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Iron Lady

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Mr. Tito, I don't "meddle" in politics. I am politics.

"Throughout history, Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi; these are women you may not wanna fuck, but you definitely don't wanna fuck with them."
Robin Williams, Weapons of Self-Destruction

Non-royal women in positions of power are almost always portrayed as very stoic and no-nonsense, at least publicly. Rarely will you find a female president, prime minister, governor, legislator, judge, business executive, or military leader who is presented as indecisive, incompetent, or otherwise "weak." She's also usually not portrayed as corrupt, either, although if she's directing things from behind the scenes, that tends to change.

The reason usually given for this is that women seeking positions of power (as opposed to those who inherit them), both in reality and in fiction, are faced with two unfortunate truths:

  1. That they need to give the appearance of toughness, ruthlessness, and coldness in order to get past other people's masculine-tinted expectations of leadership,
  2. That in the circles such women travel in, they actually need to be tough, ruthless, and cold. The ones who aren't are left by the wayside.

Thus, female leaders are generally portrayed as trying to demonstrate their iron will at all times. Indeed, they have to lest they lose all credibility.

Mind you, it's not that she's all iron. In private, she can be quite warm, even loving. Seeing as the camera can take us anywhere, we often get to see it. However, her public does not.

The model for this in the contemporary world is Margaret Thatcher, who was beyond iron to somewhere around titanium towards her (entirely male) cabinet, and defines the "presidential Premiership" in British politics even more than Tony Blair. The nickname was applied to her in an insulting manner by the Soviet military newspaper Red Star in 1976, when she was still Leader of the Opposition, but soon became affectionate. (No mental fatigue, only metal fatigue.)

In most media, she is likely to have Power Hair. In anime, it is more often long hair, in whatever color. See Margaret Thatcher again, of course.

Such characters are prone to discover a well-hidden maternal instinct towards their subordinates, making this a Distaff Counterpart to A Father to His Men (although usually not military). Compare with Proper Lady, which provides the Iron Lady some foundation. Compare Silk Hiding Steel, where her iron disposition is hidden beneath smiles and Passive-Aggressive Kombat.

Compare/contrast Evil Matriarch and Grande Dame. Also contrast her possible opposites, Stepford Smiler, Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher, and Cute and Psycho, all of whom are more prone to using emotion to get what they want rather than setting it aside as the Iron Lady does.

If she is royal, see The High Queen and/or God Save Us from the Queen!. If she works in a corporate field, very likely to be a High-Powered Career Woman. For her typical Evil Counterpart, see The Queenpin. For the evil and sexy version, see The Baroness. May well have been a Go-Getter Girl when younger. The Lady of War is a comparable action-ready variant (and they can overlap each other if she's active both in the field of battle and politics simultaneously) as well.

Not to be confused with Iron Maiden.

For the 2011 movie about Margaret Thatcher starring Meryl Streep, see The Iron Lady.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Najenda, the coolly effective leader of the assassin group Night Raid in Akame ga Kill!.
  • In Appleseed, Athena is the supreme executive leader of the city/nation of Olympus. There's a council of elders and a super-computer who make all the big long term decisions but how she runs Olympus is entirely her own choice. It helps that she is an artificially created human genetically manipulated to do exactly that, and she does it extremely well. For large parts of the manga and some of the animes, it's not clear if she's a particularly tough High Queen or actually the Big Bad. It turns out to be the former.
  • Frances Middleford from Black Butler is an example of this trope. She makes Sebastian break out in a cold sweat.
  • Balalaika from Black Lagoon, The Leader of a gang of Russian commandos-turned-hitmen and the scariest member of their outfit by far.
  • Cornelia from Code Geass is a ruthless military version complete with hidden soft side. A rare royal example. Also willing to sacrifice innocent Japanese civilians as part of tactics (and out of racism).
  • In Gaiking: Legend of Daiku Maryu, the West General of Darius, Vestaanu, is the cold, calculating, ineffable military commander of the Iron Beast Corps.
  • General Olivier Armstrong from Fullmetal Alchemist is held to be scary by her soldiers, her family, and the protagonist. She is a Social Darwinist and ruthless in her operations.
  • Hellsing: When she was just a child, Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing was almost killed by her Evil Uncle for the right to control the family business. After that she has been the head of the Hellsing family and master of Alucard. Integra is definitely more stoic and "masculine" than the other female lead, Seras, and even in the Convention of Twelve—a gathering of all sorts of important people from military, Parliament and the like—she is by far the most calm and collected.
  • In Kill la Kill, we have Satsuki Kiryuin who ruled over the Honouji Academy with an iron fist.
  • Kiss of the Rose Princess: Yamamoto Anis will not take any of these dimension warping shenanigans sitting down, thank you very much! She may have just been informed that her father intends to sacrifice her to a seal of unknown demonic origin and otherwise make her life hell, but she is not going to just sit around and mope. No. She is going to kick her Knights' collective asses into gear. You will obey or you will get the rose thorns of doom.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing's Lady Une, who's actually called "Iron Une". Manga Frozen Teardrop has Dorothy T. Catalonia referred to as the "Neo-Titanium Lady".
  • From Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, we have Haman Karn, advisor to Princess Mineva and de facto ruler of Neo-Zeon, because said princess is only seven years old. We also see businesswoman Stephanie Luio of Hong Kong in Zeta, in a more benevolent version.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, Mineva herself has picked up some of these traits, likely following Haman's example. It's enough that she's able to put on a commanding presence in front of very powerful people despite being only 16 years old at this point.
  • Asuka Langley Soryu from Neon Genesis Evangelion desperately wants to be one of these, and indeed she starts out fitting the mold. Unfortunately, she tragically underestimates the cost of keeping her emotions inside and focusing only on success.
  • Svetlana Belikova, President of the Eastern Slav Republic in Resident Evil: Damnation. How hard is she? Not only is she willing to unleash a Plaga outbreak on her own people to see her ambitions through, but she's enough of a badass to effortlessly beat both Leon S. Kennedy and Ada Wong in hand-to-hand combat. SHE. CURBSTOMPS. ADA. FREAKING. WONG.
  • In Super Dimension Fortress Macross (aka Robotech's season one), Misa Hayase (Lisa Hayes) is this initially, but over time her cold and professional appearance begins to fade away and she grows more emotional.
  • Kiyoko Aura from Tokyo Ghoul. A Living Legend that was the very first (and thus far, only) woman to earn the rank of Special Class, she is a stern and no-nonsense woman in contrast to her male counterparts. In the male-dominated CCG, she is the commander of the organization's combat Division and a fierce Lady of War when called to the front lines. She is also noted to be a Celibate Hero, having given up personal relationships in favor of her career.
  • Trinity Blood has a couple. Despite being called Iron Lady, Caterina Sforza seems more like this in the anime version, while tough and willful, she's not stoic in the manga and the novels, she grows increasingly emotional. Mary Spencer and Queen Esther Blanchett (who becomes a war leader) are better examples.

