Sometimes people ask why I write about the things I do on my blog. They want to know why do I care so much about scifi and fantasy. They want to know why it matters so much that I would make a blog out of it. The reason is simple. I believe that scifi and fantasy propel the human race forward through adventure, hope and happiness. Scifi is not just an imaginative outlet. Scifi and fantasy are an extension of who we want to be.
I come from a family that is so out of touch with scifi, fantasy and even technology that they can’t even start a group chat without adding at least 1, sometimes 2 strangers to the conversation e.v.e.r.y. single time.
I am generation X. I was a kid without computers or cable tv. We played outside all day. And at night, we’d play ghosts in the grave yard or flashlight tag. Our parents didn’t hover. We’d ride bikes to abandoned buildings and throw rocks at the windows. We’d go all over town and our parents had no idea where we were. It was glorious. We were raised like every generation before us. Wild and young and free. We had all day to explore every fascinating idea our brains could come up with. We lived out our own fantasy and scifi thoughts in every day play.
And when I was a teenager, the internet was introduced to the world. You’ve got mail could be heard in living rooms around the world. The melodic tones on phone buttons and the fuzz of dial up modem were always cranked up at the top of the speakers.
Because I was part of the free range kid generation and part of the internet generation, I became an enormous fan of science fiction, fantasy, technology and adventure. My life went from being a kid pretending to play space pirates, to watching the world advance so quickly that space pirates could someday be real.
I didn’t grow up and quit dreaming, I grew up and kept dreaming bigger.
In SciFi and fantasy, a hero can be anything or anyone. I love when a woman can be that hero. Growing up, most of the hero roles were filled by men and the female leads frequently were not complex, brave or butt kicking. I remember when I watched the movie Super Girl in 1984. I was 8 and I was devastated. I looked up to Superman. He was a god among men. But Super Girl??? WTH?????
Here’s the plot. Super Girl comes to earth. The guy she likes is under a love potion. Super Girl needs to break the love spell. GIVE ME A DAMN BREAK!!!!!
She was not even a shallow copy of Superman. It was like someone wrote a super hero book, then ripped most of the pages out of it, added in a love potion and made it a movie.
The next time we really see a female super hero, it is in the 90’s in Batman returns. Want to guess how that goes? Yep, it’s a crazy cat lady who has a sick twisted crush on Batman.
Something different happened. The show Hercules aired. The writers quickly discovered that the warrior Xena was a fan favorite. For the first time, we had a female hero that had little to do with being feminine and had lots to do with kicking butt.
She not only went up against men, she also went up against women. In the show Xena, women were capable of being heroic and complex. Xena was not a goody two shoes. She was a warrior that had done heinous things and she was trying to find redemption. But because she didn’t start her path as an innocent princess with purity in her heart, she didn’t seek repentance that way either. She went from warrior for hire, to warrior for good, even when that good was somewhat grey.
While that story may not seem unique to us now, at the time it was ground breaking. Females did not play roles like that. TV shows hadn’t previously had the audience and commercial sales to support such a show.
Her mark on this world is still visible today
Xena kept up a good following until the show was cancelled in 2001. But her mark on this world is still visible today.
Television had gone somewhere the silver screen wasn’t willing to go.
The next big leap we see in serious female fantasy roles is in the show Supernatural. I have written another post discussing how Supernatural launched the world of female heroes as we know it today.
Seeing a female super hero
Seeing a female super hero doesn’t just make us happy for an hour or two as we watch a show. It actually has a much deeper impact. As a woman, I used to dream about what it was like to be a hero. I tried to picture myself in the role of superman or batman. But I always had to insert the word girl. Super girl, bat girl, aqua girl (nah, no one pretended to be aqua man) The heroes were the transformers. The female Autobots were an insult to any girl who watched them. But seeing a female badass, now that gave you courage. You could relate to her. She was female and didn’t need other people to save the day. She was the savior. She needed to take charge. She needed to think and act. And so she did.
When we grow up seeing other woman take that lead role, we grow up believing that we can take the lead role. We grow up believing that the only thing in our way is our own self doubt. We grow up believing that nothing is impossible. We grow up dreaming and believing in those dreams.
I went into a field where I work with all men. I am a software developer. I’ve had so many women say to me, oh you must be so smart to be a software developer. The truth is, many women don’t believe in themselves enough to know that they too can do it. This preconceived idea that a women is not smart enough leads to being fearful or even failure.
I don’t hear men saying to other men, oh you must be so smart to be a software developer. So why do we say it to women? Here’s a secret. You don’t have to be some kind of genius. You just have to be willing to put in the hard work, stick with it and never stop learning.
If more women imagined and believed in female super heroes as a little girl, we as woman would have more faith in each other.
Stop being the damsel in distress
Let’s stop being the damsel in distress and start being the hero of our own stories.
I for one celebrate the future of humanity. I celebrate the future of women. I celebrate the future our children will create because they grew up believing that anyone can be a superhero, even them.
Up, up and away!!