“Dear Diary: Tonight I’m sneaking off to the abandoned taffy factory to look for treasure. Also, if boys had uteruses, they’d be called duderuses.”
If that’s not a perfect snapshot of Tina Belcher’s personality, I don’t know what is.
The cartoon TV show Bob’s Burgers features the antics of a family trying to keep their hamburger joint afloat while dealing with nosy neighbors, unpredictable customers, and each of their own idiosyncrasies. Restaurant owners Bob and Linda are a married couple with three children, of which Tina is the oldest. Each character is has a very distinct, engaging personality, and Tina stands out to me as she is simultaneously nerdy, boy-crazy, and confident. In other words, I would love to be her friend!
As far as geekiness goes, Tina’s interests say it all. She adores horses, enjoys writing, and, in her own words, has “a complicated relationship with zombies.” After dreaming about them lustily, she explains, “They’re dangerous, but I love their swagger.” At age fourteen, a burgeoning sex drive is normal, but hers veers toward the macabre and fantastical, with comical effect. She spends hours penning “erotic friend fiction” and concocting plans to win over her crush, Jimmy Pesto, Jr. The fact that the apple of her eye is an awkward amateur magician should come as no surprise!
Tina also wears the signature accessory of a classic cartoon nerd: thick black glasses. Even though she pairs them with a bob haircut, Converse shoes, knee-high socks, short skirt, and crewneck shirt — an ensemble that’d actually be considered attractive these days — she manages to make the combination look downright dorky. This certainly doesn’t do her any favors in the love department, but as an independent spirit, she sticks with it. Thanks also to her monotone voice — actually that of a male actor — the boys she drools over rarely give her a second glance, but you can bet that in five to ten years, guys will be appreciating her unique charm and feisty sense of self.
While some may think that Tina’s frequent focus on boys and their butts is a sign of emotional weakness, I see it as the opposite. She totally owns her feelings and openly explores them. In fact, one of her most famous lines from the entire series thus far is quite the victory cry for ladies of all ages. “I’m sick of acting like a dumb, helpless girl just so a hot boy who dances his feelings will notice me,” she declares. “That’s not who I am. I’m a smart, strong, sensual woman.”
With her own amazing dance moves, deadpan honesty, uncompromised passions, and clear love for her family, Tina is a strong female character anyone could admire. The fact that she’s this bold while in her early teenage years also allows her to be a role model of sorts for young fans of the show. Thanks to her mix of humility and confidence, even her shortcomings and mistakes add up to someone surprisingly relatable and adorably quirky. I think we all would do well to express our interests and individuality as well as her!
Written by Adrienne M. Roehrich, Manager of Editorial Services
The books I picked up for myself and as gifts for a couple family members at Sci-Fi Authorfest 7.
I came home from SF Authorfest 7 with a pile of books (shown.) The bottom one I’ve already read and was there to be signed, the top one was meant as a gift for my son, the 2nd to top I’ve read and was a gift for a friend, the 3rd to top I’ve read and was signed for me, so really there were only 6 to choose from for first choice and 3 of those are a trilogy, leaving 4 from which to pick up and read. Thus, the first off that pile I decided to read was Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk.
I chose this book for a number of reasons. First, I sat in a panel presentation where Devon moderated on urban fantasy. Second, I met her (and she thanked me for asking questions in the panel). Third, the setting is Portland, a town I’m somewhat familiar with because I’ve visited and watched the requisite Portlandia. I’ve even run 26.2 miles around Portland, but that didn’t really make me more familiar with it. Third, well, third was the same for choosing any of the books to begin with – they seemed to have a cool main character.
Let me first say that I may have chosen differently if I’d realized there are nine (9!) published books in the Allie Beckstrom series. Or maybe that wouldn’t have changed my mind. Because I love binge-reading. I have always been a reader and binge-reading is sometimes as necessary as a week’s worth of sleep. I knew there were more Allie Beckstrom novels available, but I didn’t really think I’d binge-read them. I had 5 more books on my brand new book pile (besides the 2 double-stacked shelves of Mt. TBR books on my bookshelf) to read. I was also reading another, non-fiction book to review for another website. Yep, I was wrong.
