I am a child of the 80’s, however I was raised on classic films, Humphrey Bogart and Errol Flynn were staples in the viewing repertoire. They were dashing and debonair and their costars were extremely feminine in appearances.
Many of those characters are also strong heroines who, on the outside, looked like they belonged in the time. On the inside they were just as fiery as we are now, and had gumption.
I am a tomboy. As I grew up I started looking for someone that was more relatable and modern in appearances.
I wanted to find characters that could inspire me to be more than what I think I can be.
I started to put together a list of all the female characters from books, movies, and tv shows that impacted and inspired me growing up.
Some of them are the classic film heroines in their flouncy dresses and beautifully made up faces that I mentioned above, and some are quite the opposite.
The list is long, so welcome to part 1: The Top Three.
Dr Beverly Crusher: Star Trek The Next Generation
The first time Dr Crusher graced my screen I was babysitting, I had never seen the new (at the time) Star Trek and I didn’t know what to expect. I was hooked. Dr Crusher was a single mother of a son whom she brought with her on the Enterprise (aka the spaceship).
Throughout the series she was a well respected and strong woman. She was beautiful, but that wasn’t what she was about. She did her job well, raised her son, had the ear of the ship’s captain, and while she may have been afraid sometimes she still acted in the best interests of the crew.
A couple of years ago I got to meet the actress, Gates McFadden, at a comic convention. I told her of the impact her character had on me. How the character helped me go forward and be strong even when it didn’t always seem like I could.
She asked what I was doing for work, naming a few jobs that are more professional. I told her the grocery store. She looked a bit surprised but said those kinds of jobs are needed too. Then she said “It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you go boldly while doing it.” That was Gene Roddenberry’s vision and theme with the Star Trek shows.
Two years later I left that job to go to film school. I went boldly in spite of the fear and doubt.
Sarah Connor: The Terminator Films
I remember the first time I saw Terminator 2, it was on tv and I was completely riveted. I had never seen the first one at that point.
This woman (Sarah Connor) shows up in the psych ward putting up a fight, having nightmares about the end of the world. No one believes her and they think she’s crazy.
She breaks out, with the help of her son (another single mother, interesting) and the Terminator she had been chased by in the first film. In this film they were being chased by another terminator (T-1000) and they fled, got weapons, and tried to stop Judgment Day (the day when the machines and robots would take over the earth and kill the humans).
This woman fought for what she believed in, risked death, was forcefully confined and medicated; all to save the world and protect her son. She was emotionally strong as well as physically strong, she knew how to use weapons and do what needed to be done.
When I finally saw the first film and I saw the journey the character went on, where she was scared, confused and ignorant, to the battle hardened warrior of the end of the second film I wanted to be strong like her. I kind of wanted the robots to actually become sentient in real life so I could fight them.
Like the lead actress, Linda Hamilton, I fight a mental illness. Between the character’s journey and the actresses own with her bipolar disorder, I rank Sarah Connor as one of the most influential characters in my life.
At another comic convention I met Linda Hamilton and told her my story and how she and Sarah Connor helped me keep living and fighting. She took my hand, looked me in the eyes and asked me how I was doing. I knew what she meant and I told her the truth. She kept looking me in the eye and said “Stay strong, sweetie.”
To this day I still want to be like her.
Princess Leia Organa: The Original Star Wars Trilogy
Seriously, how can any list of any child of the 80’s be complete without Princess Leia, the original feisty strong willed and independent sci-fi monarch. She gave out orders, expected them to be followed. She fought for the side of good and freedom Even though she was young she would rather have died than betray the cause.
Yes, she was beautiful, but she was more than that to all of us female kids at the time. She was a girl in a man’s world. She was high ranking, mostly respected (Han’s respect was grudgingly, but he came around), called the shots, took initiative where needed and got the job done.
She knew when to be gentle and when to be firm. She may have been royalty, but she was smart as to when to use it to her advantage and when to be a regular person.
When I saw Star Wars for the first time I thought Leia was too much of a girl. Then she took the gun the first time from Luke and started shooting the stormtroopers. Right then I changed my mind. She did everything to the fullest, including loving the half-witted, scruffy looking nerf herder.
Princess Leia was one of the first well known strong female characters that I looked up to. I met Carrie Fisher once and I told her. I think she must hear that a lot, but she did thank me for telling her.
She’s quite a woman herself. The stories she has to tell are pretty crazy. She told us about the one night after filming when Harrison Ford and herself went straight to a party the Rolling Stones were having. They were up all night doing what rock stars of the time did. They went straight from the party, back to set, and into the makeup chair. If you watch the scene (which I believe is the one where they land at the Cloud City and we are introduced to Lando) you can tell they are still under the influence of whatever they were taking.
I like crazy stories. To me it means you lived fully, taking advantage of every minute and doing the impossible sometimes. (I don’t always agree with how people do that, drugs and being inebriated is not a wise life choice.) It’s how I want to live though, completely and fully.
It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you go boldly while doing it.
When you’re a kid you don’t realize how big of an impact a person or character has on your life until you look back and see the signs and choices you made that were because of what you learned from those characters and people.
I would love to hear some of your childhood heroes and who had an impact on you growing up. Let me know in the comments and remember, they don’t have to be fictional characters.
Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon.