In a time of ancient Gods, Warlords, and Kings, a land in turmoil cried out for a hero. She was Xena, a mighty princess forged in the heat of battle.
"If I made Buffy the Lesbian Separatist [as] a series of lectures on PBS on why there should be feminism, no-one would be coming to the party, and it would be boring. The idea of changing culture is important to me, and it can only be done in a popular medium."
We all know that Most Writers Are Male
. Something like eighty percent of media aimed at children have male main characters, whereas half the population is female.
Chances are, any summer blockbuster you can name revolves around a male or men in general. Men save the world, women are their Love Interests
. Men are heroes, women are damsels
. At best, women will often be minor characters or will not be present at all. Stories about women are for women, stories about men are for general consumption.
As you can imagine, this can get a bit annoying for those women who like fantasy and science fiction, but can't stand Chick Flicks
. Maybe they don't mind Chick Flicks, but they would like to see more "general" media with stronger female representation. That's why we have Feminist Fantasy
. Somewhere along the line, someone decided that women were getting the short end of the stick in fiction, and decided to create something with explicit feminist themes.
They're often fantasy and science fiction, genres that have revolved around men for a really, really long time. Why? Because sometimes we like seeing a woman save the world from aliens. Maybe we like to have the ever-present but oft-ignored gender inequalities in a Standard Fantasy Setting
Science fiction and fantasy are suited to examining gender and male-female relations by depicting alternative societies (may be a Lady Land
or the result of a Gender Cide
) or species with unfamiliar sexual biology
, or by subjecting characters to Gender Bending
Another type of Feminist Fantasy
is a feminist retelling of an old story
, like a fairy tale or folktale. These are popular and seem to be the way this generation of Disney princesses is turning out—see Enchanted
and Princess And The Frog
. The former is self-aware and sends up the traditional Disney Princess
archetype, and the latter is about a hardworking girl who wants to be a businesswoman and ends up with a guy and a tiara along the way. It could be argued that both reflect different viewpoints in a feminist debate. Enchanted
celebrates Giselle's idealism and the qualities that make her a "traditional" Disney princess while The Princess and the Frog
is much harsher to Tiana's friend Charlotte and praises the more mature and grown up Tiana.
If a story takes place prior to the twentieth century and features themes like this, it will very likely qualify as Politically Correct History
. Another possibility is Brutally Accurate History, where the heroine has to climb through a world dominated by men where women are treated in... 'unpleasant ways'. Expect the latter to be far more bloody and gritty, with maybe a revolution or two thrown in for good measure.
Note that this is not (necessarily) a Lifetime Movie of the Week
, which cuts down men in order to appear "feminist". Nor does it have to be Anvilicious
about gender issues to qualify. It doesn't even have to stop men from liking it too.
Contrast Reactionary Fantasy
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Anime and Manga
- Revolutionary Girl Utena is probably the most feminist anime in existence. It explores the classical fairytale motifs of the Heroic Prince that rescues a princess, the contrast of the innocent Princess and the mature Witch, and turns them completely on its head. It also deals with childhood and growing up, often in very dark and mature fashion. The heroine, Utena, dreams of becoming a Prince just like the one that once saved her as a child and battles to protect the mysterious Rose Bride, Anthy. It is surreal, and rarely is anything (or anyone) exactly what they seem.
- Hayao Miyazaki identifies himself as a feminist, and the numerous films of Studio Ghibli typically feature female protagonists that are brave, clever, and strong-willed. He is not fond of the cliche where the lead male and female characters must end up together and wants to show love in other forms. He is openly critical of Otaku culture and sexist portrayals of women in media such as Moe characters.
- Nahoko Uehashi is very good at this, both Seirei no Moribito and Kemono no Souja Erin can count as feminist fantasy
- Princess Knight: One of the first manga to tackle gender issues. Was considered very feminist at it's time, maybe not so much today but it is still very highly influential and is even the first shoujo manga.
- Magical Girl shows with the added kick of portraying femininity as an object of power rather than weakness. That is to say rather than simply having action girls who are essentially just gender inverted action men magical girls instead tend to have girly powers and weapons that are just as effective.
- Sailor Moon has a strong focus on the Feminine as a source of power, with the Princesses of various celestial bodies acting as the protectors of the universe. These powers are passed from mother to daughter, with Word of God explicitly stating that there is no current Sailor Earth because men cannot become Sailor Warriors. Tuxedo Kamen (the Prince of Earth) is The One Guy of the group, and primarily there to provide support to the women rather than to rescue or protect them. Female sensuality and sexuality are subtly and respectfully explored in the series, avoiding equating purity with Virgin Power as the heroine is both the purest of heart and intimate with her boyfriend. The relationship between Haruka and Michiru is portrayed without the typical fanservice related to lesbian couples, instead focusing on the strength of their devotion to each other.
"We all have unshakeable wills, we will fight on our own without leaving our destiny to a prince!"
- Cardcaptor Sakura features a school girl battling magical creatures, taming said creature, and then using to expand her personal army. She becomes the Mistress of the Clow Cards not by beating Yue over the head with her staff but by attempting to befriend him. One reason (of many) that the dub is despised is that it did its best to downplay Sakura's role and increase Syaoran's becaues it didn't think there was an audience for this sort of thing.
- Pretty Cure is a franchise that distinguishes itself from other Magical Girl series through a strong focus on physical fighting and each girl truly Kicking Ass in All Her Finery. Expect to see girls in brightly-colored, frilly outfits smashing things with their fists and getting into fight scenes worthy of any Shounen series.
- Princess Tutu, a surreal tale set at a ballet school and centered around an old fairy tale being acted out. Ahiru takes on the role of Princess Tutu, and becomes a Magical Girl that uses dance to free the missing shards of the Prince's heart. As the story unfolds and the true nature of events becomes clear, Ahiru must find a way to save Prince Mytho and defy the original tragic ending of the story.
- Lyrical Nanoha, the biggest name in the Magical Girl Warrior subgenre, takes a very subtle approach to its portrayal of women: it never, ever directly addresses the gender roles (or sexuality, for that matter), but looking at it from that perspective readily reveals that the main (all-female) cast masters both traditional feminine (home-keeping, family-building, children-raising) and masculine (money-earning, loved ones-protecting, and world-saving) tasks with equal proficiency.
- Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, which builds upon the story of Joan of Arc as it's core. Maron is the reincarnation of Joan and Eve, and on a Mission from God to use her holy powers to track down and seal various demons. Because the items these demons hide in vanish after being sealed, she's mistaken as a Phantom Thief and constantly on the run from the police. A skilled gymnast and acrobat, the majority of her attacks use feminine tools such as ribbons and flowers to fight the demons.
- Shin Shirayuki-hime Densetsu Pretear (Pretear: The New Legend of Snow White) takes very loose inspiration from the fairy tale, only with seven handsome guys instead of dwarves. Himeno is approached by a group of warriors, who ask her to become the latest in a line of magical girls charged with protecting the world. As Pretear, Himeno posesses the power to destroy the monsters attempting to drain the Leafe from the world, transforming with the aid of her Leafe Knights into various forms. Brave, energetic, and very much a Tomboy, Himeno struggles upon learning that should she lose hope, she will become the very thing she fights against. Her foe, Fenrir, is in fact the previous Pretear who fell into despair.
- Tokyo Mew Mew is another Magical Girl series that features a team of girls using magic and their fists to save Planet Earth from danger. Each girl is chosen to defend the planet from invading aliens, using powers derived from the DNA of endangered animals.
- Rose of Versailles: Often regarded as the the most well-known and oldest modern anime Feminist Fantasy, and has been cited as an influence on Utena; it follows Oscar, a noblewoman raised as a man in order to inherit her father's place as commander of the Palace Guard. Set prior to The French Revolution, Oscar is torn between class loyalty and her strong sense of justice, as well as the conflict between her gender and the militant life she leads.
- Saiunkoku Monogatari is a story about the aspiration of the female protagonist to be a government official in a male-dominated Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Imperial China and how she is working hard through skill and determination to achieve those dreams.
- Studio Bee Train and its founder Koichi Mashimo in particular are well-known in Japan for their very feminist stance. It is particularly evident in their Girls with Guns trilogy (Noir, Madlax, and El Cazador de la Bruja), which is all about strong women who make tough choices and kick ass in a dangerous world (though Noir is very light on the speculative aspect, mainly found in the implausible fighting abilities of the main characters).
