The media has oppressed women, the LGBTQ+ community, minorities, and others for generations. White men were the only ones allowed to create entertainment for a long time. They were the writers, producers, executives, and more. By not having a diverse set of eyes on projects, the project usually was coated in harmful representations of others or had no representation of diversity at all.
Women were and still often are showcased through the male gaze. The male gaze is the perspective that the entertainment in question is directed and created to target an appeal to men, which usually leads to the sexualization and the objectification of women. LGBTQ+ are usually portrayed as the funny side characters which in certain films led to characters being killed off. It’s a horrible plot device that LGBTQ+ characters are shown in films to further the story, only to be killed off later as if they are dispensable. All races, ethnic groups, and nationalities are subject to stereotypical portrayals that are harmful in perpetuating those stereotypes to more people. People see those stereotypes on screen and think that they are a representation of the real world.
Anything in life that doesn’t have a diverse group around it is often dripping in internalized biases and microaggressions. Creators with no education on diversity, equity, inclusion, gender studies, or feminist topics often play into harmful stereotypes of whatever group they may have pulled into their project. Media has been extremely problematic in the past, and many of it still is. Nothing is perfect, but some characters embody feminism fairly well.
Here’s a list of characters that embody feminism!
- Hermione Granger from Harry Potter!
Hermione, played by Emma Watson, is a brilliant, brave, and strong woman. She values her education and thinks for herself. Eventually, in the Harry Potter series, there is a scene where she is being tortured but refuses to give up any information. She is a fast-thinker in challenging situations and makes decisions for the greater good instead of self-benefit. She’s a fantastic role-model and a true friend.
- Veronica Lodge from Riverdale!
Riverdale has a decent diverse cast. We see people from a variety of backgrounds and a variety of sexualities. The show is about many high school students trying to navigate a town that seems to throw every obstacle possible at them. Veronica Lodge, played by Camila Mendes, is a main character who is a Latina. She comes from a wealthy background, but her father falls into trouble resulting in him going to prison. She comes back down to earth and goes on to run her own diner and underground speak-easy while only being in high school. She shows time and time again that she can persevere through what life throws at her and isn’t going to let anyone boss her around.
- Katherine Goble Johnson from Hidden Figures!
Katherine Johnson’s character is based off of the real Katherine Johnson, a brilliant mathematician working at NASA who finds discrepancies in calculations and checks the landing coordinates. She is an African American woman and stands up for other Black women by ensuring they have the necessary information to excel in their careers. She pushes for her coworkers to be transferred into the Programming Department. We see her face discrimination and battle the segregation of race and sex-based on department and the access to a bathroom within an appropriate walking distance. She fights for her women, does her job exceptionally well, and represents women in STEM amazingly. The character is played by Taraji Henson.
- Jane Villanueva from Jane the Virgin!
Gina Rodriguez plays Jane, a young Latina woman who chose to remain a virgin until marriage but is accidentally artificially inseminated by her gynecologist. She overcomes this obstacle and continues to chase her dreams of pursuing a writing career. She is an independent woman and makes decisions for herself. She doesn’t need a man, but she dates when she sees fit. She’s a classy, hilarious, and strong woman.
- Shuri from Black Panther!
Shuri is a young African American woman, played by Letitia Wright. Shuri is an intelligent engineer and inventor. She also has a witty and strong personality. She is always there for those around her, especially her brother. She helps fight against bad guys and handles gigantic tasks like deprogramming Bucky and extracting the mind stone from Vision. She is a role-model and a badass woman.
Mulan is a story that many people will know. She was one of the first Disney princesses that wasn’t covered in ball-gowns and was instead known for fighting for her loved ones and for truth and honor. She’s a young Chinese woman who disguises herself as a man to fight in a war, so her father won’t have to. She did it to save her father’s life. She learns how to be a warrior and outsmarts the bad guys. She never gave up and didn’t let discrimination about her being a woman stop her. She proved to everyone that women should not be underestimated.
- Bethany Hamilton from Soul Surfer!
Bethany, played by AnnaSophia Robb, plays a young surfer woman who loses her left arm to a shark attack. This movie is based off of the true story of Bethany Hamilton. She has to overcome any fears of the water and her frustrations of the difficulty of surfing with one arm. She uses her love of surfing to inspire others. She represents people with disabilities and is an inspiration for those who are not fully able-bodied. Able-bodied people receive a wake-up call for how hard it is for others and how we must take persons with disabilities into consideration in all aspects of life. Being able-bodied is a privilege, and we have to lift up those who are oppressed and do our part to make life the best we can for them. Bethany is an inspiration and an excellent example of hard work and perseverance.
- ELENA ALVAREZ FROM ONE DAY AT A TIME!!!!!
One day at a time is a tv show about a Cuban family. The show addresses sexism, immigration issues, religion, sexuality, workplace discrimination, and more. This is one of my favorite shows because they drop knowledge bombs every episode on essential topics that people should be educated about. Elena, played by Isabella Gomez, chose to be referred to as a young Latinx female and came out to her family as a lesbian. She is knowledgeable, attends protests, educates others on social issues, works to protect the environment, and so much more. She is a feminist and activist. We see her struggle with acknowledging her sexuality, coming out, facing acceptance by some family members, and not being accepted by other members of her family. She learns how to navigate dating, and she’s comfortable being her true self.
- Emma Nolan and Alyssa Green from The Prom!
Jo Ellen Pellman plays Emma, and Ariana DeBose plays Alyssa. They are a lesbian couple in the movie and just want to go to prom together. Alyssa’s mother is the head of the school’s PTA and is fighting hard against it because she doesn’t know her daughter’s sexuality. Emma advocates for others and fights to make an inclusive prom where people are free to be themselves, wear what they are comfortable in, and bring whatever date they want. We see her struggle with her parents and community not accepting her. She lives with her grandmother and is bullied and treated harshly for being a lesbian. Her girlfriend Alyssa isn’t out yet, but she is a very popular girl. Her mother has pushed perfection on her until she finally cracks. They both represent the struggles of coming out and overcoming discrimination and oppression to be themselves and love freely. They are very intersectional in terms of being an interracial lesbian couple.
- Princess Tiana from Princess and the Frog!
Tiana is an African American young woman. The movie takes place in New Orleans, and she is working hard to accomplish her dream of owning her own restaurant. The loss of her father still pains her greatly, but she uses him as inspiration to keep pushing forward. The film is very intersectional. The movie respectfully shows Tiana’s life. The film also casts a light on social class by representing the struggle of the lower-income social class. It represents the fight to overcome obstacles to climb out of that social class to accomplish one’s dreams.
- Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender!
Katara is a strong Native American woman who can bend water. She’s the only water bender from her tribe, and most refused to teach her how to use her abilities because she is a woman. Despite that setback, she pushes forward until she does find a teacher and masters her skills. This narrative can be related to the patriarchy. Men are driven to be warriors while women are left to do the housework. Katara wanted more than that but had to go out of her way to find someone to teach her. In the real world, women, African Americans, and other minorities were not always allowed access to an education. That is something that had to be fought for.
- Korra from The legend of Korra!
This show also came from the Avatar universe. Korra embodies feminism through being a representation of diversity. She is a Native American woman who we eventually see begin dating another woman at the end of the show. She is a strong main character who overcomes obstacles and perseveres to accomplish her goals.
It’s important to have as many intersectional and diverse characters as possible in the media so we have a better chance of seeing accurate depictions of real people in the world. Everyone should be able to have healthy representations of people like them in the media.