Science fiction and fantasy are not shy of heroic women. Uhura, Ripley, Sarah Connor, Xena, Princess Leia, Elizabeth Swann, Brienne of Tarth, Katniss, Hermione Granger, Susan Ivanova, Beverly Crusher, Zoe Washburne, Arwen, Éowyn, Laura Roslin, Merida, and Lois Lane, just to name a few.
Creators of science fiction and fantasy love to show us what’s possible, push the limits of our narrow minds, and question the rules of society. But the genre can also be used to enshrine the status quo. Check out:
Items like these are based on the idea that women and girls aren’t heroic, they’re the hero’s reward. Some people dismiss these types of messages as harmless because characters, comics, books and movies aren’t “real.” But the sentiment exists in the real world, too. Over a year ago, I wrote about the Heroes book I found in a children’s toy store, without even one female on its pages. Granted, the book wasn’t called Heroines, but I didn’t see any such similar book on the rack beside it, which is just as bad.
And the sentiment will remain very real, so long as our stories teach these messages.
I value heroes in their many forms, which is why I loved the recent ABC show The Quest. Unlike most reality TV, it didn’t foster backstabbing, pettiness and superficial qualities, but instead focused on selflessness, hard work and heroism.
The program featured seven women and five men, who were put into a fantasy setting and tasked with rescuing a kingdom. The Quest proved that women could indeed be physically successful at battle, riding horses and using weapons. But completing a quest and being a hero isn’t just about brute strength. Heroism required other qualities such as dexterity, intelligence, wisdom and charisma (though any RPG player could have told you that) as well as tenacity, heart, sacrifice, character and integrity.
The producers of The Quest have started PROJECT HERO, in part to try and get a second season, yes, but also to highlight heroic acts big and small. October 23, 2014, is the Day of Heroes with the hashtag #beahero.
What qualities do you think are heroic? Who are some of your favorite science fiction, fantasy and comic book heroes? Who are some of your real-life heroes?
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J.L. Hilton is the author of the STELLARNET SERIES published by Carina Press, including Stellarnet Rebel (January 2012) and Stellarnet Prince (November 2012), and is a regular contributor to Contact-Infinite Futures and CharlotteGeeks.com. She also creates cool wearable things that are featured in the books Steampunk Style Jewelry and 1000 Steampunk Creations. Visit her at JLHilton.com or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Goodreads and deviantART.