- Claymore stars an almost entirely female cast, all Half-Human Hybrid warriors that hunt the shape-shifting Youma. The woman are varied in both their personalities and appearances, with some being stunning Amazonian Beauties and some being downright unattractive. Beauty is tarnished frequently, and the women are treated as powerful and determined warriors that form strong bonds or rivalries with each other. Fanservice is almost entirely absent, and what little nudity there is usually involves Body Horror.
- Bubblegum Crisis, the groundbreaking Cyberpunk anime of the late 1980s. It focuses on the adventures of a team of female mercenaries in Powered Armor called the Knight Sabers. Led by genius heiress Sylia Stringray, the team is composed of a hard-rocking Biker Babe Priss, unlucky-in-love athlete Linna, and Ditzy Genius hacker Nene. Using a soundtrack composed primarily of songs performed by Priss's band, it follows Sylia's quest to bring down corrupt corporation Genom.
- Kidou Tenshi Angelic Layer is an interesting example, being created to target a male audience with its shounen Tournament Arc theme. However, it stars a female protagonist in a role usually reserved for male leads and features a primarily female cast. The game Angelic Layer utilizes customized dolls to engage in duels, blending activities stereotypically reserved for one sex or the other (dress-up with dolls vs. action figures fighting) together into an exciting concept.
- Slayers is another shounen series starring a female protagonist, in this case Fiery Redhead Lina Inverse. While she has the reputation of being the most powerful sorcerer around, that title actually belongs to her Aloof Big Sister, Luna. She's also not a slouch with a sword, making her a powerful warrior-mage that repeatedly saves the world. (And has a tendency to blow things up, when provoked.) The cast, when traveling as a group, remains gender-balanced and hold their own in battle. The Lord of Nightmares, creator of the universe, is notably portrayed as a young woman.
- Magic Knight Rayearth takes the quest to rescue a Princess Classic, and throws multiple twists into the formula. When the magical kingdom of Cephiro is in danger, Princess Emeraude summons three ordinary girls to undertake a grand quest. Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu are the Magic Knights of legend, tasked with honing their magical powers through a series of trials in order to defeat Zagato and rescue the princess. In reality, nothing is what it seems. Zagato is merely trying to protect the woman he loves, as Emeraude has summoned the knights to kill her so a new Pillar can be chosen. They only learn the horrible truth after slaying Zagato, sending Emeraude into a murderous rage that threatens to completely destroy the world.
- Legendary Cyber Punk creator Shirow Masamune seems to be fond of strong female protagonists, as several of his influential works feature them.
- Patlabor: Despite the series penchant for comedy, all of its female officers are portrayed as being capable and competent. Noa Izumi starts off as a somewhat ditzy rookie cop, who gradually shapes up to become SVU2's best labor pilot. Shinobu is the captain of SVU1 and a Reasonable Authority Figure, while Kanuka is a hotshot NYPD officer, who's on loan to division 2. And finally, there's Takeo Kumagami, who serves as Kanuka's replacement, after she ends her tenure and returns to The States.
- Dirty Pair has gone through numerous incarnations, but is invariably about the trope-naming Lovely Angels leaving a path of destruction in their wake. Kei and Yuri work for Worlds Welfare Work Association ("3WA"), a galactic troubleshooting agency that sends highly-skilled teams to deal with problems. Violently. While one of the most successful teams around, the Lovely Angels have been nicknamed the "Dirty Pair" due to the tendency of their missions to leave buildings, cities, and even an inhabited planet blown to smithereens.
- Wizard Barristers features a Teen Genius that joins an Occult Law Firm. The cast is primarily composed of women who are professionals (lawyers, paralegals, investigators), who are almost universally powerful magic users as well.
- Ironically, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt of all series counts. The Anarchy sisters are powerful figures who are in full control of their sexuality and embody a very crude form of Wish Fulfillment for girls. Plus for all the fanservice that takes place there's just as much sex humor that doesn't pander to the Male Gaze (or might even be Fan Disservice to them). Slapstick Knows no Gender is in full force, and a good chunk of the show's jokes involve lampshading, subverting, or averting the gender Double Standard.
- Blood: The Last Vampire and its various re-tellings focus on Saya, a seemingly teenaged Vampire Hunter that wields a katana. No matter which incarnation, she is a deadly One Woman Army on a quest to slay a powerful foe.
- Romeo X Juliet is very loosely based on the play, and re-imagines Juliet as The Chosen One and an Action Girl that enjoys a stint as a Zorro-esque Vigilante Man. As the last surviving member of the rightful rulers of Neo-Verona, she is raised for the purpose of overthrowing the tyrant that murdered her family and turns out to also be a Barrier Maiden that must be sacrificed to feed the mystical tree that holds up the floating island. Instead, she uses The Power of Love to bring the island safely onto the ocean, breaking the cycle of sacrifice and saving the country with her sacrifice.
- Selector Infected Wixoss blends darker elements of the Magical Girl with card-based tournament series, resulting in a series about young girls drawn into a mysterious game. The Collectible Card Game Wixoss has a strong female following, and certain girls find that their in-game avatar (a "LRIG") is in fact alive — promising if they battle as a "Selector" and meet certain conditions, their wish will be granted. The motivations and Character Development of each girl is explored, wit a strong focus on their friendships and rivalries as they battle to become an Eternal Girl and get their wish. Since the primary focus is a card game, the girls are portrayed using tactics and strategic thinking to outwit their opponent while their LRIG use Full-Contact Magic and increasingly more decorative clothing to beat their opponent into the ground.
- Magic: The Gathering has an odd example: White represents healing, protection, chivalry, and law and order. Many of the powerful white creatures (all the powerful angels, Lin Sivvi) are depicted as female. Indeed, the first pure white-mana plane, Serra's Realm, is a matriarchy.
- As explained by Mark Rosewater himself, one reason for the Female Angel, Male Demon standard is to specifically avoid the evil succubus trope.
- Magic: The Gathering in general is very equal opportunity-minded. The style guide given to the artists explicitly states: "Make an effort to illustrate a variety of races, genders, ages, and body types. Feel free to paint beautiful women, as long as they're shown kicking ass. No damsels in distress. No ridiculously exaggerated breasts. No nudity."
- Furthermore, later editions make a point to avoid printing non-Legendary cards with exclusively male or female names, so cards like Hasran Ogress and Brothers of Fire are unlikely to see reprints any time soon.
- Wonder Woman is perhaps being the original Feminist heroine; a super strong crime fighter amazon. Creator William Moulton Marston even believed that within a century America would become a matriarchy (and that that was a good thing).
- Batgirl is always highly intelligent, a skilled fighter, and very much an equal to the other members of the Batfamily no matter which heroine currently wears the mantle.
- Supergirl has had multiple incarnations, but is always one of the most powerful heroes around.
- Power Girl has always been portrayed as a powerful heroine, and often stands out from other female characters in being a true Amazonian Beauty with a muscular build. Many a lampshade is hung on sexist attitudes towards female heroines, with her calling people out for writing her off for having a Cleavage Window or not respecting her abilities.
- Ms. Marvel is explicitly Feminist, starring a highly decorated Officer turned superheroine. Carol has seen many ugly incidents, but even when stripped of her powers she still kicks much ass alongside her male peers and has even in more recent times dropped the "Ms" in favor of taking up the mantle of Captain Marvel.
- She-Hulk is a brilliant lawyer, as well as a physical powerhouse and often deals with positive portrayals of female sensuality and sexuality.
- Black Widow is one of the greatest spies in the world, a deadly assassin, and a core member of the Avengers.
- SpiderWoman has had several incarnations, but is always a strong woman with abilities that set her apart from that other hero with spider-themed powers.
- The Daughters of the Dragon mini series staring Misty Knight and Colleen Wing.
- X-Men, beginning with the famous run of Chris Claremont from 1975 to 1991. His run saw Jean Grey grow from The Chick to one of the most powerful mutants known and established Storm firmly as the team leader. Fans invented the term "Claremazon" to describe his focus on powerful, intelligent, skilled, independent, and glamorous women. Even with his departure from the X-books, the franchise continues this tradition of portraying varied women — often the most popular characters in the book(s) at any given time.
- ElfQuest is a series with explicit Feminist themes, and the decades-long work of married creators Wendy and Richard Pini. The series explores gender roles through culture clash, features multiple examples of female leaders and warriors, takes pot shots at the Comic Industry's bias against female creators, and features an incredible variety of female characters. In particular, long-time lovers Nightfall and Redlance defy typical gender roles with her as a fierce Huntress and Warrior, while he is a gentle Plantshaper. During the 80s, the possibility of a Saturday Morning cartoon was explored, but ultimately abandoned when Executive Meddling came into play. The studio demanded that Polar Opposite Twins Ember and Suntop be given a personality switch, as they didn't want a tough future Chieftess and a gentle boy. The Pinis walked away rather than comply.
