We like to think that in these modern times we’ve come a long way and that sexism is a thing of the past, but in truth we’re still very much entrenched in male chauvinist dogma. The entertainment industry is a man’s world, and most comics, cartoons or movies will have a female lead only if she’s a size nothing and excuses can be made to get her to flash her tits or strut around naked.
But, as Burl Ives reminds us through the power of song; beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So what about those leading ladies that are a little bit unconventional? Aren’t they deserving of the same praise as your Spider Womans and Emma Frosts? Join me as I take a look at my top five female characters that I think are just as worthy of your attention, but don’t need to dress like a whore to get it.
#1 Abby Mallard
Sometime in 2005, Disney released Chicken Little. Over here we’d call him Chicken Licken I suppose, but the story is the same – a little chicken gets conked on the head and believes the sky is falling. In this film, though, he’s actually right. Turns out the sky is a holographic cage hung in the heavens to cloak the arrival of a visiting alien species. And who said the mouse house didn’t have original ideas?
It’s a really good film, truth be told, and littered with pop culture references. I give it eight bum feathers out of ten. Add a point if you like Kiki Dee.
Well, I digress. The female lead and foil to Chicken Little’s antics is one Abby Mallard, of Ugly Duckling fame. Her on-screen debut is accompanied by a comedy olden-times car horn sound effect, to emphasise her deliberate ugliness. As the film goes on, though, you’ll warm to her. She’s so incredibly animated and full of character that you can’t help but fall in love with her a bit (not literally, she’s supposed to be like ten years old), and you silently cheer on her blossoming romance with Chicken.
After the world is saved, the heroic fowl are told that they’re going to have a movie made about them. The characters and we, the audience, are treated to a screening of this film just before the credits roll. In a smart parody of the industry, Abby is played by a buxom bombshell, her personality distorted to portray her as a swooning bimbo.
In the puzzle game Portal, you’re trapped in a scientific institution like a rat in a maze, and have to find your way through various gauntlets set by the sentient computer GLaDOS. The game is called Portal because the primary tool used to complete these challenges is a portal gun. For those totally unfamiliar with the game, a portal gun is exactly what it sounds like. Throughout the experience, GlaDOS and her dry wit are your only company. I found her to be hilarious and sort of sweet despite her callous attitude to the perilous challenges faced.
She goes a bit HAL on you towards the end of the game, and you’re forced to destroy her. I really struggled to play through that bit. It’s heartbreaking. Is all that it seems, though? There’s a wonderful song that plays over the end credits that gives you the true answer. It’s an inexorable part of my MP3 playlist, now!
Sapphire eyes, violet hair, charming accent and a generous and tender personality. You’d have to be some sort of lunatic crazy man to not carry a torch for this fine quadruped. Or is that the other way around…? Maybe you have to be a crazy man to carry a torch for her. Am I crazy? Too many questions! Moving on!
Aha! Another hoofed honey!
Unikitty is one of the stars of the recently-released Lego movie. Like all children, I had a few Lego sets growing up. I loved it, especially the space-themed sets like Blacktron and Space Police. But in recent times I have grown sick of it – there’s Lego everything now, and things like Lego Batman have become franchises in their own right. So when I heard about the movie, I spat out my Panda Pop in a fit of impotent rage.
However, for the first and only time in my life, I was wrong.
The Lego Movie is hilarious. It’s a sophisticated and well-written film that is suitable for adults and children alike. It also has an incredible theme song that you’ll be singing forever – despite it being a thinly-veiled communist brainwashing mantra. Anyway, for me the best character was Unikitty. She’s not quite a cat, not quite a horse, but she’s pink and made of about four pieces – so, lacking legs, she trots and hops around with a comical and frolicsome gait. She has an extremely naive and childlike personality, and seems to experience no negative emotions at all. Your sides will split when she becomes “Biznis Kitty” to infiltrate a shareholder meeting towards the end of the film.
To see Unikitty is to fall madly in love with her. Maybe that’s my inner optimist speaking – I’ve found that I, and maybe the world itself, have become jaded and cynical – the delightful and irrepressible Unikitty is just what the doctor ordered to awaken the happy-go-lucky dreamer that lives inside us all.
In the mid-to-late eighties, Disney was experimenting with original syndicated programming. The first “Disney afternoon cartoons” were produced simultaneously; The Wuzzles and Gummi Bears. I fondly recall the adventures of the Gummi Bears, but it’s only in recent times that I’ve become familiar with the former.
The show centres around a core cast of five Wuzzles – that is, chimeric animals that are two rolled into one. So we have Butterbear, a butterfly/bear; Eleroo, an elephant/kangaroo and so on.
One of the two female characters was Hoppo, a humorously gigantic hippopotamus with bunny ears and a cottontail. Her size was often played for laughs, but I find her quite enchanting. She has a razor wit and speaks in a sort of dreamy rhetoric. It’s mesmerising. In fact, the whole show has a sort of ethereal nebulousness that makes it seem like a distant memory or fever dream. Very odd indeed. Great theme tune, though!
NiGHTS into Dreams (yes, with a little ‘i’) was released for the Sega Saturn in 1996. It’s a beautiful game, played from the perspective of two children who travel to the land of dreams to learn about courage and defeat the nightmares that haunt them.
Their companion on this journey is the androgynous NiGHTS, a sort of aerial acrobat/jester thing – like Harely Quinn with giant cat eyes. The truth of its gender is that he or she is whatever you want it to be. The idea being, perhaps, that if you’re a boy you would see NiGHTS as a girl and vice versa.
The gameplay is something of an acquired taste – it’s quite frantic, somewhere between platformer, flight sim and score attack. What makes the game outstanding is the atmosphere; the bizarre dreamscapes and spine-tingling music. The story is told without words, and as you play you’ll find yourself becoming extremely attached to NiGHTS herself.
A sequel to the game was released twelve years later and it’s just as good as the first, if not better. The only point of contention is the fact that NiGHTS now has a voice, as ambiguous as her physical appearance but complete with fake-o British accent that makes you cringe. Still, fully recommended! The atmosphere is enchanting and captivating, and as with the first game, it left me wanting to see more of the altruistic acrobat.
“Praise as your spider”