The Allie Beckstrom Series
Magic to the Bone
Magic in the Blood
Magic in the Shadows
Magic on the Storm
Magic at the Gate
Magic on the Hunt
Magic on the Line
Magic Without Mercy
Magic for a Price
I think I was a couple chapters into Magic to the Bone when I immediately called up Magic in the Blood on my Overdrive app from the library to read on my phone as soon as Magic to the Bone was finished. I knew I wasn’t going to stop at just one book. It wasn’t far into Blood when I simply put in a request for any e-books of Allie Beckstrom and physical copies, too.
Besides my own binge-reading tendencies, what made me so interested in Allie Beckstrom? I love this character! She is so flawed and still grows but doesn’t gain super-powers or anything, she’s just a great character. The premise of this urban fantasy series set in Portland is that magic is something every person can use, with the help of a bit of technology, and it’s been around for about 30 years – or was discovered about 30 years ago. Allie, being 25, grew up using magic. Magic incurs a physical price for being used, for Allie this includes losing memories.
Allie is Hound, a person who uses magic to track those who have used magic, often against another person. This Hound job is a high magic-use position that is not easy, but also is looked at very poorly. She has a Harvard education in business magic, but magic knocking holes in her memory has taken care of that. Allie is also privileged to be the sole child of Daniel Beckstrom, CEO of Beckstrom Enterprises, the company who makes it possible for the regular person to use magic. Her mother moved to Europe when she was about 5, never to be heard from again. (This aspect of the book didn’t jive with me. I understand there is a suspension of belief because, magic, but at the same time everything else was within reasonable constructs.) When Allie’s teenage years set in, Allie did her best to separate herself from her father, and was still striving for that.
I like the character a lot. She has a good wit, is very intelligent, makes mistakes, and finds herself in trouble not of her own making. She gets a slight power spike in the first book, but it doesn’t repeat every book and the rest of her growth occurs the good ol’ fashioned way – through hard work. I found myself wondering about things mentioned in the books as seemingly throw-away or focused on that I knew had some big role, but didn’t seem to come up. I’ve found reviews where that really bugged other readers, but they are used to issues being addressed immediately. You have to have some patience in this storyline. The characters and the relationships are complex, nuanced, and feel real. There are a few slight caricatures, but sometimes you need that when you end up with a fairly large cast of characters. I find that the story really is a character story, which I liked just fine. It felt like making new friends and hanging out with them for awhile when reading this series.
The stories move fast. Truly, the major arc runs through all 9 books and each book has a sub-arc. I found about half-way through the series one book that was mostly all character development and set-up for the upcoming novels. It didn’t seem to have a plot of it’s own, but if the publisher was limiting these to around 350 pages (all 9 novels seem to be right about there), this development novel was needed. It was fun, it was just that I got to the end and realized that I didn’t feel like much story had been told, I’d just been along for the ride with Allie and her friends.
The first novel was published in 2008 and the ninth one in 2012. The ninth book is a finale. Monk planned and wrote the series as a 9-book series. However, there is another series that just started (!) about characters originating in the Allie Beckstrom series, taking place about 3 years after the finale of Allie’s story. We get to visit other old friends from the series, too. I haven’t read those, yet. But they are on my wishlist.
I could go into more detail about events and devices I especially liked, but I hate spoilers and work hard not to give them out, so even though these have been out well over a year, I’ll let you go grab Magic to the Bone from your favorite online or storefront retailer or from your local library.
When you really think about it, Lady Eboshi is the original source of every awful thing that happens in the anime movie Princess Mononoke. She is also just as fascinating and fierce as the main female character, however, and I can’t help but admire her for it.
Trying to summarize this multifaceted, larger-than-life film is tough, but it begins with a classic (wo)man-against-nature conflict narrative. On a quest for riches, Lady Eboshi builds Irontown, a settlement entirely dedicated to producing iron. To make room and materials for this colossal factory, she clear-cuts acres and acres worth of the surrounding woods, enraging the forest gods within.