- Depending heavily upon the creators involved, Red Sonja is an early example with a powerful, independent female warrior who focused strongly upon defending the weak and turning the tables on her male foes. Some aspects of the character come under question, or have been poorly handled by creators and undermined the more positive elements. This has resulted in Sonja being a highly controversial character, alternately praised as an iconic Feminist heroine or decried as a juvenile representation of a heroine. The incarnation being written by creator Gail Simone has been highly-praised .
- Speaking of Gail Simone, Birds of Prey is a rare example of a female-centric superhero team.
- Vampirella was created as this, though changes in Feminist ideals and poor handling by creators has strayed from that. Designed and co-created by feminist Trina Robbins, she was a strong, powerful, independent heroine with a seductive appearance and innate goodness. Like the equally-controversial Red Sonja, she was created during the Second Wave of Feminism — an era that dealt with women's sexuality, rejection of sexual repression, and reproductive rights.
- Fables deals with beings from Fairy Tales and mythology living in exile in modern day New York. It explores some of the darker aspects of the original tales, and deconstructs many of the problematic elements found there. In particular, Prince Charming is the prince from most stories, and a serial divorcee unable to find happiness as a result. Snow White is often the focus of the series, having grown into a strong-willed politician that runs much of Fabletown's daily business. Just don't mention the seven Dwarves. Consisting of a massive ensemble cast, almost every single female character has developed over the centuries into a force to be reckoned with. The war in the Homelands, as well as changes in human society, have transformed them into modern women, often looking unfavorably on certain aspects of their pasts. The Spin Offs, Fairest, From Fabletown With Love, and Fables Are Forever all focus on the women of the series. The later two are solo adventures starring Cinderella, Fabletown's master spy and assassin in James Bond-style adventures. Issues of female sensuality and sexuality, motherhood, reproductive rights, healthy and unhealthy relationships, misogyny, and sexism are all touched on or explored within the series.
- Hack Slash features a Final Girl who becomes a Serial-Killer Killer, traveling the country fighting undead beings known as "Slashers". Cassie Hack is tough as nails, highly intelligent, and a bit concerned that her mother's murderous impulses may be In the Blood because she's really good at fighting monsters. She travels with the deformed Vlad, who looks like a bit like Jason, but is actually the more gentle and kindhearted of the pair. The series deals head-on with many of the misogynistic tropes of Horror films, and Cassie often works to help other women go from victims to Action Survivors capable of fighting for themselves. Often compared to Buffy, another series involving the designated female victim killing monsters.
- The only thing preventing W.I.T.C.H. from being a Magical Girl manga is that it was drawn and first published in Italy.
Films - Animation
- Disney animated films have been more proactive with their female characters starting with The Little Mermaid, but the most extensive example of this trope is undoubtedly The Princess and the Frog. The princess movies seem to be getting more and more feminist, as well as self-aware, with every passing year.
- The Little Mermaid: Ariel is a Rebellious Princess fascinated by the human world, challenging her father's firm belief that everything on the surface is evil. Falling for Prince Eric is merely the push needed to drive her to pursue her dream. Unlike her counterpart in the original story, she gets a happy ending.
- Beauty and the Beast features an intelligent, free-spirited heroine that loves to read and dreams of living a life of adventure. Belle stands her ground against Jerk Jock Gaston and the titular Beast, calling them on their behavior and refusing to change herself to suit others.
- Aladdin: Princess Jasmine is another Rebellious Princess, unsatisfied with her Gilded Cage and unwilling to be forced into marriage just because the law demands it. Her Establishing Character Moment involves sending her latest suitor packing, by sending her pet tiger after him.
- Pocahontas stars another Rebellious Princess, very loosely based on the real figure from American history. She's something of an Action Girl, and bothered by the idea of settling down in a "good match" marriage. Instead, she challenges John Smith's ideas about the world and ends up preventing a war.
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame transforms Esmeralda from the weak, fickle woman of the novel into a kind-hearted, street-smart Action Girl. Even when she's in danger, she makes them regret it. Her role illustrates how unrealistic the Madonna-Whore Complex truly is, as all three men want her....but while Quasimodo sees her as a perfect angel and Frollo sees her as a wicked temptress, Amazon Chaser Phoebus sees and appreciates the person. When Frollo ties her to a stake and threatens to have her burned as a witch if she doesn't become his mistress, she responds by spitting in his face.
- Mulan: Based on the Chinese legend. Mulan is resourceful and brave, choosing to disguise herself as a man in order to take her father's place in the Imperial army. Through her quick wits and determination, she becomes an accomplished soldier and goes on to defeat the Big Bad and save China. Her love interest follows her home, to return her helmet. When awkwardly complimenting her, he focuses on her fighting skills.
- The Princess and the Frog: Tiana is a hard-working, determined young woman with a dream of opening her own restaurant. She faces down the Big Bad to save Naveen, winning through her refusal to accept the temptation of an easy fix. She then confronts the businessmen that refused to sell the restaurant to her, and goes on to achieve her dream of opening a thriving business that she runs with Naveen at her side.
- Tangled: Rapunzel, while having multiple Princess Classic traits, is an Action Girl who uses her 70-foot long hair and a frying pan as weapons. When her mother refuses to let her leave her tower to see the yearly lights in the sky that she's always dreamed of watching up close, she knocks out the thief who breaks into her tower, ties him up with her hair, and talks him into showing her where the lights take place.
- Brave stars Merida, a Rebellious Princess that is something of a tomboy. She's an exceptional archer, as well as skilled at horseback riding and rock climbing, and constantly battles with her strict, traditional mother. The story focuses on the relationship between mother and daughter, as an arrange marriage and a curse forces them to work together and begin understanding one another better. Merida comes to see her mother's quiet strength, and the heavy responsibility she shoulders as both a mother and a Queen. Meanwhile, Queen Elinor comes to respect her daughter's independence and decides against forcing her into a political marriage. As a literal Mama Bear, she faces down and defeats a monster bear in order to protect her husband and children. The curse is lifted once Merida is able to accept her mistakes, and reconcile with her mother. The political marriage is called off, with both Merida and her suitors declaring that they want to Marry for Love and the relationship between Elinor and Merida strengthened considerably.
- Wreck-It Ralph has Badass Adorable Vanellope Von Schweetz and Space Marine Sgt. Calhoun, as one half of the gender-balanced main cast. Vaenllope is a glitched character in a racing game, and blackmails Ralph into helping her win the next big race. In doing so, the game will be reset and she'll reclaim her rightful place as the Main Character. Though she's really a Badass Princess, she gives up the throne in favor of becoming President. Sgt. Calhoun is the commander in a First Person Shooter, acting as the player's guide and generally kicking ass as a Fem!Shep Expy. Having been Widowed at the Wedding when a Cy-bug ate the groom, she's determined to track down and destroy the Cy-bug threat. She ends up marrying Fix-It Felix Jr., who falls in Love at First Punch and avoids his predecessor's fate due to the wedding involving massive amounts of firepower. The ending credits feature them as a Battle Couple. It's also noteworthy for the decision to use a young girl as the Audience Surrogate for the events outside the video games.
- Frozen focuses on the relationship between two sisters, and explores the meaning of True Love as well as conquering your fears. Anna is in love with the idea of love, dreaming of Love at First Sight while Elsa attempts to always keep her emotions in check and refuses to let anyone close out of fear of her powers. Anna falls head over heels in love with Prince Hans, agreeing to marry him after knowing him for a few hours. First Elsa, and later Kristoff, both call her on rushing into such a serious matter with someone she barely knows. The nature of True Love is also explored when Anna's heart is frozen, with only an "act of True Love" capable of saving her. Everyone believes it will require True Love's Kiss, and rush her back to Hans.....only for him to turn out to be a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing out to seduce his way onto the kingdom's throne. The act of True Love is instead Anna's Heroic Sacrifice to protect her sister, and this allows Elsa to realize that fearing her powers and shutting everyone out was the cause of her Power Incontinence. Once she accepts herself, she's able to restore her kingdom and become a Queen adored by her people. Meanwhile, Anna and Kristoff realize their feelings for each other and take the first steps towards a relationship. Hans is first punched into the harbor by Anna, and then sent back home to face punishment for his crimes.
