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Zoe from Firefly - The Fembot : Female Role Models in Sci-Fi

Monday 27 March 2006, by Webmaster

I did a column a while back reflecting on the best roles for women in Science Fiction. These were the roles that I thought broke away from the norm of the way women were typically portrayed. They were strong, capable, independent and interesting, but not all of them necessarily represented the type of woman you would wish to grow up to be, or have your daughter become. Some of them are good characters because of their weaknesses - those are what make them interesting. Others are fun because they are so dangerous, and not the person you would wish to turn your back to. For this column, I want to discuss the female roles that are good for children to look up to, and model themselves after.

When it comes to female role models, for me, Stargate: SG-1 holds the title for producing the best characters that I would either want to grow up to be like, or have my daughter look up to. Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter is just about everything a mother could dream for her daughter to be. Brilliant, strong, independent and yet still decidedly feminine when she needs to be. She can slip into a command role easily, but just as simply take on a subordinate role without becoming bitter over it. She handles weapons as easily as she does a computer console, and she harbors a sweet and friendly personality without any of the backstabbing, bitchy attitudes that the tougher female roles are written to contain. Sam shows the viewers that it is possible for a woman to be in what is generally considered a man’s position without sacrificing those traits which often define her sex.

The other character of Stargate: SG-1 who I would proudly choose to model myself after is Dr. Janet Frasier. As diminutive as she might be, even Teal’C jumps when ordered by her to do so. Yet, unlike the portrayed relationship between most doctors and patients, everyone at the SGC loved and respected Dr. Frasier. She never flinched at going into combat, and always did everything that she could to protect life, no matter what form that life may come in. Like Sam, she was brilliant in her profession, and this was something that was acknowledged by all. She never hesitated at putting her own life on the line to save others, and this was something everyone inherently understood. She was adorable, and fun, and always able to look at the bright side of things, no matter how bad the situation became. Dr. Frasier was definitely one of the most well-rounded and likeable female role models in science fiction.

Should Earth ever ‘get used up,’ and humankind conquer the frontier of outer space, then Zoe, from Firefly, is exactly the woman I wouldn’t mind my daughter growing into. Tough as nails when she needs to be, independent though extremely loyal and protective of those who are close to her, she displays the natural maternal instinct of women in her own way. She loves her husband fiercely but he doesn’t control her life; they’re equals in their own respect. Zoe can also be feminine, without being dainty or covered in lace. She embraces her Amazonian figure, using it to her advantage to make her strong or sexy, depending on the need. While her physical strength and attributes are impressive, it’s more than likely her emotional strength that many of us admire. Be it confronted with the torture of her husband, the destruction of her unit or the possible end to her own life, Zoe takes each moment with such aplomb that any woman cannot help but wish to mimic in similar circumstances.

Princess Leia Organa, of Star Wars, all on her own dispelled the myth of the princess needing to be rescued by her prince. Is it just me or does every blaster she pick up not only hit every aim dead center but also sounds louder than any of the blasters the men handle? At the age of twenty she was already the leader of a rebellion - I don’t think there are many of us who can claim that title. Not only is she smart, tough and beautiful, but she’s emotionally got it together as well. How do you think you would react if you found out the Jedi you once macked on is your brother, your father is the evil dark lord out to destroy the galaxy and, oh yeah, it’s up to you to take on the Jedi mantle should anything happen to your brother? And you learn all of that the night before the last major battle against your enemies! Call me crazy, but I can’t imagine wanting my daughter to look up to any royalty other than the pistol-packing, bun-wearing Princess Leia.

Of course, there are others I can’t imagine not mentioning, who really should be looked up to as fabulous role models for children and adult women alike. Dr. Beverly Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation never had to give in during the series to her attraction to Captain Picard. She remained true to her work, her post and the raising of her son, Wesley, while also being a fabulous dancer.

Recently, I have developed an all-encompassing adoration for Rose Tyler from the Doctor Who series. Certainly, she had a nowhere job, and a fairly useless boyfriend, but when offered a chance at spectacular adventure, she was brave enough to take it. She handles near-death experiences with plucky goodwill, and thinks quickly on her feet.

And if the human race were to ever be brought to near-destruction by androids, I can’t think of a better president to lead those surviving few to the promised land than Laura Roslin of Battlestar Galactica. She’s a candidate who would most certainly have my vote.

Also a definite part of my list of role models would be Ambassador Delenn from Babylon 5. Leader of her people, warrior when needed, diplomat, dedicated wife and loyal friend, Delenn could step into any role asked of her, and never once sacrifice her femininity or self while doing so.

While there are many great female characters out there - roles that have lifted the sci-fi woman from mere obscurity to chick-in-charge - those at the top are the ones we can all learn from. They represent the women we all should be, and can be, as long as we strive to accept our weaknesses, embrace our strengths and never let something as simple as ‘ordinary’ stand in our way.