Monday, March 31, 2014

Top 20 Female Characters in Fiction


Like other facets of life, fiction is pretty much dominated by men (this is not at all a chauvinistic opinion but is an objective reality).  Truly, as far as most iconic and coolest fictional characters are concerned, fictional male characters dominates female characters in quantity and, arguably, quality.  For every one notable and impressive fictional female character, there are twenty male characters.  Just check out my lists for fictional characters – a considerable majority of them are males.     

Nonetheless, awesome fictional female characters do exist.  So to tie-up with women’s month (March), I decided to let the fictional female characters shine by listing my most favorite 20 female characters in fiction.

But before we go on, here are some notes:
  • Let me first present the Honorable Mentions – characters considered but weren’t able to make the cut – in no particular order: Catwoman (DC Comics), Erza Scarlet (Fairy Tail), Beatrix Kiddo (Kill Bill), Jasmine (Disney’s Aladdin), Julie “the Cat” Gaffney (The Mighty Ducks), Android 18 (Dragon Ball Z), Alice (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), Jo March (Little Women), Kate Becket (Castle), Faa Mulan (Disney’s Mulan), Nikita (Nikita), Nico Robin (One Piece), She-Hulk (Marvel Comics),  Batgirl/Oracle (DC Comics), Invisible Woman (Fantastic Four, Marvel Comics), Lois Lane (Smallville), Chloe Sullivan (Smallville), Lana Lang (Smallville), Sarah Kerrigan (Starcraft), Supergirl (DC Comics), Ripley (Alien franchise), Trinity (Matrix trilogy), Princess Lea (Star Wars), Lola Bunny (Space Jam, Looney Tunes), Mary Jane Watson (Marvel Comics, Spider-Man-verse), Arwen (LOTR), Galadriel (LOTR), Eowyn (LOTR), and Naomi Armitage (Armitage movies)
  • Considering the amount of popular female anime characters, I was legitimately surprised that no female anime characters cracked the top 20.  Erza Scarlet, Nico Robin, Android 18, and Naomi Armitage were the four female anime characters that I’ve considered; hence, they are my four most favorite female characters in anime/manga.  On the other hand, none of them are part of my list for most favorite anime characters who are all male (however, Android 18 is among my most favorite cyborgs, Armitage is one of my most favorite androids, and Erza is one of my most favorite swordsmen in fiction).   I guess interesting these four female anime characters might be, they didn’t really have enough compelling appeal to match up with Western female characters.     
  • Lois Lane is one of the most famous non-superhero characters in superhero mythology.  Nonetheless, in my opinion, the greatest Lois Lane portrayal ever was done by Erica Durance in the TV series, Smallville.  It was Erica Durance’s Lois Lane that was considered for this list and not the actual comicbook character.  Smallville’s Lana Lang and Chloe Sulliven were also considered.  Yep, I love them Smallville girls.    
  • Alice, of Lewis Caroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, was the first literary charater I’ve ever loved. 
  • Arwen > Galadriel.  I’ve always held that opinion.

Let’s proceed… 

20.) M

There have been countless Bond Girls in the 007 franchise’s 50 year history.  But the most fascinating of all female characters from the Bondverse is not a Bond Girl at all, but Judi Dench’s M.  In the James Bond books, M – the head of MI-6 – has always been a male.  So the choice of Judi Dench to play M in Goldeneye was fresh and progressive.  With seven Bond movies, this female M proved to be the greatest M in Bond history.  She’s a true hardass head-spook – smart, resolute, bold, sensible, knowledgeable of the spy game, and knows what buttons to push with the generally unruly 007.

19.) ELSA

Elsa is a recent character, and she has charmed me greatly to replace Jasmine as my most favorite Disney princess.  She has awesome ice powers, the essence of her character’s princess is not rooted on finding a prince, and she probably sang the most powerful animated feature anthem ever -- what’s not to love? 

18.) THE POWERPUFF GIRLS

Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup are a package and can’t really be separated.  Just having one is incomplete.  Hence, these three will only occupy one spot.  

The Powerpuff Girls are awesome.  You have to watch their well-written show to really appreciate them.  In a nutshell, they are supposed to be the perfect girls made from “sugar, spice, and everything nice” that gained superpowers (and maybe life?) due to “Chemical X” (yah, it’s an insane origin.  But there’s a lot of insanity and quirkiness in this show.  Again, you have to watch it to really appreciate it).  The Powerpuff Girls have to balance kindergarten and superheroing – fighting crime and monsters, or saving Townsville from any crisis – before their bedtime.        