- Shrek plays with the Princess Classic, with Badass Princess Fiona initially trying her best to fit into the traditional role of the princess in a story. However, she's happiest when beating up bandits and being crude with her ogre Love Interest. The third film builds heavily on this foundation, as Fiona and her mother rally various fairytale princesses to drop the Distress Ball and save the day.
Films - Live Action
- The 1993 remake of Attack of the 50-Foot Woman.
- Ever After is just a feminist retelling of "Cinderella" with shaky nods to French history.
- Alice in Wonderland is a Coming of Age story with a nineteen-year-old girl as The Chosen One. While it has some Anvilicious bits (the end of the garden party, anyone?), it's still properly epic.
- The Alien series is legendary for both its Freudian monsters and female protagonist, Lt. Ellen Ripley. The original film was written as a Gender Equality Fantasy, with characters only referred to in the script by their last name or rank so that each role could be cast without preconceptions and thus avoid the standard Horror Movie gender dynamics. This resulted in a male Decoy Protagonist killed early in the film, and allowed the creation of one of the most iconic female characters in Science Fiction history. Ripley would go from an Action Survivor taking charge in order to escape the titular alien, to a full-blown Genre Savvy Mama Bear that blasted her way through an alien hive and battles the enormous Alien Queen in Power Armor.
- The spinoff, Alien vs. Predator honors this tradition of a strong female protagonist, with mountaineer/guide Alexa caught between two of Science Fiction's most iconic alien threats. She is highly resourceful and fierce enough of a fighter to earn the respect of the Predator warrior she forges an uneasy alliance with. The novels and comics the film is loosely based on give us an even greater badass in Machiko, a Security officer that ends up being adopted into a clan of Predators for a time.
- Enchanted uses the Decon-Recon Switch to hang many a lampshade on classic fairy tales, with Princess Classic Giselle being banished to modern day New York by her Evil Stepmother, Narissa. There, she meets jaded divorce lawyer Robert and his daughter, who is thrilled to meet a fairytale princess. Prince Edward follows his betrothed to New York to rescue her, while Giselle and Robert begin to see the positive aspects of the other's world view as she tries to help him instill some romance into his relationship with Nancy. In the end, Giselle is saved from a poisoned apple by Robert's kiss, and rescues him in turn when Narissa transforms herself into a dragon. They become a couple, and Giselle opens a business making fairytale princess dresses for little girls. Edward elopes with Nancy, having finally found the romance she's wanted. The queen's henchman stays in New York and becomes a successful Self-Help author.
- Guillermo del Toro's stated intention with Pacific Rim was to make a Science Fiction/Action film with a Heroine that was an equal partner rather than a Love Interest, "Sex Kitten", or a Damsel in Distress. While Raleigh is the designated hero of the story, the narrative primary focuses on Mako's Hero's Journey and represents her as every bit his equal. Mako has been praised as a non-stereotypical representation of an Asian woman while still acknowledging Japanese morals. It tilts the standard roles assigned to a male and female protagonist, with Raleigh acting as the emotional support for mentally-scarred Mako as she comes to grips with her painful past and desire for revenge.
- Another film by Guillermo del Toro is Pan's Labyrinth, a haunting Alice In Wonderland-ish fairy tale set against the harsh reality of the Spanish Civil War. Ofelia, a girl with a vivid imagination and great curiosity, has moved into the countryside with her widowed mother and new step-father, the brutal Captain Vidal. There, she discovers a mysterious old labyrinth and encounters a Faun, who reveals to her that she is a lost princess from the Underworld. She is faced with three tests, meant to show whether her time in the human world has diminished her true self or not. Meanwhile, the family's maid, Mercedes, attempts to help the rebels against her employer and protect Ofelia. Melding a dark and nightmarish fantasy world with very real human cruelty, it deals directly with themes of misogyny, marriages of convenience, and societies that value male children over everything else. Ofelia is a brave, intelligent, and strong-willed heroine unwilling to be bound by her cruel step-father, while Mercedes is a woman of incredible courage and conviction who famously gives Captain Vidal a half Glasgow Grin when he threatens to torture her and makes it clear, before the rebels gun him down, that his son will never know a thing about him. While ambiguous in the film itself, Word of God confirms that the supernatural elements of Ofelia's journey are real.
- Snow White & the Huntsman features a more proactive titular princess, who breaks out of her tower prison herself and flees into the forest where no one but the Huntsman will dare to venture. With his teaching, she develops into a Lady of War and leads an army to reclaim her throne by force, ultimately taking down the Queen on her own.
- Labyrinth is a Coming of Age tale, combining the talents of Jim Henson and George Lucas. Sarah is a Spoiled Brat with a love of fantasy, and resents having to deal with her baby half-brother, Toby. One night, when forced to babysit, she wishes the goblins would take him away.....and gets her wish. The Goblin King challenges her to solve his Labyrinth in 13 hours, or Toby will be transformed into a goblin. She must outwit the mysterious Labyrinth, escape various death traps, and storm the Goblin City to rescue her brother. Along her journey, Sarah must accept that Life Isn't Fair, reject the Goblin King's many temptations, and learn to balance childhood dreams with adult responsibility. When offered the chance to rule at his side, Sarah rejects him by declaring that, "You have no power over me".
- MirrorMask, a hauntingly beautiful dark fantasy written by Neil Gaiman. Helena dreams of leaving the circus, but after a fight her mother falls mysteriously ill. Traveling to a strange and magical world, she encounters many individuals who resemble those she knows in the real world. The White Queen (resembling her mother) has fallen ill, after the Dark Princess (resembling Helena) stole her Charm and without it, the world is dying. Helena undertakes a quest to save the world and her mother, venturing to the Darklands to confront the Dark Queen (again, her mother). A surreal Coming of Age tale, it remains ambiguous whether it was All Just a Dream or not.
- Edge of Tomorrow has also been praised for its ass-kicking female protagonist Rita Vrataski, the most competent soldier in the UDF. Notably, Tom Cruise's character Cage is trained by her and is thus completely dependent on her in order to exploit the "Groundhog Day" Loop and win the Alien Invasion.
- Milla Jovovich and Angelina Jolie have established themselves as big time Action Heroines through these kinds of films. If they star in a fantasy or science fiction film, expect them to be One Woman Armies. Michelle Rodriguez and Summer Glau have also built careers as Action Heroines in the genre(s), to a lesser degree.
- Jovovich has headlined the Resident Evil franchise as Alice, a former Umbrella agent out to save the world.
- In Ultraviolet, Jovovich stars as a vampire-like warrior who must protect a mysterious boy from the forces hunting him.
- Jolie took up the role of Adventurer Archaeologist Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider films. She's also noted to be the highest grossing Action Heroine in the business.
- Maleficent is a Perspective Flip retelling of Sleeping Beauty, starring Angelina Jolie. Drawing comparisons to WICKED, it reimagines Maleficent as a complex woman who changes from heroic guardian of the Moors, to vengeful Woman Scorned and finally into an antihero over the many years the film covers. She serves as an unwitting mother figure to Aurora, and helps to mold the princess into a wise and strong-willed young woman. Aurora is notably more proactive in this telling of the story, with far more character development and agency than is normally seen in most versions of Sleeping Beauty. She is also not woken from her sleep by Prince Philip, who even points out that he doesn't know her well enough to be in love yet. Instead, it is Maleficent who awakens Aurora with a remorseful kiss to the forehead — having included in her curse that all who met Aurora would come to love her.
- Kill Bill is a two-part epic and love-letter to numerous genres in the process. When an assassin tries to settle down into a normal life, her former comrades interrupt her wedding rehearsal and slaughter those present. She awakens from her coma years later, and begins a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against them that spans continents and cinema genres. The Bride and the female assassins she faces are all exceptional warriors, engaging in brutal duels to the death and leaving carnage in their wake. The subtle elements of fantasy are borrowed from classic Hong Kong films, with people displaying martial arts that border on the supernatural. Most notably, the Hermit Guru was said to be able to use a Finger Poke of Doom to kill enemies after they took five steps.
- Before either feminism or fantasy, The Faerie Queene (Books 1, 3, and 4 note ) featured some pretty tough female knights. What else would you expect from an epic dedicated to The Virgin Queen?
- The Jirel of Joiry stories by C.L. Moore (C.L. stands for Catherine Lucille), published between the years 1934 and 1939. The title character was the first ever heroine in the Heroic Fantasy genre.
- Robert E. Howard's own Dark Agnes de Chastillon may have been written earlier,note although her stories was only published long after Howard's death. Compered to Jirel it has lighter on the fantasy (fantastical elements only appeared in the unfinished third and last story), but MUCH heavier on the feminism. To quote Jessica Amanda Salmonson: "Had a woman written of Agnes in a similar manner, the author would have been charged with man-hating, frigidity, being a castrating bitch, a crazy radical."
