Zoe Saldana- The Woman in Sci-Fi We All Need

I am a huge fan of Zoe Saldana’s work but I first came across her work when I was six years old, in the film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, where she plays the small role of Anamaria, a female pirate who Captain Jack Sparrow has “borrowed” her boat and she slapped him (iconic).

Little did I know that I would become a huge film-geek and fangirl who would love and appreciate her impact on the science fiction genre.

Now Zoe Saldana has a long and impressive filmography under her belt, but for this article and Women’s Week on the University of Wyoming’s Her Campus chapter, I will focus exclusively on Saldana’s influential roles in the sci-fi and geekdom genre.

The year 2009 was a big year for me as it was my first year of middle school and I was just trying to survive. But it was also a big year for Saldana as two blockbusters hit theaters the same year. When I first saw the trailers for these two movies I  couldn’t wait for Avatar and Star Trek to come out. Little did I know that I would go in to the theaters with an appreciation for James Cameron’s Pandora world and Chris Pratt, but I would leave inspired by Zoe Saldana’s roles in the two films.

James Cameron’s Avatar and J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek were massive successes. These two huge films skyrocketed Saldana into the public eye and made her a household name. Besides commercial success, it was the world’s first look at Saldana in two powerful character roles.  

In 2009’s Star Trek, Saldana plays Lieutenant Nyota Uhura or the linguist on the USS Enterprise. Saldana is an all-business woman who excels in her job and worked very hard to get there. She demands that she be assigned to USS Enterprise when she was unhappy with her original assignment. Uhura knew exactly what she was capable of and where her services would be best used. It was a good thing Spock listened to her because she saves the whole ship on multiple occasions with her intelligence of multiple alien languages.

Side note: pictured above is Zoe Saldana speaking with the original Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek: The Original Series played by Nichelle Nichols. The original Star Trek still means so much to people today but especially for the generation who witnessed it firsthand. The television series lasted from 1966 to 1969. Fun Fact: it was one of the only t.v. shows that Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. was a fan of and let his children watch because it had a woman of color in the important role of officer. This role of Uhura means so much still today and it was wonderful to see Saldana bring everything to the role for a new generation.

In 2009’s Avatar, Saldana plays Neytiri, the princess of the Omaticaya clan. She saves the protagonist of the film, Jake Sully’s life when he is about to be killed by wild animals. Saldana gives the audience a strong, stubborn, passionate and spiritual female character who loves her people and her home. This character is so important as she is a warrior and protector of her homeland that is being threatened and invaded by corrupt outsiders. Sure, there is a love plot line in the story between Neytiri and Jake, but that is just a small part of Neytiri’s character in the film.

Okay, I don’t know about you, but I’m still trying to recover from Avengers: Infinity War. So, for the sake of this article, let’s just imagine that all the Guardians of the Galaxy are together taking a much-deserved break. But anyway, Gamora in 2014 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, is yet another fabulous female character in the science fiction genre. With the exception of the new Captain Marvel movie, Gamora is one of the more developed female characters in the MCU. Gamora is strong, driven and totally independent. At the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, she is on her own mission to stop Thanos, but along the way she finds her new family. She does not change much about her motives or personality over the two Guardians of the Galaxy movies, but she does open herself up to her new family and allows herself to love again. Well-developed characters like Gamora give women a character that they can relate to, learn from and aspire to be.

Also look at this character development. I mean she goes from this…

To this! Saldana portrays Gamora as a woman who has been through hell and back. She is hard, stubborn and distrustful. But, through her character arc, she is able to still be all these things but she is also evolving just like any woman does and begins to trust and love people.

Finally, science fiction is one of the more progressive movie genres, as for the most part, there are more strong female character and who better to fill these roles than Zoe Saldana. Her acting is insane, and her portrayal of strong female characters give female audience members a complicated, strong, fierce, brave and intelligent woman. With her presence in these massive films, she is bringing representation to a new generation, where women girls of all backgrounds and ethnicities can see themselves on the big screen and feel seen.

Saldana inspires me to see myself as strong in a way that only sci-fi can. The genre of science fiction looks to the future and what things could be like and for that reason, there is better roles for women to act in. And Saldana just so happens to be an amazing actress and when she plays a strong female character in amazing movies, she lets me and women of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities see a woman like themselves on screen and what we could be. She gives me hope for the future.

Zoe Saldana is the woman we need in all films, but especially sci-fi. She is portraying strong and driven female characters that let women see themselves as a Lieutenant, a Princess and a Guardian. I can’t wait to see what is next.

Thank you, Zoe Saldana!

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