If the image of a princess swirling around in a white dress while she waits for a prince to win her heart is a scene that literally works as anaesthetic on your body and mind, you'll be pleased to know that Kiersten White, author of And I Darken, is absolutely not here for any of that syrup.
In her novel, the general admin of being a princess is much harder and much grittier than deciding which glittery tiara to wear - with main character Lada Dragwlya being vicious, brutal, and mercilessly ambitious. AKA she's an absolute badass.
So, in celebration of female characters with actual characterisation, Kiersten White has shared some of her top ten feminist icons from pop culture. Check 'em out.
Cordelia from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
I know I should probably pick the kick-ass slayer for this list, but Cordelia's evolution from standard mean-girl side-plot to a fully realized, complicated person—who was still not especially nice and really liked the way she looked!—was such a thing to watch play out on screen.
Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series
She's not traditionally pretty. She's a know-it-all who never pretends to be dumber to fit in or win acceptance. She cares about her grades and doing well as she plans for her future. And she gets the guy--more than once! She's the true Chosen One in my heart.
Jessica Jones was the Marvel hero I never knew I needed. Actually, Marvel can keep all the rest of its heroes, as long as it leaves me damaged, angry, hard-drinking, fists-first-questions-later Jessica. They never tried to soften her or make her easy to like, and that, to me, is truly heroic.
Aunt Polly from Peaky Blinders
Of all the brutal Peaky Blinders, the one I think is the most terrifying when everything else is stripped away? Aunt Polly. And I love her so much for it. Helen McCrory is a revelation in this role, alternating between stone cold killer and broken-hearted mother. Neither one takes away from her role as the other, because she's a person—she can be both.
Mary from Downton Abbey
Mary is such an awful sister, daughter, and all-around person, and yet we love her. The fact that she can be horrible and cold, vindictive and calculating, and still be presented as a person deserving of romance and love feels like a victory. You keep rocking that resting bitchface, Mary.
Martha Jones from Doctor Who
I debated all the various companions. And while Donna may have my heart, I think Martha is my favourite because she's the one who walked away. She looked at a man who would never see her as an equal, who would never stop slighting her, and she said I am worth more than this. Yes, you are.
I don't know if this mini-series has been renewed, which is a bit of a tragedy because where else are we going to get our hair/makeup/wardrobe/Hayley Atwell weekly crush filled? Alas! But again, I love that Peggy is allowed to kick butt, be brilliant, be beautiful, and take no crap from anyone for any of it.
The Women of Brooklyn 99
My favourite anecdote about this hilarious cop comedy comes from Stephanie Beatriz. When she heard they had already cast another Latina actress, she sadly wrote it off because they had already checked that box. But the writers of the show knew that they could have a nerdy, type A Latina cop and a bizarrely terrifying tough Latina cop, because women can be more than one thing, just like people of colour can be more than one thing.
Rey from Star Wars and Leia from Star Wars
You know I couldn't choose between my darlings. I can't tell you how much it meant for me sitting next to my kids when the lightsaber went to Rey instead of to the boy. And to see Carrie Fisher allowed to be older onscreen—something so few women are!—felt huge as well. She's forever the princess of my heart.
So, Maggie isn't a character. She's a person—an immensely talented author person, of The Wolves of Mercy Falls, The Scorpio Races, and The Raven Cycle fame. But as I've watched her engage with her critics (and be honest about the way engaging with her critics takes a toll on her), I've come to respect her just as much for being so publicly herself as for her writing.
It takes a lot of guts to be unapologetically yourself as a woman. We're trained to say sorry for speaking, to demure about our success no matter how hard we worked for it, to deflect praise with self-effacing humour. If Maggie has taught me anything (besides the fact that her writing is ego-bruisingly good), it's to never apologize for the space I take in the world.
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