"Ever the man in men! Let a woman know her place: let her milk and spin and sew and bake and bear children, not look beyond her threshold or the command of her lord and master! Bah! I spit on you all! There is no man alive who can face me with weapons and live, and before I die, I'll prove it to the world. Women! Cows! Slaves! Whimpering, cringing serfs, crouching to blows, avengin themselves by — taking their own lives, as my sister urged me to do. Ha! You deny me a place among men? By God, I'll live as I please and die as God wills, but if I'm not fit to be a man's comrade, at least I'll be no man's mistress. So go ye to hell, and may the devil tear out your heart!"
- The Dragonriders of Pern books were written to challenge the portrayals of women in Sci Fi in the 60s and 70s. However, they are now subject to Values Dissonance.
- Joanna Russ's The Adventures Of Alyx, a pioneering heroic fantasy with a woman hero.
- Ursula K. Le Guin wrote The Left Hand of Darkness to challenge gender assumptions in science fiction but later decided she hadn't gone far enough, especially since she used the default pronoun "he" for her genderless characters.note In the 1990s, she began a feminist deconstruction of her own earlier Earthsea fantasy series. Many of her other works are relevant to this trope too.
- Just about anything Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote, but the most famous is her feminist retelling of Arthurian legend, The Mists of Avalon.
- The Sword and Sorceress anthology series, started by Marion Zimmer Bradley and continued by other editors after her death.
- A more light-hearted counterpart to Sword and Sorceress was the Chicks in Chainmail anthology series (edited by Esther Friesner, who also includes Action Girls in her own writings).
- Mercedes Lackey's books feature these themes, some more than others.
- Another 1970s heroic-fantasy and science fiction author whose works featured strong women was Elizabeth A. Lynn.
- Angela Carter wrote fairy tale revisions, collected in The Bloody Chamber, and freewheeling fantastic stories with women who like men but donít really need them, such as Nights at the Circus.
- In the 1980s, P. C. Hodgell created the Chronicles of the Kencyrath centered on Action Girl dancer/fighter Jame.
- The Duel of Sorcery Trilogy, to at least some degree.
- The 1986 fairy tale anthology Don't Bet on the Prince.
- Dreamsnake (a post-apocalyptic story in which the protagonist's talent is healing, not fighting, but she's definitely active center of the story), and other books by Vonda N. McIntyre.
- The True Game series by Sheri S. Tepper; in this setting, where magic combines with technology, there are many strong women characters, and the second and third parts are told from womenís point of view. Tepper writes more science fiction than fantasy, but always focusing on women.
- Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett is about a young woman, Eskarina Smith, who was inadvertently imbued with wizard ability, despite the commonly held belief that wizards are exclusively men, and witches are exclusively female, and the ensuing attempts to teach her witchcraft instead, or get her accepted into wizarding school.
- Many years later, the Tiffany Aching books and Monstrous Regiment are also heavy on the feminism.
- The Dragonsword Trilogy (a 1980s American woman is taken to another world and becomes a warrior) and other books by Gael Baudino.
- The works of Robin McKinley, including such fairy tale retellings as Deerskin and Beauty, and secondary world fantasy The Blue Sword and its sequels.
- Lost Girls (a revisionist take on Peter Pan), The Books of Great Alta (a society with women warriors), and many other works by Jane Yolen.
- Anything by Tamora Pierce, who, with one exception so far, has written exclusively about female main characters. In the Circle of Magic, the genders seem to be mostly equal in the main setting, Emelan - when protagonists visit places where they aren't, they comment in the narration - whereas in the Tortall Universe, several of the stories exist to point out gender (and class) inequalities.
- The Black Company series varies from book to book. Dreams of Steel and Water Sleeps both have a female protagonist, from whose perspective we see most of the events, and who shows strength of character, a lot of competence, military skill and the capability to hold her own in a deeply sexist society; and they aren't only competent female characters in those books. Croaker's books seem to flip-flop on this - the first four books have his relationship with the female Evil Overlord as an important element, but her portrayal in The Black Company and The White Rose is much more rounded than in Shadows Linger and Shadow Games (in which she is either not present most of time or still hasn't pulled herself back together after being depowered). The Murgen books (Bleak Seasons and She Is the Darkness), The Silver Spike and Soldiers Live seems to be the least feminist-friendly: though a fair of number of competent women appear in various capacities, they're just given much less focus than in other books of the series.
- Various series by Elizabeth Moon, such as The Deed of Paksenarrion (heroic fantasy, starring the female paladin Paksenarrion), and Familias Regnant and Vattas War (space opera with Action Girl heroines).
- The Practical Princess and Other Liberating Fairy Tales by Jay Williams.
- Melanie Rawn tackles this head on in her Exiles series, set in a matriarchal society where women are the dominant gender ó the rulers, leaders, the soldiers. Men are to be cosseted and cared for, submissive to their wives and so forth.
- The first of Melisa Michaels's Skyrider novels, Skirmish, starred a two-fisted Action Girl space pilot. (Republished by a house that specializes in FemLit)
- In the first four books of Katharine Kerr's Deverry series, the main female lead is quite capable of handling herself in combat and the breaking of social expectations is regularly noted. In the later books, the long-term viewpoint character and most powerful wizard also is female.
- Emma Bull's books usually have strong female protagonists (e.g. rock musician Eddi McCandry in War for the Oaks).
- The Obernewtyn Chronicles, a Science Fantasy series whose protagonist, Elspeth, is an Action Girl, and there are plenty of others in the series. The same author also wrote The Legendsong Saga, a Trapped in Another World tale.
- C. J. Cherryh created many strong female characters: Morgaine, a female swordswoman (Morgaine Cycle), Signy Mallory (Downbelow Station), Ariane Emory I/II (Cyteen), Raen (Serpent's Reach), Elai and Elizabeth (40000 in Gehenna) etc.
- Black Trillium, co-written by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Andre Norton, and Julian May, has three young girls delve into the secrets of ancient magic and liberate their kingdom from an invading army pretty much all by themselves.
- The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. The heroine, Cimorene, is able to solve just about any problem that comes her way through plain common sense, bravery, and ingenuity. Kazul is shown to be pretty open-minded by dragon standards (most dragons don't consider confiding political and social issues to their princesses, and certainly don't take the princesses seriously), which means that she and Cimorene are often able to pool their resources and get quite a lot done. Morwen the witch is shown to be very powerful and quite willing to forgo "traditional" witch practices (wearing pointed black hats, only keeping black cats, etc.) just because they're impractical. While many of the princesses are shown to be feather-headed, it's agreed that they're pretty much that way because of impractical upbringings and not because the women themselves are naturally stupid. Even in the final book, when the protagonist is Cimorene's son, Daystar, he's only able to get as far as he does thanks to the extensive education his mother gave him.
- David Weber's Honor Harrington series, essentially Horatio Hornblower IN SPACE!! Not only does the series follow Gender Is No Object (except on the planet Grayson, which undergoes its own social development throughout the books), but roughly half the main characters are female, and not all of them are military; most of them are, as you'd expect from a Military Science-Fiction series, but diplomats, doctors, politicians, queens, and presidents all get their time in the spotlight.
- Nadya: The Wolf Chronicles by Pat Murphy: a fiercely independent female werewolf roams the Old West. Almost anything Pat Murphy wrote would qualify for this trope.
- The Sevenwaters Trilogy (dealings between human women and fairies in ancient Ireland) by Juliet Marillier.
- Kissing the Witch, a series of retold fairy tales by Emma Donoghue.
- Gwyneth Jones has written fantasy and science fiction in which women play prominent roles; for example, in her Bold as Love cycle, Fiorinda (a modern analogue of Queen Guinevere) has just as decisive a role in the action as the other two protagonists.
- Ash A Secret History, the White Crow books, and others by Mary Gentle.
- The Wolf Walker series by Tara K. Harper. A mixture of Fantasy and Sci-Fi, it involves women that share a telepathic bond with wolves — primarily focused on Dion, a healer and scout. Other novels focus on her daughter, Nori or NaÔve Newcomer Rezsia.
- L. E. Modesitt's Spellsong Cycle (modern music professor becomes regent of a magic kingdom).
- The Wood Wife by Terri Windling, who, as an editor, is one of the strongest proponents of retold fairy tales; the book centers on a woman who becomes involved with spirits in the southwestern desert.
