Currently Awesome: LGBT Pride Month!

It is June, peeps, and school’s out and the people are out. The American flags and the pride flags. And nothing screams “America” more to me than the freedom to do that, as we are currently in the middle of LGBTQIAPGNC (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Pansexual, Gender-non-conformist) pride month! It was first recognized under the base acronym in the United States back in 1994. It is the community’s celebration of its brothers, sisters and everyone who identifies in between—their public, personal and political achievements as well as an all-encompassing way to commemorate the people who have given their lives to better improve the lives of others and further the fight for recognition of what have ALWAYS been/ARE inalienable human rights. It’s like the advocates say over and over again:

More rights for others does NOT mean less rights for you, critics and detractors.

It means equality. It means seeing and treating the person next to you with as much value and respect as you would want that person to treat you. A person’s sexual orientation is that person’s business, and unless the way he/she/they expresses it is directly harmful to you or anyone else, it is none of your business. It a sacred duty for people to love one another—is it not, Christians? I don’t believe it’s “Love your fellow man…unless he has lain with another man.” Read your John and your Luke and your Matthew and your Peter—I could go on. You can respect someone without being like them and love them without liking them, and to put in specific effort not even to try is your folly and your loss. At the core of every pride and awareness month—Black, Hispanic, Asian Pacific American, Native American, Breast Cancer, No-Shave November—is the call to love and accept one another, for that is true righteousness, and anyone who thinks his or her God wouldn’t believe/want/stand for that, needs more spiritual guidance and counseling than any non-straight person I know, let me tell you.

Anyway, as a heteroromantic asexual, all the love, joy and orientation-exploration and -ownership I’ve seen spreading across social media these last couple of weeks does my gray-A little heart good. How will I contribute to the party myself? By writing about it of course!

I promised more lists of love to come (psst, there’ll be more still)!

My Top 30 Favorite Fictional LGBTQIAP+ Characters:

30. Keith Charles from Six Feet Under (gay)
29. Tara Maclay from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (lesbian)
28. Clay “Uncle Daddy” Husser from Claws (bisexual)
27. Raymond “Ray” Gillette from Archer (gay)
26. Annalisa “Quiet Ann” Zayas from Claws (lesbian)
25. Ellie from The Last of Us (lesbian)
24. Denise Cloyd from The Walking Dead (lesbian)
23. Sophia Lopez from Nip/Tuck (transgender woman)
22. Jamal Lyon from Empire (gay)
21. Ally Mayfair-Richards from American Horror Story: Cult (lesbian)
*20. Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean series (bisexual)
*19. Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead (asexual)
18. Special Agent Paul Smecker from The Boondock Saints (gay)
17. Ennis Del Mar from Brokeback Mountain (gay)
16. Robert Frobisher from Cloud Atlas (gay)
15. Lieutenant Jim Dangle from Reno 911! (gay)
14. Officer John Cooper from SouthLAnd (gay)
*13. Clara Oswald from Doctor Who (bisexual)
12. Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin from Gotham (gay)
11. Pam Poovey from Archer (bisexual)
10. Lana Winters from American Horror Story: Asylum (lesbian)
9. Rusty from Flawless (transgender woman)
8. Andrew Beckett from Philadelphia (gay)
7. Sonny Wortzik from Dog Day Afternoon (bisexual)
6. Dr. Liz Cruz from Nip/Tuck (lesbian)
5. Kurt Hummel from Glee (gay)
4. David Fisher from Six Feet Under (gay)
*3. Willow Rosenberg from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (lesbian)
*2. The Doctor from Doctor Who (pansexual)
*1. Bill Potts from Doctor Who (lesbian)

*Honorable Mention to Gus Fring from Breaking Bad, whom I personally interpret to be gay (and to have been romantic partners with his business partner Max), but whose orientation is not clearly stated, given creator Vince Gilligan himself said the character’s sexuality is “open to interpretation.”

*20 = I interpret Jack to be bisexual based on Johnny Depp’s interviews on the topic of Jack’s sexuality and the his portrayal of Jack in certain scenes with male characters such as Will, Norrington and Barbossa; they tend to come off as homoerotic or at least ambiguous enough in nature for me to perceive what could be—or is meant to be teased as—sexual tension.

*19 = It was stated by TWD series creator Robert Kirkman that Daryl has been written to be portrayed as asexual, and as an asexual fan who sees herself reflected many ways in this character, I will be very angry if they end up giving Daryl a romantic love interest. “But don’t you want to see him happy?” the fangirls ask. Yes, but the point is you don’t HAVE to be in a romantic relationship to be a happy, fulfilled being when you’re asexual. You need a purpose more than a partner, and that’s the mindset Daryl’s always displayed. Besides, Daryl has been written for years as someone who is not remotely interested or emotionally ready for sex or romance, so shoehorning either into his arc would be a terrible call, in my opinion. But who knows. After season 8 especially, the writers and producers have proven they’ll try to justify anything, regardless of what their writing decisions cost the overall story which, in this case, is much of its rationality.

*13 = Clara is on this list because she has at least two lines that deeply imply she is bisexual and had a love affair with author Jane Austen. She’s only this low on the list because the writers didn’t go all the way and make her bisexuality explicit. The proof is there, you just have to listen for it.

*3 = Willow identifies as a lesbian in seasons 5-7 despite past heterosexual relationships so, to me, she’s a lesbian, not bisexual.

*2 = I actually would rank The Doctor first but don’t feel I can since he/she is not explicitly stated to be pansexual. However, I interpret this genius alien being, who has made countless speeches about being above the stereotypes surrounding either gender and species, to be pansexual, mainly due to the fact that said being has kissed and flirted with women, men and other species during many of his/her adventures through time and space.

*1 = Bill is my number one for this list due to the fact that she best exemplifies what it is to be joyous, accepting and proud of her same-sex sexuality.

My Top 15 Favorite Fictional Gay & Lesbian Couples:

*15. Valerie Page and Ruth from V for Vendetta
14. Chiron and Kevin from Moonlight
13. Tara Chambler and Denise Cloyd from The Walking Dead
12. Cameron Tucker and Mitchell Pritchett from Modern Family
*11. Barbara Kean and Tabitha Galavan from Gotham
*10. Santana Lopez and Brittany Pierce from Glee
9. Andrew Beckett and Miguel Alvarez from Philadelphia
8. Robert Frobisher and Rufus Sixsmith from Cloud Atlas
7. Armand and Albert Goldman from The Birdcage
6. Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint from Doctor Who
5. Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist from Brokeback Mountain
*4. Bill Potts and Heather from Doctor Who
*3. Willow Rosenberg and Tara Maclay from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
2. David Fisher and Keith Charles from Six Feet Under
*1. Sam and Horton Ropp from Even Now

*15 = I was so moved by Valerie’s letter in the 2005 film adaptation of V for Vendetta that I fell in love with her love story instantly.

*11 = I didn’t say these were all healthy relationships…but I’ve always found Barbara and Tabitha’s interesting to say the least.

*10 = Kurt and Blaine are wonderful too, of course! I just prefer Brittana.

* 4 = *SPOILERS…did you read that in River Song’s voice? I hope so* I shipped these two hard and strong from the instant we saw sparks fly in that silent scene in the bar. I don’t care that Heather only appeared in two episodes; their chemistry is that strong. Heather has this mysterious aura and understated sexiness about her with her husky voice and playful quips—“I’m the pilot. I can fly anything…even you”—and contrasts and matches up with our adorable Bill really well. Apparently the writers thought so too, since they had Heather return for Bill and take off with her into space to end series 10. I loved it. My headcanon is full and rich with their cosmic adventures and dates and everything that could have happened between Bill’s rescue and the harvesting of her spirit’s memories by the Testimony. What I especially appreciate about this couple is that each had a loneliness/sadness about her before their travels and shared the same curiosity about the realms beyond the world we know, and they got to pacify both of those things before their time was done, and it was perfect.

* 3 = Something for which I will always be grateful to my mother is that she never impressed her own biases upon me when I was growing up. She let me watch Dragon Ball Z AND bought me dolls. She didn’t make me wear pink or make me get my ears pierced—they’re still not pierced. She never had any qualms about the fact that all my crushes were Caucasian. If she had any prejudices or judgments, she never let me know it. She let me be my own person, let me make up my own mind, and as I said, I’m very grateful for that.

When I was young, I asked Mom what it meant to be gay. She simply said, “That’s when a boy and a boy like each other or a girl and a girl” or something to that effect. I think I said “Oh” and went about my business. I don’t remember seeing a gay couple portrayed in primetime television until I was watching reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; the couple to whom I’m referring is Willow and Tara, of course. This is going to sound funny, but I didn’t even notice they were gay. What I mean by that is I didn’t notice there was something supposedly “different” about them because they were two women and didn’t think or feel about them any differently than I thought about heterosexual couples on TV, so my basic childhood response to prejudice against homosexual relationships was “This is a thing?” My love for them as individuals and as a couple was natural, and the actresses were so committed to their characters, I never saw Willow and Tara as anything other than a regular loving couple, and that’s exactly what they are. For which I am also grateful because they added a lot to a show that was already powerful and special.

* 1 = You likely haven’t heard of this delightful, elderly, interracial couple because they don’t exist yet in popular media. They exist solely in my 270-page manuscript, which is currently in its second round of edits. I know, I know, it’s kind of cheating to put these characters first in this list (and speaks nothing of my own vanity, of course), but it’s the truth. I am very proud of the relationship I’ve developed for Sam and Horton, a retired jazz pianist and retired college professor respectively, and cannot wait to share them—as well as their daughter Yvonne and friend and surrogate daughter, Jada—with potential agents and hopefully readers all over. There are 40 years of history between this married couple, the details of which I plan on getting into one day if all goes well in my writing journey.

For now the Ropps and Even Now—that’s the name of my novel—are the reason I’m going to be taking some time off from my blog after I’m done posting this and an analysis of my Top 100 Favorite Fictional Characters. I started Even Now in late 2014 and it’s mid-2018 and only six people have seen and critiqued it so far. Yeaaaah, I…have an anxiety problem, among other…problems. But that’s enough excuses. I need to be free to focus on editing Even Now so I can give it to the next 15 people I have lined up to read it, so I can edit it before I hire a professional editor so I can edit once more before I start querying agents. And I have to do all this while completing at least one other project as well so I can be prepared if agents ask me what else I’m working on or what direction I want to take my writing. I want to make writing my career—it’s all I’ve ever really wanted—and if I’m going to do that, I have to better practice discipline and brush up my author platform. While this blog is a part of that platform, it’s not all of it, you dig? Sorry, now I’m just thinking of Sam. “You dig” is the kind of thing he might say, with his sweet, charming, colorful self. Something his husband, Horton, would respond to by nodding and making an overt shoveling motion, more than likely, with his hokey humor and easy-going, eccentric nature. Oh, my guys.

And if you’re at all interested in what my guys or their little family unit have to say, stay tuned to my blog to hear more about my women’s fiction drama in an upcoming post, ’cause if you’re looking for another strong, loving, unique gay pairing to appreciate, you shouldn’t miss this one.

Finally…

My Favorite LGBTQIAP+ Icons (Miscellaneous):

Lady Gaga (MAMA MONSTER! And especially her songs “Born This Way” and “Poker Face”)
RuPaul
Ellen DeGeneres
George Takei
Laverne Cox
Isis King (motivational speaker of America’s Next Top Model fame)
David Jay (asexual activist and founder of AVEN)
Ryan Murphy (and basically any TV show of his)
Mary Lambert
“Same Love” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert

Because it IS all the same love, as many of us already knows—from the same place, for the same things.

I just wish the whole of humanity knew it too. Love is not a secret. To quote Doctor Who (as if I didn’t have enough references lol), it’s a “promise.”

If only we could make such a promise to each other, all the time, all year round, what a place this world would be, huh?

-BP

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This May Interest You: My Top 50 Favorite Fictional Female Characters

I raved about 50 fictional men in my December 2017 post and have finally, finally, FINALLY finished the sister list, “My Top 50 Favorite Fictional Female Characters”! Yaaay! This list has taken me about 6 months to compile, effectively putting my blog on hold, and I apologize for that. The delay was due in part to a few things, most notably a deep depressive episode I outlined in my April 2018 post and rewatching a number of things to make sure I did these ladies and my love letters to them justice.

So let’s see how I did, shall we?

I love these women. In many ways they offer to popular culture much more than sugar, spice, and everything nice. They offer intelligence, physical and emotional resilience and spirit, and the ability to rise above what meets the eye through sheer talent, will or power. At the risk of sounding like an egotistical jerk with delusions of grandeur, I see myself in many of them, admiring those who share and embody feminist beliefs, those who remind me the full spectrum of women’s intrinsic strength and those who personify traits I simply do not have myself as a flawed being. What I have instead is them and like the men on December’s list, I carry them with me and have carried them throughout my life and wherever I go, and I do thank God I’ve been placed in circumstances blessed enough to be able to do that. Everyone needs some inspiration, after all.

Here is where I find some of mine.

50. Lee Harris – from American Horror Story: Roanoke, portrayed by Adina Porter

“I don’t know if one day you’ll forgive me. I just want you to go on without the weight of lies and doubt. You go on, Flora, and rise up. There’s nothing holding you down.”

American Horror Story: Roanoke begins as a frame-story narrative told in the style of a documentary. The ordeal of Matt and Shelby Miller is chronicled by adjoining segments of interviews with the couple and reenactments of the macabre goings-on at the Roanoke House of North Carolina. The tough and pistol-packing Lee, Matt’s sister, shares in their experience, originally brought to the property to protect Shelby from the spooky events that seem to plague her when Matt is not present. Lee is a disgraced former police officer and divorced mother of an 8-year-old named Flora. Injured on the job, she fell victim to an addiction to painkillers and was subsequently fired. She managed to sober up but couldn’t save her marriage, which resulted in the loss of most of her parental rights, paining her more than any psycho, sick sight or flesh wound ever could, and trust me, she endures each of those traumas too. Lee is slick, assertive, cantankerous, skilled in deception…and a murderer. She’s also a very hurt individual, desperate, and giving. She has a ferocious love for Flora and will do anything to protect her. Because of this heart and the fact that her past stretches beyond what I’ve written here shape many of her choices and motivations, I find her to be the most interesting character of the Roanoke season and notable for becoming what is essentially the lead in a horror-drama. You don’t see black women as horror leads too often. Being a hard-core horror fan who is also a woman of color, I was touched by that inclusion and by Lee’s own will and love for her daughter. Now, my mother isn’t nearly as dark or complex, but I know she loves me like Lee loves Flora and would do just as much for me. And while I don’t know what it’s like to be a mother myself, I know what it’s like to be a daughter watching a mother scratch and claw and speak and cry and fight men and fight like mad to do everything in her power to take care of her baby, and for all her faults, that was always the heart of this character to me.

49. Carol Peletier – from The Walking Dead, portrayed by Melissa McBride

“Sooner or later you’re gonna have to do it. You’ll have to do it or you’ll die. So you’re gonna change the way you think about it. You have to change. Everyone does now. Things don’t just work out.”

Introduced in its inaugural season, Carol is a survivor on the hit horror series The Walking Dead. I’m an active part of the fandom—well, hanging on by a thread at this point, to be honest—and am aware the biggest and most current audience irritations with Carol are her distant/rude attitude toward others and tendency to swoop in and save the day. I’m bothered by neither of these traits. and feel they are justified by her development throughout the series. God forbid the silver-haired woman with the crystal green eyes isn’t the picture of sweetness she appears and often pretends to be. But you know. Haters gonna hate, and so it goes. Every one of The Walking Dead’s survivors’ ability to process trauma is different and the loss of family, friends, foster children, community members, etc. has firmed Carol’s nerve and mind into that of a seasoned warrior, making her capable in ways others do not expect or conceive of themselves. If you believe Daryl, with whom she shares a kindred kinship, is the male on the show who has fundamentally changed the most since the onset of the apocalypse, you’d probably have to say Carol is his female equivalent. Hers may not be the most plausible arc, but I find it both feasible and captivating enough—hey, it’s thrilling to see an actress in her 50s do this stuff! And frankly, I love a story about a person, particularly a survivor of domestic abuse, who finds and fosters strength she didn’t know she had, and Carol does indeed go from the wilting flower to a thorny rose. She is so strong, psychologically, it’s scary, and sometimes it scares her too. She’s more cunning, duplicitous and resilient than most, reluctant at best to ingratiate herself with others, antagonistic at worst. Despite her unexpectedness, sarcastic wit and harshness, there is an enduring softness; she is forever a mother figure, much to her dismay, but she often takes on the role in spite of herself. Her tether to Daryl and budding friendship with King Ezekiel always manage to thaw her heart. And for all the people who have been taken from her and all the people she’s taken—and she’s taken scores according to her own count—she still hangs on. That in itself is like Carol herself: surprising, admirable and, above all, fascinating.

48. Lana Kane – from Archer, voiced by Aisha Tyler

“Ohh…and it just keeps on getting better.”

The daughter of academics, Lana is a leftist and environmentalist drawn into espionage after staring down the barrel of Malory Archer’s gun. With her strong will and skills in hand-to-hand combat, gunplay and reconnaissance, Agent Kane is second in the spy game only to Archer himself, though that’s mostly according to him. A 6-feet-tall Glamazon, Lana is caring, cognizant, sexy without trying and so delectable when she is that even her good friend Ray elected to have sex with her and he’s gay. At the same time she is distrustful, discerning, and hot-headed. I like that she only approaches motherhood when she feels she’s ready and has no qualms about preparing for the baby by herself. Turns out she’s even got a knack for mothering…unlike her boss (yikes). Moreover, Lana is half of the admitted heart of the show, the will-they, won’t-they, on-off relationship with fellow field agent and professional asshole Sterling Archer. I much prefer Lana to Archer, and while his immaturity and general dickishness irritate me, I do like to see the couple together—not just for A.J. but because of the characters’ chemistry (there is some world-class voice acting on this show, people) and because they have clearly always loved each other. As a fan, I want Lana to be happy. Archer, for the few minutes and sequences when his head, his heart and his junk are all in the right places, makes Lana happy. She is the only character on this show I don’t feel guilty for liking, lol, since she’s the one with the most visible sense (although she’s not really into animals or supportive of immigration, despite her liberal leanings). I relate to her self-righteousness and defensiveness as well, and because she’s a beautiful, badass African-American female lead on a long-running adult animated show, how she’s represented and what she represents to me are very special.

47. Pamela “Pam” Poovey – from Archer, voiced by Amber Nash

“Don’t try to body shame me, dog tits!”

Where I am the Queen of Unpopular Opinions, Pam is the Queen of Inappropriate Humor. This former head of Human Resources for the International Secret Intelligence Service is an uncouth chatterbox, spiller of secrets and proud bisexual who mostly just wants to have sex with everyone, with or without their consent (e.g. yeah, I’m calling out that implied sexual assault on Cyril in season 2, which is one of the few moments in the series during which I am decidedly NOT cheering Pam on, of course), and accomplishes that goal with most of the main characters. Archer himself even admits she’s the best sex he’s ever had (sorry, Lana and Katya). Pam maintains a good rapport with everyone despite their claiming to dislike her and, to Malory Archer’s surprise, proves invaluable in a crisis. Pam grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm with an unruly and ruthless sister, which made her as solid as a barn and yet soft at the center like cheese. She can be  sensitive (not usually about her weight) but is also an ex-underground fighter who dominates in most brawls, dabbles in race car driving, takes on the Yakuza. It’s a nice contrast. Pam and I have almost identical builds and I love that she’s a positive representation of a husky woman, like her girth is almost always incidental to her character and when it is brought up, she doesn’t believe her girth detracts from her sex appeal or physical capabilities. And she is sexy, for as forward and lewd as she can be. Yes, here is a woman who drinks, smokes, burps, farts, strips, actively pursues sex—all the stuff society deems “un-ladylike” and that’s precisely why I admire her. She’s not a “lady.” She’s a hot mess, a confident, independent woman and a regular human being. Novel concept, right?

46. Officer/Detective/Lieutenant Debra “Deb” Morgan – from Dexter, portrayed Jennifer Carpenter

“Are we done? I need a fucking nap.” 

Dexter isn’t even my favorite character on his own TV show. The most interesting? Probably. Yet the title of “my favorite character from Dexter and #46 on this list” goes to his adoptive sister, Debra, who is the only person, other than Harrison, whom I believe Dexter truly loves. And what’s not to love? She’s efficient as fuck, funny as fuck, and her favorite word is—have you guessed it?—“fuck.” (Sorry, I’m not one of those Christians who believes curse words are corruptive by nature. Every person assigns every simple word meaning and I happen to think the F word is funny half the time. However, I do apologize to anyone who is offended by the overabundance of “F bombs” that go off in this post.) Don’t be fooled by her long, lean body and unique attractiveness—she is a fierce force for Miami Metro, moving her way up from Vice to Homicide and from a more peripheral character to integral to every plot. Wiry and emotionally complex, Deb is shrewd, snappy, heated and piercingly blunt but always with a layer of vulnerability to her at the same time. The young detective has the magnetism and allure of the type of badass who would rather be a layabout but instead spends all her time being badass by committing herself to her job and showing up and showing out. I admire her wit, work ethic and low tolerance for bullshit and relate to her tendencies to question herself and to engage in passionate but doomed romantic relationships. What’s also familiar is her conscience. She is not Dexter’s twin and never is it more evident that they are not related than when it comes to matters of the heart. With that being said, she’s still as tough as a petrified corpse and has to be to endure all that she does over the course of the eight-season series. Through Dexter’s apathy and double life as a serial killer who kills serial killers, the younger Morgan suffers the slings of secrets, blood and bullets, all of which break through her walls one way or another, irrevocably changing who she is. While she’s as strong as the other women on this list, I don’t believe she’s as resilient. This does not make me love her less nor does it make her weak. It makes her fully human, something her brother and her harshest critics evidently cannot understand. But that’s okay. What the fuck do they know anyway?

45. The Mistress a.k.a. “Missy” – from Doctor Who, portrayed by Michelle Gomez

“Your version of good is not absolute. It’s vain, arrogant, sentimental. But if you’re waiting for me to become all that, I’m going to be here for a long time yet…”

Leaving a legendary mark on the Doctor Who series in just 15 episodes, this truly raving beauty is one wicked, tricky witch of a character. This is going to sound bad, lol, but I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see a middle-aged woman get the opportunity to play—and slay—the part of an unpredictable yet charming psychopath. It’s glorious, as is the divinely devilish Michelle Gomez. Before she was Missy and Missy was Missy a.k.a. The Mistress, she was The Master, the Doctor’s oldest friend and perhaps fiercest rival, the one who arguably who knows the most about him. In each incarnation the Master always tries to test the Doctor, to see how far he’ll bend until he breaks…then how many pieces he’ll break into…then how many of those grains he can crush into oblivion and so on and so on. All to prove they’re not really so different and the only order is mayhem. It appears not much has changed when the Time Lord regenerates into a Time Lady—other than the more overt physical attraction, of course (Missy plants a big one on the Doctor moments after they meet in person. Long-time fans are sure to have seen this coming XD). Missy, like her male predecessors, has a commanding and charismatic presence. I want to say she’s a bit less insane than John Simm’s Master, but that’s really rather subjective. She continues to be volatile, smooth-talking and comedic in both a kooky and frightening sort of way with her lopsided sense of right and wrong. For as devious and scheming as she is, I do, however, believe she loves the Doctor more than she despises him. Loves him even more than she wants to win against him. If you believe Missy can actually love, that is. I also believe the Doctor’s efforts to rehabilitate her do, to put it in one word, affect her. It makes for a fascinating series 10 for Missy, I’ll tell you that. I’d tell you more but, you know, *River Song voice*: “Spoilers!”

