According to traditional notions, the science fiction genre is predominantly for men, and hence the scope of the female characters present is limited to looking pretty. Yes, science-fiction is perhaps the one genre most prone to sexism. However, there are those rare times when a female character is deemed strong enough and worthy of being at par with the men in sci-fi movies, and the writers who create such gutsy characters deserve the credit. Here we look at some of the best female characters in sci-fi TV/movies in the past few years. Take note, however, that this list is far from being exhaustive and there is certainly room for more.
Ellen Ripley is the main protagonist of the Aliens franchise and is played by Sigourney Weaver. She has often been regarded as the best female science fiction character ever and for challenging gender roles. This character was so significant, that Weaver earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, at a time when the Academy Awards did not seriously consider the genre.
Princess Leia—Star Wars
Luke Skywalker’s sister is perhaps a very obvious choice, but this character remains as synonymous with the genre as the Star Wars franchise. The only female lead of the original trilogy, Leia was the formidable leader of the rebel forces. While Jabba the Hutt treats her like a piece of meat, she responds by strangling him (it?) with the chain he had her bound with. An excellent marksman, Leia eventually becomes a full-fledged Jedi under Luke’s guidance.
We initially see Sarah Connor as a timid college student who works part-time as a waitress. After being pursued relentlessly by a deadly cyborg from the future for an entire movie, she transformed herself from the mousy woman she was into a vicious warrior. Trained in the art of combat and the usage of artillery to protect and teach her son, while still in hiding, she goes on to become a legend.
Sarah Jane Smith—Doctor Who
The character of Sarah Jane Smith was so prominent that she appeared in both the old and the new series, as well as an entire spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures. Initially, Sarah Jane was a companion to the Third Doctor, who regenerates to the Fourth incarnation, and was abandoned by the latter when he was called back to his planet. In the new series, we see that as an investigative journalist, Sarah Jane has been doing what she did with the Doctor all on her own ever since he left her.
The character of Zoe Washburne took the “tough girl” act to a whole new level. Perhaps the only character to be considered equal to Malcolm Reynolds on every front, Zoe proved that even female warriors could maintain a healthy relationship and own the battlefield. Ever so loyal to Mal, and ever so deadly, Zoe was a military woman and was often more calm than the former in dangerous situations.
Donna Noble—Doctor Who
Donna Noble was the third companion of the Tenth Doctor, and the first one who hadn’t fallen in love with him. Donna was not a warrior, yet she could stand her own when it came to defending her planet and the universe with the 900-year-old Time Lord. She was a temp from Chiswick with a small view of the universe, but towards the end of the fourth season becomes a vital part in saving the universe. The wise-cracking redhead was considered by the Doctor as his “best mate”.
As I had mentioned earlier, this list is not exhaustive and there are other female characters that have often broken out of their gender stereotypes. Some of these whom I haven’t mentioned earlier are River Song (Doctor Who), Dana Scully (The X-Files), Storm (X-Men), Rose Tyler (Doctor Who), Sydney Bristow (Alias) and Gwen Cooper (Torchwood)
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