- Even the Stones by Marie Jakober; the protagonist is a queen who must hold on to her throne in spite of assaults from all sides.
- Ella Enchanted by Gail Carlson Levine is a retelling of Cinderella where Ella takes charge of her own destiny and in the context of the 'blessing' of absolute obedience, no less.
- Levine's other book, The Two Princesses of Bamarre, is also very much this. The protagonists are the sisters Princess Addie and Princess Meryl. Meryl dreams of going out adventuring and ends up turning into a fairy, which means she will spend an eternity fighting and protecting her land from monsters. Addie fights her fears and travels the land to save her sister from an illness, along the way facing numerous monsters and outwitting a dragon. The king, the girls' father, is shown to be an indecisive and ineffectual ruler, and the book ends with the implication that Addie will become a far better ruler (or at least will be able to rid the land of the monsters in it). The main male character and Addie's Love Interest, Rhys, helps out when he can, but it's clear that Addie is the heroine of the tale.
- The novels and stories of Nalo Hopkinson; for instance, Midnight Robber and Brown Girl in the Ring, both in settings that blend science fiction and Caribbean folklore.
- The Elemental Logic series (starring earth witch Karis G'deon, fire witch Zanja na'Tarwein, and many other important female characters) and Children of Triad series by Laurie J. Marks.
- The Women of the Otherworld series, contemporary fantasy that is particularly strong in feminism, by Kelley Armstrong.
- The Sight by David-Clement Davies. Might be pushing it a bit since the novel is about wolves, but the main character, the main antagonist, and the secondary antagonist are all females. There are also many female supporting characters.
- The Books of Pellinor: main character Maerad is a Bard who can change Nature as well as a swordswoman warrior
- The Etched City by K. J. Bishop. Raule, a healer, plumbs the secrets of a very bizarre city while working in a slum hospital.
- The One Rose Trilogy by Gail Dayton: a warrior woman in a matriarchal society.
- Sapphos Leap by Erica Jong. It's basically The Odyssey told with a female protagonist (the poet Sappho).
- The Godspeaker Trilogy, centering on two women who fight their way from slavery to queendom (or empressdom).
- The Orphan's Tales by Catherynne M. Valente; many, many characters, probably more of them female than male, definitely individual and active.
- Nihal, the main heroine of the Chronicles of the Emerged World, is a badass Half-elf Dragon Rider.
- Jim C. Hines's The Princess Series stars Snow White, the Sleeping Beauty (but don't call her that), and Cinderella as far-from-passive heroes.
- Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone, whose main character, Tara, is a necromancer tasked with bringing a god back to life
- Numerous Urban Fantasy series star asskicking women as their main character. Here are just a few:
- Books in which women are dominant and men have fewer rights have a complex relationship with this trope; many of them are Straw Feminist Fantasy with underlying messages about how awful it would be if women were in charge of everything, or Fetish Fuel Fantasy about being, well, dominated by women. Or both.
- Wen Spencer wrote A Brother's Price, which features a more thoughtful take: set during an Industrial Revolution, pretty much every instance of inequality has justifications in-world and is chosen to parallel similar restrictions on women from our world, from value and virginity being closely linked, to being blamed for infertility, to a custom similar to bride prices called brother's prices, and on and on. And yet not only is Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male subverted - either can be horrible to either and they are just as bad - but rape is taken seriously, with blame being put not on the victim but on the one with the power, male or female. Consent is clearly seen as important, and human respect too.
- The Hunger Games and the resulting films based on it. Taking place After the End, Katniss Everdeen finds herself thrust into political plots and revolution after volunteering as a Tribute to save her younger sister. Katniss is intelligent, strong-willed, and courageous woman who secretly hunts to provide for her poor family, a skill-set that allows her to become a serious contender in the Hunger Games. Her victory in the first Games leads her to become a symbol of rebellion, igniting a revolution that she is quickly swept up into. One of her potential love interests is notably more gentle and artistic compared to Katniss, who has to deal with the dark side of fame — being forced into the box of the beautiful woman in love, as opposed to her true self.
Live Action TV
- Xena: Warrior Princess provides the page image above.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and a fair number of Joss Whedon works. (The original 1992 film aspired to this too, but didn't quite get there.)
- Charmed is a feminist fantasy that featured three women banding together and saving the world. This is especially true of earlier seasons when the story seemed very focused on vulnerable women preyed on by aggressive male characters. The fantasy was that they were witches and could thus defend themselves from all of these threats. Also, Charmed was very focused on celebrating women in general with the Halliwell's descended from a long line of strong women.
- Star Trek: Voyager: The first (and only) Star Trek series to feature a female captain. The main cast also featured 3 other female characters (Torres, Kes, Seven) and the final Big Bad was the Borg Queen.
- In a series where tech is king and women had been relegated to non technical roles in earlier series (aside from Dax), there was a female Chief Engineer and Captain Janeway (who had served as a Science Officer before transferring to Command) basically served as her own Science Officer. When Seven of Nine came along, she took over many of Janeway's scientific duties as the ships Astrometrics Officer.)
- Moreover, while Harry Kim and Tom Paris were excellent engineers in their own right, they always deferred to the immensely capable B'Elanna Torres without hesitation.
- Voyager's superhuman crew were the only superhuman crewpersons in any Star Trek series to be women (Deanna technically had psychic powers, but these were limited to empathic rather than telepathic powers as she was only half Betazoid.)
- Star Trek in general was intended to be this. The part of Spock was initially intended to be played by a woman, but the studio outright refused. The presence of a Lieutenant Uhura, a competent and respected Bridge Officer who happened to be a black woman who was treated as a true equal among the crew was a major milestone in the representation of women and black people in popular culture.
- There are many other characters, whether they be major roles, recurring characters of one-off guests that could rightly be considered to be feminist role models or great female characters. Dr Crusher, Carol Marcus, Jadzia Dax, Major Kira, Kai Winn, the list goes on and on.
- Warehouse 13 Is shown to have just as many strong female characters as male characters, if not more. (Myka, Claudia, H.G., Mrs. Fredrickson vs. Artie, Pete, and Steve)
- In Firefly, we get Zoe (the former military officer who often leads the group into the heists), Kaylee (the cheerful mechanic who is wicked good at her job), Inara (the only one on the ship running a reputable business which is, granted, being a Companion, but still treated in a serious manner) and River (a psychic girl who fights her insanity to protect her friends and her brother).
- Wonder Woman was intended to be explicitly feminist like its comic book counterpart, but the network ordered the show's producers to tone down the messages.
- Once Upon a Time follows Emma Swan, a tough and cynical Bounty Hunter that finds her life turned on its head when the son she gave up for adoption shows up on her doorstep. He reveals to her that she is The Savior, the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming destined to break the Evil Queen's curse and save the enchanted residents of Storybrooke. Though initially unwilling to believe, over time Emma comes to accept her destiny as a hero. Featuring numerous characters from classical fairy tales and legends, many are re-imagined as heroines in their own right as opposed to typical Damsels. Snow White and Prince Charming are a Battle Couple, the Evil Queen is a complex and deeply flawed woman, Belle is a Guile Heroine, and even those women that don't physically fight are shown to possess other kinds of strength — great intelligence, supernatural might, or incredible emotional fortitude.
- Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is a Spin-Off of the above, and continues the tradition of strong women. Alice is not only an Action Girl, but brilliant and able to outwit the various Chessmasters gunning for her. Discovering that her Lost Lenore is still alive, Alice undertakes a quest to rescue him.
- The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the Spin-Off of the Terminator films. Picking up after the second film, it stars Lena Headey as Sarah and introduces Summer Glau as Cameron, a Terminator in the form of a young woman who has been sent back to protect John Connor. Much of the series revolves around the two women fighting to protect John from killer cyborgs, ensuring that he'll grow up to follow in his mother's footsteps as leader of the human resistance.
- Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) features a balanced cast, explores explicitly feminist themes, and features a fairly equal society. Secretary of Education Laura Roslin finds herself thrust into leadership as President of the refugee fleet, struggling to deal with maintaining power while hiding her terminal illness. Kara Thrace is an ace pilot with a troubled past, and mysterious visions that could lead humanity to salvation. Caprica Six is a seductive but strangely kind Cylon, with the Six models slowly finding themselves at the forefront of a philosophical divide among the Cylons. Three, played by Lucy Lawless, is a prophet that believes she can discover the identities of the divine Final Five models. The Eights, primarily Boomer and Athena, struggle with identity and finding their place in the world as they find themselves on opposite sides of the war. The series deals with issues of reproductive rights, female sexuality, abuse, sexual violence and its aftermath, troubled relationships, varying sexual orientations, and the problems women face as leaders. For every male lead, there is an equal female lead with her own unique journey.