44. Allyson “Ally” Mayfair-Richards – from American Horror Story: Cult, portrayed by Sarah Paulson

“You were wrong. There is something more dangerous in this world than a humiliated man: a nasty woman.”

In another torrid season of American Horror Story, mild-mannered, fragile and phobic restaurateur Ally Mayfair-Richards, a firm leftist and lesbian, makes a complete 180-degree emotional and moral turn ultimately in response to the onset of the Trump era, and whether it’s for the best is up to each individual viewer. She is aligned first with Kai Anderson’s murderous clown cult before rising to power in the United States Senate and disavowing established political parties to operate out of the radical feminist cult of SCUM, created by the real-life Valerie Solanas. She doesn’t just walk away from Kai or her wife, Ivy, though, both of whom terrorize and bully her throughout the season; instead she spearheads Kai’s downfall and exacts a particularly pungent revenge against her cheating spouse. I am of a mixed heart and mind regarding this character, as her actions and character satisfy the righteous anger I feel as a feminist and as a person who struggles with some level of anxiety every day (oh, how I’d love to conquer my phobias and fears). However, Ally also symbolizes a lot of what’s wrong with radical feminism, specifically calling for or doing the wrong things—like manipulation, intimidation and murder—for the right reasons, namely equal treatment, rights and opportunities for other women, the LGBTQIAP+ community and minorities. I liked that this season criticized both conservatives and liberals because I’m not one to pretend either side is completely correct in its beliefs or actions. Ally embodies the type of hard lean—okay, more like a rough shove—to the left I don’t wholly agree with but enjoyed witnessing. I laughed so hard every time she turned sexist stereotypes on their heads, like men believing women not to be emotionally or mentally capable of carrying out certain types of duplicity and, of course, the “make me a sandwich” trope. I’ll probably never look at Manwiches the same way again, but I digress. In a perfect world men and women would work together to further human advancement, respecting each other as equals and partners in this life. I don’t want to see a patriarchy or matriarchy, but since we live in more of the former, it’s nice to see the latter, even as a dark alternative to the shadowy reality where a man who brags about sexually assaulting women and wastes time and attention riling up the North Korean dictator is elected to be President of the United States. The main aspect of this story that I feel may frighten some people when they realize how much they relate to it is that Ally, from her own viewpoint, is just a mother determined to make a better world for her son to grow up in—that’s certainly a relatable goal even if you don’t approve of how she goes about it. There’s also a good number of us who don’t approve of what’s going on here in America either. The wrong type of power, the wrong people in power—it’s everywhere, unfortunately, and in this series, the social system made a monster. And you know what? I do like hearing her roar.

43. Sasha Williams – from The Walking Dead, portrayed by Sonequa Martin-Green

“You’re still the same. And that is good. I don’t think I can be. Not anymore.”

This former firefighter is much more than a pretty face, her spirit more potent than her great pain. Despite her enduring toughness, Sasha develops one of the most severe cases of PTSD and depression depicted on The Walking Dead. While I don’t like seeing this character in pain, I’m grateful she (and Sonequa Martin-Green, with her raw portrayal) was chosen, as a woman of color, to depict to a broad audience how difficult and disorienting it is to try and find a reason to go on in the midst of madness, strife and grief. She is able to hold on to enough humanity to form a deep friendship with Maggie and forge a respect and understanding with Abraham’s ex, Rosita. And though Sasha has seen both the past and the future die, she decides to make every move beyond those moments count for the greater good of the group, putting her athleticism to use to become a skilled sharpshooter and slayer of the undead. She is calculated and principled, despondent and hopeful, vicious and courageous as well as a loving and tender-hearted sister and girlfriend. To put it bluntly, she’s got a hell of a lot of depth and moxie and those characteristics, along with her best and biggest choices, cement her place on this list as a sad but strong person whom I admire and by whom I am impressed.

42. Dr. Mindy Lahiri – from The Mindy Project, portrayed by Mindy Kaling

“Well, I did just have an enormous meal, but a doctor told me that my metabolism is so high that I basically have to eat every hour. That doctor was me.”

Dr. Mindy Lahiri, a zany, zippy, zesty Indian-American gynecologist on the lookout for love in New York, is one of the most perfect female characters I’ve ever seen, about which I’m sure Mindy herself would agree, and all of her perfection is due to the fact that she is so imperfect. Writer and creator of The Mindy Project, comedienne Mindy Kaling, designed her irresistible lead to be a real person with many recognizable traits: wittily quick-witted, annoying, astute, self-confident, self-involved, self-aware and, like my #1, a romantic who enjoys relationships but whose character, purpose and goals do not revolve around being someone’s girlfriend. Dr. Lahiri is also a Princeton graduate and effective OB/GYN, a loving sister and a fashionista—in her own right. Besides her unabashed sense of humor, my hands-down favorite thing about Mindy is the undeniable love she has for herself. For me especially and the type of gray-to-gloomy headspace I occupy, it is beyond refreshing to see a truly beautiful, medium-sized, dorky but also cool woman-of-color be and act more confident than not. This is not to say she never has a bad or sad moment, it’s to say there is strength to be celebrated in both her states of vulnerability and self-assurance. She is unapologetically herself, and I am so grateful to and thankful for Mindy Kaling for writing and doing and being basically everything in life that I want to write, do and be…sans being a mother (for her, that’s great! Mazel tov! For me? No thanks). I shall eat copious amounts of cake in your honor, non-fictional and fictional Mindy!

41. Sonmi-451 – from Cloud Atlas, portrayed by Bae Doona

“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”

As one of the numerous lead characters in the David Mitchell grand, spiritual epic that is Cloud Atlas and its 2012 film adaptation, Sonmi-451 is a Fabricant—a being similar to the genetically engineered Replicants who make up the slave labor force in Blade Runner—who lives in futuristic, cyberpunky Neo Seoul, Korea, spending her time as an overworked server in a restaurant, merely one among many. Wide-eyed, silent but ever the slightest bit curious, it isn’t until she makes the choice to learn from and follow others—first her sister-clone Yoona-939 and later Union commander Hae-Joo Chang—that she becomes prepared to lead. Cloud Atlas is one of my all-time favorite films, an artful masterpiece I feel blessed to have seen during its theatrical run. I even wrote one of my final college papers on it, lol, and love it for so many reasons, one of which is for how the simple story of a human clone rising up to become a beacon of hope, faith, free will and salvation. How it warms and fills me over and over again, in my heart and in my mind. Sonmi, as she regales to an archivist what she’s done that will lead the governing body of Unanimity to execute her, is keen, serene and at peace with her life and what is going to persist beyond it, and as well she should be. Thanks to the choices she dares to make, every “yes” and every “no,” and her courage and dedication to the revelations Hae-Joo helps her to realize and asks her to spread, she becomes a legend, even a goddess to others grasping on to hope, the symbol of humanity’s intrinsic interconnectivity. Seemingly unassuming, she is deeply expressive and feeling, played to the hilt by Korean actress Bae Doona with such authenticity and grace. I am touched by Sonmi’s valiance and will to espouse the truth no matter the cost.  Clone or not, that kind of resolve is nothing to wink at. And frankly, far as I’m concerned, Sonmi isn’t a clone—not since she slices those Papa Song strands of color out of her hair. She’s not quite a goddess and yet more than a person. She’s a heroine.

40. Sally Bowles – from Cabaret, portrayed by Liza Minnelli

“I suppose you’re wondering what I’m doing working in a place like the Kit Kat Klub…That’s me, darling: unusual places, unusual love affairs. I am a most strange and extraordinary person.”

I was introduced to Sally and Cabaret in my favorite college English class, 20th/21st Century Literature, in a unit about “excess” and “performance as a mask.” Spectacle as distraction, artistic beauty in realistic ugliness, that type of thing. This musical drama/satire juxtaposes the high-flying livelihood of a cabaret club, its performers and patrons with the somber climate of WWII in 1931 Berlin, the whole show presented by the playful and ominous emcee who encourages you “leave your troubles outside.”   Enter Sally Bowles, the archetype of an actress acting all the time, gifting a grand performance to the world to hide from it the lonely daughter of a neglectful ambassador who will likely spend the totality of her days scraping by in a hole-in-the-wall German nightclub with Nazis and warmongers running rampant just outside the door. Liza Minnelli is mesmerizing in her Oscar-winning role, just terrific, darling. Of course I’d relate to someone in the arts, especially someone who is talented but no real star but wants to be, someone charmingly obnoxious, someone who dives so deep into her dreams, she can’t bear the probable reality of their not coming true—see what I mean? Separate from our shared tendency to dance with delusions, Sally also flirts harder with the follies of fame and true love with Brian Roberts, because for a free spirit like hers that can’t, at its core, settle, these goals of the everyday person are just that: folly. Sally herself? She’s young, exuberant and garrulous, forward, self-involved, self-inflating, sexy and starry-eyed (her eyelashes especially merit a mention of this phrase), fascinating in that she tries so hard to be fascinating, from her wild anecdotes to her cutesy yet vampiric makeup and ’do (yes, I do feel “vampiric” is a more than apt description since, as she casually mentions to Brian, her lifestyle is surely going to run her into the ground sooner rather than later). A vibrant singer and sultry dancer, she engages in all of the theatre actor stereotypes: booze, sex, chain-smoking, lying—all for the chance to advance her career and become a bonafide actress. It’s just so…recognizable (I mean, I didn’t do any of this to get ahead in drama club in high school or junior college, but I’ve experienced enough of the environment to recognize her wants, actions and reactions. Actually, isn’t Sally Bowles more or less the character who created the female version of this archetype?). And sad. Settled and sad. Think about it. There’s a reason the two theatrical masks are depicted as a smile and a grimace…In short, I feel for this character, I feel like this character, I want to shake this character, I want to be friends with her, I don’t want to be friends with her—and I love when a character elicits all these different reactions within me. Sally and her story are a true study in, as she puts it early on, “divine decadence.”

39. Honey Daniels – from Honey, portrayed by Jessica Alba

“You know what I see living in this neighborhood? I see kids go from bad homes to bad schools and back again. And I’ve seen you unlock a door to a place where those kids can feel safe. Now maybe I’m dumb because I haven’t been to Paris or Milan or wherever, but to me…it doesn’t get much better than that.”

I think it’s safe to say many people critique Jessica Alba for her acting. I, for one, enjoy the natural warmth she always brings to her roles and admire her for proving to the world, with her billion-dollar business empire and happy family life, that there’s much more to her than a gorgeous face and figure. And so it is with Honey of the eponymous dance drama, a 22-year-old savvy street dancer and choreographer whose ultimate goal is to hit it big in New York. Not the most original premise, but it definitely has its charms, starting with the nostalgic early 2000s music and aesthetic (am I right, Millennials?) and persisting with a kind, charismatic female lead helming the picture. Humble and hungry, this sunny stunner tends bar and works in a records store, breaking to dance with her best friend, Gina, every chance she can. On the side she auditions for music videos and teaches hip-hop classes to exercise her creativity and desire to help others. The talented Latina’s love for the art of dance is evident in the way she moves and improvises, with confidence, conviction and flow, as well as in her joyous range of expressions. By chance (of course given it’s only a 93-minute movie, lol) her skills attract the attention of a video director while her general allure leads strapping barber Chaz to ask her out. All is well and good until the director, Michael, makes an inappropriate pass at her and she refuses him, leading to his dismantling her project to include the neighborhood kids in a music video. This, however, doesn’t deter Honey, and like a true star she rises to the occasion for the sake of her community, putting on a benefit show to raise money to erect a studio for her students. She’s a part of this list because she’s an artist, she’s fun and even though she should’ve reported that fool to somebody (#MeToo), she’s got integrity. In other words she’s a simple role model in a simple movie and sometimes I like simplicity. I’m caught up in doom and gloom and the overwhelming complexities of the human mind for so many of my waking moments that it’s nice to be able to appreciate a character like Honey who’s simply oh-so-sweet.

38. Julia McNamara – from Nip/Tuck, portrayed by Joely Richardson

“I don’t need you to tell me who I am anymore.”

When Nip/Tuck was airing, I suspect plenty of viewers were irritated with Julia’s fluster and indecision in life and over the two loves of her life, Sean and Christian, and which she is truly in love with and when, but Joely Richardson’s captivating portrayal as a wife, mother and former pre-med student stuck in the doldrums of the life and marriage she thought she wanted was never boring to me. Driven by commitments to her family and later herself, Julia perseveres through many situations I feel would fell a lot of others, developing more emotional and financial independence over time. Unlike with many females in more contrived love triangles, I agree Julia is a desirable woman: learned, kind-hearted, responsible, coyly beguiling, a statuesque and natural beauty who seeks and values true intimacy. On the other hand she can also be hypocritical, impatient and rash. Like the rest of the show’s cast, she is an altogether well-meaning parent but nowhere near the perfect role model. I recognize a sad sense of desperation about her that often swells into an emotional explosion. She’s been the victim, played the victim and though rarely the victimizer, even turns out to be a killer of sorts. Boring, my ass! A lot of her arc consists of learning to stand up for herself, to rediscover the value in herself as a person and not just as Sean’s wife or Christian’s lover or Olivia’s girlfriend or her children’s mother or Erica Noughton’s daughter. Ooh, I never love Julia more than when she serving ice-cold reality to her psychoanalyzing, condescending bitch of a mother, ironically portrayed by Joely Richardson’s real-life mom, Vanessa Redgrave (whom I presume is not a condescending bitch in reality). I admire Julia for doing the hard work that’s required to change, including facing down and examining your choices, excuses and mistakes, your triumphs and misfortunes, what you settled for then and what you refuse to settle for now and who is or isn’t willing to make change with you. Throughout its 6-season run, she doesn’t remain one of the most prominent characters on Nip/Tuck, but the journey she takes is a very full and real depiction of a woman in her 40s coming into herself and I appreciate the elegant messiness of it all.

37. Carrietta “Carrie” White – from Carrie, portrayed by Sissy Spacek

“Please see that I’m not like you, Mama. I’m funny. I mean, all the kids think I’m funny—I don’t want to be, I want to be normal. I want to start to try and be a whole person before it’s too late…”

A quote so pitiable could only belong to the namesake and subject of Stephen King’s first-ever published novel. Carrie, portrayed first in 1976 in the most heart-breakingly beautiful manner by Sissy Spacek, whose interpretation garnered her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, is an awkward, skinny teenage girl with stringy hair and eyes like a Margaret Keane waif, a social pariah completely cowed by her domineeringly devout, emotionally neglectful and abusive mother. Carrie’s upbringing plays into her naïve and child-like nature, demonstrated most famously in the scene in which she mistakes her first period for a fatal hemorrhage. On the other hand, she is quickly thrust into a position of power once she realizes her physical maturation has unlocked more than an intrinsic sense of womanhood: a superpower known as telekinesis. Carrie’s discovery forms the basis of her attempt to be more assertive at home, notably by accepting an invitation to the senior prom from a popular boy named Tommy (who asked her at the behest of his girlfriend, Sue). What comes after…you probably know by virtue of popular culture. What I know and understand about this story more than anything is Carrie’s determination to be “normal” or at least more in control of her own life. This journey makes her an antiheroine at best and a tragic villain at worst. I champion for the former classification, because for all the abuse she suffers, she is a good person—kind at heart, patient, appreciative… and more susceptible to peer pressure than most. She’s so desperate to do what it takes to be “one of them,” to complete the caterpillar-to-butterfly transformation, that her longing is unfortunately what brings her closer, step by step, to a bucket of blood above her head. Please don’t mistake me: what starts the catastrophic climax at the senior class prom is not her fault. How it ends is. Inciting in me the strange mix of fear and bloodlust that only a good revenge fantasy film can ensure, Carrie proves to be both a victim and a perpetrator, betrayed by her own breaking point and later by the only person she ever loved. Ugh. And even in its barest form, it’s a sad tale. Every girl deserves a good prom experience. Carrie’s lasts for twenty minutes of screen time during which she experiences her first dance, first kiss and the first time a respectable guy tells her she’s beautiful. You know horror is rarely without some hope. But of course, the rest of her life is a limping tragedy and a baleful reminder to me that though I have undergone some bullying and lived much of an outcast’s life in college, it could have been much, much, much worse. Ultimately there are two morals of Carrie: count your blessings and be nice. Go one cruelty too far and the piercing, manic eyes of vengeance may just be the last things you see. Sadly, this warning seems more pertinent now than ever before, so be careful out there, kids, and God bless you, all you Sue Snells and Tommy Rosses. …And may God bless you Carrie Whites too. God bless you too.

36. Special Agent Clarice Starling – from The Silence of the Lambs, portrayed by Jodie Foster

“You see a lot, Doctor. But are you strong enough to point that high-powered perception at yourself? What about it? Why don’t you—why don’t you look at yourself and write down what you see? Or maybe you’re afraid to.”

One of the bravest, cleverest and most dedicated officers to grace the silver screen comes in the form of Special Agent (in training) Clarice Starling, played with such strength and finesse by the consummate Jodie Foster, who won a Best Actress Oscar for what is perhaps her most famous role. For as green as she is in the field, Clarice is considered by many to be one of the great thriller heroines for her razor focus, keen mind and will to be open and honest—with both herself and serial killer Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter, no less. Tenacious, earnest and astute, she, like my #1, neither sacrifices nor overly flaunts her femininity to get ahead in the game; she’s not afraid to get physical and sweaty and authoritative but is still the type to wear nail polish and make note of her male counterparts’ ogling without letting it faze her. And frankly it’s nice to see a pretty woman as the protagonist of a film where the story has nothing to do with her love life. Clarice is a career woman—the personality type I relate more to than a family woman—wholly devoted to becoming an FBI agent her father would be proud of and, later, to matching wits with Lecter to crack the Buffalo Bill case, and match wits she does. The woman is no fool and does not suffer them, which is not to say she isn’t also a pleasant person. I also love that her vulnerability is often heralded by audiences and critics as a positive attribute; I’ve been told by others that I share the same strength in my writing, when I was acting in school theatre and in my regular life. Members of my voice class said my honesty made me likable and named it an asset, and to do so, I feel, is the truth. Lecter would have said nary a word if Clarice hadn’t chosen to be so forthcoming and daring enough to forge an intimacy with him, and we would have no award-winning movie, lol. But in all seriousness it’s that sincerity I admire the most about Clarice. I don’t think you can truly be great at what you do without it.

35. Erin  – from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), portrayed by Jessica Biel

“What’s wrong with you fucking people?”

I know, I know. Putting a character from a Platinum Dunes horror remake above #36 should be counted as blasphemy. Nevertheless Erin is one of the first leads I felt a genuine connection to upon delving into the vast and colorful horror community at the ripe old age of 12. This feminine tomboy—a juvenile detention parolee with loose hair, a bare midriff, a tattoo and mean lock-picking skills—is traveling across Texas to attend a concert with friends and her longtime boyfriend when the group happens upon a near-catatonic girl lumbering along a stark country road. The rest is cinematic history. To be honest I enjoy the 2003 remake and 1974 original equally. Erin, thankfully, is written better than Sally Hardesty. She’s on my list for the compassion, altruism and clear-headedness she demonstrates in an unimaginable emergency. It’s true she’s also the gorgeous, gutsy, respectful and virginal final girl, but I relate to those archetypes more than any others in the horror genre and love seeing these kittens turn into lionesses. Erin has plenty of great moments, from displaying a sense of decency often absent in modern horror to devising an inventive trap in the slaughterhouse, the result of which gives her quite the upper hand against Leatherface (lol for the people who know what I’m talking about). She goes from face down in the dirt, snotting and weeping, to running and dodging and kicking and chopping and hotwiring—just the badass we’d all hope to be under horror-movie circumstances. Erin is also Jessica Biel’s best performance until The Sinner. She comes across very likable,  so when people sacrifice themselves for her in this movie, you really feel like she’s worth it and comes to make it count, even answering back for the Hewitt family’s previous victims. As I mentioned, this was one of my first forays into the slasher subgenre and Erin has always been a protagonist who stood out to me. Perhaps its childhood loyalty, perhaps it’s something else. That chainsaw blade may be steel, but Erin’s mettle is made of metal.

34. General Okoye – from Black Panther, portrayed by Danai Gurira

“For Wakanda? Without question.”

This Marvel marvel made such a lasting impression (and impact) on me back in the movie theater in February that I removed Helen Parr, a.k.a. Elastigirl of The Incredibles, from this list to make room for her. Now just who is awesome enough to make me dispense with such a great wife, mother and heroine? The loyal and dignified General Okoye, leader of the Dora Milaje, a contingent of African Amazonian guards to the royals of Wakanda, similar to the president’s Secret Service. Already I find her to be one of the sharpest and coolest women portrayed in the superhero medium—hell, in the cinematic action genre. She is a masterful fighter and soldier, wielding her Vibranium spear as smartly and poetically as Shakespeare wielded a quill. Though classy and utilitarian, she also possesses a sense of humor, which she uses mainly to tease her king. With Okoye I am floored not only by her skills and unexpected wit but also the focus and honor with which she operates, especially in the moment she chooses her duty over her love, W’Kabi. As a big fan of Zimbabwean-American actress Danai Gurira, I must say it appears she infused Okoye with much of her own integrity, wisely and effectively playing her with a wink (literally, in one scene). Okoye is the epitome of female force and African beauty, and she makes me want to celebrate my own, making her an extraordinarily special and worthy addition to this list of inspirational fictional women.

33. Anne “Annie” Wilkes – from Misery, portrayed by Kathy Bates

“I’m your number fan. There’s nothing to worry about. You’re going to be just fine. I’ll take good care of you. I’m your number one fan…”

Ah, Misery. My favorite book from my favorite author. The story that makes all of us aspiring writers think twice about choosing this career, lol. Acclaimed actress Kathy Bates portrays King’s infamous Annie Wilkes, a strong, hefty former nurse living alone in a mountain cottage in what I presume to be the state of Maine. The character she presents is that of an earnest, pious Christian whose words never darken beyond “cockadoodie” and “dirty birdie,” a woman with a warm face who comes across very nurturing…when she wants to be. Switches go on, switches go off, those green eyes calcify and Bates earns her Best Actress Oscar with each passing minute as Annie goes from giddy, breathy admiration to uncontainable rage to conveying the cold hard truth about her control over author Paul Sheldon as icily as the winter wind blows outside the isolated farmhouse. The townsfolk know she’s temperamental, but she largely goes unnoticed, as many women over the age of 40 do. If only they knew how volatile she is, how unbalanced, how wily yet gullible, how depressed and lonely and in love. Annie is like several different people who all, in their own ways, range from sad to unnerving to terrifying. She’s almost like a living Rubik’s cube with different colors and mismatched patterns on each side. Well, what is there to say? Misery loves company, after all. Though I have no real armchair diagnosis for her, the fact remains that this is another strong depiction of a mentally ill character, one who is more dangerous than sad and thus harder to sympathize with than many others, so the fact that I ultimately DO warrants all my love and praise to my favorite author, Stephen King, and one of my favorite actresses, Kathy Bates, and earns Annie a well-deserved spot on this list.

