Star Wars, the Last Jedi, Beauty and the Beast, and Wonder Woman are among the top 10 highest grossing movies of 2017 in the whole world: with Star Wars placed first, Beauty and the Beast second, and Wonder Woman third in the U.S. and ninth worldwide. But what is most notable about the three isn’t the fact that they each earned an average of almost 1 billion USD, but instead that the three have one other big thing in common: strong female leads.
The protagonists of 2017’s biggest movies are all different. Belle is a young French lady in the 1800s. Princess Diana is an Amazon goddess. Rey, Rose Tico, Admiral Holdo, and Princess Leia are caught up in an intergalactic war and fight the battles with their own unique strengths.
While they all come from different worlds, time periods, and franchises, they represent universal values and ideals. Belle is aware of the importance of being educated, and she knows that by being well educated, she will not be quick to judge other people or fear the unknown. Wonder Woman, while at times naïve, knows that there are both good and bad people in the world. She shows that we are all capable of making good and bad choices, and that true strength is in staying kind, compassionate, and true to yourself in the face of difficulty. The leaders of the Resistance, Princess Leia and Admiral Haldo, prove that being leaders don’t always mean being ready to attack or taking risks, but also knowing when to hold back to protect and defend instead. They stay poised, levelheaded, and regal when everything seems to be going wrong. Rey showed me that there will always be temptations to go over to the “dark side” in life and that at times it will be hard to resist them. But we have to remain strong and firm in what we know is right and what we believe in. Rose Tico, the first Asian major character in the Star Wars franchise, said one of my favorite quotes of all time: “That’s how we’re going to win. Not fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.”
This January, another strong independent woman came to the big screen through an unlikely actor: Jack Black. In his latest movie, Jumanji, Jack Black plays the avatar of a young woman who gets trapped in a video game called Jumanji. Simply put, he plays a teenage girl stuck in the body of an “overweight, middle-aged man.” (That’s a direct quote.) While the movie was fun and hilarious, it also did a good job giving Jack Black’s character, Bethany, the best character development in the whole film. Bethany begins the movie as a self-absorbed, selfie-addicted high school girl. But when she gets stuck in Jumanji, she slowly begins to learn about selflessness and compassion, putting the life of one of her fellow “players” before her own. Presented in an unconventional way, Bethany shows the importance of being selfless in this very self absorbed world we have to grow up in, and teaches us to remember that the end of the world isn’t when someone doesn’t like our selfie on Instagram.
Women have finally been stepping into the heroic roles they deserve, not simply as damsels in distress or “the love interest.” We have strong, independent, educated, compassionate, and intelligent leaders of all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and personalities, just like all the real women in the world. I haven’t even named all the amazing female characters on TV yet, like the broken yet compassionate bada** Eleven from my favorite show Stranger Things or the budding detective Betty Cooper of the hit TV drama Riverdale. There are real life heroes as well, like Malala Yousafzai, the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize who stood up for female education, and Lilly Singh aka iiSuperwomanii, a YouTube celebrity who uses her influence to send girls to school in Africa and promote #GirlLove, a campaign against girl on girl hate.
There are also our Filipina heroines, Melchora Aquino aka Tandang Sora and Gabriela Silang, who both did their part in defending our country from our Spanish colonizers. One took care of Andres Bonifacio and the Katipunan by feeding, housing, and tending to them when they were wounded, and was ultimately harshly interrogated and deported for it. The other was the commander of rebel troops in Ilocos who rallied her kababayans to fight for the independence of Ilocos and attempted to liberate Vigan from the Spanish. She was eventually captured and killed, but not in vain.
2018 is being predicted by many to be a great year for women, especially after the sexual harassment scandals of Hollywood coming to light and #MeToo gaining global popularity and respect. As women, let us gain inspiration from the girls who changed TV and cinema, as well as all the heroines who shaped history. Let’s turn 2018 into a year where women are heard and respected, a year that will never be forgotten.