A little while back I heard someone complaint about the lack of women of colour in the geek industry. I do not remember whether the person in specific (some blogger somewhere) meant this in a specific media or genre. In any case, the comment stuck in my head for a while, and made me actually put an effort into finding women of a non-white background, in my comics and TV series, particularly women of ethnic origins with darker skin – leaving the Asian far east for another occasion. And I don’t know if it was serendipity or fate, but almost as soon as I started, these girls started cropping up. And let me tell you, they are all kickass!
My first point of reference was obvious. Any browncoat would immediately call Zoe into action for that. What more could anyone want than Zoe? Clever, disciplined, reliable, honourable, knows to handle her guns, fights for what is right. She may be a woman of few words, but when she speaks it is to be heard. But, of course, Firefly and Serenity are not the most updated data on the subject. Yet, it didn’t take me long to find an example everywhere I looked. Following the sci-fi train, I soon enough met Dutch: the fearless badass main character of Killjoys. Dutch is no lady, she is a killer, a trained assassin, a renegade princess. Guns (and Johnny) are her best friends. She is bloody-minded, not scared of using any of her charms and skills to get the job done. But she is also fragile, has a lot of baggage and issues. Yet, at the end of the day, Dutch always delivers. Her wild looks remind us that, in an age ruled by fear of terrorism, people from the Middle-East are not just the messed up criminals you see on the news – they can be dystopian saving freedom fighters too; the good guys, or girls in this case. But that was almost an easy find: you all knew about Killjoys presence in ManaBurnt before this right? Well, let’s give you some other examples of non-featured before series:
-Max: have you seen Black Sails?! If you haven’t you Want to get on to that right now, the new season will be coming out shortly, and you have a hell of a ride to catch up on. Max is one of the very first characters we meet in the series. We meet her as a young woman, working at the brothel of Nassau, involved in a complicated relationship with Miss Guthrie. Max is not only represents a Caribbean beauty, but the pure instinct of survival. She is determined to improve her situation in that forsaken island, and many pirated ought to be thankful she decided to stop in the island and not board a ship…She is cunning and manipulative, yet insightful, caring for the people who care for her, and a great power player. She understands how to govern politics, how to move the people, and how to maximise profit. Max is a full-on 21st century woman, capable of bringing herself to the top from one of the most stigmatised backgrounds. And on that archetype, let’s have a look into the new big hit of HBO: Westworld. If Max’s profile seemed familiar – and without wanting to make any spoilers – have you met Maeve? The Madam at the Mariposa? Maeve’s story is in many ways similar to Max’s. She lives in another lawless environment (change pirates for the Wild West, formulate your equation, and watch it go). Maeve is a key character for the viewer to understand the core of what is Westworld as an attraction, but also to comprehend what the hell is actually cooking behind the intrinsic narrative. The way Maeve transgresses the boundaries of morality, consciousness and humanity are still to come, but so far she has delivered a mind-blowing performance, leaving sometimes some of the bigger names of the cast under her shadow.
Who else can there be? Well, there is yet another two examples that I personally Love, and that come from a different genre all together. This time we jump on to comic adaptations: all coming from the hand of DC – (Sorry for Agent Carter, but if that is Marvel’s idea of empowerment…They still have a lot of catch up to do…). Here I present you Fish Mooney and Tulip O’Hare, the biggest, sassiest punks in town. Starting with Fish, she is a main character in the Gotham story line, impersonated by the incredibly superb Jada Pinket Smith. Smith had pretty much a blanch card, as Fish is a not actually based in any specific DC comics character of the current known narrative. But she made it fit perfectly well: she took this classy club owner, part of the Falcone gang, and made her a terrifying, cold, well-spoken underworld magnate. Fish is an opportunist, she will go with the flow of whatever suits her right, and she always does it in style: her outfits, makeup and hair does are seriously Cool. She is a negotiator, she is smooth, but be mindful of screwing her over, because she will go nuts on you. She has a presence that many other female character lack in this narrative (Sadly for Morena Baccarin in her portrayal of Lee Tompkins, so much more she could do with that role…). In fact, I would quite happily say that Fish is the strongest female character is Gotham, at least for the greatest part of 2 seasons. And from one punk to another, let’s step into Preacher for a moment.
I had my doubts when I heard Preacher was being adapted to TV. But now, I am converted. Dominic Cooper takes upon a role never seen for him, which he dominates gracefully. And Cassidy…CASSIDY! Trust a Brit to deliver you right a wrong gone eternal Vampire of Irish ascent. Just Brilliant. But I do seriously think what completed the package, for me, was the true portrayal of Tulip. Knowing the actress refined work elsewhere (search name), it was such a transformation seeing this woman cursing like a truck driver, drinking like one too, wrecking stuff up like if life depended on it. Yet, underneath her criminal background (the similarities are apparent too..) Tulip does everything she does for a reason, and one reason only: Love. She loves Jesse more than anything, anyone, could. And even when Jesse tells her that their old ways were wrong and she must find a different path, she hears him out. She doesn’t like it. She doesn’t just take it. But she tries. She goes above and beyond anyone could expect her to do. She breaks the mold, her persona, the expectations of the audience.
And these are just some of the examples…The point is, things are moving forward, not only for female characters but for people of different ethnicity. Overall, I think it is fair to say that the worlds of fiction are giving a voice to those who have one, and they shall keep on doing that for the many more voices to come.