After last week’s article about well-developed female characters, I thought it would be a good time to discuss my favourite female characters of all time. Whether they’re in books, comics, TV, film or game, these are my favourite female characters and those that I think are the most well-developed. It’s characters like these that I want to create and I hope they’ll inspire you too.
Lila Bard (A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab)
“I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.”
There are so many parts of Lila that are relatable. Not the fact that she’s a Victorian cross-dressing pickpocket who wants to be a pirate (although I’m sure a lot of us want to be a pirate), but the desire for something more than what we’re given. Lila is driven by the desire to see more from the world and more than anything, her wish to be a pirate. She’s clever and witty and only a pickpocket would not hesitate to kill someone who threatened her. It would be easy for readers to dislike her, she has a limited regard for human life, she’s very selfish and would kill a friend if she thought it meant saving herself, but she is so human. Everything about her is relatable, she finds the unknown more exciting than the familiar because she’s scared of being trapped or rejected along the way, she wants more from life than maybe it can even give her, but regardless she remains driven. As a character so riddled with flaws, her strength is in her character and her resolve.
Tris Prior (Divergent)
“I am selfish. I am brave.”
In some ways Tris bears a resemblance to Katniss Everdeen, she ends up competing to be a member of the faction Dauntless and fighting for survival like Katniss and just like Katniss she becomes part of a revolution. That’s where the similarities end, unlike Katniss, Tris actually has a death wish. The second and third book dictate her struggle to want to live, instead all her decisions are reckless with no thought for her own life. It’s amazing to see such a flawed and self destructive heroine, she is selfless without acknowledging it because it’s her desire to save others that makes her put her own life at risk – even in instances where their might be a less risky solution she doesn’t always take the time to consider it and instead jumps straight into danger. While her ‘death wish’ is by no mean admirable, it makes such a change from every other heroine in media who puts survival first.
Laura Wilson (the Wicked + the Divine)
“I want everything you have.”
I have a weakness for relatable characters. Laura is undoubtedly human and undoubtedly flawed. She is just a normal person, the kind of person you might know or you might be. In the world of the Wicked + the Divine it’s hard to call anyone a hero but she deserves a mention simply for the sheer reality of her character, a girl who wants to be more than just a girl. Not just that, but when pulled into the world of the Gods, wrapped in the accusation against Lucifer, Laura doesn’t back down. She fights to prove Lucifer’s innocence and while she may have ulterior motives (the desire to become something akin to a God herself) Laura doesn’t stop fighting for Lucifer and the other Gods even when she is no longer guaranteed anything out of it. While she’s not a role model – she shirks off college to attend concerts and help out Gods and slumps into depression as circumstances spiral out of control – she deals with things the way all teenagers do and though that’s never easy, she still manages it.
Elle Woods (Legally Blonde)
“I don’t need backups. I’m going to Harvard.”
Okay Elle doesn’t exactly fit in with everyone else on this list, but hear me out. The story sets Elle up as the ditzy preppy blonde with enough of her dad’s money to not need a care in life and a love for fashion and make up. When she loses her boyfriend because he wants someone more ‘intelligent’, she decides to prove him wrong. Elle goes to the same law school and though she’s out of her depths at first, she ends up excelling at it. She proves that just because of how she looks, it doesn’t define who she is or her intelligence. Not just a twist on the ‘2-dimensional’ blonde girl character, Elle is also someone to look up to. The proof that life doesn’t need to revolve around a guy (even if that’s her original attention) and that intelligence isn’t as clear cut as we think.
Clarke Griffin (The 100)
“I bare it, so they don’t have to.”
Clarke starts the series almost as a clean cut hero. She and 99 other teenage convicts are sent to Earth to find out if the radiation will kill them or not. Clarke is the one who argues to help the people who sent them there, who never gives up hope and seems to fight with Bellamy who leads the 100 down a darker route – until things change when they have enemies on Earth to fight against. Over the series you see Clarke change from someone with opinion to a true leader and like all leaders Clarke makes tough decisions resulting in a lot of deaths. It’s amazing to see the choices Clarke makes at the end of season 2 which are the kind of things she would never have even considered at the beginning of the series. It’s also worth noting that she’s one of the rare canonical bisexual characters who aren’t sexualised in mass media. She’s had chemistry with a lot of characters on screen and relationships with at least two (one male and one female) but they never overshadow her character and she makes tough choices frequently in regards to those relationships.
Ellie (the Last of Us)
“Don’t tell me I’d be safer with someone else, because the truth is, I’d just be more scared.”
Video game characters don’t often get a lot of attention and tend to fit either two dynamics; the female character to be protected or the bad arse heroine fighting along the protagonist. Ellie is both and neither. She’s a young girl and the most important character in the game, her father-daughter-like relationship with the main character Joel may make it seem like she’s someone to protect but it’s not because she’s a girl or a kid, it’s because she’s immune to the zombie/cordyceps like infection that’s caused an apocalypse. If any character swears the most in this game it’s Ellie, she’s strong in the way that any survivor would be, hardened by a life growing up in an apocalypse but still takes help when she needs it. This is an amazing story and it’s Ellie and Joel’s characterisation that make it so effective. While Joel is the main protagonist, Ellie is also shown to protect him and without her, the story would be meaningless.
“I know my value, anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.”
We were introduced to Peggy Carter in the first Captain America film and while set up to be a love interest (with a jealousy scene), she still managed to be such a strong character on her own. Peggy wasn’t impressed by Steve after he was injected with ‘supersoldier’ serum and let’s be honest, got super hot. Even before that she couldn’t take her eyes off him. Because just like her, he was the Underdog. Her popularity and the good reception to her Agent Carter short led to her getting her own television series, in which we see her struggle with being a woman and a secret agent in a world that doesn’t see women capable of much. It’s not the fact that she fights the patriarchy that makes her a feminist icon, it’s that she doesn’t let other people’s opinions of her put her down. Regardless of what other people think, Peggy Carter knows her own worth.
These are just a few of my favourite female characters and why they’re important to me. Who are your female characters and why?