Although folks like Quentin Tarantino and Joss Whedon have always pushed strong independent influential female characters on fans through their films and television series, they haven’t unfortunately been as widely accepted in pop culture as most of us would want. But the last few years saw a major turning of the tides with many hit shows featuring strong female characters like “Nikita.” Not to mention what with Scarlett Johannsen kicking ass as Black Widow in “Iron Man 2” and “The Avengers,” Zoe Saldana dominating in “The Losers” and “Colombiana,” or Rick Jacobson garnering a cult following with three ass kicking sexy lesbians in 2010’s “Bitch Slap.”
There’s also Noomi Rapace winning the hearts of film buffs everywhere as Goth hacker Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish critically acclaimed murder mysteries “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” Disney’s “Tron Legacy” putting the gorgeous Olivia Wilde center stage as the enigmatic game heroine Quarra, and Zack Snyder giving us a super team of tough warrior women in his 2011 fantasy epic “Sucker Punch,” we thought we’d pay tribute to the bad ass chicks of pop culture that we loved and couldn’t get enough of. For those among you expecting the obvious, you will not be getting the typical list as we took about as much precaution to pick the more unusual characters we relish in reading and watching, those women who could kick your ass up and down the street and look good doing it.
After heavy consideration and much switching and deletion, here are warrior women you’d want in your corner during a when the chips are down.
Detective Olivia Benson – Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
While we have little use for procedural dramas that are all the rage on American television, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” is one of the better draws of the television craze in years. And that’s thanks to the strong characters whom are mostly confined to being based around their cases, but the show thankfully allows for character focus when it can and explores how each case affects the detective’s lives. One of the more fractured, but truly entertaining heroines of the franchise is Detective Olivia Benson.
Played masterfully by Mariska Hargitay, Benson is one of the most emotionally distraught characters of the series who has a hard time committing to anything in her life that isn’t involved with work. Though she’s often surrounding by strong males, she doesn’t always need a man’s help as she’s very capable of handling herself against gangsters and petty thugs. Often times when the other detectives find themselves at a crossroads with a case, she often shows up to help provide clarity and solutions. Benson is one of the most underrated heroines on television and has a massive sex appeal to add to her brilliance and wit.
Tie: Claudia Donovan & Myka Bering – Warehouse 13
Rule of thumb kiddies: You don’t have to be a fighter to be a bad ass. You could use your wit, your creativity, your intelligence and often times your knowledge of electronics. Admittedly I am a little bias considering I am insanely smitten with Alison Scagliatti right now, and am a fan of the cable show “Warehouse 13,” but currently the character Claudia Donovan is one of the cooler heroines of television at the moment. Almost feeling like a Joss Whedon stalwart at times, Donovan was a character who began life in season one as a villainous entity who broke through the computers of the top secret Warehouse 13. For a few episodes she went unseen and unrivaled in her computer hacking skills to the point where she could sense whenever someone was about to rebound from her hacking attacks.
Eventually Warehouse 13 came crashing down her doors to figure out why she’s giving them such a hard time, and after a raucous back and forth, Donovan eventually became apart of the crew, becoming the Oracle to the Warehouse 13’s computer database possessing incredible abilities on the computer, being able to do whatever she pleases when in front of a keyboard. Eventually she went on to become the aid to series heroes Pete and Micah, engaging in missions and constantly getting in peril. Scagliatti’s deadpan delivery of dialogue matched with her portrayal of everyone’s favorite little outcast who feels more at home in front of the glow of a monitor than with actual friends, makes Claudia Donovan one of our favorite bad ass chicks.
On the other side of the coin, having the ability to be unarmed and still lay the hurt on three armed guards is still a trait we love and Joanna Kelly is both engrossing and beautiful as special agent Myka Bering, an often awkward and vulnerable woman who is most comfortable when in the line of duty. Whether she’s about to be hit by a car, or is being attacked by someone posing as a superhero, Myka is always on her toes and more times than not comes out with barely a scratch on her. From her unkempt personality to her fierce independence Myka is a heroine who relies on genius and martial arts to bring down the baddies. All the while conveying her utter obsession for Twizzlers and looking out for her often troubled partner Pete who is always at risk of going back to alcohol in a stressful situation. Joanna Kelly is stunning in this character’s flesh and keeps up what is an admirable ensemble for a damn fun and often exciting series.
Carmen Sandiego – Carmen Sandiego Series
Before Metroid, before Tomb Raider, before Resident Evil, Carmen Sandiego was the original female bad ass who had an entire successful franchise centered on her and her alone beginning with one of the most influential educational computer games of all time. With various titles revolving around capturing and jailing her while learning facts about the world, Carmen Sandiego has been a very prevalent presence in pop culture. Carmen Sandiego is one of the most underrated super villains of all time. She’s quick witted, clever, cunning, sly, and brilliant master thief and criminal who manages to evade the ACME organization at every turn, single handedly, all for the sake of the world’s most precious artifacts. Draped in a red trench coat, yellow scarf, and red hat, she hides her face from her pursuers and makes quick work of any detectives seeking to capture and jail her for her misdeeds.
