Let’s not beat around the bush – the representation of women in fiction is often terrible. Like, really terrible. Like, so terrible that sometimes I want to throw things at my telly or chuck my book out of the window.
But sometimes – just sometimes – people get it right. Sometimes I watch a film or read a book and there’s a woman presented that is so perfect (and by perfect I mean flawed, and real, and complex, and fantastic) that I kid myself into thinking the patriarchy is over.
So today I thought I’d share with you my top five fictional females, in case you need reminding that sometimes the world isn’t totally terrible to women.
These women are listed in no particular order, and they are from a mixture of film, television, and books.
1. Jocelyn Fray / Fairchild
A few weeks ago I wrote about all the wonderful (and not so wonderful) books I read on holiday, and in it I mentioned that I am re-reading the Shadowhunter series by Cassandra Clare. Re-reading those books reminded me just how much I love one character in particular – Jocelyn Fray/Fairchild.
Jocelyn is the mother of the series’ female protagonist, Clary (who is also a pretty fantastic fictional female), and honestly she’s everything I could want from a secondary female character. I couldn’t not include her in this list of fabulous fictional females.
She’s a single mother who has managed to raise a kick-ass daughter, but who is also anxious and worried and scared. She is a woman who left an abusive relationship. She’s a woman who bravely left behind a world and life she knew and loved just to protect her unborn daughter. In short, she is pretty bloody awesome.
Mothers are often presented in one of two ways – terrible and awful and a disgrace to all mothers everywhere; or utter saints who were born knowing how to parent. Jocelyn is neither of those things, and it’s great to see a mother portrayed as a woman as well.
2. Christina Yang
I love Grey’s Anatomy. Like, really love it. Like, love it so much that I’ve watched every episode about 5 times, and binge watched the first nine series in a month.
If I’m honest, I could have put any woman from Grey’s on this list, because Shonda Rhimes has really fucking nailed it with that show. There’re fat women, LGBT women, women of colour, disabled women, recovering drug addicts, single women, married women, widowed women, divorced women, women who run the entire fucking hospital – literally every kind of woman you could possibly imagine is represented in Grey’s Anatomy, and is represented well.
But one of the best, most complex, most fantastic female characters that has ever graced my TV screen has got to be Christina Yang.
Yang is exactly the kind of role model that young girls need in their lives. She’s ruthless, ambitious, not afraid to put herself and her career first, intelligent, and successful. She’s also a woman of colour. And, most importantly, she is flawed. Yang is often selfish and callous, and that’s why I love her so much – because she is complex.
She also (and warning for spoilers here), doesn’t want children – and is unapologetic about that. Twice throughout Grey’s Anatomy we see her pregnant and being pressured by men that desperately want her to have their children – but Yang remains firm and refuses to have children just because she is a woman or just because she is with men who want her to have children. And throughout it all she’s presented as strong and wonderful and powerful – not abnormal or selfish or less of a woman. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that in a female character.
3. Kat Stratford
I’m pretty sure it’s physically impossible to write a list of amazing fictional females and not include Kat Stratford from 10 Things I Hate About You.
Feminist? Tick. Opinionated? Tick. Stands up to men? Tick. Got no time for your misogynistic bullshit? Tick. Vulnerable? Tick. Hilarious? Tick.
Honestly, I’m not sure there’s much else I need to say here. If you’ve not watched 10 Things I Hate About You, fix that immediately and you will see what I mean
4. Darrell Rivers
In case Enid Blyton was not as big a part of your childhood as she was mine, let me remind you: Darrell Rivers is the protagonist of Mallory Towers, a children’s series about a posh all-girls boarding school.
I’ll be honest here, I’ve not re-read the Mallory Towers books since I was about 13, so my memory is hazy, but what I remember now about Darrell Rivers is what struck me most when I first read the books as a child: she has a temper. Like, a really fierce temper. The kind of temper that makes her scream and shout and shove and argue back with her teachers.
This might not seem ground breaking or revolutionary or interesting or worthy of admiring, but when I was a child I found the fact that Darrell Rivers – the main character – had a temper amazing.
Because I also had a temper. A fierce temper that I lost at the drop of a hat, and I had never seen a girl in fiction with a temper like mine.
At least, not one who was also presented as loyal and kind and trustworthy and smart and intelligent and popular. Girls who lost their temper were always presented as bad (whilst boys who lost their temper were simply presented as boys…), so to finally see a female character who was fundamentally good, but who also got angry, was fascinating to me.
I didn’t realise it then (obviously, I was about 6 when I first read these books), but Darrell Rivers was the first girl (other than my mother) I had ever seen who wasn’t afraid to shout and stand up for herself and express her anger.
I was a Disney kid, there’s no doubt about it. I had every single film on VHS, I had cuddly toys of pretty much all my favourite characters, I had The Little Mermaid pyjamas. Disney was my life.
And whilst I was definitely a fan of the traditional Disney Princesses, one of my favourite female Disney characters was Tinkerbell.
For a start, she’s a fairy, and I loved fairies (when I was 5 my mum’s friend painted an enormous mural of two flower fairies on my back wall, and to this day I refuse to let my mother paint over it, even though I have moved out!). She’s also grumpy, which as we’ve already established in this post, I was too. She literally dies without attention, and I was probably the biggest attention-seeking small child there was. She is blonde, like me. And she is magic.
What’s not to like?
So there you have it, my top five favourite fictional females. From feminist heroines, to grumpy fairies, I think it’s safe to say I’ve covered it all!
Let me know in the comments who your favourite fictional female characters are, and why!