32. Jamie Lloyd-Carruthers – from the Halloween series, portrayed by Danielle Harris & J.C. Brandy

“Uncle? …Boogeyman?”

Jamie, canon to me and anyone else who ties the Thorn trilogy or, God help you, every film in the Halloween series into a contiguous timeline, is my favorite horror movie heroine. For as young as she is, she’s a full, complex, tragic character and, as I’ve implied many times, I’m drawn to sad little girl characters. It’s a familiar mirror… Anyway, when we’re introduced to little Jamie, she’s worried her foster family doesn’t love like she’s theirs and misses her parents, who have purportedly died in a car accident (we find out in Halloween: H20 Laurie Strode faked her death, so I assumed this is the way she faked it. The father of her child, Jamie Lloyd, was Jimmy Lloyd, the paramedic she built a rapport with while at the hospital. He likely died in actuality, giving Laurie an out to figuratively follow suit and put her daughter up for adoption. Haunted by the knowledge that Michael kills his family, I supposed that Laurie figured only she would know Jamie had a biological link to Michael and would therefore be safe with a foster family. She then took up the alias Keri Tate, moved to California and bore a son when she thought it was “safe” to do so. There, easy-as-pie continuity. Gotta love headcanon!). She’s bullied at school for having a mass murderer for an uncle. (I also believe Halloween 4 makes some allusions to Jamie having an extrasensory sense as well, since she is confronted with images of Michael before she ever meets him in the flesh. However, it isn’t until Halloween 5 that her psychic abilities fully manifest.) Then enters the relentless maniac, her long-lost uncle, Michael Myers, who chases her to the point where she eventually collapses into tears out of fear and it’s like, “Holy shit, I feel for this baby girl so much!” I don’t care that she’s not real. Danielle Harris’s performance sure is. Watching her in this role year after year during those Halloween marathons on AMC is where I became a fan of hers and it’s not hard to see why. This Scream Queen’s reign began here, as she fostered that precocious-yet-sweet-kid quality as a child actress. I both wanted to hug her to me for 87 minutes and then run screaming from her in the 88th. Now that takes talent, people.

In Jamie’s second appearance, which takes place the following Halloween, she’s been rendered mute, seizing in fear and terror, experiencing premonitions about Michael in the form of dreams, having become psychically linked to her uncle after touching his hand in the previous installment. Again, Danielle Harris does a fantastic job conveying all the pain, horror and dread (let’s get it straight now: J.C. Brandy is good, but she ain’t no Danielle Harris). On the brighter side, even though Jamie never has a lot to smile about, I notice she still finds joy in simple things like ice cream and princess dresses and hugs and kisses and, eventually, holding her child. Yeah. You know these long-running horror series get weird…But, to focus on the good again for a moment, I love how Jamie is still cared for despite the ill her existence brings to Haddonfield and her foster family. I love Rachel and Tina and how motherly they are to her and love that Billy from the clinic has a crush on her. She even kisses him to thank him for his good-luck charm—so cute! It’s comforting that she gets these moments because God knows characters like her deserve them. And while my fangirl heart can barely take the circumstances that call for it, I love how courageous Jamie forces herself to be when it comes to (potentially) taking down Michael. When Michael’s chasing down Tina with the car, Jamie screams, “Here. HERE!” to direct his attention to her instead. She agrees to be Loomis’s bait in the Myers’ house (well, the first time around she does). She dares to talk to Michael and tries to touch him, to wipe his face even. She is the sweetest character! By the end of the film, for all her goodness and ingenuity—the girl hides in a laundry chute for heaven’s sake—we have our last look at young Jamie, the final shreds of her innocence torn and bleeding, hear her haunting, “No. Nooo,” and then I die of feels because what I want for this character is the exact opposite of what happens to my little horror heroine. *sigh*

I’ve heard it told before that some people, with the way they live their lives, are put on Earth solely to teach others a lesson. They may live short, horrible, pain-filled lives, but it’s all supposedly worth it for the little good that is wrung from their miserable existences. I believe that’s the case here. Jamie is a charming little girl who battles internal and external demons for half her life, all the while maturing into a brave, loving adolescent who is able to both think and function through the mind-numbing terror, which is more than I can say as a 26-year-old woman who’s currently popping Ativan on the regular just to get through the work day. That primal nerve is what I need to tap into and I’m grateful to Jamie—and Danielle Harris—for what her existence has taught the scared little girl inside me. I only wish she could have been part of a kinder series, because at the end of the day, at the core of this slasher movie character—a character who’s in a story predicated on a guy murdering his own family members—is the desire for family, and all irony and sadness aside, I find that very effective and affecting as a long-time fan of the horror genre.

31. Amanda Young – from the Saw series, portrayed by Shawnee Smith

“Then help me! Fix me! Fix me, motherfucker!”

Amanda is the broken badass of the Saw universe. Such a pained character, she’s hard-core without being stone-cold, and I think all she knows is fucking: getting fucked up, getting fucked over, fucking someone else, fucking someone else over. Her drug addiction makes her a desperate personality, a woman on the edge. Jigsaw’s test is what puts her over but not how you’d first guess. When John Kramer came to her, he came as a man impressed with the young woman, came as a man who believed in her, a wise man, a father figure, as she cited in Saw II. And so she vows to do his bidding… But Amanda is emotionally unstable—my guess would be that she suffers from either major depression or bipolar disorder amid whatever traumas or circumstances convinced her to start taking drugs—and cannot easily disassociate herself with the razor-blade pain of a life gone awry jabbing away at her every moment, with each new test. She remains a cutter even under Jigsaw’s tutelage (which is an act and mentality I very much relate to. You just want, so badly, to feel something other than the hellstorm inside, so you harm yourself physically to distract yourself emotionally. The slicing hurts less than everything going on internally) as well as depressed, rageful and rueful, sometimes all in the same scene. Shawnee Smith deftly portrays the whirlwind of emotions that lead to self-harm and self-hate: the anger, sadness, grief and envy. I was 15 years old and had depression and the death of my grandfather—the only male relative who ever truly loved me—hanging about my shoulders at the time Saw III came out, and I totally identified with Amanda without becoming Amanda. The difference between us is I had and have no desire to hurt others. Amanda grows twisted and turns Jigsaw’s tests into torture devices set to kill. She disappoints her mentor, which disappoints her. I’m actually touched by their bond; I love student-mentor relationships, especially when they feel familial. John Kramer cares for Amanda deeply, of that I have no doubt—she and Jill are the last two people he thinks of before his death—and to see her disbelieve herself worthy of a life and identity beyond that of a murderer is sad. Furthermore, her devotion to her mentor is also what undoes her, as she apparently doesn’t think he, despite his teachings, can forgive her for what she has done. That’s even sadder. She never has a real chance because she never gives herself a chance, always looking externally for fixers—men, drugs, violence. That’s the tragedy of her character. But I do love Amanda and have all the sympathy in the world for her despite the fact that she also scares me. That’s thanks to good writing, good characterization and Shawnee Smith’s committed performance. Plus, you know. I think sad people recognize other sad people. What else is empathy if not recognition and reflection?

30. Rosalind “Roz” Russell – from Night Court, portrayed by Marsha Warfield

“Look, Christine, I like you. That’s why you got a warning shot.”

Probably the wisest woman on this list, Roz is a tall, rotund African-American bailiff armed always with a quip and a half-lidded expression of mild interest regarding the wacky goings-on of Manhattan Criminal Court Part II. Most of the time she’s a gruff personality— temperamental, tactless, impatient. She is also super funny and funny in different ways, from when she’s huffing and puffing mad to subtle and sarcastic to loony on the couple occasions she doesn’t have control of her own faculties. She has plenty of personality beyond the banal meanness, expressing much of it through the array of colorful socks and stylish earrings she sports episode to episode. Over time, as the rest of the courtroom crew gets used to her threats and jibes, Roz becomes a good friend of Harry’s and gets even closer to Christine and surprisingly Dan but comes across as more of a big sister figure to fellow bailiff and constant companion, Bull. Roz is a big softie at heart, viewing herself as shy and a person who just doesn’t enjoy feeling vulnerable, though she opens up a lot in the 6 seasons for which she’s present. Like a good officer of the court, she really cares about other people, despite being mean to the general public 23/7 (that’s a reference to a season 7 episode, by the way). She’s as strong as ten men, neither overly sexual nor sexless, wise-cracking and observant, both a firearm enthusiast and a talented ballroom dancer. In fact, during the same episode in which we find that out, we also discover the reason she, like Christine, refuses to sleep with Dan: “Because I’m more than you can handle.” He agrees. Surprised? Please don’t be. She’s not the stereotype some of these adjectives may suggest.

29. Fa Mulan – from Mulan (1998), voiced by Ming-Na Wen

“With all due respect, Your Excellency, I think I’ve been away from home long enough.”

A kind, bright young lady with more depth and less interest in courting and primping than most of the other girls in her modest Chinese village, Mulan is requested by her father, mother and grandmother to immerse herself in the tradition of her culture to prepare for marriage. Mulan, on the other hand, would rather honor her family with her mind and heart rather than her physical attributes. Nonetheless her reputation as an outspoken maiden destined for dishonor proves incidental when she begins her quest to reconcile who she is with whom her family asks she be. After her ailing father is called upon to serve in the imperial army to protect China from the ruthless Huns, Mulan, unbound by the expectations of her gender and moved by love for the family she feels she has disgraced, takes it upon herself to abscond with his summons, disguise herself as a man and serve in his place—an act for which the penalty is death. She doesn’t want to fight but does so to protect her family, friends and people and starts out as a fumbling fighter who has to train her way up, making her performances in battle and the respect she earns even more impressive. She is proof to all that modernity and tradition can work together in harmony—quite literally, given she is a 20th-century take on a Chinese legend known as “Hua Mulan.” And look what happened. Over time this myth manifested into a brave and beautiful Disney princess whose tale pervades throughout the world, elevating the character to the level of feminist icon. And for what it’s worth I take issue with the assertion that she had to “become a man” to get the job done. She’s not powerful because she fought as a man; her disguise didn’t give her magic she didn’t have before. Mulan’s power lies within the fact that she always fought as herself. There’s a difference between Batman and Bruce Wayne but no real one between Ping and Mulan. As a thin, young girl, she had to work twice as hard and be twice as tough as the men around her, and the determination, fortitude, resourcefulness and empathy that she embodies—traits that are intrinsic to the majority of women in the world—carry her through battle. That she succeeded not in spite of her womanhood but because she is a woman is the message of adaptation and empowerment women all over tap into, and I have always loved her for it. I always felt so strong as a little girl when watching Mulan, and I’m very excited for the live-action adaptation due for release in 2019. This is definitely a story worth telling and retelling and retelling, as the Chinese have known for centuries.

28. Vanessa Diaz – from Six Feet Under, portrayed by Justina Machado

“Don’t worry about me.”

The addition of Vanessa to this list may surprise some seeing as how she’s one of the more ancillary characters on the critically acclaimed HBO dramedy about life and death, Six Feet Under, but ever since the first time I binged the show, this character has made and continues to make an indelible impression on me. For that I credit the impeccable writing—not one character is wasted in those 5 sensational seasons—and Justina Machado’s lovely and heartfelt performance. Vanessa starts the series as the stressed but supportive wife of restorative artist and undertaker Federico Diaz, juggling the duties of nursing with motherhood. It’s not long until she adopts her own arc, one demanding perseverance as she struggles with every side of grief, betrayal and depression (the apathy and numbness, the hurting and aching, the irritability and understanding) before walking her way toward forgiveness by the end of the series. Overall, Vanessa offers a warm, caring presence to her family as well as to the bereaved on the rare occasion she attends one of the funerals her husband officiates. I enjoy her as a realistic and positive portrayal of a Latina wife and mother with a career, especially when she calls Rico out on any “machismo bullshit,” reminding him she works just as hard as he does. And while she is a nice, honest, practical and authoritarian person, she has a tendency to hold grudges and act out her anger on those she feels have wronged her. Frankly this is a quality that makes me love her more because it’s recognizable and relatable. (No, it’s not one of humanity’s better personality traits, but I’ll be damned if I’m not rooting for her when she’s out to kick ass and take names just as much as I am when she’s content and providing for her family.) The writers didn’t need to pad out this character; she’s presented authentically and, to me, always comes off as more than just “one of the supporting characters’ spouses.” Vanessa holds her own throughout the series with and without Rico—the mark of a strong, independent female character, a person I like and admire and a woman who deserves to be on my list.

27. “Heather Donahue” – from The Blair Witch Project, portrayed by Heather Donahue

“I just want to apologize…to Mike’s mom and Josh’s mom and my mom, and I’m sorry to everyone. I was very naïve. I am so, so sorry for everything that has happened because in spite of what Mike says now, it is my fault because it was my project, and I insisted. I insisted on everything. I insisted that we weren’t lost. I insisted that we keep going. I insisted that we walk south. Everything had to be my way and this is where we’ve ended up and it’s all because of me that we’re here now: hungry and cold and hunted… I love you, Mom… and Dad. I am so sorry… What is that? I’m scared to close my eyes, and I’m scared to open them… Oh, God. I’m going to die out here…”

I’m in the camp of horror fans who loves The Blair Witch Project. I watch it all the time and it manages to remain creepy to me, so much so that I have a hard time watching it at night, maybe because I live in a wooded area…not in Maryland, though, lol. Anyway, as most people know, the movie acts as a documentary on the filming of a documentary about an urban legend called The Blair Witch. Three student filmmakers hike into the Maryland woods to investigate the legend and never come out. What we’re left with a few years later is some crusty old footage depicting their deteriorating camaraderie, resources and hope as the forest—or is it the witch?—wears them down. Simple, scary, raw.

In my research to make sure I have all the background information correct, I hear tell Heather Donahue’s acting received backlash from people who either weren’t paying attention or had the wrong focus. Her performance is purposely pretentious and fantastic at that. An additional stray point I came across during the research is one I appreciate as a feminist fan: that Mike and Josh don’t blame Heather’s gender for their plight. They blame her, a fallible human being, for her mistakes in judgment. Blame the fact that she’s too confident to consider she hadn’t properly prepared the route. Blame her for being proud to ask Josh for help reading the map. Blame her for refusing to admit she’d lost control. For these reasons, including her pretentiousness as a student director and general bullheadedness, defensiveness (passing the buck about the map, arguing about hurrying a crying Josh along) and overall lack of foresight or concern for the group’s collective safety until it’s too late, I consider Heather to be more of an antiheroine than the majority of the other women on this list. While she’s no conniving villain, she’s not one to play nice either, criticizing a nervous Mike one night for not leaving the tent. Even so she’s not strictly a jerk—she has a sense of humor and tries to comfort Mike later in the movie, but throughout she certainly has an agenda and, for a while, lets nothing—not discomfort or trepidation or the safety of her crew or herself—get in the way of her goal to make the best student documentary ever.

I think I’m willing to empathize with and defend Heather more than most because, admittedly, I used to be like her when I was in high school, to a less aggressive extent. I’d be pretentious about my art too, while writing papers, aware that everyone knew I wanted to be a writer. I was desperate to have control over how the general populous viewed me so of course I wanted them to see me as a talented genius (and I hated myself for not being the prodigy I’d always wanted to be). My problem was a lack of confidence whereas Heather’s is overconfidence, a forceful kind of naiveté. I do see that similar desperation in her to prove herself, maybe even just to herself, and it’s that ambition that proves to be the group’s downfall. That apology, though…what a great piece of cinema. And people pick on Heather Donahue’s acting in this movie? Bitch, please. I’m glad she apologizes. Not only because it’s one of the best scenes in the film but because it was necessary. This character walks herself and two others into darkness and she needs to acknowledge it and atone for it the best she can to derive from audiences enough sympathy to care about her fate, and for me she does. I already like Heather for the most part and find her character interesting, but her monologue on Night 8 also makes me feel for her in a way the previous scenes have not. She finally faces reality and the reality is she—fucked—up. (It’s a feminist statement, I believe, to tell stories of women screwing up same as men; we’re no better and no worse than they are.) I don’t admire or like everything she does, but I get her and feel for her so much by the end of this 80-minute chronicle of tree-bound terror.

26. Tiana – from The Princess and the Frog, voiced by Anika Noni Rose

“My dream wouldn’t be complete…without you in it.”

The Princess and the Frog is my favorite Disney film. It’s terrifically written and drawn, handles class and race delicately and is one of the first animated films to give us a heroine whose first concern is not marrying or finding a man to fall in love with/take her away into the wild blue yonder. From hyperactive Charlotte to downtrodden Lawrence to alligator Louis to free-wheeling Naveen, every character has his or her own story. The jazz-inspired tracks are fervent and divine, speaking directly to my old band soul, and best of all the lesson that goals are good to have but better when shared with loved ones is one I know I need to be reminded of. Tiana is an optimistic, hard-working waitress with two jobs, a tenacious, sentimental, giving young woman whom most find to be a little too mature for her age. With a speaking and singing voice as richly and roundly beautiful as she is, she turns out to be more flexible than she first thought and not just because she’s turned into a frog. Eventually she’s tempted by the frighteningly charismatic Dr. Facilier, who offers her her human body as well as the restaurant of her dreams, but Tiana realizes romantic love can be just as important as familial love and self-love, learns that you don’t have to fear it or avoid it—you can have them all—and resists the corruption. I relate to Tiana so much, and not just because she’s the first African-American Disney princess (which is part of the reason, and I was SO HYPED for this movie back in 2009 because representation matters! Seeing a likable, enterprising young black woman with dark skin and kinks in her hair in whom all little black and mixed girls could see themselves was and still is very important) but also because she had a childhood dream she wanted to make come true. For me it’s writing that brings all peoples together; for her it’s cooking and erecting a restaurant that will bring all peoples together. Not so different, eh? I also related to and appreciated the fact that she has no real concerns about being in a relationship until she’s already in a friendship with Naveen, until they’re partners who learn how to work well together for a common goal. That’s realistic and I’m dying for more realism in kids’ movies. I’m not saying a fantasy isn’t nice, but teaching children that hard work, cooperation and compromise are required to achieve your goals is even better. This film combines the right amount of fantasy with actuality and combines in Tiana the right amount of realism with heart.

25. Andrea Harrison – from The Walking Dead, portrayed by Laurie Holden

“I tried.”

I don’t care that I’m 1 of 3 people I know who likes this character. I honestly have always liked her, all the way to season 3, my personal favorite season. I know—your head’s exploding with disbelief right now, isn’t it? Bear with me. Walk with me through my reasoning. Andrea is a slick, busy, city girl, a lawyer before the apocalypse—headstrong, practical, sexy, assertive yet sensitive and willful…to a detriment. She has a need to prove herself that belies her independent nature, one among many things about her I relate to. I also admire her physical prowess, in that she’s a great hand-to-hand fighter and crackshot with a gun, admire her articulation and ever-lasting bond with Michonne and especially love the way she verbally bitchslapped Lori’s antifeminist assertion that the men don’t need her help (like sit down, chick, for real). Furthermore, I just…think I understand Andrea more than a lot of people do. As someone who has contemplated suicide numerous times, I certainly recognize her conflict about whether to go on. I understand this is why she’s willing to choose Woodbury over life on the road with the then-nomadic Michonne or the stark, walker-infested prison. She thrives around people and ideas, craves structure and society and tangible hope—a life—and can’t bring herself to accept what the world is or who the Governor is, as another of her downfalls is a poor taste in men. However, she possesses natural leadership skills and takes it upon herself to try to broker peace between the megalomaniac and an emotionally spiraling Rick…to no avail. What is memorable and respectable about that to me is that she tries. For all her stupid mistakes and bad decisions, she tries, because what is the point of anything at all if not that? I admire her heart. Though her vulnerability—the kind that both whispers and shouts “I’m trying really hard to be strong”—annoys most others, it’s endearing to me. Her arc from suicidal to spending her life trying to help others is the same journey I desire for myself, and it’s for this reason, that among all her flaws and the tragedies that befall her, I find her inspirational.

24. Martha Jones – from Doctor Who, portrayed by Freema Agyeman

“I spent a lot of time with you thinking I was second best, but you know what? I am good.”

Yes, you are, Martha. You so are. You’re many things. For instance, Martha is the first companion to come after the Doctor’s infamous love, Rose Tyler, as well as the first companion of color in the series (I was so pumped! In fact Freema Agyeman’s inclusion is the main reason I started watching Doctor Who in the first place because as a 16-year-old girl iffy about the international sci-fi drama, I wanted to see if I identified with anyone, especially a fellow woman of color. And I did, far beyond that. But representation matters so much, people. It really does). She is a doctor who became one of the Doctor’s most reliable allies. She is also a warm, caring, cheeky and radiant young woman, resilient in times of crisis and excellent under pressure, true to the nature of a physician. Martha is a doer more than a thinker, which, as the exact opposite type of person, I respect. She walks across the world to proclaim hope in the name of the Doctor, stands up in a world ruled by the Master as the human symbol of hope and perseverance. She even goes on to become an invaluable asset to UNIT and Torchwood. And despite her prettiness and desirability, she is in love with someone who is not in love with her, yet she has the strength to walk away so she can have a future, pursue her vocation, pursue someone available. I have always been impressed with that and with her, specifically her maturity and independence. True, she’s forced into the mold of a soldier, so I’m not sure how Twelve would feel about her, but Ten? Well, when he wasn’t distracted by mournful thoughts of Rose, he admired and counted on her and rightfully so. Martha’s arc isn’t from that of a girl to a woman though that always is a fine arc; hers is from hoping to acceptance—of her family and where they stand, of the Doctor and where he stands and of herself and what she’s capable of which, in my opinion, is absolutely anything.

23. Lana Winters – from American Horror Story: Asylum, portrayed by Sarah Paulson

“I am tough…but I’m no cookie.”

The larger narrative of American Horror Story: Asylum is set in 1964 and features a voraciously determined investigative journalist named Lana Winters as its main protagonist. Although a thirty-something with a classic face, Lana is anything but a classical woman. Like many she is charismatic but also outspoken, unapologetic and unforgiving, and for all her merits, she doesn’t always know what’s best. One might say it’s due to her nonconformity and superior drive to obtain a story that will help her excel in her field that winds up costing her her freedom. The tyrannical Sister Jude, who oversees a sanitarium for the criminally insane known as Briarcliff Manor, would, seeing how she’s the one who pulls some strings to have the prying reporter committed. Trapped with few options and fewer friends, Lana must rely on her brilliant mind and an alternately considerate and cold heart to face down demons, both figurative and literal. Despite undergoing aversion/conversion therapy, she holds on to a quiet acceptance of her sexuality, born from the core of her being that won’t apologize for loving a woman, and does not view being a lesbian as an illness or a choice because she knows it’s neither, not that anyone at Briarcliff takes her truth into consideration. Oh, no. It’s never that easy for Lana, and her response to that quickly becomes “Then so be it.” Torture, murder, rape, threat, the breath of death—none of these is unfamiliar to Lana by the time Bloody Face is revealed and the season is done. But everything in and about this writer is a survivor. These are two identities—or at least one—I know and understand well from an experiential and rudimentary level, and I love her and the masterful Sarah Paulson for embodying them so thoroughly. I’ve always considered Lana one of the greatest characters in the pantheon of great characters in American Horror Story. I feel she is unmatched in emotional durability, power of will and even longevity, given she tends to appear in other seasons of the anthology series, one way or another. There’s a reason the other characters have heard of her, and this list is just a glimpse into why you’ve now heard of her too. Want the whole scoop? Step into the asylum. Trust me, if you’re a fan of horror stories that specialize in strong female leads, you’ll be sure to enjoy your stay.