She has been the subject of many mediums across the board. From a kids game show entitled “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” on PBS in America, another game show reincarnation “Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?”, to a cult Saturday Morning cartoon series “Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?” in the mid-nineties, to books, board games, and amusement park attractions, Carmen has been one of the most elusive villains of pop culture and has conquered time and space without being caught by ACME. We hope the rumored movie captures the same spirit of Sandiego’s innate female empowerment and independence.
Cassie Hack – “Hack/Slash” Comic Book Series
I think if ever given the chance, I’d take a whack at writing the screenplay for this character’s feature film, because this is a comic book character who can defy all expectations. She’s the hot girl from the slasher films, with the personality of the virginal final girl, the balls to the wall attitude of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, none of the cheesy one-liners, and a sidekick who is both a brother/father/and friend. This is film gold, an action-horror icon begging to be brought to the big screen to live in immortality alongside Ash and the Frog Brothers. Cassie Hack was born in to evil. As a young girl she spent most of her life being bullied by kids in her school. Her morbidly obese mother, in an effort to help her daughter, began murdering the bullies and serving them as meals to the PTA. When Cassie discovered her mother was a serial killer she was forced to kill her.
To add insult to injury, her mother returned from the dead as a demonic being known as a “slasher” called The Lunch Lady, and Cassie was forced to kill her mother yet again. In the “Hack/Slash” reality, “Slashers” are undead serial killers who are restless and return to continue their murders. Forced to confront this harsh revelation, Cassie went on the road as a nomad seeking out other “slashers” and ending their reign of terror preventing another girl from being destroyed. Along the way she met Vlad, a deformed monster who aided her in her pursuit to end the line of “slashers” and as such Cassie revealed herself to be a powerful, independent, complex, yet flawed superheroine who looks like a baby but bites like a gator, when pushed in to a corner. “Hack/Slash” is one of the finest horror comics around and Cassandra Hack is one of the coolest warrior women ever created.
Mystique – The X-Men Mythology
Mystique is a character that lives true to her name. As a figure in the Marvel universe, she’s one of the most enticing and enigmatic and loved by fans all around. A villainess, a seductress, an anti-hero, she is everything and has dabbled in every form of criminal act imaginable. Because she can. Given blue skin and white eyes, Mystique lived most of her life horrified of her appearance, until gaining pride and using her abilities as an advantage. Taking part in the mutant war, Mystique implements her ability to shape shift and take on the form and persona of literally everyone to get in to the tightest of places and is a pure master of deception and manipulation.
She is only one in a list of X-Men characters with baggage and demons in her closet, and she takes the cake as the mother of Nightcrawler, the illegitimate mom of Rogue, and I’m sure she’s bred other mutant offspring we’ve never heard of. In her form she is a truly beautiful and seductive presence, but she can form in to any women you want. Which is a veritable every man fantasy. Her appeal though is in her skills as a warrior and villain. She’s been a constant thorn on the side of the X-Men and is about as slimy and slithery as a snake as she can possibly get. And we love her just the same, at the end of the day. There’s no one in the Marvel Universe like Mystique.
** POTENTIAL SPOILERS **
Andrea is probably one of the sexiest women ever drawn on paper in black and white from Image Comics in a zombie comic book. Ever. Originally a throwaway character, she and her sister were just lucky enough to survive through the zombie apocalypse by attaching themselves to an old man named Dale with a bucket hat and an old run down RV. Cooping up with him things got a little crowded. Then fate intervened when Andrea’s sister, who kept her sane, was killed by a zed (zombie). This caused her to lose faith in survival and she instantly became as cynical a character, voicing her apathy for life even in spite of falling for and engaging in a sexual affair with Dale, the old man who kept watch over them for a good portion of the series.
When the group held up in the prison, she managed to survive an attack from an incognito serial killer who offed two of the survivors. She got away with a jagged scar along her cheek. After watching her would be killer pounded to a pulp, killed and fed to zombies, she wore the scar along her face like a badge and guess what? The bubble headed innocent became a sharp shooting soldier and survivalist, capable of wielding a sniper rifle with pure skill and has become an invaluable asset to the team. For a good portion of the series she morphs from victim to warrior woman in a long period of time, and she’s my second favorite character of the entire series, barnone.
Harley Quinn – Batman Mythology
Conceived in “Batman: The Animated Series,” Harley Quinn began her life as something of a cheesy sidekick for the Joker. Apparently feeling the need to give the Joker someone to bounce dialogue and his personality off of, Harley Quinn began as a simple comic prop for the Joker to provide some depth and support… and took on a life of her own. With an incredible costume, top notch voice work from Arleen Sorkin, a hilarious sense of humor, and a fascinating persona, Harley Quinn managed to rise above the stellar Bruce Timm animated series and garnered her very own following as the ultimate fan girl, eventually being given one of the most sick and twisted origins in all of comicdom.
