Analyzing Women’s Strength in Fiction: Mental Strength in Movies

1. Louise Banks, Arrival:

Subcategory: emotional

Unlike other certain science fiction films, when aliens come to Earth, war doesn’t immediately erupt. Instead, both humans and aliens try to communicate. But there’s a catch: they can’t understand each other. Enter Louise, an expert linguist. I haven’t seen this movie for a while, so this will be short. Basically, Louise is in charge of figuring out how the aliens communicate, and how humans can communicate back. But as she begins to unravel their language and begin communicating, she starts to have strange visions of a heartbreaking future. Tackling both things at once is emotionally compromising, but Louise is able to keep her calm and focus intact, even underneath such enormous pressure.

2. Ellen Ripley, Alien and Aliens:

Subcategory: physical

Ripley is one of the most iconic movie heroines of all time. In fact, most modern action heroines owe her thanks, and there’s reason for that. From the start of the first Alien, Ripley was shown to be the smartest character. While the other characters were making “classic horror movie mistakes”, Ripley had her head on straight almost immediately, not letting her heart rule her mind. Before I watched the first Alien, I assumed she would be the typical cold hearted, “emotionless” character. I was wrong. In the first movie alone, Ripley was allowed to grieve for her crew mates, able to get angry and scared, cry, and be desperate to save the crew’s cat. In the second movie especially, she has obvious PTSD, and finds a daughter figure in a little girl who’s whole colony gets wiped out by the aliens. It’s little wonder Ripley is so iconic, as she is intelligent, badass, and very human.

3. Nausicaa, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind:

Subcategory: emotional

Nausicaa is not your usual princess. She doesn’t spend time in fancy dresses (although her clothes aren’t flashy, they are pretty), she doesn’t pine after crushes, and she definitely isn’t helpless. She lives in a post apocalyptic fantasy world that is populated by giant insects and poisonous spores, not to mention warring nations and countries. But unlike the rest of her world, she isn’t terrified by the insects and spores; instead she’s fascinated by them and performs experiments on them. She’s also a strange mix of a warrior and a pacifist. While she wants peace, she understands that sometimes, paradoxically, peace is achieved by war. She is also an active member of the politics involved with being a leader. She’s incredibly intelligent, balancing her mind and her morals, while being a loving leader to her people.

4. Jyn Erso, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story:

Subcategory: physical

From the beginning, Jyn has had a difficult life. First, her mother was killed, and her father taken by the empire to work on a mysterious project. Then she was found by an ally, only to be abandoned by said ally when she was sixteen. While some people were irritated by her cynical attitude and apathy towards the Empire (especially considering how much it affected her family), in my view, it makes some sense. First, everyone has different ways of dealing with trauma, and second, she probably didn’t want to have anything to do with the thing that practically took her whole life away from her. However, she grows out of her apathy and joins the Rebel Alliance, eventually becoming willing to make sacrifices and do something to help stop the Empire when no one else would. She also becomes less cynical and finds hope. She really had some fantastic character development and growth.

5. Susy Hendrix, Wait Until Dark:

Subcategory: emotional

I am stunned that Susy isn’t iconic. She is probably one of the first female characters in a movie who is shown as capable and able to hold her own. While in the beginning, she is fearful and dependent on her husband, this can be justified in two ways: A. She is recently blinded, and B. It’s the 60s. However, she’s also smart, and able to hold off three thugs who are trying to psychologically break her, and is able to use the handicap they are trying to use to hurt her to her advantage. I think she can be seen as more progressive than most female leads nowadays; it’s hard to think of one with a handicap who isn’t shown as a victim or weak, or the sweet love interest. While Susy is emotional and cries and is scared, she pushes past that, and uses her smarts and her opponents perception of her to her advantage.

A special mention…

I know this is technically a fiction article, but I wanted to mention the women from Hidden Figures. I mean, wow. I am stunned I never learned about Katherine, Mary, and Dorothy before this movie came out. They were geniuses, and without them, America wouldn’t have been able to send the first men to the moon.

7 thoughts on “Analyzing Women’s Strength in Fiction: Mental Strength in Movies

    1. Same! That was one thing I was worried about before I saw Alien; I was nervous Ripley would be the cold hearted badass, because I’ve heard she was the “template” for action heroines. I was really surprised in a good way. Emotions are good things, and more writers need to understand that.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Really great list! I loved Ripley in Aliens! I only just saw the series about 5 years ago, and was surprised to see such a strong female character in such an old movie. Also really love Nausicaa! I started watching Studio Ghibli films last year, and she’s one of my favourite female characters from them so far. I loved how there strengths were so well rounded.

    I haven’t seen Rogue One though, and saw Wait Until Dark so long ago I don’t remember her character much. And man I really need to see Arrival and Hidden Figures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She was fantastic in both! I love that she’s so smart and capable, but actually has emotions and expresses them. It’s little wonder she’s as iconic as she is. Ooh, and yeah, Nausicaa is one of my favorite Ghibli heroines! Did you know Miyazaki wrote a manga about her and that’s where the movie comes from? There’s a whole series!
      I’m surprised you’ve seen Wait Until Dark, I don’t know many people who have. And you should totally see Rogue One, Arrival, and Hidden Figures!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah I totally agree on both points! I love re-watching those movies because of her, and now that I’ve actually seen most of Ghibli’s films she’s one of my all time favourites as well. Yeah!! I cannot wait to read the manga!! Is it very different from the movie?
        Yup, it was one of the few films I watched, kind of like Boys Don’t Cry, that no one I knew had heard of. For sure! I just saw that they have Arrival on Netflix so will be starting with that one 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Um, I’ve only read the first volume…it is kind of different, as the manga is considerably longer than the movie.
        I only saw Arrival on Hulu, but I do hope you see it soon! (I’m still trying to find some underrated movies too…sigh. Why are they so hard to find?)


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