All hell breaks loose when Nago, an esteemed warrior warthog god, gets a ball of iron lodged in his body, infecting him with evil. He begins attacking and killing everything in sight, completely driven by hateful demons. In order to stop the murder of nature and bring balance back to the earth, Lady Eboshi’s work must be eliminated.
So why would I dare call such a trouble-starter a strong female character? She’s much more than a run-of-the-mill bad guy. This woman extensively traveled across countries to recruit workers who had been rejected by the general populace. Her main work forces were lepers shunned by society, and prostitutes who’d never had another professional choice before.
She obviously uses these people’s skills and strengths to her own advantage, but she is downright good to them, too. Providing ample food, warm homes, and a genuinely caring community, she helps them heal both physically and emotionally. Many were alone and penniless when she met them, and most would have never escaped miserable lives if not for her. Every citizen not only reveres her, but willingly goes to war in order to protect her and the city they’ve built. When the women insist on defending her, she even has rifles designed specifically for them to learn and use!
When it comes to her relationship with leading lady San — aka Princess Mononoke — you could say it’s a bit strained. San has sworn to kill Eboshi, as she was raised by wolves in the woodlands being destroyed. In this battle, though, Eboshi is mostly trying to protect her assets and stay alive, not assassinate San out of pure evil. Constantly combating over their passions — iron versus earth, spirits versus humans — they definitely pass the Bechdel Test!
I won’t ruin the flick for those who haven’t yet seen it (because, do! Go see it! You’ll be doing yourself a huge favor!), but suffice it to say, somewhere along the way, Lady Eboshi has a change of heart. As if she wasn’t enough of a badass already, she becomes a dynamic character in the story, growing as a person and changing the fate of everyone around her.
While San will always be the star to root for, Lady Eboshi is absolutely brilliant, protective, and driven, making her one of my all-time favorite strong female characters.
With a job title like dominatrix, you just know Gail from the Sin City graphic novel series has got to be strong. In multiple ways! While many of author and artist Frank Miller’s female characters wouldn’t exactly be hailed by feminists, Gail is a breath of fresh air within his mostly black-and-white pages.
Anyone who has read the series or even just seen the movie knows Gail is quite the antiheroine. Adjacent to Basin City (aka “Sin City”) is a district called Old Town run exclusively by women, almost all of whom are prostitutes. Rather than submitting to this living out of fear or desperation, the women here are efficacious, well-off, and proud of their community. They are their own government and rule the area with iron fists (and literal weapons as well!). Gail’s ability to enjoy her profession and use it as a source of power and financial stability makes her quite sex-positive, another of her qualities I admire.
Two of Gail’s comrades, Goldie and Wendy, are twin sisters at the top of the neighborhood’s chain of command. When Goldie is mysteriously murdered outside of Old Town, Gail shows her fierce loyalty to these authority figures and friends by risking life and limb to get to the bottom of things. She also uses the situation as her chance to step up and help start leading Old Town alongside Wendy. Using her signature handcuffs, chains, and trick rope knots, she wrangles and mangles anyone who may be able to cough up information. And this is all just within the first graphic novel out of seven collections.
In another storyline down the road, the women of Old Town’s sovereignty is threatened when a police officer is unknowingly killed on their streets. This officer’s death violates the terms of conditions between the women and all other authority sources within Sin City. As several girls begin to panic, Gail stands strong and vows, “We’ll fight the cops, the mob, and anybody else who tries to move in on us. We’ll go to war.” She is a voice of reason and madness at the same time—both of which are surely necessary to run a world like Old Town. She is someone who the rest of the young women can look up to, and rather than let it go to her head, she keeps calm and devises a plan instantly.
For someone so physically and mentally strong, a trait of Gail’s that could be considered a weakness is her unwavering devotion to Dwight, a man who does not romantically love her back. While Dwight is protective and caring towards Gail, and they were lovers at one point in the past, he does not share her passionate, faithful feelings. This Sin City ex-con is fond of frequently telling her, “I’ll always love ya, babe,” to which she always somberly replies, “Always. And never.”