Starting as a criminal psychologist after sleeping her way to the top, Harleen Quinzel met the Joker and formed something of an obsession with him after being seduced and manipulated by him in a classic case of Stockholm Syndrome. Eventually she grabbed her own spin on the Joker’s psychotic manifestation displaying no sense of moral limitations or concept of the word taboo when it came to torturing Batman’s friends and even engaged in a sexual affair with Poison Ivy in later episodes of “Batman: The Animated Series.” And that’s only the tip of the iceberg! No surprise, Harley Quinn earned her place in to DC Comics and will live for all eternity as that lightning in a bottle born from a children’s show.
Hit Girl – Kick Ass (2010)
So “Kick Ass” didn’t exactly live up to our expectations as we’d hoped. We’re not one of those people who whined about a little girl killing people and being beaten up by a grown man, we’re just sad that “Kick Ass” didn’t exactly kick actual ass until the second half. But for what it’s worth, Hitgirl is the reason to see the big screen adaptation of the Mark Millar comic book mini-series. Mostly a supporting character in the comic series with a twisted back storyes, here she’s one of the central characters who is played very well by Chloe Moretz.
Director Matthew Vaughn puts up a good argument for the character by casting one of the great up and comers of this generation as Moretz not only managed to steal most of the attention from the movie, but also steals most of the scenes she’s in in “Kick Ass.” That can be attributed to Moretz’s undeniable charm and charisma. Moretz is an absolutely fantastic young actress, and because of her on-screen presence and acting prowess, she makes Hitgirl a reality and in effect, she makes Hitgirl an incredible character.
Hudson: Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?
Vasquez: No. Have you?
It’s true that actress Jenette Goldstein isn’t an actual Hispanic woman, but who cares? Her performance as the ultimate bad ass warrior simply named Vasquez is so effective and incredible, that she earns credibility from this Hispanic boy for her ability to depict a Latina woman sans ethnic cliches. The “Alien” franchise is rich with strong female heroines, and the only one that rivals the fury of Ellen Ripley is Private Vasquez, an all around ultimate tomboy and insane adrenaline junky who is the only woman in a troop of men, and manages to hold her own just fine when put to the test physically and mentally. Many times she’s better than the men around her.
Defining what super heroines should be in action movies, she’s never a vulnerable damsel in distress. Even when she’s surrounded by xenomorphs about to suffer a cruel slow death, she never says die. She spends most of the movie itching to get in to combat, competing with her mates, and strutting like she owns the testicles around her. And once she steps in to the battlefield, she’s a raging, skilled warrior woman who takes down everything in sight and never backs down, no matter what. With a quick one-liner, a shrug, and a slick smile, Vasquez shows she’s capable of hanging with the big boys. And she lives on in pop culture immortality.
Catwoman – The Batman Mythology
Every comic book geek or Batman nerd has their favorite Catwoman. Whether you liked her as an S&M zombie in “Batman Returns,” as any of the three incarnations in Adam West’s Batman, the juvenile delinquent outlaw in the comics, the femme fatale with a passion for Bats and Bruce in “Batman: The Animated Series,” the enigmatic seductress and snake in “The Animated Adventures of Batman & Robin,” as the ill-fated mother of Huntress, or as simply the skilled and sexy cat burglar in modern Batman comic books, there’s no denying that Catwoman has been one of the most prevalent and fascinating villainesses in all of pop culture.
With a strong persona, a set of ideals in spite of her criminal ambitions and sexual fascination with the Cape and Cowl. Catwoman remains such an appealing facet of comic books to this day outliving an obvious Marvel rip-off for Spider-Man and even a really awful cinematic quasi-spin-off featuring Halle Berry. Regardless of which version you choose, there’s no denying this is a Byronic hero you’d truly love to hate… and even be turned on by.
River Tam – Firefly, Serenity (2005)
You saw this coming. A little word of advice: Do not ever look directly at Summer Glau, or you may begin to weep at her beauty. It’s happened to me a few times. For my money though River Tam is likely the most tragic female figure in all of Whedon history, even more so than Buffy or Faith or any of the super powered lesbians. River was a girl who grew up very closely to her brother and due to her adept ability to master any talent, was turned in to a secret program by her parents where she was slowly turned in to a weapon for the alliance. After her parents refused to get her out, her brother sold away his future and life savings to get her back and he later discovered River was brainwashed, conditioned, and otherwise tortured with a series of brain surgeries River is an often eccentric but wise beyond her years young girl whose entire fate is beyond her control.
At times she’s meek and child-like, in a constant state of awe and empathy, but she’s well aware of the abilities she wields and know that it’s become a curse. She is an immense genius while also posing a threat in combat with hand to hand skills and weaponry experience that make her a truly deadly foe when tested to her limits. Deep down only death feels like her one true release from her curse, and losing the ability to store her fears and sadness away, she feels every emotion at full capacity and suffers for it. She is a flower with great importance to her world and the people around her. But through it all her love for her brother and the crew of Serenity keeps her going through the hard times and she keeps her gifts as an advantage in the end of her journey. She’s our favorite Whedonverse female because she’s as complex as heroes get. Also… she can kill you with her brain.