22. Jules Thomas – from Sweet/Vicious, portrayed by Eliza Bennett

“This is the only way that I feel alive! This—this is the only way that we stop him from turning girls into me.”

Jules is one of two potent protagonists starring in this young-adult dramedy (don’t be fooled by the silly name, this 1-season wonder is way too good—and way too timely—to miss) centered around female friendships, college life, inner strife and a more vengeful approach to the campaign against abuse. While I also love Ophelia, who reminds me of my cousin, lol, I relate far more intimately to Jules, who is more emotionally conflicted and coping episode to episode, moment to moment, with the aftereffects of the sexual assault she experienced at the hands of a former friend. I don’t have her pixie-like appearance and never was I a sorority girl, but Jules’s depression and the destruction and slow rebuilding of her self-esteem and self-confidence is so familiar to me, it was actually painful getting through the series. It was also integral to the examination and consideration of my overall emotional health. Art helps, you know. Of course you know.

To be brief, I have never been raped and do not presume to understand such a heinous act or violation. At the same time, I have been mistreated by a couple of influential men in my life—my father and someone I called a “friend” while in college but who didn’t even come close to being a real one until years after we’d graduated. In the three years I hung out with him (we were both English majors and he was the only person I interacted with regularly; I was lonely and desperate for a male influence, as I was away from my hometown friends and not coping well with hating the college experience and the majority of my pretentious peers), he betrayed my trust on a daily basis by verbally beating me down, undermining my opinions and making sexual passes at me until I would berate him back, degrading my own character in an attempt to get back at him. But I couldn’t; everything just rolled off him like a little wooden wagon wheel tumbling downhill. He was solid. I was a mess. All I could do was ask myself why he was like this and why I let him treat me so poorly. Why didn’t I fight back harder or simply walk away? Why? It frightened me to be so weak, and it made me distrust and hate myself more than I already did as someone with chronic depression and anxiety. And let’s not even get into the emotional trauma my father inflicted…

Point is, I know what it’s like to have abusive experiences that render you feeling profoundly powerless. This is how Jules feels after her best friend’s boyfriend rapes her at a party. When he denies any wrongdoing and the campus counselor encourages her to brush it off, Jules decides to avenge herself and every other sexual assault survivor she can track down by swiftly beating the ever-loving SHIT out of users and abusers on campus. Having practiced a number of self-defense techniques after the rape, she teaches her newfound friend, Ophelia, all she knows and works with her to carry out vigilante justice for the duration of the season. It’s not that I think this is the right approach to dealing with offenders, but there’s a primal part of me that’s not going to say it’s entirely wrong either. Abusers should be punished. Make of that what you will. The legal and punitive systems, when it comes to dealing with rape cases, are a joke, and like with #44, I enjoyed watching every second of these women kick ass in the name of righteous anger. Of course extracurricular vigilantism isn’t all that Jules is about, though she’s darkly and delightfully cheeky when she is about it. She’s also in college on a scholarship, a loving and attentive friend on the days she doesn’t feel like she’s falling apart and still full of temerity even on the days she does. Takes the chance to trust both a man and herself again. What happened to her does not define her. What she did or didn’t do and what she does while she figures it out are not all she is. I admire Jules so much and feel moved to make it clear: I don’t just identify with her struggle—I identify with her amazing strength.

21. Matilda Wormwood – from Matilda, portrayed by Mara Wilson

“She shouldn’t be allowed to treat people like that. Somebody’s gotta teach her a lesson.”

Matilda, the sweet child savant with the red hair ribbon, is the 6 ½-year-old heroine of the classic Roald Dahl book, and also the heroine of my favorite childhood movie. I was around her age when the film adaptation came out and this girl was living my childhood fantasy fulfillment: to be adopted by a teacher, to be a genius, to feel cherished and to have a superpower (in this case, telekinesis). I related to her very much since I too had a parent who was as mean, ignorant, horrible and frightening as the Wormwoods and felt safe with my loving teachers and mom who looked and acted like Miss Honey. Matilda is precocious but not pretentious, highly practical with good comprehension skills and a sense of humor. She loves books so dearly, others look at her as weird and yet she still cultivates a circle of friends. She is self-sufficient, never complaining about her solitude, and unintimidated by ignorant, loud dunderheads. I love this character very much with a love that eclipses any envy for how her story ends; she has always been inspirational and comforting to me because she grew up in an abusive environment but managed to blossom, to hold on to a high self-esteem and unapologetic sense of self. Best of all her superpower felt deserved because she’s a wonderful, strong little girl who doesn’t sit on her savant qualities and yearns to keep learning. I admire that. In truth I don’t like being challenged. It’s scary, uncomfortable and I’m always focused on potential failure. Not Matilda. She’s the kind of character who makes you stronger just by your being in mere proximity to her story, lol. I also like that her telekinesis is only used to service the story and defend against Principal Trunchbull, who is as terrifying as her name implies, and not as a flashy gimmick. It bears repeating that I’m enamored with the lovely and loving bond Matilda forms with Miss Honey and consider it the heart of this warm youth film. I know I’m always praising my male teachers as good role models and they were, but that’s not to say I didn’t have strong female teachers and role models as well. Women have always been a force of love, understanding and empowerment in my life, starting and ending with my mother, Debbie. So when I say I used to fantasize about being adopted by a teacher, I mean I wanted to procure an adoptive father because I already had the perfect mother for me. In fact Jennifer and Matilda Honey remind me very much of a younger version of my mom and me. This fanciful reminder is probably the crux of Matilda’s staying power with me, though it doesn’t hurt that it’s just nice to see a little girl be so brave, confident thoughtful—simply the best kind of kid—despite the circumstances she’s born into. Even when you’re a dark person and you’re used to gloom, sometimes it’s nice to see the sun come out and shine on someone, to see good rewarded and to celebrate that, and I will always be celebrating Matilda.

20. Diana Prince a.k.a. Wonder Woman – from Wonder Woman (2017), portrayed by Gal Gadot

“I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then I glimpsed a darkness that lives within their light, and learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. A choice each must make for themselves—something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know that only love can truly save the world…so I stay, I fight and I give…for the world I know can be. This is my mission now. Forever.”

For as much of a geek as I am, I’m not much of a comics fan and only pay moderate attention to the hype of superhero movies. Be that as it may, I have looked up to Wonder Woman since I was a little girl thanks to the revered 2001-2004 Justice League, which ran Saturday nights on Cartoon Network back in the day, oh yes, and I feel the cinematic Wonder Woman encapsulates everything I loved about Susan Eisenberg’s animated version and more. In Patty Jenkins’s 2017 film, Diana, Princess of the isolated island Themyscira, is raised with her Amazonian brethren to prepare for battle, should the God of War, Aries, arise again to carry out his goal of slaying both the Amazons and the mortals the warrior women are charged to protect. Upon meeting American spy and pilot, Steve Trevor, Diana discovers the world outside her homeland is fraught with the kind of strife she has anticipated and leaves with him to fight who she believes is responsible for all of humankind’s ills and evils. She comes to learn a harsh and necessary truth during her mission yet, true to her godly, empathetic and loving nature, gifts to the world her all of her strength and compassion.

No other film or film heroine inspired me last year the way Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman did. The actress successfully embodies the protectiveness, sensitivity, intensity and power of a woman, and did some of it while pregnant to boot (motherhood affords you an extra-special type of strength or so I’ve heard…and seen and know to be true, honestly, and Gal Gadot sure uses hers here). My first time through the movie I’m pretty sure I cried watching the way she both kicked major ass and spread a timely and pertinent message of love and consideration. It’s an empowering series of sequences to behold, especially for us young women and feminists but for everyone in between too, of course. Diana is naïve but well-read and multilingual, possessing an outer beauty that matches an inner beauty epitomized by honor and grace. To be frank she is a sweet badass with a soothing voice and a helpful, righteous spirit, and in spite of all her goodness, she is not without her missteps, one of which proves lethal. But we know her mistakes and naiveté are not the sum of her being nor of her worth, and I find that one of the most comforting aspects of the film. Diana/Wonder Woman symbolizes everything I want to be/do as an intersectional feminist writer: empower and help others, particularly other women; celebrate and expand the understanding and tolerance of others, particularly minorities; and revel in, without fear, resentment, persecution or guilt, the joys of being a woman. I get all that from this film, from this character—this feminist icon—and I love her and have love for all who have been involved with her evolution for giving me and so many girls such an heroine. I am so proud and excited when I watch Wonder Woman because it’s my favorite fantasy: to see a woman appreciated as an all-around astounding fighter. The best part about this fantasy is, as the world continues to turn and women continue to fight like warriors, fight like wonders in every way, the fantasy may one day just come true.

19. Shosanna Dreyfus – from Inglourious Basterds, portrayed by Mélanie Laurent

“Marcel—burn it down.”

Dexter Morgan is said to have been “born in blood.” Shosanna Dreyfus is born from fire—gunfire to be specific—baptized by the blood of loved ones. The female protagonist of my favorite Quentin Tarantino film spends much of the 2 ½ hours as both a chess piece and player in WWII, biding her time and maneuvering into position in order to carry out her goals. Though she is in hiding, Shosanna suffers no fools and is not easily distracted as she plots a fiery revenge against the heart of the Third Reich. Her youth and beauty belie a sly nature and errant boldness. A lot of her personality comes across in Mélanie Laurent’s brilliant micro-expressions. Cool, cunning, but not without nerves or heart, she is a survivor, a schemer and a symbol of the concept of righteous retribution—if there is such a thing. It’s not for me to say. But I will say that I, without a doubt, enjoy this film as a revenge fantasy and admire Shosanna for being the unexpected badass. The blaze no one could stop or see coming. “The Face of Jewish Vengeance.”

18. Bill Potts – from Doctor Who, portrayed by Pearl Mackie

“Hey, um…Oh, you know how I’m usually all about women and then, kinda, people my own age? …Glad you knew that.”

Bill is basically me. We’re the same age. We’re both a little nerdy (meaning you’re knowledgeable in an academic sense) and geeky (meaning you’re knowledgeable of and into pop culture). We both love Little Mix. We have similar physical aspects—brown skin tone, eyebrow definition, big, pretty smiles :D). We’re both on the LGBTQIAP+ spectrum—she’s the L, I’m the A. We even have the same initials. She is definitely me, if I were English, gay and had better hair. And if I were a better person. This isn’t a knock against me, this is a praising of her. Bill is someone I admire for her optimism and resilience. Mentally, I consider her to be the strongest companion yet, the young woman who, for only being in a single series, comes across with the surest sense of self. The moments that best showcase her mental might include her maintaining the truth when the Monks invade Earth, her will to kill her best friend to save the world and the way she fights to stave off the completion of a Cyber-conversion. Wow, girl! But where there is triumph, there is trouble.

Sadly, I’ve read a lot of nasty things on the internet about Bill since her inception as the latest companion: “She’s only here to fulfill Doctor Who’s politically correct/liberal agenda”; “Couldn’t they get anyone prettier/hotter?”; “She’s annoying/bland/talks about being gay too much.” I was appalled and stung, of course, to see Pearl Mackie and the character I revered so much and, honestly, someone so similar to me, received like this. The intolerance of the Doctor Who fandom, unfortunately, is staggering and pretty damn pathetic if you think about it. If you don’t like something, you don’t have to watch it, and while you’re at it, please go right ahead and shut the fuck up. Let us people of color and the lesbian community enjoy our representation. Let us average viewers enjoy representation! Bill feels more real to me than any other character in the history of this show, and I adored her from minute one because she is an ordinary young woman with extraordinary qualities like a depth of compassion, intrigue and the ability to grin in the face of the unknown. That’s what caught the Doctor’s eye. That’s it, that’s all. I also very much enjoy and relate to the student-mentor relationship/friendship/surrogate parent-surrogate-child trope and found the one between the Doctor and Bill to be especially endearing because of how much it reminded me of my relationship with my kookier and more tender teachers and professors. They saw my potential and nurtured it. They cared about me as both a student and a person and I cared for them too. So it is with Twelve and Bill, and their love and appreciation of one another creates a tether that follows them to the end of their lives and even further—of that I have no doubt or other interpretation. But Bill is is the walking truth that a person can be special just by being herself, and I love her for who exactly who she is: quick-witted, quirky, honest, clever, passionate, loving and, in the vein of all her recent predecessors, a great companion. I am so proud of her thirst to learn, her pride in her sexuality, her excitement and zest for life among and beyond the stars and how that enriches the Doctor in series 10. Now I can’t wait to see how it will continue to enrich her—and me!— in the future.

17. June “Junie” B. Jones – from the Junie B. Jones book series

“Yeah, only guess what? I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. And so that means I can’t come to school on Monday. And now I’ll probably flunk kindergarten.”

I believe Junie B. Jones is the first literary protagonist with whom I identified. Ever. I remember getting these thin, early-reader books at scholastic book fairs and tearing through them and practically tearing up with laughter at the (mis)adventures of the intensely silly kindergartner/first-grader. Unlike Roald Dahl’s Matilda, who was mostly who I wanted to be as a little girl, I essentially was Barbara Park’s Junie B: loud, friendly, loud, rambunctious, loud, eager, loud, funny, loud and excited about words and learning. By the way, did I say quiet? Because I meant loud. Living with her mom, dad and baby brother, Junie B. is a normal kid—normal in that she’s kind of weird, smart in that she’s of average intelligence and creative in that she loves taking (plenty of) liberties to express herself properly. Throughout the series, she’s perpetually at that age where anything is possible, where it’s easier to move on when you’re hurt. Where you’ve got an imagination wider and deeper and more colorful than the ocean. I love the nostalgia Junie B. brings to me. She reminds me of how much I love and miss my younger self and, mostly importantly, reminds me that occasionally it’s okay to go back and let her out to play once in a while. (I even read this series to my mom while she feeds our tons of cats. We’ve had a great time bonding and wailing in hysterics over the cute stories. Yet another great memory Junie B. Jones has given me!)

16. Kimberly “Kim” Wexler – from Better Call Saul, portrayed by Rhea Seehorn

“I dig myself out of this hole. You do your job, Jimmy. Prove you can go one week—hell, one day without breaking the rules of the New Mexico Bar Association or pissing off your boss. And don’t insult my intelligence by saying you are doing any of this for me. You don’t save me. I save me. Just please go.”

One of greatest gifts to the Better Call Saul universe, Kim, with her industrious, independent and conscientious personality, incites many reactions from me: she impresses me, enthuses me and scares me to death with the goodness she represents in the increasingly corrupt life of Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman. We’re heading into the 4th season of the Breaking Bad prequel and Kim’s fate as a successful attorney, Jimmy’s lover and as a human being safe from the criminal underground remains up in the air, and I am so freaking nervous for her since she never appears in or is mentioned in Breaking Bad. *shivers* Anyhow, this blurb is meant to celebrate Kim and why she’s #16 on my list of fictional female favorites, so allow me to get away from grim possibilities and into why I admire her so greatly. Beginning the series as an underappreciated employee at the mega firm, Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill, she is an exceptional lawyer with even greater potential, who’s low-key demeanor sometimes gives way to a more a playful side, best showcased when she plays the Giselle to Jimmy’s Viktor (no, it’s not a kinky sex game. Weeelll, it’s more intellectual-based foreplay). Kim eventually branches out with Jimmy to co-found Wexler McGill, doubling her efforts to secure a client base. However, it is inevitably Jimmy—and Kim’s determination to stick by him—that hampers each lawyer’s true success. To my own surprise as a feminist and as someone who is almost completely uninterested in romance, I totally empathize with Kim’s choices. Jimmy has been her friend and closest ally for years, and the two are more than friends with benefits—they have a very simple love story predicated on a deep sense of care, respect and belief in one another (and unless Jimmy’s crooked ass gets her hurt or killed, I, fighting my better instincts, will continue to ship them). But even as a fan of their friendship and relationship, I feel pained knowing it’s Kim’s concern and sympathy for the undeniably charismatic Jimmy that keeps her ensnared in the midst of his plots to provide for both her and himself. Kim is an ethical person, and watching her struggle against what she does and doesn’t know in regards to Jimmy’s ploys keeps me enmeshed with the heart and integrity of the characters and the show. Altogether, Kim is the voice of reason and a very full, very real representation of a thinking and feeling career woman in her 40s, and if I haven’t made it clear enough, I only pray the flaw of her seemingly bottomless compassion for Jimmy doesn’t prove to be a fatal one.

15. Officer/Detective Judith “Judy” Hoffs – from 21 Jump Street, portrayed by Holly Robinson (Peete)

“Hanson, if you don’t tell me what’s going on here, you too will be a girl.”

Before 21 Jump Street was a film series starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, it was a 1987-1991 young adult cop drama with the same basic premise: a group of youthful police officers go undercover on the regular and infiltrate high schools and colleges to prevent and solve crimes. Partners with Harry Ioki, Judy Hoffs has a special relationship with the free-spirited Captain Jenko, sly Captain Fuller and all her fellow officers, as is generally to be expected on shows with a sole female in the gang and Hoffs holds her own, the respected and duty-bound one–the only one to persist from the beginning of the series to its end. Judy is hip, fashionable and easy-going, lithe and beautiful with twig legs. She’s also authoritative without being intimidating, articulate, approachable, independent, nervy and stubborn. This was a show about role models and Judy is an excellent role model for young women, especially young black women and girls who have seen and been through the shit but don’t let it get or keep them down; she is proud of her ethnicity and aware of the privilege she is both denied as a woman of color in the ’80s and afforded as a higher-middle-class, pretty woman of color. This is not to say her African-American heritage defines her character but it’s not ignored either (nice job, writers). Like many officers certain she enjoys a certain sense of control and advocates extra hard for cases that touch upon her heart more than others, making her call into question her ethics or those of others. It tends to take her a while to ask for help but she gets there when she needs to, always arriving at a sense of balance and righteousness with a lot of grace. What I see in her is a special kind of intelligence, a chameleon-like mental and emotional flexibility that allows her to pose as different types of people, from street toughs to college medical students. Judy is a great example of one of the features I feel is intrinsic to strong, successful women in potentially hostile or male-dominated environments: adaptability. A fighter and a survivor. While I didn’t watch this show when I was little—it ended the year I was born, lol—I did look up to Judy as a youth and am so grateful I could see myself and many things I wanted to be in this skilled, compassionate, vibrant African-American police officer.

14. Claire Fisher – from Six Feet Under, portrayed by Lauren Ambrose

“… I’m just sort of like, sick and tired of everything…Just like all the lies we’re fed and the bullshit we’re supposed to care about and like how everybody is so scared of anything that’s different from everything else.”

Though surly, snappy and sarcastic, Claire is not exactly your typical angsty teen. She actually is deeper than many of those around her, possessing the pretension of adolescence but genuine precociousness as well. In the 5 years we watch her mature on Six Feet Under, from ages 17 to 21, we witness this smart, free-thinking, unique, outspoken, impulsive, creative young woman search for, discover and harness her power in the world as a daughter, a sister and an artist, unearthing purpose and self-worth to see herself beyond just the “annoying, extra person” in the family, the “forgotten” child, the one nobody seems to understand. I understand, and also realize some audience members are turned off by how derisive and hostile Claire can be about most anything and everything, but I find her dour yet passionate disposition grants her a special perspective on life. Makes her realize she, like all of us, takes some things for granted and points out to her the necessity of counting her blessings without compromising her personality. I am enthralled by Claire’s character even though we don’t have much in common. She’s lonely and disconnected to people her age, and I’m not (when I don’t want to be, lol). She’s attracted to troubled men whereas I never have been. She experiments with drugs and alcohol and I haven’t. She photographs, I write. But we are both intense, questioning, artistic people and all those things form the basis of my love and appreciation for her; they all translate into strengths I feel I have and also admire. I love that Claire can both take care of herself and ask for help. Love that she has a bond with each member of her family. I love that she wants to say something with her art and has a reason for creating it. Love that she wants the best for who she loves and basically gives the middle finger to the rest of the world because she’s going to do and be what she wants. Most poignantly, I love that Claire eventually and essentially learns the meaning of life and what it means to have a full one, and I love it because I sincerely believe having her character and Six Feet Under in my life has brought me a little bit closer to those Truths too.

13. Clementine a.k.a. “Clem” – from The Walking Dead: Telltale Game Series, voiced by Melissa Hutchison

“I can handle it. I’m not a little kid.”

The Telltale video game spinoff of the televised Walking Dead is as much Clementine’s story as the first 8 TV seasons are Rick’s. Clementine is an almost-9-year-old girl who survives on her own for 2 nights before a stranger named Lee enters her home and takes it upon himself to take her under his wing. The little girl starts out doe-eyed, as cute as the fruit that bears her name, until that innocence is ripped away by hunger, terror, betrayal and death. Fast forward 4 years into the zombie apocalypse and you have a 13-year-old going on 35, a warrior with remarkable presence of mind despite facing all of the horrors that come from being a child caught in the crossfire of many a life-threatening crisis. This is a practical survivor who becomes adept at killing walkers without assistance by the second season—a giving and helpful little girl with a gentle, melodic voice who quickly gives way into a mature young woman with a deepened, somber tone who is equal parts caring and duplicitous and more instinctual than hesitant. She doesn’t get to be a kid anymore, which is the sad reality viewers/players come to terms with once they dive into the reasons she’s such a boss. What else can you expect when you’re called upon to decide the impossible, to save and take lives? And yes, she has the clout of any other adult in her group in seasons 2 and 3. She’s a runner, a fighter, a killer, a mother (not literally, calm down, but just about; it makes sense in the game), a rose growing from a pile of shit and none too different: pretty, prickly and also a gift to others. She lies and hustles, is quick to pull a gun—all to survive. She’s so mature it hurts. And yet…at her core she remains kind, some days even hopeful. Later in the storyline, we are even given the options to explore her first period, her first crush and first kiss. She is and is not a woman, has been through and seen so much! It’s heart-breaking. We’ve seen her shot, scarred and searching, always searching and never finding a place to which she could really belong, this in-between girl with no family. However, she always manages to find people along the way whom she grows to love and who grow to love her. Eyes, limbs and lives are sacrificed to keep her safe, and not one of those sacrifices has been in vain because Clem is always paying them back by paying it forward. One way or another, she always does. As bad and as sad as I feel for this young woman, I also feel proud and lucky as a video game fan to have gotten to know her. The arc for Carl on the TV adaptation should have been similar to this. At least we can see this depth and development and experience it through the game and through Clementine. I know there’s no other kid I’d rather have walked beside.

