I have always had a fondness for sensible, strong women, whether in books, films, or in real life. I grew up admiring such remarkable women as Mother Theresa, who set up an outreach to assist the sick and dying natives of Calcutta, to Amy Carmichael, a missionary best known for rescuing abandoned and orphaned children from prostitution. Then too, I had a list of literary heroines to admire. My favorite was Miss Alice in Christy, for overcoming so much and being a source of spiritual strength and inspiration for the title character, in both her growing faith and her familiarity with the backward, brutal people of Cutter Gap. (Christy, a novel by Catherine Marshall, is loosely based on her mother’s real life experiences as a missionary and teacher in the wilds of Tennessee in the early 1900’s.)
Recently, my friends and I engaged in a discussion about our fondness for Disney films and what an impact it had on our collective childhoods. It was interesting to note that among these terrific young women, most of which who identify themselves as Christian, there was an overwhelming response of fondness for the Disney heroines who took matters into their own hands, more than the ones who waited to be rescued by a Prince. As one of my friends put it, “I was a bit of a budding feminist as a child… the whiny, annoying heroines irritated me.”
Out of all of them, two in particular were voted our universal favorites: Nala from The Lion King and Belle in Beauty & the Beast. While the other heroines are quite memorable and have remarkable moments of courage, it is these two that stand out. Nala was just as capable as Simba; she was a great hunter and leader, and did not need “rescued” at any point. But it is really Belle that we love most. Why? The woman loved to read. She had literary knowledge. She was brave enough to agree to stay in an Enchanted Castle with a Beast in order to obtain her father’s freedom. She saw past the Beast’s appearance and gave him a chance. She stood up to Gaston when he roused a hunting party and tried to storm the castle. Basically, Belle is just plain awesome.
Needless to say, I don’t watch Disney movies all that much these days… although maybe I should! However, I have not ceased in my quest to unearth memorable women in film and literature. And somewhere along the way, I stumbled across The Closer. TNT’s highest rated drama and a multiple Emmy-nominated show, it revolves around one particular woman in the LAPD. Brenda Lee Johnson is not what you would think of when you imagine a traditional “feminist.” She frequently turns up at the office in pink, carries around an enormous purse that she is endlessly rummaging through in search of… well, no one really knows, and has a charming Southern accent that often earns its fair share of snickers. You might at first assume she is a hick, until you realize… it’s all part of her plan.
Much like Columbo (who doesn’t remember the terrific Lt. Columbo?), Brenda bases her success rate when obtaining confessions on being underestimated. People fail to see her as a threat and frequently she can outsmart them, or at least get them so tangled up that they confess out of sheer desperation to make it stop. They see the Prada shoes and assume she’s a dumb blonde, when in reality she’s the smartest person in the room. Rather than being offended by the stereotype and launching a barrage of ethics complaints, Brenda simply uses it to her advantage. She is not concerned about sexism because it is meaningless to her… she’s there to do her job, and do it well, and she does, whether she has to smile her way through an insulting interview or refrain from smacking someone over the head with her gigantic purse. I love her because she’s terrific at her job, she’s flawed like every other human being on the planet, and she has great fashion sense. It takes talent to scramble over a wall into a backyard crime scene in high heels!
Last season, another fierce female joined the cast on a temporary basis, an internal affairs officer with just as much icy determination as Brenda. It was hatred at first sight, two identical personalities vying for total authority. But wow, did they make an incredible team, once they overcame their differences.
I found it interesting to note recently that the number of women running for public office is the highest it has been in the history of our great nation. It seems that more “powerhouse females” are coming out of the shadows to step forward and assert their opinions about how this country should be run. I admire down-to-earth, sensible people who run for office, male or female, because it is a thankless job. And if you are a woman, and a conservative, it can land you some serious sexism from the media and other outlets. But if there’s one thing we learned from Sarah Palin, it’s never retreat. Just duck behind the wall and reload.
To everyone, man or woman, out there who believes they are more capable of running things than the people currently in Washington: good for you! I look forward to hearing your message, listening to your ideas, taking stock of your character, and if it lines up with what I think is best for America, congratulations. You have my vote. ♥