2017 was, to put it mildly, a year. This year’s batch of my favorite fictional females declaring that ‘What I do is not up to you’–not limited to media that came out this year, but just in anything I read or watched in 2017–felt especially vital. So without further ado, here were my favorite resistance leaders, nasty women, and everything in between:
Obviously. Gal Gadot is so utterly perfect as Diana, but beyond that, everything about Wonder Woman–her strength, her hope, and above all her heart–is exactly what we needed in this bleak time.
Lady Hideko, The Handmaiden
I can’t say too much about Hideko without spoiling The Handmaiden, which you really should watch (it’s streaming on Amazon Prime!). But gosh, she’s such a fun one. When we first meet her, she’s the classic poor little rich girl: beautiful, naive, spoiled, orphaned, essentially trapped in a huge but foreboding and incredibly weird-looking manor, and repressed in more ways than one. As the movie goes on, though, it quickly becomes apparent that there’s a whole lot more to her beneath the surface, and it is glorious.
Xifeng, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
Xifeng is such a great villain protagonist: yeah, she eats hearts to maintain her beauty that will help her snatch the title of Empress of Feng Lu, but her sheer determination and intelligence (she knows classical poetry!) are still kind of admirable, and her wonderfully portrayed vulnerability and complexity make her actions seem almost understandable. Well, until they aren’t, but by that point, I loved her too much to hate her.
Guanyin, The Epic Crush of Genie Lo
Art by Christina Chung
Guanyin might be the most seemingly random pick, as she’s a supporting character in THE EPIC CRUSH OF GENIE LO, F.C. Yee’s super fun contemporary YA reimagining of the beloved Chinese classic Journey to the West. But she’s also a widely beloved figure in Buddhism and many Asian traditions–I actually wear a charm of her, a 16th birthday gift from my grandmother–and I really loved how she’s portrayed in Genie Lo. She’s commonly known in the West as the Goddess of Mercy, so of course she’s benevolence personified, but she’s not an uncomplicated ideal. Instead, the literal deity of goodness comes across as a real character, and it’s both impressive and a little scary.
Helen Graham, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Anne Bronte’s Helen is the Bronte heroine for the girls who loved Wintersong but were kinda hoping Liesl would kill the Goblin King, aka, me. And look, I love the deliriously and deliciously toxic passions of Wuthering Heights, but Helen’s more pragmatic mindset and utterly radical struggle for independence meant a lot to me.
Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
I wouldn’t dream of spoiling The Last Jedi before its second weekend, but I will say that I really liked it and that I LOVED Laura Dern’s portrayal of Resistance commander Admiral Holdo. The movie has great women characters in general, but Holdo might be my favorite new character. I loved everything about her: Laura Dern’s performance, I love her characterization, I love how she plays off of Poe and Leia (LEIA! Rest in peace, you poetic noble space princess), and I love what her role in the story ultimately says.