12. Christine Sullivan – from Night Court, portrayed by Markie Post

“I didn’t do it for you, I did it because it’s my job and I’m damn good at it. I spent way too much time believing that my success was due to you. Well, you know what? It was due to me. You remember that the next time you see a student in a short skirt.”

Despite the fact that I was an infant when it went off the air, it’s no secret to me that Night Court, the NBC sitcom revolving around the nightly antics of a jokey but efficacious judge and his madcap cast of court officials, was an ’80s comedy darling, earning scores of award nominations, including four consecutive Emmy wins for John Larroquette, who is genius throughout the series. When a TV show is this successful, clearly everything has to come together: the showrunner, directors, writers, production and art teams and especially the cast. I’m a fan who believes nearly everyone involved with Night Court was a gem in this crown of comedy, and for a leading male character as wonderfully offbeat as Harry Stone, I could ask for no better leading female than Christine Sullivan. Replacing the boring and charmless Billie Young permanently in season 3, Christine enters Manhattan’s Criminal Court Part II as a highly ethical, intelligent and passionate attorney. As we progress through the years, we also discover she’s plucky, friendly (sometimes to a fault), a little dorky and quite a bit prudish, a trait that plays nicely against her obvious attractiveness. I grew up watching Night Court on the TV Land reruns when I was in high school and adored Christine, identifying with her wholly and immediately, and frankly seeing a character generally rewarded for her virtue made me feel better about being such a goody-goody student, lol. Moreover, Christine has earned a place as one of my favorite fictional feminists due to the righteous fire that keeps her riding the line between solicitous to challenging and taking down ignorant asses. The level of respect she commands from her clients and coworkers is impressive, considering Dan Fielding, the womanizing prosecutor, can’t even bring himself to sleep with her in light of her reluctance. She’s fun and pleasant as both the prankster and the straight woman. She’s not afraid of love but doesn’t let it hinder her career goals. Christine is a good defense lawyer, a good mother and a good friend, and because she’s so good, to me she’s absolutely great.

11. Kimberly “Kim” Possible – from Kim Possible, voiced by Christy Carlson Romano

“I can do anything!”

My favorite fictional redhead. Middleton High student Kim Possible does the impossible: keeping up a straight A average and captaining the cheerleading squad all the while saving the world in her spare time. Her eponymous TV show ran for four seasons, from 2002-2007, on the Disney channel and has turned out to be one of those action/adventure comedies other Millennials and I feel privileged to have grown up on. I even remember distinctly being blown away by the premiere. The series is for both girls and boys, for the popular kids and the misfits, filled with trendy slang and characters who run the gamut from cool to so uncool, they are cool. It also has one the catchiest theme songs ever, done right by Christina Milian—hip, poppy and kickass, just like Kim herself, whose greatness is effortless. Kim is responsible, quick, smart and peppy, both athletic and a girly girl but still a maturing teen who makes misjudgments, gets nervous and questions herself. She’s also a globe-trotting, crime-fighting vigilante and combat expert supported by her laid-back, genius parents, haphazard but hilarious best friend, Ron Stoppable, and technology prodigy, Wade, who provides her with original gadgets she uses to complete her missions. Though much of it is born from childhood loyalty, I still have a lot love toward this show for maintaining such a positive presence in my life, and I adore Kim for being such a phenomenal female role model, possibly the best ever in animation, due to the fact that she is a normal, friendly, thoughtful girl propelled to accomplish the extraordinary all because she practices, persists and believes in herself. And I cannot WAIT for the live-action movie to hit next summer! *squee!*

10. Nina Sayers – from Black Swan, portrayed by Natalie Portman

“I just want to be perfect.”

This Darren Aronofsky dark drama with metaphorical elements of the fantastic illustrates what it means to come into the complexity of womanhood, not just adulthood, and serves as an evolution story where the side of light isn’t exactly the most desirable position to take. To be “light,” to be the White Swan, is to be gentle, elegant, conscientious and ultimately weak whereas to be “dark,” to be the Black Swan, is to be alluring, forceful and so perfectly imperfect that you’ve actually tricked those watching you into believing you are perfect because every move you make is deliberate, just and divine. It’s an interesting slant on a common contrast, and Natalie Portman’s Oscar-winning portrayal of mental fragility at its finest is my personal favorite of hers and possibly my favorite film performance by an actress period. Nina is a diffident though beautiful professional ballet dancer for a New York company whose journey of self-discovery, set off by her casting as the Swan Queen in Swan Lake, is unlike that of any other coming-of-age tale ever told. I relate to this character so much it simultaneously frightens and excites me. Like Nina, I am a perfectionist who possesses an innate drive to execute my craft flawlessly (I also took ballet for two years and although I was too big to be that good at it, I remember the practice and precision that goes into interpreting the steps to make it art and not just movement, and it’s very easy to get caught up in trying to do it “perfectly” all around); I live with my mom in my soon-to-be late 20s; and cowardice is also tied into my awareness of my potential. I feel the yearning and the pain of this soft-spoken, rash, obsessively technical and exquisite dancer, almost as if I were one of the many mirrors of herself—well, “selves” is more accurate, really—that appear to her throughout the picture (Lily, Beth, Nina’s mother). Yes, so many familiar faces and yet both the white swan and black swan begin and end always with Nina, specifically the Nina waiting in the wings, waiting in the shadows to stride forth and claim the light. But before she can, we must endure the bittersweet and the unnerving—her descent into instability and ascent to self, which involves turning the tables on the power play between her and the charming but abusive Thomas Leroy, breaking away from a condescending, coddling mother who wishes to live through her vicariously as well as from repressed sexuality (a theme many feminists feel is not explored enough in mainstream cinema) and from the acts of over-apologizing and tiptoeing to the spotlight by instead demanding a place in it. Earning it, by suffering for your work and, if necessary, dying for it, an artist’s arc of birth to death. Because answer me this: where else is there for an artist to go once she has achieved perfection? I know my answer to that and suspect you do too. Nevertheless I have so much love for Natalie Portman’s portrayal and for Nina herself as one of the most complex, dramatic and well-conceived female characters I’ve seen in a psychological thriller. I recognize, comprehend and feel her struggle with her stunted life and firmly believe her story ends with the appropriate Swan. Which Swan is that? Well, you’ll have to watch the film and make that determination yourself. It’s your turn now…

9. Dr. Elizabeth “Liz” Cruz – from Nip/Tuck, portrayed by Roma Maffia

“You really want to get inside a woman? Stop thinking like a dick.”

While ever the voice of reason on the medical drama Nip/Tuck, Dr. Liz Cruz is all too aware of what it’s like to be in an industry and society obsessed with the physical and yet not be one of the beautiful people. I live that life as well, walking around with artistic ambitions and with what one of my therapists coined as an “average beauty,” and whereas I feel I have to compensate for what I lack in looks with intelligence and an eloquence that I hope and pray is seen as talent, Liz is smart, sage, patient and tender because that’s just who she is. A practiced anesthesiologist and the most empathic and professional member of McNamara/Troy, she’s also a vocal, liberal lesbian and feminist—well-spoken and outspoken, funny and forward-thinking, both bold and insecure. Despite her enduring confidence, Liz is a deeply self-aware and lonely individual and certainly not without her share of foibles, poor decisions or tragedies, all of which are best showcased during her first pregnancy, run-ins with gangster Escobar Gallardo and the cold, strained relationship with her traditional mother, who attempts to make her ashamed of and question her sexuality and career choices. However, because she has long since discovered and held on to her self-worth as a doctor, a partner and a friend, Liz is, deep down, proud of who she is, and I’m proud of her for that. She’s a very easy character to look up to.

8. Brenda Chenowith – from Six Feet Under, portrayed by Rachel Griffiths

“Being alone is the prison. Just thinking about yourself, just being trapped in this fucking vortex of always watching yourself…which I suppose is okay if you’re interesting. But the truth is, nobody’s that interesting.”

Oh my, Brenda Chenowith. This brilliant woman is many things: droll, sardonic, forward, unorthodox, liberal, lying, nihilistic, an atheist—and those adjectives barely scratch the surface, really. Underneath her placid visage she is burdened by ruthless, self-centered shrink parents who exploited her genius and talents and raised her under a microscope (Brenda herself refers to her mother, Margaret, as “a fucking evil bitch” and she’s not exaggerating one bit), a bipolar younger brother who needs and loves her a bit too much (which is portrayed much more delicately than one would believe incestuous feelings would be) and by the paradox of both loving and fearing a future with Nate Fisher, lest she lose herself in the process of committing to someone else. I love Brenda. She’s seen some shit, said some shit, been through some shit, and I really respect people who come out on the other side of years of adversity more determined than downtrodden, who actively work on themselves to either beat what they’ve faced or change what they can. Seeing them fight in such a way actually gives me hope that some problems aren’t insurmountable (because they all damn sure feel like they are 95% of the time…). Due to her stolen childhood and lifelong exposure to psychology and observation, Brenda is sometimes blind to how she hurts herself and others, like when she mind-fucks people because it’s second nature and adopts other personas half for the enjoyment, half for the control aspect since she never had any control in her youth. She fantasizes, crosses the line, gets promiscuous, but all of it always serves her character and how she expresses herself—it’s never done to exploit her or her attractive actress. And though she questions whether she is or not, I find Brenda to be a loving person. Why else would she keep in touch with her volatile brother or cruel basket case of a mother (besides the fact that it’s TV gold)? She gave up a future at Yale to take care of Billy, leaves message therapy behind for clinical therapy and ends up adopting and mothering children. She is a free spirit with a scientific mind, both confident and vulnerable, so strong, so resilient—what she withstands in the last season alone would be enough to make me check out of life…but Brenda doesn’t. She both endures and makes things happen. She lives her life without excuses. I don’t know how to do that, and it’s kind of my secret hope that studying this complicated and infinitely interesting character may help me figure out a way to be more like her…in that respect anyway. 😉

7. Detective Lydia Adams – from SouthLAnd, portrayed by Regina King

“Sorry, Russell, I’m just really not in the mood to date right now… Well, what do you want me to do? Put on a little outfit, go out, get drunk, stagger to my car, get raped and end up here for ten years waiting for somebody to do something about it?”

So impressed am I with Lydia, portrayed by the regal and relatable Regina King, as she is one of the finest African-American female role models in television history, like #15, and just like #15 being black is part of her identity but not the whole of it. Lydia embodies every definition of cool; she’s calm and matter-of-fact without coming off as detached. An intelligent, thorough and respected detective in the Robbery-Homicide division of the LAPD, she is intuitive, discerning and rare in that she’s not hardened by what she’s seen like other officers so much as galvanized by it, determined to continue excelling in the business of serving, protecting, catching killers and cleaning up the Los Angeles streets. While on duty she displays a fierce proficiency at fisticuffs and a superior running form. Off duty she doesn’t get out much, giving others a stick-in-the-mud impression about her. In fact the distance they sense in her personality contributes to the revolving-door relationship she has with her partners, with the exceptions of Russ and Ruben, with whom she feels close. Furthermore, for all her ethics and merits, she doesn’t always make the wisest choices, such as choosing to sleep with an unhappily married ex and taking risks while pregnant, falling prey to the denial many a career woman experiences once the realization is stuck in the corner of her subconscious that her life and best-laid plans are all about to change. I say this not to discredit Lydia as a woman or as a detective, a daughter or a mother; I present it as proof that she is not a perfect woman but rather a loner who works well alone, someone nurturing without being smothering, someone who has to learn how to be comfortable with and grow into a deeper sense of family—a feat she achieves by the end of the series. My whole life, artistically and personally, as a mixed girl struggling to be proud of her African-American lineage, I’ve been starved for outstanding African-American role models, both male and female, and I love the character of Lydia Adams so much for filling some of the space left open in my heart for beautiful, flawed and realistic people of color because that’s who I am and what I aim to depict in my work. All my love and thanks goes especially to Regina King, to Ann Biderman for creating this gift of a show and to every writer who fleshed out Lydia and all the other incredible characters of SouthLAnd for us audiences. We are watching, we are taking note and representation DOES matter, I’m telling you.

6. Hermione Granger – from the Harry Potter book and film series, portrayed by Emma Watson

“Oh, honestly, don’t you two read?”

Hermione Jean Granger is not only one of the most inspirational female characters on my list or in popular culture, she’s one of the most inspirational and aspirational women in existence. Her blossoming beauty is incidental—what’s at the forefront of this witch’s keen mind is exactly that: her keen mind and how to use it to better the lives of those around her. Like most Millennials, I was an avid reader and viewer of the Harry Potter series and totally related and looked up to Hermione from the time I was about 8 years old. She’s bookish, opinionated and enthusiastic about learning and applying school lessons to life, just like I was as a kid. Her bonds with Harry and Neville let me know I wasn’t alone in forging loving and lasting friendships with the opposite sex. Most endearingly, Hermione is one of those “perfect head-and-heart girls” to quote actress Emma Watson herself, who was speaking at the time of both Hermione and Beauty and the Beast’s Belle. A head-and-heart girl is logical and pragmatic but also passionate and compassionate. Unlike her Mary Sue of a sister-in-law, Ginny, Hermione is not perfect—she’s got some neuroses, annoying know-it-all tendencies (which I also relate to) and proves time and again to be unskilled at flying. Ultimately she is a strong and sensitive soul, eloquent and refined. She also once socked Draco Malfoy in the face. That alone just about made her my personal heroine, but these are the reasons she is truly beautiful, truly badass, truly iconic: that she is a young woman with depth, work ethic and dimension, a crusader for the downtrodden and just as valuable and courageous—if not more—as any man with whom she crosses paths. Another nice touch is the pride she has in her Muggle-born status—I found that admirable and comforting as well. For anyone who doesn’t know, the term “Mudblood” is an epithet for those without preexisting magical heritage, the Muggle-born witches and wizards like our Hermione, and although Hermione is portrayed as white (barring the stage), I’ve always understood her initial reaction to it in Chamber of Secrets as a person who has had an epithet or two thrown her way as well, and I’d like to relate even more to the way she rises above the prejudice. She is a testament to the truth that your own opinion of yourself should come first, that you are always more than what others think of you. Her feelings and feminism don’t appear in grand speeches, just as tidbits sprinkled throughout the years as she grows more confident and even more capable. Frankly she is the anchor for every success Harry and the others achieve in their battle against the forces of evil and, according to the expanded universe, she even obtains the most powerful position in the English wizarding community: Minister for Magic. Hermione is the epitome of what it means to me to be successful, and I love her (and Emma Watson and J.K. Rowling), am so proud of her and feel blessed to have grown up alongside such an exemplary role model for adolescent women.

5. Elizabeth Swann/Turner – from the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, portrayed by Keira Knightley

“Then what shall we die for? You will listen to me. Listen! The Brethren will still be looking here, to us, to the Black Pearl, to lead. And what will they see? Frightened bilge rats aboard a derelict ship? No. No, they will see free men, and freedom! And what the enemy will see is the flash of our cannons. They will hear the ring of our swords and they will know what we can do! By the sweat of our brows, and the strength of our backs, and the courage of our hearts. Gentlemen…hoist the colours.”

This governor’s daughter-turned-Pirate Lord is a character I’ve looked up to for a long time; in fact it was Keira Knightley’s lovely performance as the strong and cunning Elizabeth Swann that inspired me to pursue theatre and act in a few plays in high school and junior college (I remember my 12-year-old self going around, quoting her, essentially saying, “I want be a girl/play girls just like that, Mom!”). Theatre acting was a worthwhile endeavor—I certainly enjoyed it and absorbed confidence from the experiences, making me forever grateful to my third-favorite actress for all that she gave to me and other Millennial youths with this portrayal. What Elizabeth offers growing girls is a modern role model in an 18th-century epic, a sea-faring adventure tale full of action, romance and fighting for what you believe in. Young and curious about life outside her home of Port Royal, England, she has always been excited at the prospect of meeting a pirate and quickly becomes an old hand at swashbuckling, making the transition from rescuee to rescuer all within the first film! Throughout the series Elizabeth proves to clever beyond her years, both classy and impertinent, deceptive and even ruthless. Her strength does not come without a price, however, as she struggles and suffers with some of the decisions and actions she takes as means to an end that she hopes will benefit the greater good. An exquisite beauty, she is desired by most of the men of the Pirates trilogy, though her heart belongs only to one—her childhood friend, blacksmith and fellow pirate Will Turner…or rather, you could say, his heart belongs to her. Trust me, it’s more accurate if you say it that way. If I may get fangirly for a second, Elizabeth and Will were my first OTP and remain a favorite “ship” of mine due to the fact that they are equal partners who bring equal worth and weight to the story, appreciate and nurture each other’s strengths and remain fully dedicated to one another despite long periods of separation and disparate motivations. Also their wedding is one of the only ceremonies in film history that gets to my heart every time. Aside from being half of one of Disney’s best power couples, Elizabeth is a talented swordswoman and adept leader, rising to the rank of Pirate King with the help of shady ally—but good man—Captain Jack Sparrow. And she isn’t just voted into the position—she earns it. Embodies it. Embraces it. I love Mrs. Elizabeth Turner. A lover, a fighter, a daughter, a wife, a mother. A true queen of the high seas as, despite being no stranger to tragedy or the privileges of birth, she has always been a sly pirate at heart, free, willing and able. She remains one of my most potent artistic and personal muses.

4. Clara Oswald – from Doctor Who, portrayed by Jenna Coleman

“You…Now you listen to me. You’re gonna be alone now, and you’re very bad at that. You’re gonna be furious and you’re gonna be sad, but listen to me: don’t let this change you. No, listen, whatever happens next, wherever she is sending you, I know what you’re capable of. You don’t be a warrior. Promise me. Be a Doctor…Heal yourself. You have to. You can’t let this turn you into a monster. So…I’m not asking you for a promise. I’m giving you an order.”

Clara, a nanny-turned-high school English teacher and friend to the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors, is my favorite companion in all of Doctor Who history, and I love her dearly. While very much aware of the fandom’s general dislike of her character and the amount of screen time she received during Twelve’s run, I, with my ever-popular unpopular opinions, loved every bit of her time with the Doctor and love every bit of her, from all her faults to all her strengths. It’s true she’s bossy, smart-mouthed, reckless and a bit vain. She’s also affectionate, resourceful, highly intelligent and good with kids, and it’s quite a fun and poignant ride to witness her growth from the little-sister-type to Eleven to a confident and capable young woman and partner to Twelve. Her arc from a mystery to be solved to an energetic assistant to a calculating equal, coupled with both her appealing and exasperating qualities, contributes to my viewing Clara as a full, relatable person rather than a Mary Sue, helpless hottie or fawning love interest. She feels real to me, and I’m so grateful to Jenna Coleman, whose powerful performances thoroughly and regularly move and comfort me. (I can’t tell you how many times I listened to the speech Clara makes at the end of “Listen” back in 2014, my last year in college. Jenna Coleman’s gentle delivery about fear being all right, even empowering, because it can make you kind got me through many a night as I lay in bed crying, terrified for what life held in store for me beyond the academic world I once loved.) Though the actress herself is cooler and more articulate than Clara, all the honesty, spirit and presence she puts into her work comes through the character in every episode in which she’s featured. I also admire Clara because she inspires me to be better, to be kinder, braver, smarter, more thoughtful and more patient to either achieve victories tantamount to hers or to avoid repeating similar mistakes. She is everything I love in a fictional female character in that she really makes me think and really makes me feel. She is the definition of heart to me—what else can you say about a main character who is willing to sacrifice herself for a mere acquaintance, a transient character who appears in only two episodes? I don’t think Clara gets near enough credit for her integral contributions to the Doctor’s lives, but that’s okay. We fans are elastic enough to take the barbs and happy enough to point out all the times and ways in which the Impossible Girl saves the day. There’s even an app for that, lol—one of my personal favorite podcasts, The Impossible Girls Podcast! Bold, beautiful and brilliant, just like our beloved Clara herself.

3. Maggie Greene/Rhee – from The Walking Dead, portrayed by Lauren Cohan

“The decision was made a long time ago, before any of us knew each other, when we were all strangers who would have just passed each other on the street before the world ended. And now we mean everything to each other…You were in trouble. You were trapped. Glenn didn’t know you, but he helped you. He put himself in danger for you, and that started it all—from Atlanta, to my daddy’s farm, to the prison, to here, to this moment now—not as strangers, as family, because Glenn chose to be there for you that day, a long time ago. That was the decision that changed everything. It started with both of you and it just grew, to all of us, to sacrifice for each other, to suffer and stand, to grieve, to give, to love, to live, to fight for each other. Glenn made the decision, Rick. I was just following his lead.”

As I mentioned previously, I keep up with The Walking Dead fandom online. When people aren’t lambasting Maggie for allegedly forgetting about her little sister when the group was separated in season 4, they’re accusing her of being “boring.” My response? “Are you people even watching this show with your eyes and ears open?” Admittedly that’s a little mean (who cares, I never say that to anyone directly, lol), but apparently they’re not because she asked about Beth in episode 410 and the Maggie I’ve loved for years and years is the polar opposite of boring. She’s a beautiful badass. Maggie Greene begins her tenure on The Walking Dead as the prototypical farmer’s daughter—a sassy Southern stunner and faithful Christian girl who still knows how to get a bit rowdy. It’s not long after she meets her future husband and his group before she blossoms into a truly fierce and formidable young woman, riding in on horseback to save Andrea from a stray walker, surviving sexual assault and telling her accoster to “go to hell,” saving Father Gabriel, forgiving Tara, punching jerkass Gregory in the face, declaring herself to him as Mrs. Maggie Rhee and rising, in his place, to become the leader of the Hilltop community. Most poignantly, she cuts open a pregnant woman at her own behest to deliver a baby—I don’t think any other character would have been able to do that at that time, in those circumstances. Maggie is like a special kind of steel, both tempered and malleable. She’s physically and emotionally strong, quick-witted, generous and nurturing, spirited and spiritual. She is Glenn’s other half and the whole of his heart and I love them as one of the horror-drama’s power couples. Additionally she’s one of those women ready and able to establish strong bonds with other women, namely Sasha, Michonne, Enid and Deanna. She endures, perseveres and, as Rick has done since season 1, makes the decisions necessary to protect and provide for her people. Although her character arc has darkened over time, I understand and can appreciate every move she makes, and I admire, respect and love her as the durable and decidedly NOT dull woman she is.

2. Michonne – from The Walking Dead, portrayed by Danai Gurira

“I found what I was looking for. I wanted to go with you and Aaron, but I couldn’t. I had to go my way. But when I found it, I realized…that I didn’t want it to be my way. I wanted it to be ours, me and you. There are more of them, even more than we thought. We are outnumbered. It’s not even close. But that doesn’t change the way that I feel, because it doesn’t change the way that things are. We’re still alive, Rick. So much has happened, so much that we shouldn’t have lived through, and in spite of it, or maybe because of it, we did. We’re still here, the two of us. We’re still standing, and we’re gonna keep standing. So what do we do with that? How do we make that mean something? We’re the ones who get things done—you said that. We’re the ones who live. That’s why we have to fight—not for us but for Judith, for Carl, for Alexandria, for the Hilltop, for all of us. We can fight them, Rick. We can find a way to beat them. We can do this. But…but…only if we do this.”

