Our Guest-Clacker today is Julia Hass, a twenty-something living in the Boston area. Upon realizing she could not major in “being Tina Fey” in college, she’s been taking some time off trying to figure out what to do with her life, and watching TV. A lot of TV. She discusses her various attempts at employment, politics, pop culture, music, her family, and super-cute boys at her personal blog.
Is anyone else sick of this Twilight phenomenon? Because I am. God, I am. In case you haven’t heard, Twilight is the epic love story of Bella (a human) and Edward (a vampire), full of enough thwarted, passionate romance and heartfelt-yet-ridiculous declarations of adoration to make any tweeny girl sigh.
And while I have never been a fan of the whole cliched vampire/human pairing, this takes my dislike to whole new levels, and I will tell you why — it hurts every notion I have ever held dear about heroines. Bella, as far as a heroine goes, is pretty lame. She’s flat, drab, and completely helpless without her boyfriend, who follows her around everywhere and (creepy spoiler alert!) watches her while she sleeps.
If it was just romance-starved teenaged girls lapping this up, maybe it wouldn’t sit so wrong with me. But it’s not — women (and men) of all ages seem to be obsessed. Recently a friend of my sister’s, whom I have always regarded as sensible, intelligent, and absolutely above this nonsense, called to rave about how much she loved the books and how fabulous they were; how romantic.
I read the other day that President-Elect Obama, a man I normally have great respect for, was reading the books to his daughters, Sasha and Malia. As far as I’m concerned, this widespread Twilight-mania is a serious issue. What is this teaching us, as women? That it’s okay to be blah, morose, helpless human beings? That we are nothing until some icy-cold Prince not-so Charming comes along and borderline stalks us? I’m not buying it.
My solution, as always, lies in television. Forget Bella, I say. Instead, turn on your television and watch my top fifteen inspiring female characters.
15. Stella Bonasera (CSI: NY)
Sometimes the world knocks you down, and no one gets right back up better than Stella; she’s come through an abusive relationship with a man who held her hostage and tried to kill her (and then was forced to kill him), gone through an HIV scare, and deals with the gruesome world of being a CSI in New York City every day. And yet she still manages to be warm, caring for her colleagues, and one heck of a tough lady.
14. Miranda Bailey (Grey’s Anatomy)
Forget everyone else on this show (Lord knows I have). There may be lots of women who are at one point admirable, but at some or another they’ve gone through the inevitable Shonda Rhimes wringer, leaving them shadows of their former awesomeness, pleading and needy at the feet of their romantic partners or hallucinating them or just acting plain old ridiculous. But no one cuts through the bullshit like Miranda Bailey. Known as “the Nazi,” Bailey is hard-working, driven, fierce, and completely kicks ass. But her bark is worse than her bite. In private she is compassionate to her patients, a loving mother and wife, and a dedicated friend. Meredith should take lessons from her. A lot of lessons.
13. Betty Suarez (Ugly Betty)
There is nothing Betty cannot do, no obstacle she cannot charm her way through with her big, orthodontic smile and heart of gold. Despite endless teasing and impossible task after impossible task, Betty has come through each and every one of them with her head held high, as smart and wonderful as ever. Betty is the textbook example of what makes true success — not beauty or wealth, but hard work and compassion.
12. Kara Thrace (Battlestar Galactica)
Kara Thrace is like the female version of Chuck Norris, only cooler. When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Kara Thrace. Despite a troubled and abusive childhood, Kara grew up to be the best Viper pilot and part of the Admiral’s inner circle. Kara doesn’t deal with authority, either. She is the authority. So maybe she’s kind of dead, but she’s back. Is she a Cylon? Is she not a Cylon? Do we care?
11. Olive Snook (Pushing Daisies)
Sure, Ned’s number one lady Charlotte Charles may have the prettiest dresses and the Piemaker, but Olive’s got a solid hold on our hearts. She easily could have been a simpering, insipid character, her only dimension being her unrequited love for Ned. Instead she’s quirky, funny, big-hearted, on heck of an up-and-coming P.I., and one of the most lovable characters on the show. (Which is saying a lot, considering the show she’s on.)