- American Horror Story: Coven is a distinctly dark and twisted tale, driven by a diverse cast of women. The shadowy society of magic is almost predominantly female, with the powerful figures of Fiona Goode and Marie Laveau leading the rival groups. Unlike previous installments of the series, the women are the driving force of the story and rarely require assistance or protection from the few male characters. They fight their own battles, with each other as well as the various outside forces that threaten them. It deals with issues of older women as sexual beings, feminism as a force that changed society, sexual assault, and even women as dangerous figures in the form of abusers or killers. It neatly avoids the Double Standards concerning female-on-male violence, portraying either sex as equally capable of being the abuser or the victim. On multiple occasions, students of the school declare that they do not need men to protect them, facing down hordes of zombies or axe-wielding serial killers without needing for rescue.
- Nikita features two women as the main heroes in season 1 and in seasons 3 and 4 the primary antagonist is a woman. The titular character is considered among the most dangerous characters in the series. When most male division agents run into her it doesn't end well for them.
- Orphan Black is a gritty sci-fi series about a human cloning conspiracy. Along with having a main cast consisting almost entirely of complex female characters, the series explores themes of identity, motherhood, female autonomy, and reproductive rights.
- Agentsof SHIELD, another Joss Whedon project with an ensemble cast featuring multiple exceptional women. The women of the team are richly developed and bring something unique to the table — Melinda May is an Ace Pilot and legendary Badass known as "The Calvary" for her heroics, Skye is a brilliant hacker and resourceful as hell, and Simmons is a genius Bio-chemist well-respected for her expertise. The series also features multiple women in positions of authority, such as Maria Hill, Victoria Hand, and the director of the Academy of Science and Technology.
- Bayonetta is an insanely powerful Witch that uses Full-Contact Magic, a variety of weapons, her intelligence, and snark to tear her way through everything in her path. She is one of the last of the Umbra Witches, an order of women warriors charged with helping to uphold the balance of the world. The male cast members are almost entirely support or comic relief, with Bayonetta and Jeanne both serving as the driving force behind the game. Jubileus the Creator has a feminine form, suggesting that the God worshiped by the male Lumen Sages and the normal humans may in fact be female.
- Lollipop Chainsaw features a cheerful, perky cheerleader that slays zombies with a chainsaw. A chainsaw that spews rainbows and sparkles, because that's awesome. In order to save her boyfriend after he's bitten, she uses a spell to transform him into a living severed head and brings him along on her adventure to save the world from a zombie apocalypse. Suda51 uses Audience Surrogate Nick to illustrate points about unequal relationships and objectification, in this case quite literal.
- Bloodrayne follows Dhampyr Rayne, a One Woman Army working for the Brimstone Society. The first installment sees her battling Nazis during the second world war, while the sequel deals with her personal quest to wipe out her vampire kin. Powerful and highly skilled in martial arts and weaponry, Rayne tears her way through armies and supernatural horrors bent on world domination while dishing out snark. She shows great intelligent and ingenuity, often out-smarting her foes and coming out on top even when at a physical disadvantage. In the finale of the second game, after slaying her father and finding herself abandoned by the Brimstone Society in a nightmare world, it's hinted she intends to take over her father's territory — "Empress might not be a bad job title", indeed.
- Science Girls is about Exactly What It Says on the Tin - the science club of an all-female school which has to team up and use super-powers to fight off an alien invasion.
- Fem!Shep from the Mass Effect series is often held up as a feminist icon, because she is a badass galaxy-saving hero and her story is mostly interchangeable with her male countepart. While her gender is sometimes an issue (she gets mistaken for a stripper in one case and more than one creep hits on her, but they're always portrayed as slimy and she is very much able to put them in their place) there is one heartwarming instance of her bonding with a female alien over their mutual roles as important leaders for their species. One of the common complaints female players had with Mass Effect 3 is the gap got wider, with Fem!Shep getting the shorter end of the stick and being more sexualized. The romance with Kaidan Alenko is a notable example, with many female players thinking he comes across as much more of a "Nice Guy" with Fem!Shep than with Man!Shep.
- On a larger scale, the Asari are an all female alien race that have emerged as the dominant economic, cultural, technological, and diplomatic power in the galaxy. While their military isn't as big as the Turians', their individual soldiers are easily the best among all the races.
- Beyond Good & Evil has Jade, an Intrepid Reporter who goes up against the Government Conspiracy and handles herself extremely well in the situation. She is also commonly cited among the best examples of realistically proportioned and sensibly dressed female protagonists in video games.
- The Longest Journey and Dreamfall: The Longest Journey heroines April Ryan and Zoe Castillo are often considered by the fans to exemplify Feminist Fantasy, but their creator, while admitting a penchant for diligent and persevering women, denies that it was his main intention for creating them. Nevertheless, the fact is that both go out on an adventure, brave danger, proactively solve their own and others' problems and issues and ultimately save their world.
- Resident Evil features a very balanced approach to its protagonists, with multiple strong and capable women. The first two installments gave the player the choice of a male or female character, and subsequent titles have always had at least one strong female as either the primary or secondary lead. The majority are professionals working in law enforcement or the military, and any rescuing is divided equally between the genders. Those that aren't Action Girls are accomplished professionals, such as scientists or businesswomen. Ashley Graham is the lone exception, which is somewhat justified since she's The President's Daughter.
- Metroid was one of the first video game series to feature a strong female protagonist, even though the identity of Samus Aran was kept a secret until the finale.
- One of the things that makes Portal stand out from the pack that its only two characters are both female. GLaDOS is a deliciously snarky and manipulative character, and while Chell's Heroic Mime status makes her a bit of a blank slate, she's clearly intelligent and determined and isn't sexualized.
- Perfect Dark with the irony of being created as a Spiritual Successor to a James Bond game.
- No One Lives Forever, on the other hand, is an outright parody of James Bond but its heroine Cate Archer nevertheless stands out on her own.
- Final Fantasy X tricks the audience into believing that Tidus is the main character of the story. However, as the story progresses it becomes clearer that this is actually Yuna's story and he serves as the Audience Surrogate for her quest to save the world. Yuna begins the story as a naive young woman determined to sacrifice herself for the greater good, but as it goes on she must choose a new path in order to defeat Sin once and for all.
- The sequel features an all-female party, taking elements of the Magical Girl genre with transformations allowing them to harness different powers and abilities. The Gull Wings are primarily focused on enjoying the world they saved, but Yuna also seeks to rescue her Love Interest along the way. This results in them saving the world a second time.
- Final Fantasy XII features a naive male Audience Surrogate, but Rebellious Princess Ashe is the focal point of the plot, using political intrigue and supernatural or military might to reclaim her throne and save her kingdom. When an invasion killed first her husband, and then her father, rather than surrender to her fate....she faked her own death, and became part of an underground resistance. The others become involved in her quest, and follow her as she journeys across the lands in search of mystical artifacts, great weapons, and political allies to aid in her mission to save her kingdom. She becomes the focus of a mysterious race of god-like beings, who offer to make her a God-Queen ruling over all mankind. They encourage her desire for revenge, but ultimately she rejects them and chooses a path towards freedom and peace for mankind.
- Final Fantasy XIII was advertised as the first in the series to have a female protagonist (as opposed to previous titles that used a male as the Audience Surrogate), and centers primarily around the women of the story. Lightning is a capable and skilled soldier, and quickly establishes herself as a leader while struggling to open up to her new companions. Vanille and Fang also help drive the plot through their choices, and ultimately find a loophole to complete their Focus while still saving the people of Cocoon. The sequels expand upon this, with the focus upon the Goddess Etro and how her Seeress has shaped history. Serah takes the reigns of The Protagonist, while Lightning becomes a Champion of the Goddess. The final game of the trilogy, sees Lightning become the maiden of legend: the Savior, foretold to appear at the end of the world and lead mankind to salvation. It deviates from a party system, seeing Lightning become a literal One Woman Army on a divine mission to save mankind. The final confrontation with the Big Bad manages to further the feminist themes of the story: Upon learning that God intends to make humanity soulless puppets, with her as Etro's replacement, she uses her new-found power as a Goddess to defeat him. The many incarnations of the Seeress Yeul offer to take Lightning's place as the new Goddess of death to ensure the cycle of rebirth can be restored, while Lightning leads the souls of humanity to a new world.
