Every year, we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8. The theme for this year is Press for Progress, and there’s a lot of room for progress when it comes to women everywhere. If I named every single way that we could have progress for women, we’d be here all day, so I’ll just focus on one: representation in the media, specifically for women of color and LGBTQ+ women.
In recent years, there’s been more diversity in television and movies, but with that said, we could still do a lot better. The success of movies like Get Out and Black Panther should be viewed as signs that we want to view media that actually reflects what the world looks like.
With that said, I’d like to share with you a few of my favorite “strong female leads“, so to speak.
- Jane Villanueva (portrayed by Gina Rodriguez), the protagonist of Jane the Virgin. Jane has been through so much in the few years that the show has been on the air, starting with being accidentally artificially inseminated. She has dreams of becoming a writer, but she never let anything that life threw at her get in the way of that dream. Not only is Jane positive and intelligent, she is like the human embodiment of the quote, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”
- Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose), Disney’s first African American princess and main character of The Princess and the Frog. Tiana is intelligent and hard-working. She dreams of opening her own restaurant, but she doesn’t just sit around singing about it. Yes, Tiana does sing about her dreams, but that’s accompanied by her working hard to achieve those dreams. I think one of the most unique things about her is that she didn’t need Naveen, her prince, to reach her goals. She doesn’t need a savior, and that’s something that needs to be replicated in more Disney princesses
- Stella Yamada (portrayed by Hayley Kiyoko), one of the main characters of Lemonade Mouth. In a lot of ways, Stella is the driving force behind Lemonade Mouth. She’s the one who brings the band back together whenever they fight, and she’s the one who convinced them to go ahead with starting the band in the first place. She is extremely outspoken about what she believes in (and she’s even more so in the book), and does not hesitate to stand up for herself or for her friends. She’s determined to the point of being stubborn, but even so, Stella is strong.
- Starr Carter (to be portrayed by Amandla Stenberg), the main character of The Hate U Give. Technically, this movie hasn’t been released, but I’ve read the book several times, and there was no way I couldn’t include her. Starr sees her best friend, Khalil Harris, get shot by police during her junior year of high school. She struggles with how to use her voice in the beginning, but by the end of the novel, she finds out how to speak up for Khalil–and for herself.
- Adena El-Amin (portrayed by Nikohl Boosheri), a recurring character on The Bold Type. Adena is unlike any character I’ve seen on TV before. An openly lesbian, Muslim photographer, she is poised, assertive, and skilled at what she does. She first stood out to me when she explained to one of the protagonists why she chooses to wear a hijab: Adena explained that she feels that wearing the hijab frees her from the Western expectations of what women should look like. Adena was only a recurring character in season one of The Bold Type, and I can’t wait to see what she does in the upcoming season.
There’s so many more amazing female fictional characters out there, including Callie Torres, April Kepner, Emily Fields, Olivia Benson, Isabelle Lightwood. Honestly, we’d be here all day if I went through and named all of them. And for every great fictional character, there’s a great actor behind them: of the actors on this list, Gina Rodriguez and Amandla Stenberg are two of my personal favorites.
Who are your favorite female fictional characters? Let me know in the comments!