While her emotional dedication to a former lover is a classic character flaw, this response actually shows that she accepts their situation, and while it hurts, it doesn’t slow her down. Her loyalty to her sisterhood is not hindered, and she actually teams up with Dwight a couple times to defend Old Town together. She is equally fierce in love and cognizant of its danger, and this enables her to keep herself in check.
Self-aware, fiery, and fast-thinking, Gail is one den mother and dominatrix we can all learn something from. To see and meet more strong female characters in action, join us at GeekGirlCon ‘13! Pick up your passes today!
“When you can be this for as long as you have to be, then you’re a razor. This war is forcing us all to become razors, because if we don’t, we don’t survive. And then we don’t have the luxury of becoming simply human again.” Admiral Cain in Razor
Michelle Forbes as Admiral Cain. Syfy Channel Photo: Carole Segal
Not all strong female characters are role models—sometimes they’re villains. And sometimes they’re both. Though she appears in only a few episodes and the made-for-television movie Razor in the Battlestar Galactica series, Admiral Helena Cain has a lasting impact and is one of my favorite characters in the series.
The Battlestar Galactica reboot certainly didn’t lack for strong female characters, and it’s one of the reasons the show earned a lasting place in my heart. From the swoon-worthy swagger of Starbuck to Cat, Boomer, Dualla, and President Roslin, the series gave women a chance to portray strong, intelligent, flawed, complicated characters.
Admiral Cain certainly has all of those qualities: strong, intelligent, flawed, complicated—but especially flawed. She’s well-suited to military command as a confident, fearless, tough leader whose first loyalty, always, is to her crew. That loyalty is proved in a twisted way when she orders the takeover of civilian ships in order to get parts and supplies, ordering her soldiers to use lethal force if necessary. In her view, she must have those supplies at all costs, and the civilians must comply or their families will die. It’s a harsh necessity and she entertains no other options. She may feel some sorrow over the loss, but she won’t feel a speck of guilt for her decisions that result in the deaths of thousands of the last human survivors. Regaining the home planet and ensuring the elimination of the Cylons are worth paying any price.
At the same time, she proves herself to be nurturing, in her own way. With both Kendra Shaw and Starbuck, we see her taking younger women under her wing. She recognizes the smarts and potential behind the sometimes surly attitudes of both young women and encourages them to step up and grow into bigger responsibilities.
It’s safe to say that she is blinded by her unyielding hatred of Cylons, and that hatred is given more fuel when she discovers that her lover Gina is actually a Cylon (Six). She gives one of her officers free rein to torture and rape the Six, ostensibly in order to learn more about the Cylon plans and also about these humanoid Cylons themselves. But it’s pretty easy to see that the vitriol and disgust she feels toward Gina is also about her own betrayal and hurt feelings. On the one hand, she claims that Cylons aren’t people, don’t feel emotions like people. On the other hand, why would she order such brutal actions that are designed to hurt and humiliate if she doesn’t believe in Gina’s ability to feel hurt and humiliated?
When she is finally killed by Gina, it’s hard to feel much empathy for her, given some of the horrific things she’s done or has ordered others to do. Still, her unwavering bravery coupled with a hard-to-deny vulnerability as she stares down the barrel of a gun make me admire her and feel for her, even if it’s just sadness and frustration at her decisions that led to this inevitable end.
And no discussion of Admiral Cain would be complete without talking about Michelle Forbes, the actor who plays her. Forbes has a history of playing formidable, strong-willed, whip-smart characters in sci-fi and fantasy, including True Blood and Star Trek: The Next Generation. She has that quality of being able to seem like she’s looking right through you and all your b.s., a trait that is both terrifying and extremely sexy (or maybe that’s just me). She’s able to bring a steely depth to Cain that lessor actors would not.
All in all, Helena Cain is a total BAMF, worthy of the title of Strong Female Character. You may not like her or agree with her actions, but you can’t deny her strength and her appeal.
What flawed or villainous female characters do you love?