Jun 30, 2011
7 Kick-ass Ladies
It’s almost the Fourth of July weekend! I have a zillion deadlines looming over my head! So how about some good old-fashioned procrastination in the guise of “writing a blog post for my blog which I’ve been neglecting”?
Back in May, I was part of the Teen Author Carnival, where I was on a panel about “Kick-Ass Females in YA.” A lot of the discussion centered on the fact that being kick-ass could, metaphorically, mean a lot of other things — you know, being a strong woman, having integrity, etc. That’s certainly true, but today I’d like to focus on, well, the deadlier side of being kick-ass. In other words, let’s get back to the heart of being kick-ass.
Here are some of my favorite kick-ass fictional ladies, in the order in which I discovered them:
Harry Crewe in The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
I’m pretty sure I read The Blue Sword when I was thirteen, which makes Harry my first favorite kick-ass lady. To this day, I think that Harry is the model I think of when I think kick-ass heroine, epic fantasy: She started off not knowing much about how to kick ass, but after being kidnapped by a sexy desert king (yes! I love this part too!), she is given a magical sword and special training in how to kick ass. One of my favorite parts of kick-assery (I believe one of the authors on the Teen Author Carnival panel coined this word) is the fact that there is often a training montage involved. I love a good training montage, and Harry gets one of the best out there.
Other things I like about Harry: She’s funny! She’s not full of herself! She doesn’t whine or complain about being kidnapped! And she doesn’t moon over her love interest, either. She does what has to be done, and she does it well. Also she gets a fancy hero name: Harimad-sol. But she’ll always be Harry to me.
Kitiara in the Dragonlance books by Margaret Weis and Tracy HickmanTime for a teenage confession: When I was in high school I totally devoured the Dragonlance Chronicles. (You know, those books published by TSR as, er, companions to Dungeons & Dragons?) My favorite character, admittedly, was the eeeevil, pale and sickly mage Raistlin (I don’t know why, I swear! Perhaps I’m drawn to evil blonds), but my second favorite was definitely Kitiara, whom I believe was Raistlin’s sister (?).
I don’t remember much at all about her except that she was thoroughly kick-ass, possibly evil, wore sexy armor and commanded armies. Also she was very good with the weapons. Sadly, I never saw Kitiara in a training montage. I also don’t recall if she was ever in any sort of romantic relationship, although I think she was pretty thoroughly sexualized in that kick ass lady = dominatrix way. I did not understand, when I was 14, why I found this so fascinating. I was kind of an innocent 14-year-old.
Faith in Buffy the Vampire SlayerI love almost all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, especially that other evil blond dude, Spike, but in terms of kick-ass ladies, Faith is my girl. In comparison to Buffy, who was often so tortured by her heroic nature that she became a bit annoying, Faith seemed to genuinely enjoy being kick-ass. Yes, it’s true, she was slightly evil, but that’s not a problem, is it? I like a girl who likes being bad — like, really likes it. Faith absolutely owned her power and her sexiness.
I think her story line of coming to terms with what it meant to actually be bad was much more believable — and her character could actually be redeemed with some measure of honesty — because originally she really had no comprehension of the responsibility her power gave her. Also, I love the Boston accent.
Starbuck in Battlestar GalacticaOK, so the first time I saw a picture of Katee Sackhoff (blond!) as Starbuck I think I probably fell over. There was some swooning, but also the fact that the producers of BSG put a woman in that hyper-masculine role was something that I just loved SO SO MUCH. I wish that more Hollywood people would think about doing that when they remake older TV/movie properties, because women have just been cut out of so many great shows in the past. The solution is clearly to go the Starbuck route — cast Katee Sackhoff in all of those roles. (LOL. Just kidding.)
Starbuck is a really interesting kick-ass lady because initially she was very much the male Starbuck of old, but as the series progressed and her character changed, she grew into one of the most complex portraits of a woman I’ve seen on TV. She was allowed to be physically powerful (especially when fighting Lee Adama in the boxing ring, which I loved), she was allowed to be in control of her sexiness without becoming a dominatrix, and she was allowed to have extremely tortured feeeeeelings while never going whiny. I want more female characters like her!
Katsa in Graceling by Kristin CashoreI remember when I first read Graceling I thought: This is a book I have been waiting forever for. Probably since The Blue Sword, honestly. Obviously, Katsa and Harry are quite different, but they are both heroic in a way that female characters don’t get to be that often. I think that my favorite part of Graceling is the last section (SPOILER!) when she rescues Bitterblue and carries her over the mountain. Everything that Katsa did in that section of the book was 100% heroic in a way I hadn’t read in a long, long time.
Another thing I loved about Katsa? At one point in the book she cuts off her super long hair. This just seemed so right to me. I’ve always thought it ridiculous that many kick-ass ladies in fiction have long, flowing hair. I mean, if you’re going to be running around with weapons and fighting people (who could presumably grab your hair), why would you have long hair that gets in the way? It was just so right and so realistic for Katsa to do that.
Loup Garou in Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey
If you follow me on Twitter, you probably know that I just about freaked out from pure joy when I read this novel earlier this year. Yeah, I have a fairly embarrassing crush on this book, and a lot of it is because of Loup, the main character, who is a genetically modified human being who feels no fear. Literally, she has been modified to feel no fear. Now, the actual definition of “brave” and “courage” is to be fearless, but that is not why Loup is so awesome. Even though she feels no fear, she still has feelings; she can still be hurt and she can still love people.
The thing is, the fact that she’s fearless means that when she falls in love with another girl, she’s not afraid of it. I thought that was one of the most amazing things about this book: pointing out that homophobia is pretty much always about fear.
Also, you know how I love training montages? There are SO MANY! Loup becomes a boxer, which is not something I actually watch in reality, but in fiction? Very very hot. I can’t wait for the sequel!
Val in Valiant by Holly Black
I know that Valiant was published a while ago, but I only read it this past spring. It was one of those books I read while thinking: Wow, this is a book I’m going to love for a long time, so I’d better read it slowly.
Val is an ordinary teen girl who gets tangled up in a big, extraordinary faerie mess in New York. She runs away from home, sleeps in the subway, gets sucked into doing drugs (like, real drugs) and other things that everybody knows is really bad, and despite all that, she maintains this core heroic nature that just glows through her. I don’t know how else to say it. She’s surrounded, in this story, by grit and dirt and awful things, but Val is a true light through it all. Sure, she makes some mistakes, and she does things she should not have done, but ultimately, she becomes the valiant person that others see in her.
Also, there’s a training montage and swords! Now, if only she were blond … Maybe her friend Ruth could dye her hair?
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So, there are seven of my favorite fictional kick-ass ladies. What are some of yours? Why do you love them?