17.) MYSTIQUE

It was only when making this list that I realized that Mystique is my most favorite female comicbook supervillain.  Though she has been part of the X-Men at some point(s), Mystique has been recognized as a supervillain through most of comic book history.  

She is cunning, sharp, and very observant; a capable schemer; very knowledgeable in weapons, computers, and tech; has proficient fighting skills; and is fluent in several languages.    Moreover, her mutant ability is copying a person’s appearance flawlessly – a power that she masterfully utilizes.  From these characteristics, Mystique is easily identifiable as a very deadly foe.   
  
16.) KIMBERLY HART A.K.A. THE PINK RANGER

There have been many pink rangers but the first and arguably most popular is Kimberly.  She’s my favorite female ranger ever in both Power Rangers and Super Sentai franchises.  Back in the 90’s, probably every boy of my generation that got hooked with the Power Rangers had a crush on Kim.      

15.) BELLATRIX LESTRANGE

While reading the Harry Potter books, this character never really struck me as awesome.  Then I watched the movies and saw Helena Bonham Carter bring this character to life – and she was splendid.  Ms. Carter’s Bellatrix Lestrange is probably the best thing that ever came out of the Harry Potter movies.  

Voldemort might be sinister, but I find him lacking, clich├ęd, and overrated.  He seems to me another megalomaniacal, narcissistic villain obsessed in destroying his archnemesis (i.e. Harry Potter) and ruling the world.  Bellatrix Lestrange, however, is just purely insane evil – in a Joker sort of way.  She doesn’t have any further ambition but merely takes delight in killing and causing mayhem.  The reason she hangs around Voldemort is because it is the best position where she can do exactly those things she enjoy.  As a villain, I found her more interesting and deeper than Voldemort.           

14.) EMMA FROST

I am part of the faction that finds Emma Frost a lot more interesting than Jean Grey as Cyclops’ partner.   Emma’s evolution from a major X-Men supervillain into becoming one of the team’s most essential members makes her a well-developed character.   She has an interesting personality and a massive sex appeal, which is only rivaled by her immense telephatic powers (at the present though, post-AvX, Emma’s powers are fluctuating due to her contact with and separation from the Phoenix).     

13.) WONDER WOMAN

With Batman and Superman, Wonder Woman completes DC Comics’ “Trinity.”  I’m impressed how Wonder Woman – a female superhero in a culture dominated by male – has become one of the most iconic superheroes in history.  If you list down the top 20 superheroes – in terms of popularity and cultural impact – Wonder Woman will probably be the only woman in the list, and she’ll be lying along the top 10 at least!   

Wonder Woman, being an Amazon and rooted in Greek mythology, is a pure, hard-boiled warrior.  She has a warrior philosophy, a warrior code, and possesses warrior fighting skills.   She will never back down a battle and has no trouble of going all out (unlike Superman, who only applies a fraction of his power to avoid killing and collateral damages).  Unlike Batman and Superman who will never kill, Wonder Woman has no reluctance in killing when necessary.  

I also like her trademark weapon, the Lasso of Truth, which can compel everyone to speak only truth when being questioned.  And I also like how she would deflect bullets and other projectiles by the use of her bracelets.  

12.) NANCY DREW

I grew up reading Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys.  But though my preference was more on the Hardy Boys books, I am well convinced that Nancy Drew is equal to two Hardy Boys.  As a teenage detective, Nancy is brave and smart; capable of solving her cases without the help of a partner.  The Hardy Boys, on the other hand, always have each other to rely on.  Nancy doesn’t have that benefit; still, she succeeds as much as the Hardies.  That’s one reason why Nancy is one of my top 10 most favorite detectives in fiction.

11.) TANYA

I extremely love Red Alert 2.  And I love the Allied’s Tanya.  Yes, she’s a generic sexy, badass “G.I. Jane” character.  But she still charmed me a lot.  As a unit, Tanya is a big asset – she is hardy, and can easily blow up ships and structures.  Her crazy laughter and “Shake it, baby!” catchphrase in the battlefield tells you that she is ready and thrilled for combat.  And I find her cooler than Lara Croft with regards to wielding handguns.   