    Comic Books 
  • Amanda Waller from The DCU, though her actions here (and in other incarnations) often drift into Well-Intentioned Extremist territory. Batman avoids pissing her off if he can help it.
  • Judge Dredd:
    • Chief Judge McGruder; since she was based on Margaret Thatcher, this is appropriate.
    • Hershey also showed elements of this during her tenure as chief judge.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • The Grand Councilwoman of the United Galactic Federation in Lilo & Stitch.
  • In Turning Red, Wu is somewhere between this, Evil Matriarch, and a Grande Dame. She's old, very dignified, sets impossibly high standards, and insists absolutely that things be done according to custom. On the other hand, she isn't evil, just rigid and old-fashioned in her view of life. However, she's also surprisingly open-minded: when all the Lee women gather on the astral plane, Wu is the first to acknowledge that Mei has a right to make her own choice about her panda spirit.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Scheherazade in Arabian Nights seems a toned-down version of this. She was restricted by her culture to the context of harem intrigue, of course, but she plays this trope as far as it can go within the context. She was intelligent, brave, and knew her own mind.
  • The Bible has a a few interesting examples:
    • Esther was rather like this. She was like Scheherazade, but ruthless as well. She is one of only two women to have a book of the Tanakh (Jewish Bible) named after her.
    • Deborah, the only female Judge of Israelnote . With her general Barak, she led the Israelites against the Canaanites (Barak didn't trust his own judgment). In her own words:
      Deborah: Truly, the Lord will sell the Canaanites this day into the hand of a woman!
    • You might also include Judith from the deuterocanonical book of the same name.
  • Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada. Although she's the editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine, she fits this trope perfectly.
  • In the Discworld series, it's easier to name women in a position of authority who aren't this, but first and foremost we have the head witch Granny Weatherwax, whose cast-iron demeanor is proven time and again against the Fair Folk and other horrors; Adora Belle Dearheart, the owner of the Clacks and one of the leaders of the burgeoning industrial revolution, is another.
  • In The Divine Comedy, the heavenly Beatrice is compared to a stern admiral when she reunites with her lover, Dante, since she scolds him to tears to get him to fully confess his many, many infidelities. This first appearance is not harsh without reason, since Beatrice has been charged with leading Dante's quest into Heaven, where no evil man can go.
  • Karrin Murphy, in her days as the chief of SI police department, from The Dresden Files.
  • Lucia Nesbitt from First Contact Is Bad for You is rather stern and business oriented, and almost always referred to by her last name by anyone but her family. She holds no official title; instead she works through her husband Tiberius, who is a governor.
  • Ma Joad from The Grapes of Wrath is an example of this trope. She exemplifies all the traits but, most importantly, manages to hold the family together through sheer force of will alone.
  • Professor Minerva McGonagall of the Harry Potter series is demonstrably an Iron Lady (even if she does get a bit worked up over Gryffindor Quidditch), and is especially fierce when fighting Death Eaters.
  • President Eloise Pritchart from the Honor Harrington series is a no-nonsense President Iron with a spine of steel who survived two revolutions and a bloody regime and came out on top, who takes crap from no one, and who makes brutal but necessary decisions as she tries to govern a star nation fighting a war. Then she decides she's had enough of being manipulated and heads off to Manticore with no warning to kickstart the Grand Alliance, which puts an end to the Manticore-Haven war in a hurry.
  • The Independence Day novelization portrays the President's wife Marilyn as a popular figure who does a lot to help Tom Whitmore accomplish much.
  • Nasuada of Inheritance Cycle. She's strong-willed from day one, but learns to manipulate people and stand up to mages with incredible magical powers.
  • In the McAuslan story The Gordon Women, this trope is dominated by MacNeill's aunt Allison, who quickly and neatly manages to defuse a conflict between a retired Admiral and the locals who poach his grouse without raising her voice or getting out of her chair, leaving poor MacNeill to wonder when exactly the woman who tucked him into bed and read him stories as a child became the bastard daughter of Ellie Ewing and Vito Corleone.
  • Nina Tanleven: In The Ghost Wore Gray, Gloria Cleveland is always shown as stern and controlling - nobody, not even her husband or the short-tempered Dieter Schwartz, dares disobey her when she gives an order. The only time she’s shown being softer is when Baltimore is hurt and she rushes to his side.
  • From The Silmarillion, the Human chieftainess Haleth who led her people out of Morgoth's country into Beleriand.
  • Song at Dawn: For Emerganda and Alienor a 'take charge' mindset is required for them to have any influence at all. Both of them daily battle against men who try to undercut their authority.
    • Emerganda is the duchess of a region of France and keeps a sharp eye on its finances and potential civil unrest.
    • Alienor, a duchess and a queen, laments that being pregnant makes her more emotional.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Lady Maege Mormont and her daughters, who are war leaders as well.
    • Olenna Redwyne, known as "The Queen of Thorns", is another example. Her son Mace Tyrell rules house Tyrell and she has no real power aside from being the old lord's widow, but no-one doubts that the Lady Olenna is the one who is ultimately in control.
    • Genna Frey, née Lannister, is another woman whose displeasure should not be regarded lightly. "Tywin Lannister" is a byword for Pragmatic Villainy, but she can cow her big brother into submission with a few well-chosen words.
  • The Star Wars Legends version of Leia becomes this as she helps found the New Republic government and later becomes Chief of State for a time.
    • Leia had an Evil Counterpart in Natasi Daala, a former Imperial admiral who oversaw the construction of the Death Star and was later elected Chief of State, becoming a President Evil. She was discriminated against for her sex in the beginning of her career, leading her to become The Stoic.
  • The Duchessa Silvia in Stravaganza: City of Masks - and throughout the series, her successor, Ariana, is learning the way of the Iron Lady too.
  • Alosha, the smith-witch in Uprooted. She has a few centuries under her belt and no longer bothers with deep personal attachments to lovers or great-grandchildren, rather safeguarding the welfare of Polnya as a country. She's the most level-headed mage in the capital and is savvy to the political games without being foolish enough to get invested in them, and she's also brutally pragmatic and has no qualms about telling Agnieszka that she should have just killed Kasia (who Agnieszka rescued from the Wood and its corruption) both because she's a potential physical liability and a decided political one.
  • The Wheel of Time has several examples (Robert Jordan really liked having powerful women in his supporting cast), but none as notable as Sorilea and Cadsuane, two elder women of extreme authority and confidence. Sorilea is brash and aggressive in a Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior! manner, knowing her social status will have everyone jumping at her commands, while Cadsuane has spent several hundred years making herself a Living Legend, and plays a mixture of her reputation and her utter refusal to let anyone sway her course to get her way.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On The 100, Lexa fits this trope, believing that Love Is a Weakness, and being renowned even by other Grounders for her ruthlessness. However, Abby is an aversion, being very emotional and soft-hearted even after becoming Chancellor, while Clarke alternates between the two extremes, taking influence from both Abby and Lexa. Their leadership styles are portrayed as being the result of their upbringing, individual personalities, and the situations they find themselves in; gender is treated as a non-factor.