I could celebrate Michonne and the actress who plays her—the remarkable and ebullient Danai Gurira—all day, so I’ll try to keep this as succinct as I can. If my #5 is Queen of the Seas and if #24 is Queen of the Earth and #4 is the Queen of Space, Michonne is the Queen of the Future. Queen of the Apocalypse, of War. Rick Grimes’s Queen. My Queen of Fictional African-American Female Characters, and Queen of the Richonne community of which I am a proud part on The Walking Dead website Tell It to the Dead. The reason I feel “Queen” is the correct descriptor is derived from the fact that Danai Gurira so profusely embodies the intelligence, heart, elegance and emotional eloquence of a queen and of fan-favorite Michonne, and it’s because that’s who she appears to be too. Seriously, I could listen to this woman talk all day. But I myself am not done (almost).

An alpha female with luscious African features, Michonne defies the types of roles in which people are accustomed to seeing black females. Clearly, as the harshest, loudest backlash comes with the most unfamiliar—and “threatening”—territory. “She’s just Rick’s mammy”; “She’s ugly/a monkey/a man”; “She’s like Rick’s sister/their relationship is like incest”; “She and Rick just don’t look right”; “She’s perfect/boring”—I’ve seen it all. The assessments are simple. They are ignorance. They are racist. They are myopic and they are bullshit. Thank God the faction of fandom I’m part of and the actress herself are above it because we all know Michonne’s above it, has been above it, and that inspires me to be above the prejudice and discrimination I’ve faced as well as the dread that tells me I will inevitably face it again. But that’s okay. Why? Because Michonne is very likely the strongest character in The Walking Dead universe in terms of resilience (which is not to say she hasn’t also kicked an ass or two or 100 in her time). An arty, contemporary woman of the times before the ZA, Michonne lost herself when she lost her boyfriend, friend and toddler son. Her PTSD primed her to survive, to become less of a persona and more of a weapon, but through her interactions with Rick’s group, she’s able to develop into much more, like a good friend to Andrea, Hershel, Daryl, Maggie and Glenn to name a few. A mother to Carl and Judith. A co-leader of the Alexandria Safe Zone. An unstable ally of to a best friend of to a lover to Rick, acting as the best of his heart and his Northern Star. The intimacy Michonne and Rick share, that silent, sexy synergy they’ve always shared—is a force I call a lovefire, in that its power and passion and truth have served only to make each of them a stronger character, parent and leader to their family unit and extended family. And recently, interestingly/controversially enough, it may have made them more merciful as well.

Besides her natural leadership skills, Michonne is a pseudo-samurai, an expert with both a katana and with words, otherworldly eloquent. What I relate to the most is how deeply she feels everything and what I admire about her the most is her determination to keep going. She is a true survivor, as she knows it’s not just about surviving—it’s about finding a way to live, laugh, love and build a future, and I’d like to think that’s what life here in reality should be too. In addition to her uncanny intuition, Michonne is a genius strategist, a silly, sentimental introvert and a deeply tender woman. Like #1 on my “Favorite Fictional Males” list, Goku, Michonne’s strength is very much tempered by love. To me she is the epitome of a woman’s strength—a superb warrior in every way, a good wife, a doting caregiver, a durable leader and a tough survivor. She’s the woman I know will always be okay, even when she’s not, and that quality cheers and moves me always. For all she’s given the show and its audience, I love Michonne (and Danai!) so much. She is so much. Not just strength and not just love but humanity and hope and resolve. She is Magnificence.

1. Buffy Summers – from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, portrayed by Sarah Michelle Gellar

“The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me.”

And I do. I live for her and all the women like her and for those like me and you. I persist in life for a sole reason: I want, with my writing, to make a difference in the world like this character has made. I want to make other people—especially girls and women—feel the way Buffy makes me feel: beautiful, capable, worthy, united to others and powerful.

I’ve spoken at length in previous posts about how integral the American version of Dragon Ball Z was to my childhood, namely for teaching me different types of strengths and the value and reward of goodness and perseverance. DBZ is indeed the most important TV show of my youth, but Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the most important TV show of my entire life. The stories told and the titular character herself taught me about life, death, sorrow, love, hate, isolation, friendship, relationships, sisterhood, self-involvement, self-respect, self-destruction, self-sacrifice and everything in between from more of a real-world point of view, despite the fantasy backdrop of each lesson.

Loosely following the film events on which the show’s premise is named and based, we are introduced in season 1 to Sunnydale’s newest guardian, sixteen-year-old Buffy Summers, a sophomore imbued by ancient magics and fate itself with superhuman strength, endurance and prophetic dreams. In spite of her supernatural abilities, Buffy is like most young people—her brightness isn’t reflected in her grades so much as it is in her spunky, vivacious personality. A romantic at heart, she is both a good friend and the not-so-popular child of divorced parents who longs for some stability. She is also not like most young people. She’s stronger, in every way imaginable, as her life demands that of her and she stands up to answer the call. She carries more responsibility than any teen or young adult should have to and chooses not to face it alone, recognizing the advantage and necessity of allies and extended family. Mustering up her maturity, she commits to a cause bigger than she is, revealing herself to be a caring, ingenious leader, resourceful and masterful tactician and righteous warrior many times throughout the series.

I admired this character from the moment I saw her. In each episode Sarah Michelle Gellar manages to convey the depth of Buffy’s ongoing battle with everyday life and problems and the darkness that abounds, and I do not believe anyone could have played the part better. I have a deep love and admiration for Sarah Michelle Gellar and all that she’s given this character and her audience and fully endorse her as one of the strongest selling points for the series. She is an actress I always find to be versatile and expressive if a bit underrated. But of course the main reason I love Buffy so much is a vainglorious one: I see my own life in hers. I grew up the lonely only child of divorced parents. Lived with a single, working mother whom I loved dearly but scarcely saw. My friends became family and teachers became surrogate fathers. Unlike Buffy I wasn’t beautiful or stylish and I did fit in with just about everyone in high school without reaching popular-girl status. Yet I too felt the burden of being chosen…chosen (by genes and nature? Nurture? Environment?) to have depression.

But I came with my own superpower, like Buffy: a strong creative talent with which I fought and continue to fight the unremitting mental stream of negativity, and like Buffy, sometimes I struggle. Falter. Fail. I trained just as hard as she did, only on paper and with pencils instead of with swords and sandbags. I’d get my emotional jollies off watching Buffy beat some monster ass, as if seeing her do it physically would charge up my endorphins and dopamine to help me do it mentally. I cried with her, lamented with her. Celebrated good days with her. Turned to her during bad nights. The show is a great coping mechanism. It’s one of the things that helped get me through three years at a Big 10 school—chiefly the much-maligned 6th and 7th seasons, which are my favorites because I understand their themes so thoroughly, and especially there at college, when I was at my lowest, hoping and waiting to rise from the fire a wiser, smarter, more mature and better woman. A woman who had figured out what she wanted to live for. A woman who knew how to articulate her vulnerabilities and experiences. How to share her might. In fact season 7, with its main plot revolving around Buffy training Potential Slayers to come into own as their overseer, mentor and general, is my most beloved season because never is Buffy a better leader than when she decides to allocate her power to fortify the present and change the future. In my whole life I never felt more moved or invigorated than when I would watch the series finale in my dorm room at night, scared, excited, enriched, emboldened and crying.

Now please let me clarify that I’m not psychotic, lol; I know she’s a fictional character, but Buffy has been a part of me since I was 12 years old. I understand her, feel like I’ve walked a few metaphorical miles in her shoes, emotionally. I’ve never felt closer to a person who isn’t real, and since she’s so well-written and well enacted, everything she symbolizes is real.

Look at popular culture or go online or talk to a Millennial and tell me I’m wrong.

She’s our heroine, and my favorite fictional character of all time.

I called #20 and #29 “feminist icons” and #2 the “epitome of a woman’s strength.” Buffy Summers is my feminist idol and the epitome of a woman period—of her triumphs and failures, her fears and tears, her sovereignty and softness, her sass, grit and pride, her loneliness, lovingness and loveliness. What she goes through, fights through and what she represents transcend age, race, gender and language, and her impact is universal.

“I want to do that,” I think. “Can I be a Slayer too?”

“Make your choice,” she says. “Are you ready to be strong?”

On most days I answer yes. Some days I cry no. But no matter what I think I believe, Buffy helped me make my choice a long time ago…

Whew!

And there you have it! My 50 Favorite Fictional Female Characters from television, film, literature and video games. I feel so blessed to have grown up with them and know I will continue to grow with them as I carry their characters in my head and in my heart on my journey to become a better writer and woman.

Please, if you’ve got a list of your own, feel free to share in the comments. I’d love to hear which ladies you admire, which inspire and which scare you or make you quake in laughter or awe.

And thanks for reading. Always.

-BP

P.S. Stay frosty—I’ve got a short analysis regarding my #100 favorite fictional characters and a couple of bonus lists on their way as well as a big announcement regarding the near future of my blog!

 

I Need You to Understand Me…or At Least My Major Depression

I need you to understand… that this is one of the main reasons why I haven’t posted anything since December. It’s not the only reason and it isn’t really an excuse, but it is something I have to deal with only a daily basis and I…

Let me stop now and just share what I wrote on April 10, 2018 in the throes of an intense depressive episode.

Please be assured here and now that I am NOT suicidal or harming myself, but also be advised that those subjects are broached below…

Welcome to my diary:

I am at a complete loss at what to do to better facilitate the process of coping with my mental illnesses.

I have tried 8 different medications (Prozac, Lexapro, Wellbutrin, Cymbalta, Lithium, Latuda, Ativan, Pristiq) to treat my major depression, anxiety, OCD, and Borderline tendencies that work until they don’t. Latuda and Ativan have been the most “effective” against nausea and panic attacks and I currently take them with Pristiq. The only reason I was able to calm myself down today is because I doubled my dose of Pristiq, which I’m fairly certain I’m not supposed to do but did anyway so I can mentally prepare to return to work tomorrow (I had to call in sick today because, overwhelmed with emotions I haven’t been able to shake for three days, I could barely crawl out of bed and couldn’t stop crying, the emotional pain transforming into physical spasms as well). My sleep has been erratic at best and is consistently interrupted with negative and terrifying dreams — the latest one is recurring, involving being chased in a theater by a banshee-like creature who told me she wasn’t going to kill me and steal my soul but instead continue to chase me because she enjoyed torturing me. I’m pretty sure this thing is a metaphor for myself somehow, but I don’t care to analyze it further, as it’s disturbing and the memory of it has haunted me — ha, ha — all day.

I’ve had 6 therapists (David, Tammy, John, Kris, Mitzi, Kimberly) with varying specialties, genders, ethnic backgrounds, and experiences. Presently I have regular therapy-like sessions at the hospital with my nurse practitioner, who doles out my medications; I will see her on Thursday (thank Christ). I’ve learned a lot from them all and have been trying harder and more often to apply some of the positive thinking they encourage, reminding myself every day and sending up prayers of thanks for things I’m grateful for such as food, shelter, access to electronics and indoor plumbing (yes, seriously). My huge support system. The fact that I don’t live in a war-torn country and can freely say “I hate Donald Trump, everything he stands for, and I hate that he’s our president” without being imprisoned or killed for it. I’ve also completed both the inpatient and outpatient programs at the hospital and called their Access Center just this morning to receive any advice for just making it through the day as a functioning human being. They suggested talk therapy. YOU DON’T SAY.

I have been in these therapy settings for emotional abuse, low self-esteem, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts (and one attempt) since I was 14 years old. That’s getting close to half my lifespan and I — am — exhausted. I cannot keep explaining how difficult it is to try and trick myself into believing what the rest of you believe about me. That’s not how I perceive truth, so it’s not true to me; you’re all lying to make me feel better, to fix me, to de-crazy me, is what it seems like, and yes, I’m aware of how crazy that sounds in itself. To me, though, I’m deficient, defective, ugly, inferior — WRONG, an aberration of nature and whatever the hell God intended people to be, some THING that slipped through the cracks of evolution and has no other purpose or reason to exist other than to writhe in pain.

A mistake, to put it simply. I feel like a mistake.

I can’t stand myself, and when I list the things I do like or enjoy about myself TO myself, I can only think of a few and they’re inevitably pulverized into nothingness by my self-talk/own inner voice that, to me, is speaking “the truth,” that I am all wrong.

I hate my dead-eyed, fat, hairy, asymmetrical face and body (yes, I do exercise. Three times a week on the treadmill and with weights. Crunches and sit-ups too). I hate and am ashamed of being half-black because I’m TERRIFIED people are going to judge me on how I look and what I say, that they’re going to think I’m inferior to them, and I hate that no one in my circle seems to understand this because they only have a Caucasian experience. Intellectually I realize I’m projecting this major fear but emotionally I don’t.

All I know is this is why I can’t make mistakes/have to be as perfect as possible: TO COMPENSATE for everything that’s WRONG with me and everything people will perceive to be wrong with me. I have to apologize for all that I am…

I’m also ashamed of my sexuality, in that I don’t believe I have one. A lot of people don’t believe asexual people exist or make fun of us for not wanting to boink or discount our lack of libido as a choice and personal fault and it makes me feel even more like a freak. I’m ashamed that I’m starting to close in on 30 and still live with my mommy, who, while recovering from eye surgery, has to take care of me while she’s home, because I feel so sick and tired in the head that it affects my ability to perform socially and professionally as well as my physiological makeup because I binge-eat (and then guilt-trip), filling myself with something I can control, something that I know will make me feel good, like dessert.

I cry, I rant, I rave, I write. I work part-time and try my damnedest to act like I’m not falling apart even though for 9-10 months out of the year, I am. But I am so…so ashamed. I can’t control my thoughts no matter how hard I try. I don’t feel like a strong person. I feel like a weak bitch, the kind of weak-ass bitch who doesn’t even deserve to live.

I can’t even take my own life.

I made a half-assed attempt to, at age 13, but couldn’t go through with it then and can’t now because I’m terrified that it will hurt or that I’ll survive with irreparable damage or that there’ll be theological repercussions, which is kind of stupid, because not for one second do I believe chronically ill people or kids who are bullied into committing suicide go to hell after death. Screw that. But I’m afraid I’ll go if I do it… I honestly wish I could, because I am so profoundly tired of trying to heal from all the childhood trauma and trying to sort through/process/discard all the bullshit in my sick brain. I cannot do this for another 50 years. I don’t have the energy or self-worth, and if I could die by pure will, I never would have made it to 26. I don’t care how dramatic this sounds. I am fed up with the minimization of emotional pain and abuse as a byproduct of others’ inability to understand what severe depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. is like. This is why I have written in 7 diaries and over 1,000 pages: TO MAKE YOU ALL UNDERSTAND.

In my case, what I understand is that as someone with Major Depressive Disorder, I FEEL RUINED because my father destroyed any sense of security and trust I held for males I haven’t known since childhood, destroyed for me any pride about having African heritage by being the stereotypical lazy-and-crazy African-American father, and destroyed any self-confidence or self-value I ever had by telling me how “stupid,” “crazy,” and “wrong” I was and by terrorizing, controlling, and threatening me, his “property,” on a regular basis for years.

And then there were the little COMMENTS sprinkled throughout my adolescence, the ones that have, very much like the black-mouthed banshee of my nightmares, haunted me: “Oh my gosh, Britney, you look like a girl today!” “You’re not as pretty as her because you’re black.” “Brace-face.” “You have hair on your nose.” “Raccoon.” “Mustache.” “Oreo.” “Half-breed.” “Nigger.”

But then I grew old enough and smart enough to come up with my own dialogue, but as easy as it is for me to think and speak for my characters is as hard as it is for me to create and speak to myself.

Because I’m not strong enough. Not strong enough to live, not desperate enough to die. Trapped and suffocating in this web of rage, shame, guilt, regret, and woe.

THIS is what’s going on in my head. THIS is what I’m dealing with basically daily. THIS is what I’m scared to talk to you all about in person or one-on-one even though you all kindly offer to talk about it. This is it: my emotional equivalent of cancer.

But what are we going to talk about that I haven’t already discussed with family, clergy, and health professionals? I don’t want to bother anyone with things they can’t fix. I appreciate it, I do, but it’s not worth your time. I’ve talked and sobbed and prayed and written until I was blue in the face and in the heart and dead in the hand, and I barely feel any better…anymore.

I’m sorry I’m not stronger. And smarter. And more beautiful inside and out. I wish I were and I’m trying as hard as I can to be, but…

But.

It hurts like hell. Feels like hell, tastes like hell, burns like hell.

And that’s what I want you to know, to remember.

That it’s hell on Earth.”

Yeah. That’s what I wrote, and that’s what I need people to understand.

Ironically I find the majority of my best, most streamlined writing occurs when I’m in anguish. I’m actually worried about my work losing potency if I begin healing properly. What a stupid thing to worry about, right? But then it’s like, “I NEED my art to be good. I don’t care what it takes. I don’t care if it kills me.”

But I DO care. I do care.

It’s a few days later and I’m a little better now. Had my hospital appointment and got all my medication increased. There has been more talk of going back to regular therapy and even seeing a trauma specialist to address the mild PTSD I have from the slew of childhood incidents with my father.

I’m working steadily on my “50 Favorite Fictional Female Characters” list; I’m almost certain it will be my next post, though I can’t say when that next post will be (I’m putting a lot of love and care into this list, just like I did for the other, so it’s taking forever…).

Until then, I just… needed you to understand.

Thanks for reading.

-Britney

This May Interest You: My Top 50 Favorite Fictional Male Characters

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!! Peace and goodwill to you, dear reader and/or skimmer!

This post was originally intended to debut at the end of November in celebration of men’s health awareness, which is when extra action is taken against health issues that plague and claim many men before their time, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer and suicide, but I thought, as I ran out of time, why stop blowing the horn just because I’m late posting? Why not extend the celebration of men to December (and eventually January, for the ladies), the month in which we give voice to the people and influences we’re most grateful to have in our lives? Also, this list took waaaay longer to compile and write about than I thought it would, and I do apologize for being late. It’s not that I didn’t care, it’s that I let it drag on. But showing concern for men’s well-being and celebrating the best of the male gender, especially now, in the midst of taking down so many who do abuse their status and privilege, are things we should always be talking about—not just because we should but because most men deserve it. So cheers to the true men and the men who find truth in their fictional counterparts!

*An aside, about Movember: Many of us, throughout our lives, have heard some version or other of the bullshit edict that men should not express their feelings let alone have feelings, and some may find that societal construct to extend to concern about their overall health. Well, the kind of feminism I follow values equality and requires us to champion for the betterment of everyone’s lives, not just women’s. We need to promote more positivity and support for our husbands, relatives and friends getting preventative check-ups or seeking counseling or considering medication. A “real man” gets help for himself, and a good person stands by him and/or gives him a push forward if need be.  They should not have to do this alone.

If you feel the same and grace the States, take a look at the U.S. faction of The Movember Foundation and consider getting involved or making a donation (donations are accepted all year round, not just in November).*

As for me, instead of growing a mustache during No-Shave November, I’ve decided to list “My Top 50 Favorite Fictional Male Characters,” an intended paring down of the initial list I made back in April 2015. I find most of my inspiration and motivation for my writing and own personal mental health battle from the entertainment industry, from TV shows, movies, books and games, etc. If you’re looking for a little creative inspiration too, open your artist eyes and take a look at my list. You’ll likely find it within the heroes, villains and all souls in between discussed here.

Furthermore, if you enjoy this post, please leave me a comment to share some of your own favorite male characters and make sure to come back to check out my post for January, another holiday month, a continuation of the celebration of goodwill and good people, for a list of lovely ladies. I will be dishing out a list of 50 fictional female characters I’m personally grateful to have had in my life, ones who, like their male equivalents, also keep me strong or scared or otherwise entertained or conflicted. Gosh, I just love art. Don’t you?

And no…the irony of doing a post that celebrates the male gender right after doing one in which I describe my prejudice against them does not escape me. Regardless I acknowledge that my anxieties are irrational and foolish and harmful, and I wish to fight them. We’ll start with this list here.

50. Dexter Morgan – from Dexter, portrayed by Michael C. Hall

This is what it must feel like to walk in full sunlight, my darkness revealed, my shadow self embraced. Yeah, they see me. I’m one of them… In their darkest dreams.”

Dexter Morgan is a serial killer who kills serial killers. Yes, he gets the irony. Later described as high-functioning “psychopath,” Dexter spends 8 seasons of his eponymous TV show straddling the line between man and monster, wrestling with his identity, wicked impulses and perhaps even genuine emotions. He is a fascinating character, one whom, for all his apathy, I can’t help but like, feel for, and on darker days, even root for.

49. John Coffey – from The Green Mile, portrayed by Michael Clarke Duncan

I’m tired, boss. Tired of being on the road, lonely as a sparrow in the rain. I’m tired of never having a buddy to be with, to tell me where we’s goin’ to, comin’ from or why. Mostly, I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world every day. They’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head, all the time… Can you understand?”

While it’s true that John Coffey can be seen as a glaring emblem of the “Magical Negro” trope (he is a supporting black character who, at great personal risk, supernaturally assists the white main characters over and over again), he’s much more than that to me. The late Michael Clarke Duncan’s stunning and Oscar-nominated performance as a simple man in a world of paranormal pain truly pulls at my heartstrings. In fact, it snaps them in half, every time. Though John is generous, he’s lonely, and though massive, he is gentle and kind. A deep soul with a deep voice and a rudimentary sense of right and wrong. He’s a beautiful tragedy, a miraclemaker able to gift peace by sacrificing his own, and he does suffer tremendously for his gift, mentally and emotionally sensitive to the dark, cruel world around him. Because of this and because of who he is, I believe the end of his story is appropriate, even if it’s not what many of us wanted.

48. Jake Brigance – from the John Grisham novel, A Time to Kill, also portrayed by Matthew McConaughey

It was simple. It was justice.”

A Time to Kill, John Grisham’s first novel, is my favorite of his works because it completely screws me up morally. It’s a hard read when you’re both a spiritual individual but also a vindictive person. The question the story poses is, “If two men beat, raped, and tried to hang your 10-year-old daughter and you had access to a firearm, would you kill them?” The answer for some, I suspect, as indicated in the above quote, is not a difficult one. For Jake Brigance, the young, ambitious southern lawyer tasked with clearing the black man who executed his daughter’s assailants, there’s a mite more to it. Admittedly, Jake and his dilemma are similar to #44 on my list; the difference is Jake has to describe not the actions of a pitiful woman coming on to a black man, but the dark and dirty details of a life-altering assault on a minor to make his jury understand what transpired and why, to lead one juror to a hypothetical that has the potential to break the case. Tenacious and sharp, Jake loves the law, despite the many faults in the judicial system. But it’s the people he serves in this story, his client, Carl Lee Hailey, especially. Culturally, the men are strangers. Father to father, however, Jake gets Carl Lee, and it’s from that standpoint that he attempts, at great risk, to do for him what is right if not entirely righteous.