10.) KATNISS EVERDEEN

J-Law’s Katniss (since I’ve only seen the movies; never read the books yet) could be the most striking fictional character I’ve only encountered recently.  She is not your archetypal heroine that requires romance.  Yes, she was in a “love triangle”, but that was merely incidental.  She was not really concerned with romance.  She has no room for it.  She’s too busy trying to survive each step of the way.  

As a survivalist, Katniss is smart, skillful, resourceful, and tenacious.  Though she is kind and avoids conflict as much as possible, her intense survival instincts will naturally kick in whenever she is put in a stressful survival situation, like in the Hunger Games, thus, she can be manipulative and ruthless if needed.  Furthermore, she is also a competent archer.        

However, make no mistake, Katniss is indeed adept in self-preservation but she’s not necessarily self-preserving.  She does prioritize the survival of her loved ones over her own.  
     
9.) CAPTAIN MARVEL

Carol Danvers a.k.a. Captain Marvel (formerly Ms. Marvel) is one of the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe.  This is a character that can go head-to-head with heavy guns like Thor and Hulk.  

I love how she was able to be her own character; becoming independent from and flourished more than the male superhero – the original Captain Marvel – she was initially based from.  In fact, she’s probably the only female counterpart of an established male superhero that became more successful than the male superhero she was spun-off from.   Cool characters Supergirl and Batgirl might have become, they have never surpassed Superman and Batman at all.   Carol Danvers as Ms. Marvel was able to do that, and now it’s pretty awesome that she’s the one carrying the “Captain Marvel” mantel now.  She showed us that, of course, a woman can be “Captain.”

Captain Marvel has a long way to go in becoming Marvel Comic’s Wonder Woman.  But I’m rooting for her to be just that – be an icon for Marvel Comics as much as Wonder Woman is with DC Comics.  And I believe that a live-action movie can propel her closer to that status.   Come on, Marvel Studios, make it happen!        

8.) BLACK WIDOW

Black Widow is technically not a superheroine.  She is a spook – a super-spy.  A non-superhero that is part of the superhero team, Avengers.  This is a big reason why she’s a very interesting character.    

She has no superpowers, but Black Widow remains one of the deadliest Avengers there are.  She is highly intelligent and multi-talented in spook field craft.  She is an equipped assassin and an extremely proficient combatant.  Moreover, for though the presumption is “Avengers don’t kill”, but because of her background, Black Widow is one of the handful Avengers that are comfortable in killing when necessary.  

Being played by Scar-Jo in live-action also significantly helped in increasing Black Widow’s standing. 

7.) STORM

For many years, the X-Man Storm has been my most favorite female character from Marvel Comics.  She is a legitimate badass and leader (Heck, she even beat Cyclops in a duel one time for the X-Men’s leadership!).  But what appealed to me most about her is, of course, her powers.  Her ability to manipulate and control weather easily makes her one of the most powerful superheroes in Marvel.   

6.) XENA

When I was a kid, I immensely enjoyed watching Xena: Warrior Princess.  For a long time, Xena was my most favorite fictional female character.  In fact, there was a span during those TV watching days in which Xena could be my most favorite character to watch in TV – surpassing Hercules, in which whose show Xena’s show spun-off from (those two shows were my favorites back then).

I can remember that there were four things that fascinated me most about Xena: 1.) she was a hot heroine, and an awesomely formidable and acrobatic warrior; 2.) she used to be a ruthless warlord, changed her ways, and became a champion for those that can’t defend themselves; 3.) her Indian-like war yell; and 4.) her trademark weapon, the Chakram.    


5.) CARMEN SANDIEGO

I like to think of Carmen Sandiego as the first girl I’ve ever chased. LOL.

When I was a kid, I played “Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?” and its sequels.  The gameplay of the Carmen Sandiego games require you to track down a syndicate of thieves across the world or time or the galaxy (depending on the game), catch them, and put them in prison.  Carmen Sandiego is the ringleader of these thieves and she would turn up eventually in one of the game’s rounds.  

From the start, there is a certain kind of allure about the whole thing with Carmen.  The intellectual exercises and training that I’ve obtained from hunting Carmen Sandiego charmed me into liking her as a fictional character.