10. Zoe Washburne (Firefly)
Usually in any swashbuckling, action-packed adventure, the crew of protagonists is all-male. At the very least, the leader’s right-hand man is, well, a man. Not so in Joss Whedon’s well-loved cult classic. Zoe, the second mate on Captain Mal Reynold’s rough-and-tumble ship Serenity, served with Mal in the civil war. She’s tough, loyal, cool in the face of danger, and one hell of a shot. But what makes Zoe so lovable is that she is so much more than just the muscle on Serenity. Zoe is also married to the ship’s pilot, Wash, who doesn’t even pretend to wear the pants in their relationship. She is as compassionate as she is deadly, strong, self-assured, and sexy. What more could you ask for in a heroine?
9. C.J. Cregg (The West Wing)
The West Wing certainly doesn’t have any shortage of phenomenal female characters, from Donna Moss to Mrs. Landingham to the first lady Abby Bartlet, but a head and shoulders (literally) above the rest stands C.J. Cregg, first press secretary and then Chief of Staff. C.J. is witty, brilliant, and the heart of the Bartlet administration, where she not only plays with the boys — she beats them. Barltet describes her as “like a ’50s movie star,” citing her dedication, energy, and capability as some of the greatest things about her. We couldn’t agree more, sir.
8. Robin Scherbatsky (How I Met Your Mother)
Most women on television (and especially in sitcoms) want one thing — babies. Some want to find the loves of their lives, sure, but when it comes down to it, they want to find that person, marry them, and presumably, have babies. And then along came Robin Scherbatsky.
Robin is the complete opposite to Ted, the main character she originally served as a romantic interest for. She is strong (but still human), witty, career-oriented, and funny. She’s that girl that every girl wants to be and every guy wants to be friends with (and, let’s not lie, a little more than that, because she’s pretty hot). Robin and Ted break up because she doesn’t want the fairytale ending Ted wants. She doesn’t want kids, she doesn’t want to get married, all she wants is awesome friends, good times, and a kick-ass career. But unlike most career women on television, Robin isn’t a one-dimensional work robot. She’s a funny, warm, gun-slinging, laser tag-playing former pop star who’s amazing enough to even make Barney Stinson, the world’s most incurable bachelor, fall in love. Don’t worry, Barney, we’ve all fallen in love too.
7. Carla Espinosa (Scrubs)
Is there anyone more awesome in Scrubs than Carla? She may only be a nurse, but there is nothing in her life she isn’t great at. She manages to marry and look after Turk (and J.D., by association), is a strong friend to Elliot, doesn’t take crap from the janitor, and strangest of all, is admired by the prickly Dr. Cox. Everything J.D. struggles with, she sails through with grace and wit, while still being sympathetic enough to sit down at the end of the day, eat ice cream, and gossip with him. Really, she deserves sainthood, but hopefully putting her at number seven on this list will be a worthy substitute.
6. Lorelai Gilmore (Gilmore Girls)
Who doesn’t wish Lorelai Gilmore was their mom or, at the very least, their best friend? Lorelai doesn’t go by the beaten path. She eschews the perfect life her parents set out from her, instead getting pregnant out of wedlock and coming into her own on her own — without help from anyone. She works hard to get her degree, raise her (amazing) daughter, and build up her inn on her own, again, with very little help (always taken reluctantly) from her parents. And despite many pitfalls and backslides, she made it.
She manages to create for herself a place in Star’s Hollow with the job she wants and the man she loves by her own merits, because she’s strong enough on her own to get what she wants. And it’s true, what she got in the end may not be as glamorous as being, say, a CEO or marrying a prince, but it’s what makes her happy. And anyway, real princes are severely overrated — her prince makes one hell of a cup of coffee.