  • Allison Taylor of 24 exhibits this, to everybody's surprise (in-universe).
    • The hilarious thing about Allison Taylor is that she can almost literally will anybody to do just about anything they don't want to do, and then she can make you feel glad you did it afterwards.
  • Moira Queen in CW's Arrow is this, as she runs Queen Industries and holds a lot of influence in Star City.
  • This is also a casting trope on Australian Survivor as well. Women of this trope include Kate Tembly, a successful businesswoman and global banking executive; Sharn Coombes, an extremely successful barrister; and Janine Allis, the founder of the company Boost Juice and one of the shark investors on Australian Shark Tank (Dragon's Den).
  • Babylon 5:
    • Susan Ivanova, the station's second-in-command.
    Ivanova: "On you way back, I'd like you to practice the Babylon 5 Mantra: Ivanova is always right. I will listen to Ivanova. I will not ignore Ivanova's recommendations. Ivanova is God. And if this ever happens again, Ivanova will personally rip your lungs out! Babylon Control out. [to herself] Civilians. [glances upward] Just kidding about the God thing. No offense?"
    • Delenn can also be described as such, if you cross her or (especially) her sense of what's right. Her breaking the Grey Council when they wouldn't act against the Shadows epitomized that, and it's a safe bet that Sheridan was grateful most of his days that she had his back when it counted.
    • Though she doesn't get as much screentime as the others, President Susanna Luchenko, President Clark's successor, comes across this way as well. She comes into office in the aftermath of a civil war and is faced with the tough decision of what to do with Sheridan, the hero of the hour who committed borderline treason to depose Clark. She gives him a Morton's Fork choice then warns him not to mistake this for a conversation.
  • Laura Roslin of Battlestar Galactica is this to a T.
  • Veronica Palmer, Ted's boss in Better Off Ted.
  • This trope has been used as a casting trope on the CBS's reality TV competition show, Big Brother a few times. These women include Danielle Reyes (S3, 7), Kail Harbick (S8), Shelly Moore (S13) and Helen Kim (S15).
  • Captain Gates on Castle. She even is nicknamed Iron Gates.
  • Chuck brings us Brigadier General Diane Beckman. Later seasons show she does have some warmth beneath her cold-as-steel facade, with these moments usually being the rare times in which Beckman is used for outright comedy. However throughout the series run it's been made very clear that this is a woman that can intimidate Casey! Not to say that her steely persona isn't the source of occasional gags as well.
  • Patty Hughes, the ruthless -- if highly effective -- lawyer from Damages.
  • Death in Paradise has Judge Ann Stone, a stern and imperious older lady who once jailed her own police commissioner for traffic violations. Discussed when she is interviewed regarding the death of a high-class male escort: in a rare candid moment, she describes The Chains of Commanding and the strain of maintaining her impeccable public image, and admits that the escort's company made her feel happier and livelier than she had in years.
  • Harriet Jones as a Prime Minister in Doctor Who, sometimes too much (it helps she's something of an Expy of Thatcher).
  • Inspector Thatcher on Due South, whose nickname from one of the Rays was the Dragon Lady. (not to be confused with the Dragon Lady trope.) Yes, she was named after the real Thatcher.
  • Madeline on La Femme Nikita may be the coldest Iron Lady in TV history.
    • And Amanda in the newest incarnation (Nikita) isn't far behind her.
  • Game of Thrones: Lyanna Mormont is a stoic, determined, brave, and no-nonsense leader despite her very young age.
  • Get Shorty: Amara is a cartel boss in Las Vegas who killed the boss she was sold to as a teenager before he could exercise his Marital Rape License and became a boss herself. She hasn't slowed down dropping bodies, either.
  • Spoofed in a The Goodies episode where Bill and Tim both run for Prime women.
  • The American House of Cards:
    • Margaret Tilden, owner of The Washington Herald (a thinly-veiled version of The Washington Post) is a solid woman firmly devoted to her paper willing to do whatever it takes to keep it in the black. On the flipside, she is perfectly comfortable firing her Editor-in-Chief for business reasons one minute and going out for friendly drinks with him the next.
    • Also fitting the trope—but vastly differently—is Claire Underwood. She runs her nonprofit with an iron fist, and is one of the few people capable of manipulating her husband—who starts the series House Majority Whip and by the end of Season 2 is President of the United States—for her own ends. In her capacity as head of the nonprofit, she merely exhibits the hardheaded and ruthless side of the trope; but as the Woman Behind the Man for Frank, she exhibits some distinctly sinister characteristics.
  • Joan Holloway of Mad Men is a subtle example. While much more traditionally feminine than most examples (being very conventionally attractive, and dressing to emphasize that) and intially focused on traditionally feminine goals (finding a man and marrying), she is from the beginning a peerlessly firm boss when introduced as head of the secretarial pool in Season 1 (1960). By the time she becomes office manager and a partner in Season 5 (1965-66), she is confident both in her authority over the agency's workflow and in her commitment to career, and by Season 7 (1969-70) is regularly making highly active use of her partnership stake to protect and advance her interests. By the end of the series, she's a millionaire and set up for a long and successful career in business.
  • Mary McDonnell seems to have a liking for these, as she played one as Captain Sharon Raydor (first as Force Investigation Division head in The Closer, then as Major Crimes division head in Major Crimes).
    • Her predecessor at Major Crimes, Brenda Leigh Johnson in The Closer, is like this, but closer to Silk Hiding Steel.
  • Jenny Shepherd in NCIS. She had a bit of a Captain Ahab complex but she was tough, good at her job, and had a Dying Moment of Awesome.
  • Detective Carter from Person of Interest surely qualifies.
  • Elaine Barrish Hammond from Political Animals. Given that she was an expy of Hillary Rodham Clinton (and was played by Sigourney Weaver), this probably shouldn't be too surprising.
  • Chief Vicks from Psych is tough enough that even Shawn Spencer knows better than to cross her... usually.
  • Miranda in Sex and the City is a ball-busting Manhattan lawyer who is constantly trying to find a man who doesn't feel castrated by her presence.
  • Stargate Atlantis: Dr. Elizabeth Weir in her time as leader of the Atlantis expedition certainly qualifies. She makes the tough decisions with a firm hand and very, VERY rarely shows weakness (and then, only to Sheppard, her second-in-command and best friend.)
  • Star Trek: Voyager: Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager (Depending on the Writer, but then Voyager had problems like that).
  • Supernatural: Doctor Hess, leader of the British Men of Letters, is a very nasty villainous example. She leads a genocidal secret organization who are A Nazi by Any Other Name in nearly every way, and she does not tolerate any signs of weakness or morality in her agents and pupils, forcing her schoolboys to kill each-other as nothing more than a rite of passage into the order.
