Top 5 Female Characters That Inspired Me Growing Up

When we were children we always had somebody to look up. In the real world, we had our mothers and fathers, our grandparents, our siblings and what not. Oftentimes they were people who didn’t actually exist. They were brave heroes, daring adventurers, confident jokesters, cool warriors, monsters with hearts of gold. Sure, they were imaginary. But we admired them so much that they felt real, and the impression they left on us would pierce so deeply it would follow us into adulthood.

This week I thought I would take a moment to reflect on the characters that had a similar impact on me growing up. In particular, the women and girls from movies/TV who not only made me proud to be a girl, but who also inspired me, in a variety of ways, to become a kickass female adult. My picks aren’t ranked from most- to least-favorite or vice versa. It’s purely a collection of recognition.

 

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  1. Elle Woods- Legally Blonde
    1. What? Like it’s hard?” Although I can’t recall when or how I discovered this gem of a movie, I for sure remember why I fell in love with it. Here you have Elle Woods, a privileged, ditzy, and naive sorority sister who gets dumped by her boyfriend and then follows him to Harvard Law School in an attempt to win him back (I know, not very feministic by 2019 standards). But rather than take the easy road and have her wealthy father secure her a spot on the roster, she takes matters into her own hands. She hits the books. She studies. She works hard to earn her admission into the law school. And later on, when she’s not being taken seriously and is demeaned by her ex, what does she do? She works even harder. In the end she wins a case, dismisses her ex as a guy who was never worth fighting for, and proves herself to her peers as well as to herself. On top of that, she achieves all this without sacrificing a shred of her femininity, which is a great message for young girls. I think sometimes we as a culture disparage femininity, casting it out as too stereotypical and unfit for a “strong female character”. But Elle Woods proved to my 9-year-old self that this doesn’t have to be the case. There’s no harm in being unabashedly feminine. Though it’s important to also have a good brain and a good heart. If Elle Woods can be the full package, so could I.

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  1. Kiki- Kiki’s Delivery Service
    1. This classic anime from Hayao Miazaki is undoubtedly one of my all time favorite movies. I love the voice acting. I love the animation. I love how charming and delightful it is. It’s cinematic soul food at its finest. And what makes it so enduring is the main character Kiki, a 13-year-old witch who travels to a new city and uses her flying ability to start her own delivery service. Kiki’s determination to establish her independence was infectious. And I think the fact that the rest of the film is so likable just accentuated it. I loved seeing a young girl- only a few years older than me at the time- having the confidence to leave home and travel to someplace new, find a place to live, find a job and learn how to take care of herself. Whatever she does she does with such enthusiasm, and even at her more discouraged moments, she manages to pick herself up and keep going. Kiki made adulting look easy. There’s a scene in which she sorts through her money and goes grocery shopping. I remember seeing that scene as a child and thinking, “I can do that.” So yes, Kiki’s Delivery Service made 10-year-old me want to move out of the house, get a job and be a responsible adult. If a film can leave that kind of impression on a child- and an animated fantasy no less- then it must be doing something right.

 

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  1.  Ariel- The Little Mermaid
    1. Usually these types of listicles feature at least one Disney princess, and that princess is typically Mulan. It makes sense. She’s a sword-wielding badass who defeated the Huns and saved an entire empire. As much as I respect Mulan, I’d be lying if I said she was my favorite princess. For me, that title belongs to Ariel. I loved her singing voice, her personality, her excitement about new things. I loved that she had a dream and was determined to make it come true. Sure she gave udp everything for a man she never met, but I didn’t see it that way as a kid. What I cared most about was the fact that Prince Eric fell in love with her despite her not being able to speak. I’ve always been a shy person, and as a child I was under the impression that boys never fell for the silent types. This insecurity stayed with me for several years, but during my elementary school years, The Little Mermaid helped remedy that mindset, inspiring me to have confidence in myself.  

 

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  1. Hermione Granger- the Harry Potter series
    1. So you can probably tell by now the kind of characters I gravitate towards. The Sarah Connors of the world are awesome and all, but I prefer less combatant and more the bookwormy types. Hermione Granger is a nerd who at times felt like the true hero of the story. She’s smart, she constantly got Ron and Harry out of trouble, she can defend herself and others (that punch to Draco Malfoy is legendary). She’s strong, but also vulnerable. Hermione liked to follow the rules, but was willing to break them in order to help save the day to protect those she loved. It was awesome seeing her blossom into a wand-wielding badass over the course of 10 years and 7 books, and her growth instilled in me the desire to mature in a similar fashion. 

 

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  1. Raven Baxter- That’s So Raven
    1. Throughout my childhood I was completely engrossed in the holy trinity of early-2000s children’s television: Disney Channel, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. One of the shows I got hyped up for the most is Disney’s That’s So Raven, a comedy about a teenage psychic whose visions and eccentric personality often got her into trouble. It was a perfectly wacky show that also tackled a few heavy subjects along the way. Its star, played brilliantly by Raven Symone, was definitely a comedic role model for me. Her timing was impeccable, and her willingness to be so outlandish and over-the-top made me comfortable in expressing my own weirdness. From what I remember of that time, the medium of comedy tended to be dominated by white males. That’s So Raven proved to me that yes, women of color could deliver just as many laughs.

 

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