47. Jerry Sunborne– from Things We Lost in the Fire, portrayed by Benicio Del Toro

Hi, my name is Jerry and I’m an addict. I’ve been clean for 89 days. My mind is clearer…and I think it’s getting better. Every day, a little bit. But I wanna talk about this dream I keep having. It always starts with me stealing silverware. Then I go sell it to this guy who I used to know who owned a catering service. Then, with the money, I go to this place where I used to buy my drug of choice and…he’s not around. So I go to other spots, right, but for some reason, no one is around. All of Seattle is dry, and then I get that feelingthe dreadand I panic. And I start running, and it’s raining, and it gets dark. And then I’m in my old apartment, and I’m thrashing right through it, looking for something I might have stashed away. And I think I’m having a seizure. And then I find a balloon hidden in my suitcase. So there I am, with a bag of junk in one hand and the money for my next fix in the other, and I feel at total, utter peace. And then I wake up. One day at a time. One day at a time. One day at a time. One day at a time. Thank you.”

In a poignant and realistic tale centered around rebuilding a life after a tragic loss, heroin addict Jerry Sunborne struggles to get and stay clean while providing comfort and companionship for his best friend’s widow, Audrey. He possesses a wealth of strength, as well as some intriguing idiosyncrasies, beautifully brought to life by Benicio Del Toro in one of the most genuine performances I think I’ve ever seen. For as caught up as he is in a cycle of self-destruction, Jerry is a good manunselfish, unassuming, funny and a wonderful friend to Audrey’s two young children. He handles them gently, with ease, and appropriately, making a point to explain that he is not replacing their father but offering them a different kind of bond, a different kind of love, that they are welcome to for the rest of their lives. He rolls with the punches, especially Audrey’s often-unfair treatment of him. All that matters to him is getting her and her kids through hell, and eventually himself too. This is a movie about imperfect people coping and hurting and aching and grieving, at the core of which is their ability to accept the good with the badadvice Jerry himself gives at the beginning only to have boomeranged back to him by the end. And he is good. He is not the romanticized picture of good but goodness in its most natural, human state: broken but brave, benevolent, warm, selfless, witty, loyal, resilient and trying, always trying, in the face of immeasurable hardship, pain and loss. He is the best of all that is bad, and it’s a beautiful thing to behold.

46. Detective/Officer Samuel “Sammy” Bryant – from SouthLAnd, portrayed by Shawn Hatosy

You’re right. I did come back to Patrol to try and make a difference. To help cops avoid some of the mistakes I made. Hell, some of the mistakes I continue to make. But all I can do is show them by how I act out there. Just to hold on to who I am and see if anybody cares. I won’t help everyone. I couldn’t possibly, I can see that now. But I don’t really have to, you know? That’s not all it is for me.”

On SouthLAnd, the gritty police drama that lasted 5 seasons, Sammy Bryant is a hard-working, good-hearted detective-turned-officer whose dedication often goes underappreciated. He proves to be a good role model to some of the kids involved with his cases, has a slick sense of humor and works well with his partners and fellow officers. He’s also temperamental and pigeonholes himself into one of the worst marriages I’ve ever seen portrayed on primetime television (ugh, Tammi—how I hate that bitch. No, really). The man’s not without his mistakes, but his strong sense of duty and follow-through more than makes up for his shortcomings, in my eyes. Sammy is not consumed by a life on the beat. He’s a man of the badge but a man beyond the badge as well.

45. Rupert Giles – from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, portrayed by Anthony (Stewart) Head

The Earth is definitely doomed.”

Upon viewing the first couple seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one may describe Rupert Giles as little more than an old English “fuddy-duddy,” the guy who’s just there to provide exposition or sarcastic quips, gaze disapprovingly at his young ward and her friends and clean his glasses. Well, all I’m gonna say is they didn’t call him “Ripper” for nothing… As Buffy’s “Watcher,” her trainer and guide for all things that go bump in the night, Giles is brilliant though nerdy and compassionate though firm. His path takes a number of unexpected turns in the series, but what appeals the most to me about him is the “father’s love” he has for Buffy. I love student-mentor relationships and love when they feel like surrogate parent-child relationships because that’s how most of mine felt, and the memories move me. Giles is a kickass father figure for Buffy and, by extension, the rest of the Scooby gang. Heh, heh. He stabbed the Mayor with an épée after he said he was going to eat Buffy. Yeeaah, I rather doubt that. Not only can Buffy take care of herself, I think Giles, who’s not a bad fighter in his own right, may have something to say about that…

44. Atticus Finch – from To Kill a Mockingbird, portrayed by Gregory Peck

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

Atticus Finch is a southern lawyer who sets out to defend a black man accused of assaulting a white woman, similar to my #48. Atticus’s motivations for taking the case are a little less self-serving than Jake’s, however. Jake is not particularly noble whereas Atticus more or less is. He practices what he preaches. He’s polite to everyone, even the nasties in town. The widower is the pinnacle of ethics and equity, both authoritative and easy-going. He does what needs to be done and talks to his children about things that parents and children should discuss, like race. Atticus is a learned man and knows ignorance is the gasoline to the blinding fire that is hatred—he wants more for his children and for the future than what is offered in Maycomb, Alabama. Heh. You know what’s slowly occurring to me? That I guess I’m just drawn to white characters who aren’t afraid to advocate for civil rights. It’s important to have allies in the battle for equality, and it can be just as risky for whites as it can be for Blacks/Latinos/Asians/Native Americans, etc., which is something I feel radicals sometimes forget. No, I won’t pretend media hasn’t trained us to celebrate white people more than people of color in these tales as the “saviors” of the downtrodden, but to me the inclusion of characters like Jake and Atticus acknowledge the fact that black people had help, had allies in the fight for the right to live as free and equal people, allies who were as passionate and courageous as they were. Sometimes it seems to me like I’m the only person with this perspective, which I believe is due to my being biracial; I have inhabited both the white and black communities. I’ve seen both sides and looked at civil rights from a white/privileged and black/underprivileged perspective and what both sides gave matters. I think it’s true that black people had to be stronger, braver, louder and sacrificed more, but I also think white people had more to lose. Every ally—white, black, brown, man, woman, child—to basic human rights deserves recognition and reverence, and these were just two characters who happened to touch me. Anyway, while I did read To Kill a Mockingbird in school, Gregory Peck’s live adaptation of Atticus Finch grabbed me more. I think he won Best Actor for a reason…

43. Kurt Hummel – from Glee, portrayed by Chris Colfer

One day you will all work for me.”

What makes Kurt Hummel a dynamic character is not his saltiness, sweetness or sassiness—it’s the complete journey he makes from a kid uncomfortable in his own skin to a man damn proud of himself. While his being gay plays a part in many of his arcs, it’s not the end-all, be-all of his character. Kurt is a talented countertenor who works hard to both achieve his Broadway dreams and accept himself for the complex human being he is. He is kind, resilient, and, as an atheist, much more forgiving than many of the religious people I know. He blossoms through the initial discomfort and fear of judgment that comes with loving other boys—and yourself—with the support of his friends and amazing father, Burt (let’s hear it for all the open-minded, loving parents! Woo!). He is a star, and the best thing is he knows it.

42. Luke Skywalker – from the Star Wars series, portrayed by Mark Hamill

“And this is the lesson. That Force does not belong to to the Jedi. To say that if the Jedi die, the light dies, is vanity. Can you feel that?”

As the reigning Queen of Unpopular Opinions, what I have to say is going to be very controversial, but that doesn’t make it any less my truth: The only reason Luke Skywalker is on this list is because of The Last Jedi and its Empire Strikes Back aesthetic. There wasn’t a character in that film I couldn’t relate to and no one I related to more than Luke, who, decades after the defeat of the Empire and loss of his own Jedi Order, feels like a royal failure. Forced to give up tutoring a reluctant-to-work student for the sake of my own emotional health, I too feel this way. You see, we both feel like we failed our pupils, these promising youths, due to a deficiency in emotional strength, so every time I watch this movie, I relate to Luke so hard I end up crying. Heh. Things don’t always go according to our plans, including character arcs—that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn from or value within them.

Now it’s not that I didn’t think Luke was a good character before Episode VIII—he’s a warm, talented, caring, resourceful young everyman with his feet on the ground and head in the stars—it’s that I didn’t appreciate the culmination of his fight and heroism until I saw him at his lowest point. I like the fullness of his arc, like that it goes from a sweet, gutsy, cutie-pie hero to a tired old Jedi who’s seen and done too much, feels he doesn’t know enough and feels he’s been corrupted by fear and failure and time. I feel that so deeply. I understand there are those who assert that Episode VIII Luke is not “their” Luke, but the wise, wizened, cynical, fearful yet courageous mentor is certainly mine. Plus I argue that Luke held a modicum of darkness before—wasn’t that him angrily chopping at Darth Vader with his lightsaber toward the end of Episode VI after Vader alluded he may try to sway Leia over to the Dark Side? Luke is not some flawless hero stereotype suspended in time, unchanging in 30 years (and after the loss of his own nephew and students) like some fans want him to be, and I say thank God! His sadness and regret and surprising actions and inaction spare him from the dull-eyed stare I always reserve for his pilot friends, Han Solo and Chewbacca (sorry, fanboys/fangirls). I know The Last Jedi ruins Luke for a lot of people, but it makes me love him and truly love and appreciate Mark Hamill and his cinematic sister more than I ever have. I finally get why Luke Skywalker is a hero and an icon and, for me, he’s both of these things because of everything he’s gone through—the rise, the fall, the ascension. He fights until he can’t, makes mistakes and hides away…then wises up and fights back. That’s more of a hero to me than some pretty boy with all the right moves or one-liners. I’m not saying everything about the way he’s written or what he’s done is stupendous or right—I’m saying it’s fair and it’s interesting. Relatable. Too relatable for me to ignore, and I’m grateful to have full-spectrum Luke—whoever’s Luke he may be—in my life to help me face down shame and cope with the things I’ve hidden from too.

41. Oswald “The Penguin” Cobblepot – from Gotham, portrayed by Robin Lord Taylor

I’m not a criminal, you know? I’m just… insane.”

It’s not that I didn’t appreciate Burgess Meredith or Danny DeVito or Nolan North as the Penguin—it’s that Robin Lord Taylor’s layered, intense and vulnerable interpretation of a pained and power-hungry young man made me appreciate the character so much more. Beginning in Gotham as little more than a go-fer for night club owner Fish Mooney, Oswald attempts to scale the ladder of the underworld with varying degrees of success, growing more ruthless with each cunning act. His arc is enriched throughout the series by both antagonistic and genuinely touching relationships with his aforementioned boss and once-best friend Edward Nygma a.k.a. The Riddler. However, he is nearly undone several times over by his emotions and the need to prove he’s in control. I, for one, love emotional male characters. They intrigue me, tug at my sympathies, as does Penguin. Loss has hardened him and continues evermore to do its cruel work. I consider the Penguin a tragic figure because he is someone I believe would have been a good guy had people been kinder, had life been a little less cold. But it was not fated to be. His blood runs hot, but like Victor Fries, his heart is now made of ice.

40. Daryl Dixon – from The Walking Dead, portrayed by Norman Reedus

You want to know what I was before all this? …I was nobody. Nothing. Some redneck asshole...”

I want to make one thing clear before I get into this one: I am not a Daryl fangirl. Yes, I do love Daryl; he was even my favorite character in seasons 2 & 3. Yes, I find Norman Reedus attractive, physically and as a person. Yes, the same goes for Daryl, as dirty and monosyllabic as he is. But no, I am not the type of fan who fantasizes about having forest sex or motorcycle sex or any kind of sex with the character or actor, nor do I think Daryl can do no wrong because he’s just so cool/badass/*insert generic adjective or description depicting Daryl as a god among men and superior to every other character on the show*. I love Daryl because when the world went to shit—even shittier than what his world was before the apocalypse—he chose to be a good person. From birth he was set up to be mini-Merle, but he dared to believe the people who told him he was better and worked hard to prove to himself that they were right. I can’t even describe how much mental strength and courage and resilience it takes to open up and let people in and to stop hating who you are when you’ve been on your own for essentially your entire life, beaten down in every aspect imaginable.

For the first 3 seasons of the show, Daryl was a compelling character with many poignant points to his arc. He began as a reckless racist, small-minded and impatient though a skilled fighter. A lone wolf more than willing to maul or kill to feed himself and provide a few scraps for the pack. But it wasn’t long before the divine if not altogether romantic connection between him and Carol Peletier led him to help search for her missing daughter. He knew it was a lost cause but he did it anyway, just to help. It was touching and spoke to a sensitivity in Daryl we were not privy to before. Predictably his most interesting character development coincided with Merle’s return, as the person he was becoming clashed with the person he left behind, literally—was he going to be Merle’s brother or Rick’s? And bless his heart, he wanted to be both. Of course, as is the nature of this drama, it wasn’t to be and Daryl fought the pain by securing his position in the group as a provider, caretaker, friend to most and a right hand to leader Rick. In other words, he stepped up and became his own man.

However, Daryl being his own man is exactly the problem for him in the last couple of seasons. His emotions have become so free-flowing, he’s reverted back to rash reactions, which, in my opinion, directly got a beloved character killed in the season 7 premiere and undermined Rick’s plan to fight Negan in the first half of season 8. As I mentioned, I love Daryl. I didn’t want him to be tortured for what he did and I’m sorry it happened, but I’m not excusing him. As a fan of The Walking Dead in general, I am fed up with the fact that no one—especially the writers and fans—will hold Daryl accountable for his mistakes. I maintain that there is a good person buried beneath all the rage, pain, grief and hunger for vengeance that’s been building for seasons, but I still think a lot of the calls Daryl has made lately have been wrong and I’m totally frustrated with him—even more so with the writers because they’re the ones who won’t let him evolve beyond this juvenile method of coping or the false notion of obtaining retribution in a war. FFS. They just keep him the same because he’s so popular, but he hasn’t even really changed or been interesting since season 4! The last time they tried with him was with episode 412, “Still,” but I never thought it got there and believe the ratings would agree with me. And I frickin’ swear, I will be that much closer to dropping the show if they try to “fix” all his internal crap with a love interest. I’ve always considered Daryl a fellow ace, interpreting him to be totally unconcerned about building a romantic relationship, especially in light of Robert Kirkman’s remarks on how they treat his sexuality. They better not ruin the most visible symbol of asexuality in the history of primetime TV. The love between us and our family and friends can be just as powerful as romantic love and asexuals deserve representation too, damn it!

Well, regardless of what they do with Daryl, I, for the record, did think he was the best choice to die in the lineup in season 7 and actually wish he had. It would’ve jarred and weakened the group, affected most if not all the characters and fucked up the audience. But no, he’s still here…doing and contributing next to nothing to the story. So the fact that Daryl is on my list at all speaks to how much of a good character/good character arc he had in the first half of the series, and it was very good. But that’s it, just half the series. Like I said, I blame the writers and producers more than the character or the actor. It’s frustrating and sad, is all, because here’s Daryl trapped in a cocoon, bound up with all this glorious potential once again, only this time around he’s experienced too much pain to free himself and no one can help truly release him because they’re too busy pardoning him or patting themselves on the back. -_- And we, the fans of high-quality writing, suffer for it. *sigh*

39. Alfred Pennyworth – from Gotham, portrayed by Sean Pertwee

There’s a very fine line, Master Bruce, between justice and vengeance.”

My adoration for Sean Pertwee’s Alfred Pennyworth comes from a very simple place: my love of badass father figures. When I stop and think about it, Bruce Wayne’s long-serving English butler and guardian, Alfred, has always been a badass with his dry wit and endless patience, and he’s certainly always been a father figure. He’s very caring yet remains dutiful and heeds his charge’s boundaries, never too quick or too late to offer wisdom or comfort. The incarnation bringing up a teenage Bruce in Gotham is a little more fierce than the others and has a tendency to fire off at Bruce out of tough love and a desire to mold him into the person he needs to be, not just the person it’d be easier to be. Alfred not only has the mind required to raise a strong young man but the physical skills needed to protect a child millionaire (or billionaire? Which is it in this canon?) and later teach him how to defend himself. A former soldier, Alfred is a phenomenal fighter, excelling with both a multitude of weapons and hand-to-hand combat. Where I find he excels the most, though, is in matters of the heart… mostly because I’m a huge sap. I don’t even care. Watch the end of the penultimate episode of season 3 and tell me you didn’t feel anything. Personally, I screamed. But I digress. Alfred is an amazing character on Gotham because he is steadfast, he is strong, and mainly because he loves Bruce so much. Eye of the tiger and heart of a lion, this one.

38. Officer John Cooper – from SouthLAnd, portrayed by Michael Cudlitz

What the hell did you think the gun was for, huh? Show and tell? Look, you’ll get over it—all right, they’ll send you to BSS, you’ll do all that Buddhist “I love and revere all sentient beings” crap, then at zero-dark-thirty, next time you’re up, you will drag your weary, fried ass out of bed, you will put on your gun and your vest, and you will do it all over again. You know why? Because this is a front row seat to the greatest show on Earth. Can you abuse it? Yes, sir, you can, and you will—I guarantee it. Because it is relentless, and it gets to you, and it seems like it changes nothing. But a day like today, with some interesting capers and a few good arrests? That’s good. But every once in a while, you get to take a bad guy off the streets for good… and that, my friend, is God’s work. So now you wanna be a pussy and quit, you quit. You’re a cop because you don’t know how not to be one. If you feel that way, you’re a cop. If you don’t, you’re not. You decide.”

Officer John Cooper may be on the same series as my #46, but they might as well be worlds away. John, at his core, is more troubled and thus more multifaceted than Sammy. They are similar in that John too is a dedicated officer of the law, overworked and underappreciated. He spends his days patrolling, popping pain pills and training “boots” or rookie partners. Though harsh and forceful, he is also a good man and good commander—most of the time. And, in contrast to my #42, I like that he fully accepts his identity as a gay man from the word go, as he never saw it as a detriment to begin with. What he does is who he is, and who he is determines what he does. And that is “God’s work.”

37. Ennis Del Mar – from Brokeback Mountain, portrayed by Heath Ledger

If you can’t fix it, Jack, you gotta stand it.”

In one of the most heart-wrenching performances ever put on the silver screen, the late Heath Ledger bears to the world the aching soul of Ennis Del Mar, a cowboy who falls in love with another on the hillocks of Brokeback Mountain in the 1960s. Unlike my #38, Ennis is in denial about his feelings for former rodeo rider, Jack Twist, and chooses to marry a woman he loves (but is not in love with) named Alma. Jack also marries. Between 20 years, children and divorce, the two meet up for weekend stays on their secret mountain, one of which leads to Jack’s lament that they “could’ve had a good life together” but Ennis “didn’t want it.” It was never that Ennis didn’t love, it was that he tiptoed to it while Jack wanted to run with it. Because of things he’d seen as a boy, because of things his father had done, Ennis couldn’t. The best he could do was tread softly as time ticked away, ignorant of his agony. I just… feel kindred to these characters who are in a lot of emotional pain. It’s misery. It’s not that we don’t love, like I said, it’s that we can’t… fully be free in it. We can’t, and it just makes me feel so much for Ennis. He tries to hide between monosyllabic sentences and explosions of anger, but he can only hide so much.

36. Detective/Captain James “Jim” Gordon – from Gotham, portrayed by Ben McKenzie

I promise you, however dark and scary the world might be right now, there will be light.”

With the exception of Gary Oldman’s portrayal in The Dark Knight, I was never interested in Commissioner Jim Gordon until the premiere of Gotham. Being a huge fan of SouthLAnd, I knew Ben McKenzie could play a cop whose horizons darkened over time, and between seasons 2 & 3 in particular of the Fox series, Gordon towed the line between right and wrong, light and shade, more than any big-screen version of Batman ever will, dare I say. I like and enjoy Jim because he has evolved into a realist idealist, a pessimistic optimist. I’d always interpreted him as more of a straight-laced goody-goody, an officer whose honor is absolute. He isn’t, which is great and far more interesting. Gordon now struggles more to do the right thing and has failed in the past. What he’s done haunts him as well as many others, but ghosts do not defeat him, demons do not beat him. He has always fought to prove there could be more in Gotham than despair and more in the GCPD than corruption and he is the type who will always fight (no, I’m not just saying that because Gotham is a prequel and we know what Gordon’s destiny will be). With this version of the future commissioner, hope is not a broad ideal, not some snow-white quintessence of pure faith or belief. It’s much grayer… but ultimately manages to cast more light on Gotham’s city streets than shadows. Batman will have Jim Gordon to thank for paving the way, if you ask me.

35. Alexander “Xander” Harris – from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, portrayed by Nicholas Brendon

Yeah. I get that. It’s just, where else am I gonna go? You’ve been my best friend my whole life. World gonna end, where else would I wanna be?”

In separating Nicholas Brendon’s troubles from the role he’s most famous for playing, I have to say that after all these years I am still stuck on the infinitely brave, infinitely devoted, class-clown reject, Xander Harris. Unlike some of the males on this list or in sci-fi/fantasy/horror/dramas in general, Xander doesn’t have any special powers or a particular aptitude for fighting—he’s one of those “just a guy” guys. He’s not overly intelligent or socially apt or the best boyfriend and provides little more than wisecracks and insight throughout the series. He can be selfish and jealous and immature and petty. He also has a deeply loving heart and a dogged determination to protect Sunnydale and his friends and does the best he can to hold the world together—those are the traits I admire. They’re the extraordinary born from the ordinary, and sometimes that’s special enough.

34. The Joker – from Batman: The Animated Series, The Dark Knight, Batman (1989), the Arkham video game series and, arguably, Gotham, voiced by Mark Hamill & Troy Baker, portrayed by Heath Ledger, Jack Nicholson and, arguably, Cameron Monaghan

That actually ispretty funny…”

The Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime, Batman’s seminal obsession and supervillain, needs no explanation. He has no explanation. I’m not even positive I do. Is he really that insane or is he just pure evil? Either way, he is fascinating. He’s like a piece of devil’s food cake—layered, dark and yet light as a feather, bad for you but irresistible all the same. I love watching the contrast of charisma with the complete and utter chaos he causes; it’s almost like getting high off yourself, struggling with being torn between horror and delight. I feel kinda crappy I can’t really talk about the Joker as a person, as the man behind the makeup and/or disfigurement, but at the same time, I think that’s the point. The Joker is not a person. He’s a force. Better yet, in Gotham, he’s a concept, a creed of corruption. (And I don’t give a damn what the producers say, Cameron Monaghan’s Jerome Valeska is 100% the Joker. He’s the perfect mix of Heath Ledger’s anarchist and Jack Nicholson’s showman with Mark Hamill’s volatile delivery, ranging from teasing to maniacal to downright chilling. I couldn’t be happier or more impressed with Monaghan’s representation.) The Joker is so good at being bad, I can’t even hate him. I’m terrified of him and I don’t want destruction or death to ensue, but there is some piece of me, in the corner of my mind or the bottom of my soul, that connects to the type of reckless abandon that must come with embracing darkness.  Allow me to be clear: I’ve never wished to hurt others… I just grow tired of fighting to be good all the time, to be right, to be righteous. I’m tired.  I don’t know whether I’m a dark person or just a person with darkness; regardless I fight against it, but I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been drawn to it for a long time now. So when I enjoy the Joker—and I do enjoy the Joker, always—I’m living in it a little, and I’d rather do that in a fantastic capacity with a fictional character than in reality.