  • This is a common casting trope on the CBS's reality TV competition show, Survivor. They are older women (ages 35+) who were cast because of their accomplishments in their successful careers. Notable women of this casting trope are Debb Eaton (S2), Vecepia Towery (S4), Jeanne Hebert (S6), Jolanda Jones (S10), Stephannie Favor (S13), Cassandra Franklin (S14), Tracy Hughes-Wolf (S16), Jill Behm (S21), Edna Ma (S23), Denise Stapley (S25), Sherri Biethman (S26), Kass McQuillen (S28, 31), Val Collins (S29), Carolyn Rivera (S30), Jessica Lewis (S33), Chrissy Hofbeck (S35) and Natalie Cole (S37). Evidence of them being cast for their career accomplishments is clear from their pre-game/pre-season interviews and the host's cast assessments.
  • Mrs. Frederic (C.C.H. Pounder) on Warehouse 13.
  • British Prime Minister Maureen Graty on The West Wing, a thinly-veiled reference to Margaret Thatcher, who threatens to start a full-scale war over the terrorist shooting of a British plane and has to be talked down.
  • Lynne Thigpen as Da Chief on Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?. Although, around Greg she was the Only Sane Employee.
  • Zero Zero Zero: Emma Lynwood assumes her father's mantle as head of the family drug shipping company. She navigates many extremely difficult and dangerous situations with stoicism and professionalism. In the final scene, she calmly walks through the carnage of a recent bloodbath and is made to sit between two corpses to complete a business deal with the newest leader of The Cartel. Through great effort, she refuses to dignify the theatrics with the slightest acknowledgement and even forces herself to smile at a few sicarios on the way out.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: Many Clans have female Khans as their leader, and nobody bats an eye on them, as the critical qualification for being a Khan is being a real badass, while being a man doesn't figure high on the list to say the least. The most recent example is Malvina Hazen of Clan Jade Falcon who won her position in a Trial of Possession from the previous Khan Jana Pryde.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Morovenn Vahl, the abbess of the Adepta Sororitas, was appointed to the High Lords of Terra. While the Ecclesiarch sought to use her for his own purposes, she proved to be harder to control. She showed up to government meetings in full battle armour and continued to lead major military campaigns, even appointing herself head of a crusade.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age has several.
    • Dragon Age: Origins:
      • Queen Anora is not actually royalty by birth, but the daughter of a minor noble who rose through the ranks using his exceptional guts and brains. She inherited both of those from him and then some. Her father's best friend was King Maric, and from a very young age Anora was betrothed to Maric's son Cailan; it's mentioned several times that she was the real force behind the throne during their marriage.
      • A female Cousland or Aeducan Warden may be this trope, depending on player choices.
    • Dragon Age II:
      • Knight-Commander Meredith takes over running the city after the murder of the Viscount, despite protests, and holds it together through fear and personal charisma. Similarly to her predecessor, she struggles to make any inroads defusing the tensions in the city, and truthfully just makes it worse. The red lyrium driving her insane doesn't help.
      • Aveline Vallen, just one year after arriving in the city as a penniless refugee, manages to get a job in the city guard and is promoted to captain of the guard because all the guardsmen consider her to be by far the most capable person for the position after exposing the corruption of her predecessor. Varric, in the third game, remarks that Kirkwall would probably fall into the sea without her to keep things running smoothly.
      • In a non-mage Hawke run, if Bethany joins the Grey Wardens at the end of Act 1, she effectively becomes this, after spending the first act as The Ingenue. Bringing her back for either of the DLC campaigns proves that she is not happy about taking on this role.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition:
      • Vivienne is a high-ranking Circle Mage from Orlais whose court nickname is "Madame de Fer"note . Interestingly, she's an Action Fashionista who might look delicate next to the heavily-armoured Cassandra - but elaborate outfits are all part of the "Grand Game" where she comes from.
      • Similarly to the Warden, a female Trevelyan Inquisitor may fit the trope if the player deems it.
  • Fallout:
  • Mass Effect 2:
    • Aria rules Wretched Hive Omega through force of personality and also force of...force. The previous ruler was a krogan; she beat him in a straight-up one-on-one biotic battle during which she crushed one of his hearts and made him a broken shell. Then she kept him around as a living trophy. Knowing all that, it hardly needs to be said that the only rule on Omega is "Don't fuck with Aria." (But she says it anyway.)
    • Commander Shepard can be played this way if female, especially if she is of the "paragade" or "renegon" moralities, which usually involves a relative fairness with a dash of tough love.
  • The Boss from Metal Gear Solid 3. She is known as the Mother of Special Forces and is a living legend in both the US and USSR. Interpretations of her final will are what set the events of the entire series in motion.
  • Tatiana Qwartz of No Straight Roads is a played with example in that she's the CEO of a record company, but since said company basically controls the entirety of Vinyl City, she still fits this trope, complete with stern, no-nonsense demeanor when it comes to managing her company and the city.
  • Lady Webb in Pillars of Eternity is a powerful Cipher and the chief of Dunryd Row—an intelligence agency-slash-Secret Police of the Defiance Bay staffed exclusively by her fellow Ciphers. She has artificially prolonged her life multiple times and, over many decades, built a massive network of connections, secrets, and agents that let her keep the inherently unruly residents of Dyrwood from destroying their own social structures—and for this, she is feared and respected even in the highest echelons of power.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic:
    • Governor Leotyne Saresh of Taris is a no-nonsense leader dedicated to making the Republic's re-colonization of the devastated world a success. Even when the Empire invades and completely undoes everything she's accomplished, she still has enough political capital to be elected Supreme Chancellor of the Republic, after which she takes it in a more hard-line direction in regards to the Empire.
    • General Garza, the commanding officer of the Republic Trooper character class, is an aging special forces war hero who keeps her forces running with an even hand—much better than most branches of Republic military, in fact. She is also impeccably polite and even motherly, at times, especially when the Trooper has to make tough choices.
    • Empress Acina of the The Empire ascends during the events of the Fallen Empire story arc. She's a bit of a subdued example in that she is a bit more relaxed and chatty than is usual for this trope, but otherwise is a shrewd leader who shows up a with a fleet at exactly the right time to make a favourable case for an alliance. It's through her efforts that The Empire is slowly dragging itself into a less self-destructive regime and recovering from the pounding its taken in the last few years.
  • Yakuza 2: Yayoi Dojima, who takes over as interim Chairman of the Tojo Clan after the death of Yukio Terada. In spite of having no formal standing in the organization and only being linked to it through being married to the deceased patriarch Sohei Dojima, not to mention being a woman in the strongly misogynistic world of organized crime, she still provides decisive and effective leadership through one of the darkest periods in the Tojo Clan's history. It's telling that even old street monsters like Kiryu, Majima and Kashiwagi show her nothing but respect and deference.

