The Rise of the Badass Female Character

The geek community has long been shameful in its treatment of women. Misogyny has taken many forms, and while there is still a long way to go, we are experiencing a renaissance of strong, badass female characters. Some of the best film, TV, and comic characters of the last few years have been characters little girls could look up to! And not a moment too soon.

Historically, female characters in geek properties fit into one of three categories: sex bomb/eye candy, damsel in distress/Woman In Refrigerator, or love sick caricature. Essentially, they were only there for the male enjoyment.

But that seems to be changing a bit. Over the last couple of years, Geekdom seems to be making an effort to produce strong, well-rounded female character, and it has made our entertainment that much richer. Who are some of the best and brightest?

Wonder Woman

How We Know Her: The unquestioned leader of the DCEU films: Wonder Woman, Batsoup (one of the few highlights), and Justice League.

Why She’s a Badass: In her films, Wonder Woman held commanding presence, outshined Batman and Superman in two films, and was as compelling in a solo feature as any Harrison Ford performance. I’m not sure how long the No Man’s Land Scene was in Wonder Woman, but I know I can hold my breath that long. An amazing character, played incredibly by Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman inspires young girls and show young boys they can admire female superheroes as well as male ones.

Jyn Erso

How We Know Her: The leader of a band of scoundrels trying to take down the Empire in Rogue One.

Why She’s a Badass: Shes not a conventional character. She’s a bit of a grifter who comes to the Rebellion through a less traditional path. Erso is playing a dual game of survival and dedication to family who some feel she is a thin character but I disagree. I think she is cerebral and nuanced, which is more interesting at times than kicking someone’s ass in a fight.


How We Know Her: She’s the unquestioned star of the new Star Wars Episode films.

Why She’s a Badass: Because she took us by surprise with the biggest head fake in geek history. The trailers for Force Awakens led us to believe Finn was the Jedi in training and Rey was something of the Han Solo supporting role. Not so! When Rey force pulls that lightsaber out of the snow and takes it to Kylo Ren, badassery ensues. Daisy Ridley plays Rey as warm but tough. An enjoyable combination.


How We Know Her: She was great in Furiosa: Fury Road which was titled “Mad Max: Fury Road” for some odd reason.

Why She’s a Badass: She stole Max’s movie. Tom Hardy is a great actor, but I had to think for a second to remember he played Max. I don’t have to think for even a second to recall that Charlize Theron is there. All the major action and decisions are hers. Max is just along for the ride in his own movie.


How We Know Her: The title star of her CBS turned CW staple of the Arrowverse.

Why She’s a Badass: I don’t watch much TV, so I can only go on my limited knowledge, but she seems less in Superman’s shadow than previous versions of this character. Her costume is less sexualized as well. Finally, she is the interaction point of the super family with the shared TV universe; NOT her more famous cousin.


How We Know Her: The scene stealing lead villain of the amazing film, Thor: Ragnarok.

Why She’s a Badass: In what could have been a cliche, jokey role, Oscar Winner Kate Blanchett delivers one of the better MCU villains to date. She’s powerful, funny, and scary as hell… all in on performance.

Captain Marvel

How We Know Her: Primarily from the Marvel comics to date, but soon she will conquer the MCU when Oscar winner Brie Larson dons the tights in her solo debut.

Why She’s a Badass: She’s essentially become the Marvel answer to Superman. Strong, fast, and invulnerable. Jenny is worried about Larson’s performance but like Gadot, I think she is going to be pleasantly surprised. Larson has the chops and will move Marvel Girl into the iconic pantheon along with Cap, Thor, and Iron Man.

Harley Quinn

How We Know Her: Originally a creation of the DC Animated Universe, Harley Quinn shot to global fame as portrayed by Margo Robbie in last year’s Suicide Squad.

Why She’s a Badass: Suicide Squad kind of stunk, but not Robbie. This one might be controversial. While she was highly sexualized, I think her performance was so dominant and captivating that she overcame her short-shorts and delivered an iconic geek performance.


How We Know Her: The galaxy’s deadliest assassin in the two Guardians of the Galaxy films.

Why She’s a Badass: She’s a total badass who keeps the Guardians of the Galaxy alive in half the fight they get in. Played by Zoe Saldana, Gamora is really more the leader of the Guardians than Starlord. While he’s cracking jokes, she’s cracking skulls.

Laura/ X-23

How We Know Her: As the awesome young scene stealer in the best movie of the year, Logan.

Why She’s a Badass: Did you SEE Logan? The scene where her powers are revealed is creepy as hell. This tiny, little girl rips into a trained army of mercenaries and you never think it looks forced or fake. Throughout the film, her animal nature competes with her humanity to create a wonderful character. I hope Disney allows her to lead a post-Logan spinoff before rebooting the X-Universe. She’s worthy.

5 thoughts on “The Rise of the Badass Female Character

  1. Hey! Where’s Ruby Roundhouse? And Lorraine “Atomic Blonde” Broughton? And that mummy that tried to eat Tom Cruise? The Brienne of Tarth? And Katniss Everdeen? And a bunch of others of which half of whom might be good additions to this list?

    1. I’m actually watching Atomic Blonde as we speak and she’s on the list. Katniss and Brienne are a little older so didn’t think of them. Black Widow would also be in that category. Wasn’t that enamored with Ruby Roundhouse, but could see others disagreeing.

      1. Well, I only meant about half of those anyway. Besides, I took my nephew to see Jumanji as a late birthday gift yesterday, and I think I liked it better the second time.

  2. The first character in this category that I have ever been able to identify was Molly, in William Gibson’s 1983 novel, Neuromancer. Intense but droll, Molly is blindingly fast, has cyborg enhancements including retractable claws (they slide in and out from under her fingernails), and has no hesitation violently threatening people who annoy her. She is a mercenary bodyguard who pretty much carries the novel.

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