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Monday, July 27, 2009

Top 5 Science Fiction Leading Ladies

In fashioning this list I decided to set some ground rules. When I say leading ladies, I mean leading ladies, not sidekicks, or other characters who are overshadowed, even slightly, by male characters. Considering that means drastically minimizing my options, since instant favorites, such as Princess Leia, can no longer be included.

Narrowing things down in this way makes this list fairly difficult to create. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of great female leads in science fiction, something I hope will be remedied in the coming years (girls are awesome too, you know). So, without further delay, here are my top ten leading ladies in science fiction:

Ellen Ripley / Sigourney Weaver (The Alien Series)
What list could be complete without Ripley? She is the quintessential science fiction leading lady. If you don't believe me, then you need to see the ending for Aliens. Taking on the Queen Alien in a mechanized loading vehicle is pretty ballsy. But I'm sure the Queen got what she deserved.

Sarah Connor / Linda Hamilton (The Terminator)
She becomes a stronger character, physically, later in the series, but her first appearance is a memorable one. After all, she falls in love with a man who technically doesn't exist yet and manages to defeat the Terminator in the nick of time! And don't forget that her character grows into a bit of a badass later on.

Evey / Natalie Portman (V For Vendetta)
I think Evey's psychological progression in the movie (and the comic) is a powerful and relatively unique portrayal in science fiction. It's not often that we see movies that are well aware of the mental states of the characters. V For Vendetta does a fine job turning Evey into a complex female figure worth remembering.

Captain Kathryn Janeway / Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager)
I've always been a fan of Voyager. My love for this Star Trek derivation comes from its unique characters. From Seven of Nine to Captain Janeway, Voyager is one of the few Star Trek series that, I think, really tries to push the envelope. Maybe I'm wrong, but Janeway is one of the top captains in Star Trek, only rivaled, in my opinion by the two biggest names in Star Trek (Picard and Kirk). It would be interesting to see Janeway make an appearance in a movie somewhere, because her character deserves more than just a television show.

Laura Roslin / Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica)
You'd have to be a fan of BSG to know why Roslin is on this list. For a character who became President by a string of seemingly random deaths, Roslin is pretty much the ultimate of badasses. She's not afraid to chuck someone out of an airlock for pissing her off and she tends to get what she wants, even if nobody else wants it. That, and Mary McDonnell managed to turn this character into one of the most astonishingly complex figures in science fiction history. More so than any other. But that's BSG for you: a show that is about characters, that knows it's a good show and isn't afraid to show it.

And that's that. Unfortunately I couldn't think of any good female figures in literature, so it seems this list will be primarily about film and television. But if you know any awesome female leads in science fiction literature, let me know in the comments. The same goes for anyone I might have missed that deserves to be here!

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  1. Seriously. First you list E-Ragon as a guilty pleasure and now you leave Leela off the list?? The fifth element is a hot chick and she's activated by love.

    I'm so very disappointed in you, young Skywalker.

  2. Technically V FOR VENDETTA is a graphic novel, not a movie, so that counts as "literature".

    And I have to throw in SHAN FRANKLAND from Karen Traviss' CITY OF PEARL sextet (retroactively titled the "Wess'har Wars", I think).

    If you haven't read CITY OF PEARL you're missing out on what I think is hands down the very best political/moralist sci-fi story to be written in the last two decades. And the main character, Frankland, is on par with Sigourney in ALIENS. Actually, I think she's even more memorable as a female lead. I generally have a difficult time getting into genre fiction written by women, but Traviss in beyond the exception - she's currently my #1. :)

  3. I don't know about Dave Baxter but I've seen a V for Vendetta movie...

    There is no way that Aeryn Sun is overshadowed by Jon Chrighton (or any of the other male characters of FARSCAPE), particularly as the series progresses to the final season and the PEACEKEEPER WAR movie.

    Not only that but Aeryn would kick the crap out of Janeway!

  4. Jordan: Leelu (I think that's her name) is hardly a leading lady. Important character? Sure, but she's not in the lead, and thus doesn't fit my criteria. I wanted characters who clearly took the lead as female figures and were not overshadowed by other characters. Roslin was an iffy choice, but Leelu is definitely not the primary POV focus of The Fifth Element. Bruce Willis' character is. Otherwise she'd probably be on this list.

    When I do a list of the top 10 almost-leading ladies, she'll be on it.

    Dave: I know it's a graphic novel, but I've never read it, so I can only consider Evey from the perspective of the film. But, I guess it sort of counts as literature...

    I need to read Karen Traviss' books. I have the first book in the City of Pearl sextet. Glad to know she's as strong as Ripley!

    Caine: I used to watch Farscape. I guess it faded from memory, so I didn't consider her for the list. I'll have to re-watch and possibly adjust this list in the future.

  5. Keith1:33 AM

    Honor Harrington, in David Weber's series. She's both kick-your-ass strong, as well as kick-your-ass smart.

    Elizabeth Moon's Heris Seranno, Esme suisa, and Ky Vatta are all Tough, Talanted, and Tenacious.

  6. I wonder. I think she has more screen time than Willis, but it would be a close thing...

    Apology accepted >:)

  7. Lt. Jodenny Scott from Sandra McDonald's The Outback Stars.
    One of my favorite books and characters from 2008

  8. Just to clarify: just because they made a movie based on a book doesn't mean the work is now a movie and NOT a book. It's a movie too, at best, but to say "it's a movie" as a complete statement...that's kind of incomplete, innit?

    There's the next controversial topic: how absolutely separate should adaptations of a single work be considered to be?

  9. Keith: Ah, she keeps getting recommended to me. I guess I have to read the Weber books. And I've been meaning to read Moon's work!

    Jordan: Trust me, I thought of her a lot, but I just couldn't argue her into it partly because her character is hindered by her initial inability to speak.

    madscientistnz: Never read it, but it's on my list now.

    Dave: I fully understand, but to me it can't be anything but the movie because I've never read the graphic novel. I don't know what differences are present, etc. If I'd read the graphic novel I would have probably given preference to its written form and ignored the film.

    That's a darn good question, and I shall enter it into my list of questions to answer. Good stuff :).

  10. Anonymous9:32 AM

    "Leelu" Was actually Milla Jovovich; her best leading lady roles were actually Resident Evil and Ultraviolet- one of my all time favorites! ~Fogwalker

  11. Yup, that's her. One of my favorite actresses. I should have considered her role in Resident Evil for this list. I didn't think of it :S.

  12. Draxzar5:38 PM


    That is all.

  13. Drax: Buffy is a fantasy figure, goof.

  14. I'm a big Janeway fan. Of the Star Trek captains, she the one I would most like to serve under.

    For literature, I would suggest Maxine Kiss from Marjories Liu's Hunter Kiss series of novels. It's a fairly new series (book 2 came out last month) but worth checking out, and Maxine is a fascinating character.

  15. Though I guess Maxine is more urban fantasy than Sci Fi. So, um. Never mind.

  16. Cromely: Good suggestion, but yeah, I guess that's more urban fantasy than science fiction.