    Visual Novels 
  • Heidi from Daughter for Dessert runs a tight ship as a bar owner, and doesn’t take crap from anyone.
  • Double Homework:
    • Dr. Mosely/Zeta is a version of this: blunt, focused, and ruthless when the need arises, even though she helps others when she can afford to.
    • Amy’s mom knows her way around power and authority as the queen.
    • Defied with Ms. Walsh. Dr. Mosely specifically put an incompetent teacher in charge of the summer school class so the girls would seek out the protagonist as their leader instead.
    • Deconstructed with Morgan. As part of her backstory, Morgan narrates that she attempted a convenience store robbery to prove that she was running a “real” gang. Instead, she got arrested and spent a year behind bars.
  • Iron Clie from Chou Dengeki Stryker earned her name both for her stern demeanor and the prosthetic arm that she wears openly. About the only time she softens is when teasing her Shrinking Violet sister Rin. After their Heel–Face Turn and the revelation that Clie's arm is a prototype Stryker System, Rin volunteers to have her mind uploaded into Clie's cybernetics to unlock its full potential. Fittingly, the sisters' combined form is known as Stryker Hagane, meaning "steel".
  • Arisse, the Duchess of Lillah from Long Live the Queen, is said to be regarded by many as the second queen of Nova for her strong, no-nonsense approach to government. If the actions Elodie takes paint her as being a weak ruler, Arisse will garner support from the other nobles to instigate a civil war against her. It's possible to learn of her involvement with some dark secrets within her family (provided that you have Elodie take enough Internal Affairs classes and direct her spies and agents appropriately), but there's no denying her influence.

