ve talked about in earlier things i love posts, is Zhaan, an alien priestess who shows us how she can be soft, feminine, but far from weak.

Now that you know of my love of tough girls, tell me about more tough girls I should get to know, especially in books. I liked Katsa in Graceling, I love Violet from A Series of Unfortunate Events, who else should I get to know? My holiday book read is coming up so spill? And if you can only think of cool tough girl movie characters, feel free to share them as well.

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24 thoughts on “things i love: Tough Girls

  1. While I’ll agree with you about loving strong female characters, I’m not going to tell you the ones I love because you’ve inspired me to write this same post from a guy’s perspective. I will, however, give you a taste, or something to tide you over until the post is ready.

    Ten years ago, Dean Koontz published By the Light of the Moon. I’ve raved about this book many times before and wait for it, I’m going to rave about it again. Jillian Jackson is a struggling stand-up comedian who is conscious of her curves, her hips and thighs in particular. She checks into some cheap motel wondering why she can’t find a decent man and is tied to a chair, injected with some unknown substance by some mad scientist looking guy. Yeah, Jilly’s life is about to change in more ways than one. She bumps into a man, Dylan O’Connor, and his brother who were also injected as a line of black Chevy Suburbans arrive. Men in suits jump out brandishing assault rifles and rush to find the good doctor. And thus our adventure begins. Did I mention there’s time travel, or bending? Did I also mention this serum changes our heroes, enhancing certain things and giving them powers so to say? One of my favorite books. Ever.

    Please add this book to your growing list, Jae. You’ll be glad you did.

    Lara Croft? I know what you’re going to be for Halloween next year. A million yesses for Katherine Hepburn. I’d also throw Maureen O’Hara in there too. Just watch The Quiet Man and you’ll know what I mean. I’ve spilled too much. Oh well, off to write my post.

    • I don’t know that I could pull Lara off. It’s quite frigid around Halloween time. I’ve considered it many times though.

      And I immediately put “By the Light of the Moon” on the booklist. Thanksgiving weekend should prove interesting. It was pretty fun, the last time I did a book blitz.

      Hmmm, a tough girls post from a guys perspective… It’ll be interesting to see what a guy says about it. I would also like to know if you know whether guys find tough girls intimidating or not and why? And also, do you feel like the state of men is bending toward being more feminine? I guess I feel like currently surrounding me there are lots of essentially wimpy, frightened rabbit men. And believe you me a feminine man disgusts the tough girls the most. That’s not to say we want them to be stoic machines. We still want to feel like girls around the guys, not the reverse. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts.

      • Holy cow, I think this may turn into a series of posts. Yes, many guys are wearing skinny jeans, plucking their eyebrows, and worry too much about when the newest phone will be out. I’ve heard your sentiments echoed through my sister repeatedly, you know, about wimpy guys. Personally (and I can really only speak for me), I’m not intimidated by anyone. People are people. The ones worth knowing always jump out. Why do you think I hang around? 😉

        This is turning out to be fun. I love a good conversation.

        Btw, I’m calling them Kickass ladies. It’ll be ready for Friday.

      • Excellent. I look forward to your post. I think it’s Adam Carolla’s book title that says it best and worries me most, “In 50 Years We’ll All Be Chicks.” (I haven’t read Adam’s book. I heard a rant of his once, which I agreed with, but his language was enough to keep me timidly giving him the thumbs up from a large distance.)

        Yeah, I don’t want guys to be girls. I don’t want women belittled by men. I don’t like hearing men talk about women in a negative way, but I don’t want men thinking it’s fine to embrace femininity and reject masculinity. I think it’s that society has and has had whacked ideas about what each should be. That’s something I really love about America—and I mean America in it’s truest uncorrupted form. Every person, man or woman, should be able to pursue the destiny they choose and we should cheer them on. Men can do things seen as a woman’s job and still be masculine. That’s one thing I loved about Bobby Flay on the food network. He was all about food, but in a guy’s way. I have plenty of girl friends in the military who do what’s seen as a man’s job as a soldier. They do it well, and they can still be ladies. In fact, I purposely wear pink to kung fu, mostly to remind myself I can still enjoy being a woman while doing martial arts—something they originally only taught to men.

        Even if I could totally beat up a guy I was on a date on, and we both knew it, I’d still fully expect him to step up as a protector if someone tried to mug us or something. I always let and encourage guys to be chivalrous and thank them when they open doors or offer seats on the train. There may be a few rabid feminists out there who hate it, but I think the majority of us girls want a real man.

  2. I too love tough girls or tough women! I think I pick out books mostly where there’s a heroine rather than a hero lol! I tend to write in that fashion as well. I guess it’s from my upbringing. Being in the Navy and also being very independent. I think a little bit of that will rub off on my daughter lol!

    • For me I think the first few stories have been with male protags because I didn’t want to write a story that was like every other characterization of women and girls I’d ever read. I didn’t feel confident enough to write a female lead. But I think I’m there now, it’s just that my current story is a male lead because that’s just how the story came to me. The next I want to write, I really hope to make her an extraordinary tough girl. I think it’s good I’m practicing and learning with this first story, so I’ll be ready for her when the time comes.

      But you didn’t list any recommendations. Please, what are some good books you’d recommend. I especially would appreciate any YA recommendations, but I’ll take anything. 🙂

      • I’m just finished the 2nd of a series Sophie Jordan’s novels. The first one is called Firelight and the second one is called Vanish. Really good read’s. I actually blogged about the first one ‘Books about Vampires and Dragons’. Another great series is Karen Marie Moning”s Fever Series…isn’t YA, but really, really good. (starts out with a weak female lead, then she gets stronger) She just put out a new book called Iced, which I just bought the other day. It has a strong female lead. These are just to name a few that I can think of off the top of my head at the moment lol! Glimmer Glass is another good one, cannot remember the author’s first name, but her last name is Jones. Guess you can see I also read a lot of female writers too.

  3. My favorite tough girls are probably Alanna and Daine from Tamora Pierce’s books. They’re so full of spunk and personality, but yet they still have their flaws. They are also probably some of the tough girls I read about first. More recently, I read “Star Crossed” by Elizabeth C. Bunce, and I really liked the main character in that. Don’t let the name of the book fool you, there really isn’t much of a love story in the book, at least not in the first book.

    Honestly, if I sit here and think about tough girls I like in books, the list might go on forever. So I’ll stop there. 🙂

  4. I LOVE this post!!! I agree with everything you have to say on the subject of women being women but not wimps!

    My favorite young girl from a young age is Sara Pezzini from the Witchblade comics. I haven’t read any in forever but I still love what I remember. Maybe THAT’S what I should do my first post on. Maybe I should pull them out of the closet and read them again…

  5. I don’t know most of the characters you refer to (and comments), but some of my favorite heroines have been drawn by Isabelle Allende and Barbara Kingsolver and Anna Quindlen – all tough “girls” themselves. Good post, Jae!

  6. I love this post, Jae. And I’m with you 100%. I can’t stand heroines who just stand there and simper. I’m not saying they should all be spear-wielding girls who can high kick without falling over (not that I’ve… um.. tried that) but still… a bit of backbone please.

    Have you ever read Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles? The women in that are absolutely wonderful. And they DO wield spears.

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