The new Wonder Woman movie debuted in theaters a few days ago to good reviews, a huge box office, and acclaim for its portrayal of females. Opinion pieces are hailing it as “revolutionary” and a “turning point” for women on screen.
I’ll be honest—I haven’t seen this movie. I have no burning desire to see this movie. Hell, I haven’t even read a single Wonder Woman comic ever. But all this hubbub has caused me to think back on the strong female role models I admired growing up.
1. Susan Ivanova (Babylon 5)—My first female role model and hero. For those of you poor unfortunates unfamiliar with the sci-fi tv show Babylon 5, it is more or less a series about the command staff on the titular space station over a five year span. Susan Ivanova was the second in command on the station, basically in charge of making sure everything doesn’t fall to pieces. Even at a young age, I found her to be a really compelling character, more interesting in fact than the (arguably) two central protagonists—Captain Sheridan and Ambassador Delenn.
Ivanova was the perfect mix of strong and determined, sassy and witty, but with an underlying vulnerability. She had this really tough exterior and didn’t take shit from anyone, but she also had this really tragic past, which as a kid, I just loved. She had this habit of calling out everyone, even her superior officers, on their bullshit. The writers and actress herself were able to imbue Ivanova with all the qualities of what you want in a strong, badass female character without making her uninteresting or a Mary Sue (like Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Jadzia Dax in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).
2. Gwen Stefani (No Doubt)—It is hard to properly convey just how much I loved No Doubt growing up. Tragic Kingdom came out in 1995, so I would have been seven years old. In a short time, I had listened to the cassette tape so much I wore it down and had to get a new one. In large part, my love of them was because of Gwen Stefani. Virtually every band I listened to had a male vocalist, so there was a certain novelty about No Doubt. But Stefani was so badass! She wore kooky outfits, had crazy hair, and just seemed like a rock ‘n roll goddess to a young kid.
Plus, I was always more comfortable singing along with No Doubt because I was able to better emulate how she sounded (with my high, feminine, child’s voice) than I could singing along to The Mighty Mighty Bosstones or Rammstein. I remember jamming out to Tragic Kingdom in the kitchen on an old tape player and saying, “When I grow up, I want to sound just like her!” and my oldest sister being very nonplussed in her response of, “You do realize she is a woman, right?”
3. Baroness Emmuska Orczy (The Scarlet Pimpernel)—I don’t read nearly enough female authors, but my favorite book from my middle school years was written by a female author. Baroness Orczy wrote The Scarlet Pimpernel, which is basically the perfect adventure novel: dashing heroes, romance, secret identities, heartpounding chases, and swashbuckling sword fights. It is just a thrilling romp. From a literary standpoint, Orczy was the progenitor of the hero with a secret identity, inspiring such characters as Zorro and Batman. She also lived the most fascinating life—fleeing a peasant uprising as a child, becoming a successful author/playwright, and dedicating her life to standing against the vile evils of communism. If I could write a book half as good as The Scarlet Pimpernel, I could die a happy and fulfilled man.