  • In Gifts of Wandering Ice both Lara (chief of the hunters' tribe) and her heir Rita are strong, brave women, and are born leaders.
  • Last Res0rt has several tough ladies, but none that embodies this trope like Celigo's military leader, First Wing (and Messiah of the Endless) Veled.
    • Another possible candidate: the Star Org's Security Chief, Spirit of the Murphy's Law.
  • Project0: Veronica fits most of the description. She's also the only woman among the 6 commanders of the Harvester.
  • Medea Solon from Your Throne. She is ruthless, cold, and tough in order to maintain her political power and outwit her enemies.
  • In The Manor's Prize The Chariot is depicted as being cold, calculating, and rude. She is stated to be a businesswoman, and after shouting down another contestant, she states "You don't get far in business by putting up with shit."

    Web Original 
  • A Giant Sucking Sound: President Ann Richards, in her dealings with Congress and her attacks on the website Stormfront.
  • In Noob, the second-in-command of both the elite guilds depicted is a woman with such a behavior. In Justice, Saphir is also taking care of admissions, has strict criteria for applicants and has very strong words for those that apply despite not matching her criteria in hope that she'll make an exception for them. In Roxxor, Roxana is shown to be very strict with her subordinates.
  • SF Debris presents an Alternative Character Interpretation of Captain Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager that still fits this trope. However, his characterization of her starts off as a power-hungry dictator who likes killing, and eventually move to intentionally causing massive war in the Alpha Quadrant so that she can take over after everything goes to hell. This plan is spelled out while she talks to Captain Picard, whose replicators she had programmed to put amnesia drugs into his tea, so that she could gloat about her plan without actually allowing Picard to thwart it. By the way, this characterization is completely contained in his reviews. Unity, his massive crossover fanfic with Star Wars, makes things worse.
    "Oh, I love Janeway! She's my favorite villain!"