- Persona 4 addresses issues concerning gender, with the majority of the party struggling in some capacity with the problems stereotypes and traditional expectations cause people. Tomboy Chie struggles with being viewed as "one of the guys", and feels jealousy towards her more traditionally feminine friend, Yukiko. Meanwhile, Yukiko feels trapped in her role as the heiress of an Inn, with her Shadow taking the form of a twisted Princess Classic waiting for a Prince to rescue her. (Of course, she has to do it herself.) Tough Guy Kanji resents being treated as less of a man for liking cute things and enjoying knitting, while Kid Detective Naoto pretends to be a man in order to be taken seriously in a male-dominated field. Finally, Idol Singer Rise struggles to define herself beyond the many roles she has played in her career, and worries about who the "real" Rise is. Her Dungeon takes on the form of a strip club, reflecting the darker side of fame for women.
- Parasite Eve stars Fair Cop Aya Brea, an NYPD detective that discovers her mutated genes have made her the only person capable of saving humanity. Her police training and growing powers make her a One Woman Army, battling her way through various mutated horrors in her quest to stop the titular Eve from destroying humanity. The sequels see her become an FBI agent, and once again the only woman capable of saving the human race.
- Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep stands out from the rest of the franchise for not only providing the first playable Heroine, but turning classic Disney films on their head a little with how she fits into their narratives. The story begins with Aqua earning the rank of Master, and being charged with locating and bringing home her True Companions when they go astray. She spends much of the game struggling to save Terra and Ventus from the darkness threatening them, and is the sole protagonist of the Final Chapter. An equal balance of Lady of War and Lady of Black Magic, she is an exceptionally skilled warrior and the most level-headed among the Power Trio. When encountering classic Princesses, she is the one who actively facilitates their happy endings — escorting Cinderella during her escape from Lady Tremaine, defeating the Magic Mirror and the Evil Queen to help save Snow White, and rescuing Prince Phillip from Maleficient's castle before they face down the sorceress-turned-dragon together. In the Final Chapter, it is revealed that she was the one that laid many significant pieces of groundwork for the main story — providing Kairi was the power of the Keyblade, creating Castle Oblivion to protect Ventus, and foiling Xehanort's original plan by destroying the x-Blade and leaving his new host (Terra) without memories. She was also the one to first encourage and warn Sora to watch over Riku, and never give up on him should he go astray in the future.
- Fatal Frame is an unusual example, as having female protagonists was intended to make the player feel more vulnerable. The unintended result was a series that focuses primarily on female characters, with heroines that rely on their intelligence and courage to overcome tormented spirits and dark curses while saving loved ones. Each game focuses on the downfall of cults that exploited Shrine Maidens for their power, causing a deadly curse. These curses were caused by traumatizing the Barrier Maiden while attempting to control her. And each curse is lifted through the female protagonist learning the Big Bad's tragic story and helping her find peace by making things right. The first game focuses on Miku's quest to save her older brother, while the second game focuses on the bond between twin sisters as one tries to rescue the other. The third deals with the nature of grief, tying together the two previous installments while focusing on Rei's journey into a dreamworld to find the soul of her dead lover. It features the first playable male character, noteworthy for being weaker than the women and forced to hide from spirits as a result.
- Much like BG&E, Mirror's Edge stars a tough free runner Faith who takes up the fight against the corrupt government (and a Government Conspiracy, to boot) to save her framed sister and sole surviving family.
- The Syberia series revolves around Kate Walker's journey, both physical and spiritual, from a professionally single-minded lawyer arriving in Valadilene to a Bold Explorer braving the wilderness of the eponymous lost island of Syberia.
- A Dance with Rogues is a very mixed bag. On the one hand, it holds absolutely no punches when it comes to dangers faced by a young woman with no status or family in a Medieval European Fantasy land—yes, that includes repeated enslavement, torture, rape, and murder attempts. On the other hand, it provides numerous opportunities to avoid danger by timely application of guts, wits, and skills or, failing that, to take revenge, persevere, and ultimately emerge a stronger and better person despite all of that.
- Dino Crisis and its first sequel are both Survival Horror games made by Capcom, starring a strong female protagonist. Regina is a highly-skilled professional soldier, serving as part of a team sent in to extract a rogue scientist. She's intelligent, calm under pressure, and highly capable of taking on the various Dinosaurs infesting the facility without any need for rescue. While her male peers primarily act as Mission Control or take on information gathering, Regina is responsible for much of the grunt work and Dinosaur-slaughtering necessary to survive.
- Folklore involves a supernatural murder mystery, told from the point of view of protagonists Ellen and Keats. While Keats follows behind, Ellen dives forward into a quest to discover her forgotten past and unravel the mysteries of the Netherword that threaten the residents of Doolin. Ellen is the latest in a long line of women chosen to be the Messenger, using a supernatural cloak to travel between the world of the Living and the Netherworld. As Ellen battles her way through various worlds, she comes closer to discovering the dark secrets that connect her to a tragedy from 15 years ago.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic shows that feminist works can find a wide audience. While the franchise has always been aimed at girls, and creator Lauren Faust created the cast as a way to remove generic "niceness" from the characterization of girls and avoid the problems inherent in The Chick note , the show is written to be enjoyed equally by parents and kids alike, and succeeds beautifully. It may be the only Western girls' cartoon that has inspired raiding threads on 4chan.org.
- The Legend of Korra, the sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender, exploits its predecessor's Cash Cow Franchise credentials, to be more "girl power"-oriented by dint of taking the risk of basing a children's action show around a female protagonist. It worked out. The boy viewers didn't care that the main character was a girl because they knew she was awesome. The original series had six recurring female characters with distinctive stories, and a few episodes with explicit feminist themes.
- Kim Possible broke the norm with the girl who can "do anything"; kickass females on the front lines, and in a Disney Channel action series, no less.
- The Powerpuff Girls. The entire series is based around cute, five-year-old little girls being badass and their femininity, or lack of, is not shown as a bad thing. The series encountered controversy over an episode featuring a Straw Feminist villain, Femme Fatale. She stole only Susan B. Anthony coins, and convinced the girls that men were their enemies — leading the girls to let her go and begin acting hostile towards men. Ms. Bellum, Mrs. Keane, and a female police officer pulled the girls aside, teaching them about equality and helping expose Femme Fatale as a hypocrite who injured female officers during her crimes and didn't know anything about Susan B. Anthony's role in history. Some felt the episode mocked Feminism, while others praised the focus on equality and learning about historical figures.
- Similar to the original comic book being a Magical Girl series created by westerners, the animated adaptation of W.I.T.C.H. is essentially a western Magical Girl series.
- She-Ra: Princess of Power paved the way for many of the above shows, being a spin-off of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) created to appeal to a female audience. The titular heroine is the long-lost sister of He-Man, and gains a magical sword that grants her the same superhuman powers he possesses. She is every bit her brother's physical equal, being a powerful Action Girl that uses brains and brawn to save the day. The cast is primarily female, with many an Action Girl involved in the Great Rebellion battling to free Etheria from the tyrant, Hordak. Unlike its sibling series, the Rebellion is at a constant disadvantage and must overcome through a combination of martial strength, intelligence, and inspiring the oppressed citizens to stand up for themselves. Like many Magical Girl series, typical elements of femininity are celebrated as sources of strength and physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strength are all treated as equally important traits. The generation that grew up with She-Ra went on to be the audience of other major series, such as Buffy and Xena.
- Rainbow Brite, with its Badass Adorable heroine and numerous Magical Girl elements that celebrate traditionally feminine aspects as sources of strength. Even before gaining her color-based magical powers and Cool Horse, Wisp was brave and determined, as well as quick-thinking and something of an Action Girl. As Rainbow Brite, she's a beloved ruler of Rainbowland and saves the universe alongside Jerk with a Heart of Gold Krys in the Darker and Edgier movie.
- Totally Spies! features Sam, Alex, and Clover — three Ordinary High School Students who happen to be super-spies that regularly save the world. Their high-tech gadgets are often things like makeup or accessories, turning the feminine into powerful tools that help that take down villains or escape various dangers. Typical teenaged drama about romance, cute boys, fashion, and dealing with the resident Alpha Bitch are combined with James Bond-styled action and heroics. Word of God admits to being inspired by the anime Dirty Pair, another series about female spies.
- Disney Fairies, Straight-to-DVD film series about six fairies with different "talents" (gardening, fast-flying, animal husbandry, water and light-bending) with no love interests who always go on adventures. The main protagonist is a "tinkerer" which is the equivalent of an inventor and mechanic.