4.) KUMIKO “YANKUMI” YAMAGUCHI

The Gokusen manga/anime never caught my fascination.  The live-action TV series, however, I found delightfully enjoyable.  One of the major reasons I grew fond of the show is because the lead character, Yankumi (played by Yukie Nakama), is probably the most attractive TV heroine I’ve ever encountered.  

But beyond her appealing physical appearance, I also find her character depth appealing.  You can’t help but admire her dedication as a teacher.  She dearly loves her students despite their problematic and delinquent natures.  While others look down on them as hopeless cases with no futures, Yankumi never loses faith in them.  Her students would initially mistrust, disrespect, and disregard her, but her sincerity and tenacity would eventually win them over.  She is bubbly and optimistic, with her enthusiasm often a source of annoyance to her students.  She wants her students to succeed, and exerting great energy and effort, she makes sure that her students would see this and do their best to strive for it.  

Her admirable qualities as a teacher alone should be enough to make her an awesome fictional character. But she’s more than that.  Behind her quirky and adorable physical appearance, she is actually a boss of a yakuza clan.  She is a formidable combatant with terrifying fighting skills (although the Gokusen Live! fight scenes are actually pretty clumsy).  She does her best to keep this aspect of her life a secret, but she is very much ready to fight to defend or save her students from trouble.            

3.) KIM POSSIBLE

During my late childhood and early teenage years, Kim Possible was one of my most favorite shows.  The show is about a teenage girl named Kim Possible who goes on crime-fighting and espionage-type missions as a hobby/part-time job.  Being a teenager, Kim also has to deal with teenage girl concerns like school, cheerleading, reputation, and boys – these teenage struggles serve as subplots.  It was a very entertaining animated series.  Each episode was delightful and humorous, and the show had several fun and engaging characters, the best among the lot is, of course, the titular Kim Possible.

In some ways, Kim Possible is a parody of the “secret-agent”-type fictional character.  Still, Kim is an extremely captivating and kick-ass character.  She is very athletic and agile, smart and level-headed, can think fast on her feet, and very skilled in close-combat.  She’s so cool.  I also find her catchphrase, “What’s the sitch?”, pretty hip.  

2.) VERONICA MARS

I’ve only first encountered Veronica Mars and her show just last year.  I got intrigued after fans raised $2 million dollars in merely ten hours to make a Veronica Mars movie possible, so I checked out the show.  From episode one, I was totally hooked by the premise of the show and the charm of Veronica Mars, and ended up watching the entire three seasons – prepping myself for the movie (I’ve just recently seen it, and it was awesome).  I was very impressed.

To me, Veronica Mars is like a combination of Nancy Drew and Buffy Summers.  She is an awesome fictional character.  Working as a PI, Veronica displays the investigative and deductive talents as well as the doggedness required for the work.  She is inquisitive; stubborn; bold; and very smart and witty.  She is a quick thinker and mentally composed; she can improvise or devise plans promptly on her feet, for the purpose of advancing her investigations or for getting out of trouble.  She is ready to employ daring and deceptive methods as long as it will get her results.

Not only is Veronica a tough and intelligent gumshoe, but she also possesses an enjoyable gift of gab, sarcasm, and smart-assery.  She utilizes her quick thinking, not only for improvising during her investigation, but also in effortlessly making comebacks.  She has a sharp and smooth tongue, a talent that enables her to talk through anything and always having the last word.  I think the only character that can match Veronica’s wit is Buffy Summers.          
  
1.) BUFFY SUMMERS

Since I was in my late childhood, Buffy has been my most favorite female character, not only on TV, but in entire fiction.  I haven’t encountered any female character that can match the awesomeness of Buffy the Vampire Slayer yet.

As the fated Slayer, Buffy is well-equipped in clashing with vampires and other evils.  Buffy is well-trained in armed and unarmed combat.  She also possesses superhuman physical attributes, supernaturally potent instincts, and a healing factor (i.e. the bodily ability to repair physical damages quickly).  

Regardless of the strength and threat level of her opponent, Buffy will fight him or her the same way: display a confident and unwavering mind-set, be sarcastic and mocking, and just kick ass.  She never wavers, no matter how big the challenge thrown at her is.

When she briefly died, the epithet on her gravestone perfectly summed her up: “Beloved sister.  Devoted friend.  She saved the world.  A lot.”     

Last but not the least, she also ranks high in the hotness meter – a big plus.          

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