    Western Animation 
  • Princess Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender appears to be an adolescent Iron Lady crossed with Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy, and later adds elements of Ax-Crazy.
  • Amanda Waller, chief of the Project Cadmus in Justice League, is so iron, she stands up to Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman at the same time upon her first introduction, chews out the Goddamn Batman, and personally confronts Lex Luthor in his lair upon discovering his treachery.
    • Waller shows up again in Young Justice (2010), running a penitentiary for super-powered criminals. Even after the crooks take over the prison thanks to a mole on her staff and start threatening her life, she doesn't give them an inch. Sadly, said mole ends up replacing her after she takes the fall for the near-breakout.
  • The Legend of Korra gives us Lin Beifong, who is a more literal case with actual metal armor. She is the chief of the Metalbending Police Force in Republic City for the power part. And yes, she does bear a striking resemblance to Thatcher.
    • Book 4 gives us Kuvira; a minor, unassuming, soldier who rose in power during the three year gap and becomes a military leader known as The Great Uniter.
    • Firelord Izumi (Zuko's daughter) only speaks in one scene in the entire show but comes off as very no-nonsense (including shooting Prince Wu a motherly-esque Death Glare), conscientious, and patient. She stands her ground about not taking military action when President Raiko tries to talk her into it.

    Real Life 
  • Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor under Franklin D. Roosevelt and the first woman to hold a position in the American Cabinet, was noted for two things: being very cold and aloof in her dealings with her associates—even other Cabinet members—and her steely determination to improve the lot of the working American. Without her advocacy, several landmark items of American labor legislation—most notably the Social Security Act (which established Social Security) and the National Labor Relations Act (which severely limited employers' ability to break unions)—would either not have existed or would be substantially different.
  • Clare Boothe Luce: Congresswoman, Intrepid Reporter, Author, Lady of Adventure, and fabled Deadpan Snarker (and inveterate rival of Dorothy Parker).
  • Red October era Bolshevik commissar Rosalia Zemlyachka. A member of the Bolshevik Party since 1905, one of the leaders of the Moscow Soviet in 1917, oversaw a bloody purge of former Whites, bourgeoisie and generally unlucky guys in Crimea in 1920, was a minor orchestrator of the more known Great Purge of 1937-39 (and not an eventual victim of it, like pretty much everyone else responsible, by virtue of being too dangerous to provoke), died peacefully of old age after World War 2.
  • Indira Gandhi of India, who remains till date the only female Prime Minister of that country. At one point, she was even de facto dictator of India for almost two years (the Indian Emergency, 1975-77). Much like Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom, she remains a highly polarizing individual in India to this very day. Suffice to say, she was seen as both a progressive choice (pro-birth control and women empowerment) and a regressive one (authoritarian rule, nepotism, corruption and - funnily enough - the aforementioned birth control scheme). She was assassinated in 1984 by her own bodyguards, in retaliation for the Golden Temple Incident (also known as Operation Blue Star). The Other Wiki has more details, as well as an overview of why she remains so divisive.
  • Jeannette Rankin — the only person to vote against the United States going to war in both World War I and World War II. World War II in particular — she was the only Member of Congress to vote against the US declaration of war against Japan. Whatever one might think of those votes, standing on your principles like that takes big brass ones (whatever those ones might be).
  • Trope Namer Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of the UK from 1979-1990, is of course the most famous example, and the Trope Codifier as a Russian newspaper attempted to insult her for an anti-communism speech, and as history has shown, failed spectacularly.
  • Katharine "Kay" Graham, owner/publisher of The Washington Post and Pulitzer Prize winner. She was almost the sole woman in publishing for many a year, even though she ended up there accidentally — her father had owned the paper and left it to her husband, Phil Graham, something which Graham said she never had any issue with. She only inherited the paper after Phil committed suicide, and spoke and wrote frequently about how she only evolved into this trope very slowly, being shy, anxious, accomodating, and uncomfortable being in a position of power (especially as a woman), at first. However, after having to make decisions such as those seen in The Post and during Watergate, she got there. It's fairly likely that Margaret Tilden of the US House of Cards (in Live Action TV above) is based in large part on her.
  • Philippine Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago definitely counts. To note, she has worked on all primary branches of the country's government, has attained a few masteral and doctorate degrees from a few globally-reputed universities, was considered for a position in the International Criminal Courtnote , and previously ran for the position of President thrice. A quick look at her speeches and inquiries through various televised hearings in the Senate (the part of Congress where she has stayed the longest) present her as one of, if not the most oft-spoken personality. She even jested previously that she eats death threats for breakfast. There are a few reasons why a lot of her followers (and a few critics) have branded her as "the Iron Lady of Asia"; having kept a similar hairstyle as the Trope Namer is probably one of them. There is no Lawyer or Judge who can contest her on the conduct of court, because She wrote the book that the courts follow in the first place. And counting her track record, she more or less has a point.
  • Helen Clark, New Zealand Prime Minister from 1999-2008 and leader of the New Zealand Labour Party from 1993 to 2008. Since then she has been appointed to 3rd-in-command at the United Nations. While she did pull back on some issues as PM, she did remain very staunch on others. Generally respected internationally, domestic support has usually been more polarised, though very few would describe her as anything other than extremely competent.
  • Dorit Beinisch, President of the Israeli Supreme Court 2006-2012 (Israeli judges have to retire at 70), has been noted for being extremely tough on the government for human rights violations (following the tradition of her mentor, Aharon Barak). She also took being hit in the face with a flying shoenote  fairly calmly.
  • Nancy Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (2007-2011, 2019-present). She was the highest-ranking woman ever in the US government (now second with the election of Kamala Harris to the Vice-Presidency) and second in line to the Presidency. She is not at all well-liked by the opposition but that's largely because objectively how good she is at wielding her power to whip votes and keep her people in line. She learned this from a young age from her father, Thomas D'Alesandro, who was a Roosevelt administration-era Congressman and later Mayor of Baltimore. Her job when people came to see him at home was to write everything down in a “favor book” so he could call whoever it was when the time came. She and her brothers would then go call on those favors while canvassing or what have you. Her hard bargaining tenacity is arguably why she even got the job back after many doubted her leadership in the runup to the Democrats taking the majority in the House in January 2019. Specifically in an oval office meeting in which she and Chuck Schumer (her senate counterpart) got Trump to take responsibility for shutting down the government without giving him anything in return. She definitely gives off a "strong mother figure" persona (in her home life, she's the emphatically-Catholic mother of five and grandmother of eight, so far), but she has serious political cred.
    • Even Rahm Emanuel won't cross Mrs Pelosi in public.
      Emanuel: "Nancy gave me two very important tasks as soon as she became Speaker: Sit down and shut up. I got pretty mad. I said there is only one woman in my life who can order me around like that... Hillary Clinton."
    • Her own daughter had this to say about her:
      Alexandra Pelosi: "She’ll cut your head off, and you won’t even know you’re bleeding. That’s all you need to know about her."
  • Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany from 2005 to 2021, has gained some reputation for this as she is a pretty tough customer in international negotiations. One can make jokes about Merkel's charisma or her lack thereof but she is undoubtedly a winner and a ruthless one at that. One of her nicknames is the "Black Widow", because it is said that she would suck life out of any party that governs in a "coalition" with her. The average time span between her expressing her "utmost trust" in someone and the person stepping down is 33.3 days. (That's a real statistic.) Longest survivor is Pope Benedict (!!) with nearly 3 years, only one to survive is Wolfgang Schäuble who even got "utmost trusted" twice. French President François Hollande and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras were both elected on the promises of resisting Austerity. Both went stomping to Brussels to give her a piece of their mind. Angela put the fist down on the table, and Hollande/Tsipras wandered out the office looking bleary-eyed and talking of haircuts. Former chancellor Helmut Kohl used to refer to her as "mein Mädchen" ("my girly"). Later, she disposed of him. Within Germany though, she is much more known for leaving the spotlight to her ministers and rarely makes any announcements or statements of significance. This makes her almost untouchable, however, since she never says something stupid or controversial or appears responsible for unpopular government programs or changes to existing law. While this is often criticised as being indecisive and not doing her job, she always has very high approval ratings with the public at a time when demagoguery is unfashionable in Germany.
  • Yulia Timoshenko, former Prime Minister of Ukraine, was famous for being stubborn and getting things done. In a country where smoke bombs, eggs, and fisticuffs are a not-unexpected way to settle things on the floor of Parliament, you have to be stubborn to be effective. Somewhat unusually for an Iron Lady, though, Timoshenko is young and attractive, though that hardly means "weak".
  • Meg Whitman, former President and CEO of eBay and Carly Fiorina, former CEO at Hewlett-Packard, both of whom ran for statewide office in California (Whitman for Governor, Fiorina for US Senate; both lost), invokes this at every possible opportunity. The degree to which they are this trope varies, although consensus seems that Whitman fits the bill more closely. Accounts of Fiorina's downfall at H-P range from "she was too tough" to "she was not tough enough" to "her actual toughness aside, she spent too much time acting one thing or another and not enough actually running the company." Somewhat amusingly, a year after they both lost their political races, Whitman was hired to take Fiorina's old job at H-P. In the meantime, Fiorina has mostly been taking bit roles on corporate and nonprofit boards.