5. Temperance Brennan (Bones)
There are plenty of guys on TV who are scary-smart. Guy nerds have pretty much had solid representation since there was a Q to each Bond and since MacGyver sauntered around saving the world with a Swiss Army knife and a roll of duct tape. Shows like Chuck and The Big Bang Theory show that the male geek is still beloved and going strong. So what’s a geeky girl to do? Look to Temperance Brennan.
Though she may be woefully inadequate when it comes to pop culture references or the subtleties of human nature, she is otherwise an intellectual powerhouse — not only the gun-toting, crime-fighting leading forensic anthropologist in the nation, but a best-selling author and certified genius. Heck, in one of the most recent episodes she solved a crime on a flight to China using only what the passengers had in their carry-on luggage. Take that, MacGyver.
4. Veronica Mars (Veronica Mars)
For anyone who ever wished that there was a Nancy Drew who totally kicked ass, look no further than Veronica Mars. Veronica’s a plucky teen detective that could give any classic noir P.I. a run for their money. She’s hell-bent on solving crimes, from the big deals like her best friend’s murder and her own rape to petty burglaries, vandalism, and high school pranking.Veronica’s got a fast-talking, tough-as-nails exterior, a pit bull named Backup with one hell of a bite, the coolest camera with the best zoom ever, and a pragmatic, cynical, take-no-prisoners attitude. And underneath it all, she’s still a marshmallow. Deep, deep underneath it all.
3. Liz Lemon (30 Rock)
Too often, we as women are told we must have it all. The women we see seem to be perfect, juggling their romantic lives, family lives, and jobs with grace, all the while managing to always look as though they have just stepped out of a fashion magazine. Sure, that’s admirable, but it’s hard to relate to. And then along came Liz Lemon.
Liz Lemon does not have her life together. She frequently runs around with food in her hair, is married to her work, and almost incapable of having a healthy romantic relationship. And yet women everywhere admire and want to be her. The secret is that Liz is someone we can relate to. She does things we’ve wanted to do like running away with a baby or buying an expensive and ultimately useless wedding dress.
We, too, cannot put together furniture from IKEA or stop snacking on whatever it is that we wish we could just quit (in Liz’s case, the imported Mexican cheese curls that give her a pregnancy scare). She is funny and lovable and holds her head high no matter how badly she screws up. So she’s not your traditional heroine, but who cares? She’s Liz Lemon, and it seems nobody can get enough of her.
2. Pam Beesly (The Office)
Is there a more unlikely heroine than a receptionist at a paper company? And yet, Pam Beesly inexplicably is one. At the beginning of the series Pam is a mousy pushover, in a loveless, never-ending engagement with her high school sweetheart, Roy. The only color in her drab, dead-end life is office pranks and long-forgotten dreams of becoming an artist.
But the joy of Pam is that more than any other character on the show, we get to watch her grow and evolve before our very eyes. Pam kicks Roy to the curb, enrolls in art classes, and grows a backbone with her head held high. And she does it for herself, despite being in what seems to be a never-the-right-time love with Jim, the show’s resident dreamboat. (That’s right, everyone, I went there.)
Pam’s ability to plow through the romantic angst and grow on her own ends up not only fulfilling her on a personal level, but paves the way for her and Jim to finally get together the way fans have been rooting for since day one. Pam is funny, adorable, warm, and strong. She’s an ordinary woman who makes doing ordinary things extraordinary, and that’s what being kickass is all about.
1. Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
There’s a reason Buffy’s an icon for a generation — she’s awesome. This cheerleader-turned-slayer both literally and figuratively kicks butt while always having a great quip (and, let’s not forget, really great hair). Nothing stands in Buffy’s way, be it vampire boyfriends (of which she’s had two), dying (done it, twice), or the constant forces of darkness that make a normal life a pipe dream. Buffy is strong, capable, lovable, and most of all, human — a heroine girls can relate and aspire to no matter how far-out her adventures seem. Everything Twilight aims to do, Buffy was doing ten years before, and ten times better.