  • Dame Eugenia Charles, the first female prime minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica in the West Indies. She was even known as the "Iron Lady of The Caribbean" due to her uncompromising stance on her views.
  • Averted by Isabel Perón, the first female president of Argentina. She was the third wife and vice-president of the aged Juan Perón, and had no political formation at all. Peronism was divided between left-wing and right-wing peronists, Perón sought someone who was "neutral", and thought his wife could be a good idea. Things grew beyond mere heated political discussions: the left-wing peronists, called Montoneros, began a series of terrorist attacks to depose the government and establish a communist dictatorship. Perón appointed a counter-terrorism force, the Triple A, to destroy the Montoneros. And then he died of old age, leaving Isabel as president. She was so useless against the crisis that the people welcomed the subsequent military coup that deposed her.
    • The more notable Eva Perón, on the other hand, was a hands-on, tough-as-nails Iron Lady if ever there was one. As Juan Perón's second wife, "Evita" (who inspired the musical and later film of the same name) took a front and center role in politics, and the success of the movement her husband led was due in large part to her. She led the female wing of the Peronist Party, founded several nationally-endorsed charities for everyone from the impoverished "descamisados" to kids with terminal illnesses, and, above all, gave inspiring, bombastic speeches to massive throngs of cheering people. Though her life was cut short by cancer, she remains an important national icon and hero in Argentina. She was, however, known to hide her fierce attitude when necessary or appropriate, and could be very gentle. As mentioned, she built many orphanages, and used to visit them without warning to make sure all the children were living as happily as possible. She would remember each kid, and if she noticed that one kid wasn't feeling well or was having issues, she would go to their room and give them a cuddle, or let them talk to her about their issues. Many think this came from her inability to get pregnant, and a miscarriage she suffered in her early relationship with Peron.
  • Subverted by Chile's first female president, Michelle Bachelet, who tried (with a moderate amount of success) to play the Team Mom card. In a country which has had 16 years of the same political bloc running it the unashamed corruption and money-grubbing were very strong, and this attitude didn't work in her first term (2006-10). Since Chile forbids presidents from serving consecutive terms, she then went to head up the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (known as UN Women because UNEGEEW sounds like Ban Ki-moon just threw up), but returned to Chile to run for president again, and won.
    • Played straight by the deceased high-ranked lawyer Monica Madariaga, the Minister of Justice to her cousin Augusto Pinochet. According to Madariaga's testimony, she had to become an Iron Lady to cope with the misogyny among his aides.
  • Former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff. In her youth, was arrested and tortured for being part of a Communist guerrilla. As politician, was Minister of Mines and Energy, then Chief of Staff, then elected President, where she fired at least seven ministers in just one year!
  • Former President of Argentina Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who has at times been accused of "dictatorial" tendencies - largely unfounded, although she is quite charismatic, and her government has been caught more or less red-handed fudging the inflation figures. If anything, she is a very close analogue to the aforementioned Hillary Clinton; the parallels are striking, as like HRC, her husband—the late Néstor Kirchner—was himself President, and part of his campaign in 2003 was that it would be a two-for-one deal. The main difference was that Cristina by that point was already a Senator and arguably a more prominent politician than him).
  • Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, former President of Liberia, and the first elected female leader in Africa. She had to be tough as nails; there was the threat of a coup.
  • Sheikh Hasina, the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh and the longest-reigning, who led the parliamentary opposition that tore down Bangladesh's de facto military dictatorship during The '80s alongside another female politician and ex-PM Khaleda Zia. Outside of caretaker governments, the two women have dominated the politics of Bangladesh for the past 30 years, in an era known as the "Battling Begums".note  Both have also been accused at various times of corruption and ruthlessness, though considering that they had witnessed violence first-hand in the dysfunctional political world of Bangladesh, it's no wonder (assassinations claimed the lives of Zia's husband and most of Hasina's family. Hasina also narrowly escaped assassination in 2004 and successfully fought to revoke the political immunity of those who had ordered her family's deaths).
  • Joyce Banda, President of Malawi 2012-14, was one of these. Appointed VP in 2009, under Bingu wa Mutharika, she got into serious policy disputes with the President—mostly involving much-needed reforms and his alienation of donor countries—and founded a breakaway political party to support her. When he died in 2012, she called on the military to support her right to succeed to the presidency, which was being contested by Mutharika's loyalists in the Cabinet. Since then, she has proved to be a tough political player and has made several important and often controversial decisions, both at home and abroad. At home, she has announced plans to decriminalize homosexuality, which is a big move in socially-conservative Malawi. In foreign policy, one of her earliest decisions was to refuse to host an African Union summit after the AU declared that Malawi would have to give former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the ICC,note  assurances that he would not be arrested if he landed in the country; Mutharika had done so on a previous occasion, and the AU has been quite vocal in its rejection of the charges against Bashir.
  • Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel during the Yom Kippur War and before that Israel's Foreign Minister for ten years; still before then, she had been one of Israel's top diplomats.note  She was often called "The Iron Lady of Israel," and combined it with Jewish Mother in a rather odd fashion: for instance, she would bake a cake for the ministers composing her "kitchen cabinet" (circle of closest advisors, meeting for Shabbat dinner),note  but also be totally willing to grill them, chew them out, or embarrass them over state business even as they munched on the cake. Bear in mind that the "Kitchen Cabinet" included some of Israel's great badass heroes, including Moshe Dayan and Yigal Allon.
  • Tzipi Livni was famous for her no-nonsense attitude as Israeli Foreign Minister under Ehud Olmert, and continues to have that iron will as Leader of the Opposition. Given the revolving door that is the Israeli premiership, there's a good chance she'll be PM in a few years yet. Subverted by her very feeble opposition to Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition between 2009-2013, ending up losing the leadership of her party, Kadima (‘forward’), followed by leaving it shortly before the 2013 elections in favour of founding a new one, HaTnu‘a (‘the movement’). She put on a good showing in the 2015 elections, with her party engineering an alliance with the Labour Party to become the primary representative of the Israeli centre-left; unfortunately, the Israeli right somehow managed to get a handful more seats than expected,note  bumping her from being the likely Number Two in the government to the likely Number Two in the opposition...yeah. In something of a running theme, one-time Labour leader Shelly Yachimovich as a former hard-hitting journalist, was cut from similar cloth, although her focus on social issues rather than hard security matters softened her image. Nevertheless, she lost the leadership to Isaac Herzog for 2015.
  • The most powerful woman of the Balkans, Vesna Pusić, jumped to the highest political orbit after she became the object of a sexist remark/pun. She's competing for UN Secretary-General position, and the guy who tried to be funny is now political roadkill. There's a saying there: nije svako zlo za zlo (not every evil has been for evil).
  • Benazir Bhutto, the late Prime Minister of Pakistan. Although democratically-elected, she inherited a nearly-dictatorial manner of politics from her father, former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (an extremely shrewd political operator who earned badass points after a coup forced him through years of Kangaroo Courts before he was executed in 1979). On top of that, she became pregnant in office, a first for a serving head of state. However, this wasn't enough to prevent her assassination in December 2007.
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton has exhibited these tendencies, unsurprisingly given the sheer amount of vitriol levelled at her over the course of her quarter-century at the highest levels of American politics. Though she can be quite warm and motherly, particularly when interacting with children, she will break out the steely Death Glare and icy voice whenever required, and she does have a ruthless streak.
  • It's been noted that during the COVID-19 Pandemic countries with women leaders have fared much better than ones run by men. In Germany, Angela Merkel put on her scientist hat, made tough decisions early on, told it to people straight, and got to work containing the virus. Despite being the most populous country in the EU, there have been far fewer deaths per capita and it never spiraled like it did in other places like Italy and Spain. Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand was the first in the world to put in a very stringent two month lockdown in mid March despite only having 102 cases but during that time, cases got down to almost zero domestic cases per day. All restrictions were lifted in mid June. Out of the five Nordic countries, the four (Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland) that have women prime ministers were also ahead of the curve by taking decisive action early on while Sweden, whose PM is a man, never locked down and has the highest per capita death rate in Europe. Despite being very close to the initial outbreak in Central China, Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-Wen managed to pretty much stop all transmission before it could get there. She quickly repurposed existing national ID infrastructure to implement contact tracing for people who caught the virus. By the beginning of July, there were less than 500 total cases. This can mostly be chalked up to women heads of state having to be team players by nature of being women heads of state so they're better listeners, more humble about what they don't know, and come off as more empathetic.
  • Averted by Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, though, who deals with serious business as PM but openly projects a lot of empathy and warmth and makes them appear to be strengths instead, as well as being widely known as a fairly young mother.


Video Example(s):


''Hero's Duty''

''Hero's Duty'' is a Fictional Video Game where Space Marines fight robotic beetles called "Cy-Bugs".

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5 (5 votes)

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Main / BugWar

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