33. Reinhold “Daniel” / “Dan” Fielding – from Night Court, portrayed by John Larroquette

You can have your principles AND get lucky!”

Dan Fielding, one of the unique cast of characters featured in the 1984-1992 sitcom, Night Court, is both the most popular and most complicated presence on the show. A Lothario and a letch, he frequently behaves in ways that belie his intelligence and success as the Assistant District Attorney for Manhattan’s Criminal Court Part II (largely for comedic effect). Yet, for as selfish and smarmy as he is, he manages to hold tight to his integrity. He has refused a bribe as well as a cushy position promising all the sex he could want, preferring to earn a promotion based on his courtroom skills rather than his bedroom prowess. As much as Dan doesn’t like to admit it, he does care about the people around him. I’m a big fan of his poignant relationships with Roz, Christine and Harry in particular; there’s a surprising amount of depth to them, as there is to Dan himself.

32. Michael Corleone – from The Godfather, portrayed by Al Pacino

That’s my family, Kay, that’s not me.”

This quote kills me every time I see it. WHY, MICHAEL, WHY? Given The Godfather is the second-most highly rated film on IMDb, I take it most people know the story’s main plot of a nice, young war hero’s devolution into a ruthless crime boss, and if you don’t know about it, I’ve just told you. Holy gosh, I was obsessed with this movie when I was in high school—bought the DVD, read the book, gave a book report on it, everything, because I was so simultaneously mesmerized and horrified by Al Pacino’s portrayal of Michael Corleone slowly descending into immorality. The sins of the father, it could be said, turned a relatively innocent young man into a scheming, mendacious murderer. He didn’t just pull a trigger, he became a trigger. I know some people don’t like Mafia movies because they don’t feel they can empathize with the main characters. Not me. I’m always holding out hope for humanity (and what they gave me was The Godfather Part III, but we shall speak of that no more  -_-) and always see love there, even if it is only to a point. It makes the events that unfold that much harder to take. I love tragic characters. As I mentioned before, I feel some type of kinship with them, almost, as if they were a mirror from another world where I was less loved and even angrier and had less options in front of me. Michael Corleone is one of my shadow selves, one of my fictional extremes, like many of the men on this list.

31. Chief Martin Brody – from Jaws, portrayed by Roy Scheider

You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Holy crap, I love this movie. And my dear, sweet Martin, of course. Martin Brody, police chief of Amity Island, is an admirable everyman. I make a point to say “admirable” because the man has a fear of the water yet boards a vessel with a “certifiable” shark hunter, sails miles out onto the ocean and fights a Great White Shark for the greater good of his town (also to save his own life, but you know). While well-meaning and a good husband and father, he’s not perfect. He doesn’t make all the right calls and is a complete novice at boating. He has also sworn to protect and serve the citizens of Amity and doesn’t let fear trump his responsibilities. I just really empathize with this character’s trepidation. I’ve never seen a male actor play abject terror the way Roy Scheider did in the scene where the shark breaks through the window of the Orca—how could you not feel for the guy? I sure did, and it’s because Martin gives me so many warm feels as a simple but valiant character complete with a collection of snarky comments and worries that he’s on my list as #31.

30. Merle Dixon – from The Walking Dead, portrayed by Michael Rooker

I don’t know the reasons for the things that I do. Never did. I’m a damn mystery to me.”

I know—it’s crazy Merle Dixon is on my list, right? My list, of all people, and this high up? Madness, right? Just bear with me… Merle Dixon is immediately presented to viewers as a delightfully divisive character when we’re introduced to him on the rooftop in season 1: he’s handy (lol, see episode 103) with a rifle but volatile and violent, humorous but horribly racist. Is it sad that I, as a feminist woman of color, can find a degree of comedy within this bigoted character? Oh, well. I’ll just chalk it up to how great Michael Rooker plays the part. Anyway, Merle spends his time on the show towing the thin line between mesmeric rogue and callous villain, confusing viewers like me as to whether they actually like him or not because he’s such a bastard but also an efficient fighter, strategist and practiced master of improper humor and flirting (ask Andrea and, to a less obvious extent, Michonne). XD He does this by carrying out “dirty work” for either our group or the Governor’s, just trying to survive, content to align himself with the minion role to which everyone else has relegated him. It isn’t until he’s challenged by Michonne the mentalist, whom he captures to deliver to the Governor as a way to save the prison (i.e. Daryl), that he considers what he’s doing and why. Considers his given status as the “bad guy.” Considers, truly considers for once in his life, his next move. What admiration I do have for Merle is born from the final half of that one episode, which is quite possibly my favorite in the entire series. I didn’t believe Merle had any sincere goodness in him, not like Daryl. Didn’t believe he had any semblance of honor or even that he loved Daryl, not really. Being used to being with somebody doesn’t necessarily mean you love them. Is he even capable of love, having been through all the abuse and penury Daryl endured but without the gentle nature to combat the hardness it bit into him? And the answer is yes, unequivocally. I thoroughly believe Daryl is the only person Merle has ever loved. He loves Daryl so much and respects so profoundly the point Michonne made (and how could you not because she is Queen), in the midst of one afternoon, that he is willing to give his life to keep his baby brother and his better family safe. It’s such a drastic shift in whom I perceived Merle to be, so brave and selfless and ultimately pretty badass, that my entire perspective on him changed. I was that impressed. Normally I’m not a forgiving person, nor am I keen to let one action redeem an entire character’s laundry list of bullshit, but when I go back and watch closer, I see the nuggets now, the little hints at who Merle could have become had he been afforded the same opportunities or amount of time with the group or made the same choices Daryl did. To me, it makes him all the more tragic, thus all the more better and all the more human. For once, this isn’t about tallying up good and bad deeds—I think we all know he does more wrong than he does right. It’s not even about the quality of his goodness or whether I consider Merle to be good or not. No, the questions I have here are: Did he love well? Did I feel it? Did I believe it? And did it matter? My answers? Well, he is #30 on my list of favorite fictional male characters, isn’t he?

29. Randle “R.P.” / “Mac” McMurphy – from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, portrayed by Jack Nicholson

Jesus, I mean you guys do nothing but complain about how you can’t stand it in this place and you don’t have the guts just to walk out? What do you think you are, for Christ’s sake, crazy or somethin’? Well, you’re not! You’re not! You’re no crazier than the average asshole out walkin’ around on the streets and that’s it.”

The bawdy, frank, freewheeling protagonist of the film adaptation of Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel is my favorite Jack Nicholson performance and also a classic rebel, like #28, though most of his antics prove more playful and, eventually, inspiring than the sociopathic Alex’s. Similar to #28, R.P. McMurphy trades prison for an institution, believing it’d be time easier served. He quickly becomes entrenched in the lives of his fellow inmates, treating them precisely the opposite of how the head of the mental ward staff, Nurse Mildred Ratched, treats them: as normal human beings. Mac’s indomitable wit and will to challenge the sterile, bloodless environment rouses the disillusioned men, giving them hope, giving them a bit of perspective. Giving someone the large, generally mute Native American “Chief” Bromden a friend to talk to. Finally. On the other hand, some have interpreted McMurphy’s crusade against Nurse Ratched as having a misogynistic slant, and while it’s an interpretation I can see from a careful, feminist perspective, it’s not one I particularly agree with, even as a feminist. A woman in power is a fine thing. A despot is not, male or female, and Nurse “Wretched” is a cruel oppressor indeed. I’m not afraid of a story about a man taking down a woman—that doesn’t automatically make it sexist. All right, let me get off my soapbox. Basically I just love that Mac won’t lie down and that he asks others to stand up with him, to stand up for themselves. Sometimes people need a leader, sometimes they need a sacrifice, and Mac’s gave the Chief the strength—and means—to fly them both to freedom.

28. Alexander “Alex” DeLarge/Burgess – from A Clockwork Orange, portrayed by Malcolm McDowell

I was cured, all right.”

Teen terror Alex DeLarge is the epitome of a “love to hate” and “hate to love” character for me. In fact the reason A Clockwork Orange is one of my top 5 favorite films is because it makes me question all that I am: what I think and feel and feel I stand for. It is that powerful, as is Malcolm McDowell’s performance as an intelligent and vivacious bully, rapist, murderer and victim. I don’t want  Alex to be on this list. I don’t want to like him, nor do I want to be overtaken by morbid curiosity and immerse myself in his real “horrorshow” world, but I can’t help myself. Stanley Kubrick presents author Anthony Burgess’s ethical quandary so artfully, it’s like it would almost be a crime not to watch this and let yourself be sucked in. Oh, I’m in, all right. I’m so in, I’m envious. Envious of this character who is fully himself, a rebel against society, a young person who loves living life the way he lives it, because I feel I can’t do any of that—I’m too weighed down by self-hatred, almost completely bereft of any acceptance, measuring joy by moments instead of actually living. Damn it, I admire him. Not his acts, not what he does, but I admire that the only person who can stop Alex from being himself is he himself… by virtue of agreeing to undergo the Ludovico technique to escape prison. As a result, Alex is then tortured, quite literally, by everyone and everything that made him him, and while I’m not particularly sorry to see him suffer, I’m not sure I agree with conditioning someone out of his free will. But you can’t have people running around raping and killing either, now, can you? Augh! That novel! This movie! This movie’s ending! God help me, I saw it as a happy one. Albeit at the time I first saw the film, I was 19 and very bitter about having to go to college instead of pursuing acting and writing. I wasn’t about to adapt, to play society’s game, to become yet another automaton desk jockey who swept her dreams under the rug. Of course that’s what I’ve done for now, though, isn’t it? So to me, the quote I used above still very much encompasses a happy ending. May God have mercy on my dark soul…

27. Colonel Hans Landa – from Inglourious Basterds, portrayed by Christoph Waltz

I have no doubt. And yes, some Germans will die, and yes, it will ruin the evening, and yes, Goebbels will be very, very, very mad at you for what you’ve done to his big night…but you won’t get Hitler, you won’t get Goebbels, you won’t get Göring, and you won’t get Bormann. And you need all four to win the war. But if I don’t pick up this phone right here, you may very well get all four…and if you get all four, you’ll end the war tonight… So, gentlemen, let’s discuss the prospect of ending the war tonight.”

O.M.G. This character. This hilarious son of a bitch. How I love and hate him too! Augh! Two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz is one of my favorite actors due to the fact that he just exudes charisma. Hans Landa is no exception, despite being a “Jew Hunter” for Herr Hitler. By turns he is charming and terrifying, cool and giddy. A deceptive detective and hyper-intelligent polyglot, he is interested only in which side appears to have the upper hand in WWII. Much of it has to do with Waltz’s performance, the way he chooses to deliver specific phrases, but Tarantino’s writing for Landa is also effective. You just can’t take your eyes off him. He’s the type of guy you want to die because he’s bad but you’d be sad to see go because he’s so good at it! Don’t you just love the inner conflict? I DO.

26. Malcolm Tucker – from The Thick of It & In the Loop, portrayed by Peter Capaldi

People hate me? Good! Bring it on. Do you know what they think about you? I’ll tell you exactly what people say about you: Fuck all!

Here we’ve come to another of my favorite actors, Peter Capaldi, in the other role he’s best known for besides the 12th Doctor: Malcolm Tucker, the angry, sweary, domineering spin doctor and media adviser to the Secretary of State for the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship—for a while, that is. Unlike many of the men on this list, I don’t particularly consider this character to be a good person. I mean, he’s not evil… not purely, anyway. But he is conniving, underhanded and mean-spirited. At the same time, he also works himself to the bone in a position that sucks his soul dry of not only empathy but a true quality of life, which the TV series, The Thick of It, does well to highlight alongside the comedy and satire. Some of Malcolm’s better moments come from his rapport with his personal assistant, Sam, proving he is capable of getting along with someone. He even has children’s drawings hanging in his office. There is definitely more here than meets the eye, but what does meet the eye—or ear, rather—is the cornucopia of creative verbal abuse and it’s absolutely hilarious. Satire, based on what I remember from my college literature and cultures class, involves critiquing society, often in a (darkly) comedic way. Tucker’s malicious, “fuck”-filled threats and diatribes cover the gallows humor quite nicely while those around him provide the bulk of decisions and actions the show aims to satirize. As terrible as it sounds, I think Malcolm’s role as the long-suffering bystander having to piss on the fires his co-workers keep starting is the key to the series’ success: if they weren’t so incompetent and he weren’t so miserable, it wouldn’t be worth watching! And boy, is this character (and his actor) worth watching.

25. Norman Bates – from the Psycho series, portrayed by Anthony Perkins & Henry Thomas

She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?”

Anthony Perkins’s famous turn as a young motel manager suffering from the worst case of Dissociative Identity Disorder ever is so raw, it hurts. It hurts my heart to see this character suffer so because I know all the ins and outs of mental illness. You feel like you have ZERO control over anything in your life, especially your thoughts and where they’re taking you. It’s miserable and scary and a sad existence. Honestly, the title of this movie (which is the same title as Robert Bloch’s 1959 novel) is kind of offensive. We’re not psychos—we’re sick. Norman is sick, and he pays for it just as much as everyone else around him does. When he’s himself, he’s the sweetest thing, just one of those characters you want to cuddle and protect and then lock away so they won’t get hurt… so this one won’t hurt anyone else. It’s when Mother shows up that the horror begins. Norman tries so hard to be good, to be good and fair to everyone including Mother, but she inevitably rears up to stomp him back into the ground where she taught him he belonged. The original film is a masterpiece, absolutely, but I ventured on to the sequels—not for more gore but to see if he could resurrect himself and reclaim his own life. Like, please, give me hope here! *sigh* It was like watching him trying to swim through quicksand, all those years and all those movies. I won’t spoil if I unearthed any hope or not, but I will say I was satisfied with the ending to Psycho IV: The Beginning. Take what you will from it—this character snapped his innocence in half as a boy and never got it back. He is tragic and all the more tragic in that he is sweet and deserves a full life as much as anyone else—as much as his victims did, as much as all of us with mental illnesses do. All I’ve learned from the Psycho series is that we’re going to have to fight for it… for the rest of our lives. But is it possible to obtain? Go watch Psycho IV and then come back and tell me…

24. Benjamin “Ben” Cartwright – from Bonanza, portrayed by Lorne Greene

Are we so apart, boy? I’ve never held my land above my sons. Before that’d happen, I’d destroy the Ponderosa.”

In the tradition of great paternal figures, Ben Cartwright, effective owner of half of the 19th-century Nevadan territory and father to three (eventually four) sons, brings a stable warm but stern, righteous quality to the tone of nearly every episode of the 1959-1972 western series. Ben is the definition of a self-made man, serving first as a sailor, then traveling West to the tame the wild and build a foundation on which he could raise a strong family. Three wives each bore him a son, their respective deaths forcing him to press on with business while simultaneously adopting an active role in the lives of young Adam, Hoss and Little Joe, at which he has always excelled because he knows how to treat each as his own man and the family as a whole as a cohesive unit. He confides in Adam and allows him the room the scholar needs to think and explore; he shows appreciation and pride to gentle giant Hoss for being exactly that and so much more; and most poignantly, he gives young, rash and turbulent Little Joe the affection and support he needs to find himself. In spite of a few rough patches in the first season, Ben is ultimately a gentleman, magnanimous and unprejudiced despite his great power and influence, the picture of true strength and true manhood. Most of all, most impressively to me, he is the best father on this list.

23. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy – from Star Trek: The Original Series & original film series, portrayed by DeForest Kelley

I choose the danger. Hell of a time to ask…”

I love Bones so freaking much. Sorry, just had to launch into it. DeForest Kelley is perfect as the gruff and grumpy old southern gentleman of the USS Enterprise during Captain James T. Kirk’s tenure. He shines on his own as a character, as a witty presence on the crew and a knowledgeable, honorable medical and science officer, but plays off Jim and Spock even better as the third member of the iconic brotherly trio of Star Trek: TOS. The friendship between McCoy and Spock especially can be a little tense, a little antagonistic, always teasing and even touching. I think of McCoy as the everyman of the final frontier. He’s not a suave hero or a genius alien hybrid or mystical sage or weathered warrior. He’s someone who is unfailingly brave but questions, principled but conflicted, droll but deep. Someone who not only stands up but rises to the occasion. He’s a doctor, damn it, and so much more in the simplest and strongest of ways.

22. Spock – from Star Trek: The Original Series & original film series, portrayed by Leonard Nimoy

Tell her: ‘I feel fine.’”

Like most Trekkies, I am nowhere near immune to the subdued, straightforward charm and infamous logic of Captain James T. Kirk’s best friend and second-in-command, the half-Vulcan, half-human Mr. Spock. Although I’m a fan of the entire TOS cast (with the soft exception of Chekov), I have always loved Spock the most, perhaps for a very strange reason: for all the ways I don’t and do understand him. I’m a stranger to being led by your mind as opposed to your heart, so that’s one way I don’t connect with him. And I’ve mentioned I like emotional male characters, right, so how can Spock be so high on my list? Well, because, despite his denials, he clearly is so emotional. It all gets pent up due to his repressing his humanity in shame and resentment, and I can totally relate to that.

Quick personal anecdote: I am a multiracial person, born to a Caucasian mother and an African-American father, who has never been totally comfortable being half-black. Due to my internalization of my father’s abuse, things I saw and cruel things I heard, I always equated my being ethnic to being lesser than people who were one ethnicity, especially white people, and pressured myself into overachieving, exacerbating my poisonous perfectionist qualities even more, to prove to the world (i.e. myself) that I was worth just as much as everyone else. But I still felt uglier, dumber and less valued by society. I still do—I still struggle with this bullshit emotionally even though intellectually I’m aware it’s bullshit.

So, long story short, I admire Spock mainly for coming to terms with his heritage, for being able to bridge the gap better between his human and Vulcan halves throughout the film series in particular. He is intelligent, immensely loyal, possessed of a laconic sense of humor and confident and capable in all facets of his Starfleet duties, rising from captain to commander to an ambassador of the United Federation of Planets. Spock is a man of honor and work ethic, the best of all pragmatists and equalists, and most importantly, a great friend.

21. Krillin – from Dragon Ball Z, FUNimation dub, voiced by Sonny Strait

I know I’m gonna regret this, but here goes…”

Ask any fan of the anime and it’ll be said—usually with great relish—that Krillin is one of the weakest characters in the Dragon Ball universe. He’s strong for a human but still very much human, dwarfed by almost all the other characters in power, height and importance. Oh, they carried Krillin through to the other series because he’s Goku’s best friend. Yeah, he’s good for a laugh, either by virtue of something he mutters disparagingly or by getting his ass kicked (e.g. the “Krillin Owned Count” on TeamFourStar’s Dragon Ball Z Abridged videos), but not much else. Hardy-har-har. Well. To all that I say…it’s true. Physically Krillin is weak. He’s not really integral to the plot anymore. He is just kind of there. And thank God he’s still there. It’s fitting that he is, because he doesn’t have to be a Saiyan to be interesting and he doesn’t have to be an alien to be strong. Krillin represents the pinnacle of human fortitude—grit, courage, selflessness, a warm nature, a good sense of humor. He helped look after Gohan whenever Goku was away. He found empathy for an enigmatic cyborg (called “Android 18” but confirmed in season 7 to be part-human). And he’s gone into every major battle knowing how likely it was that he wouldn’t make it out alive, and he went in anyway. That is amazing and that’s an amazing character! I don’t know how people can make fun of someone good enough to do that. You know what, I don’t even care. I will always defend Krillin and always be proud to proclaim my love for him. For as funny as he is, he’s no joke. He’s all heart. It’s in the littlest moments, the simplest lines and beats, from his dropping Yajirobe’s sword to taking on Kid Buu in Other World at the risk of being wiped out of existence. As far as I’m concerned, Krillin is a badass, just like Vegeta, and as much of a hero as Goku.

20. Gohan – from Dragon Ball Z, FUNimation dub, voiced by Stephanie Nadolny & Kyle Hebert

Dad, I know what I’ll remember about you. When you were up against Frieza and knew we couldn’t win, how you walked right up to him…and whenever things seem tough for me, I think of you walking forward like that and it makes me strong.”

When I started watching Dragon Ball Z, I was around the age Gohan was at his induction, a mere child. As such, he was the first character with whom I strongly identified—not just because we were kids but because we had things in common. As the son of the strongest warrior on Earth, Gohan was often thrust into frightening, harsh, adult circumstances beyond his control; as the child of an abusive parent who shared joint custody with my mom, the same could be said for me. Gohan, despite being the epitome of purity and kindness, never had great self-esteem. I was a pretty good kid, too, but didn’t think much of myself either. Logically he knew he was strong and possessed a wealth of potential to conquer the demons threatening his world, but emotionally he felt afraid, stunted and incapable of harnessing his power. I have always felt the exact same way—about my writing talent and my ability to cope with and fight my mental illnesses. Gohan in the Cell saga (in the FUNimation dub anyway) was me throughout school, is me now.

It’s this kind of kinship I share with Gohan that makes me love him so much; it’s because I understand him, understand how hard it was for him to blast back, that I appreciate so much his shift from self-doubt to self-trust based on the word of love, his father’s word. But he made the choice. That boy made the choice to fight back, to not let it all overtake him and chose to adopt a happy, grateful disposition despite things not necessarily working out to his best benefit. Over the years Gohan’s vulnerabilities transitioned into self-acceptance and he became so comfortable with playing the hero, he adopted the lovably dorky superhero persona of the Great Saiyaman (lol), attracting the attention of his kickass future wife. Unlike a lot of fans, I never grew bored of him. He is a different person than either Goku or Vegeta and only half-Saiyan to boot—he doesn’t have the same innate need to fight. He was smart and driven so he got an education. He married a strong, supportive woman and became a parent. He even made sure his surrogate father, Piccolo, didn’t fall out of his life. These were all things I wanted for Gohan because he wanted them; his being happy made me happy, gave me hope. Seeing Gohan grow in power and confidence yet keep both inner depth and the same lightness of spirit as his father was a beautiful experience to have as I grew up alongside him. In the quote I used, Gohan credits Goku with making him feel strong. Goku makes me feel strong too, but it was Gohan who helped me get through painful personal crises like college and visits with my father because I never felt like I was going through hell alone. Someone had already been there, done that and beat it, fictional or not. Gohan has always been so much of my strength and my will to get back up and fight. He’s the one who walked forward for me, and he’s never going to stop. I won’t let him.

19. Vegeta – from Dragon Ball Z, FUNimation dub, voiced by Christopher R. Sabat

What’s so funny, freak? What are you gawking at? What did you think, that I was gonna roll over and die from an attack like that? You’re nothing, just a trickster. I am a warrior, the Saiyan Prince—Vegeta!”

At the risk of showing my hand too early, I have to say the character arc for #7 is the greatest hero-to-villain arc I’ve ever seen depicted. The character arc for Vegeta of the manga/anime Dragon Ball Z is the exact opposite though just as grand. Super Elite warrior, Vegeta, of royal and ruthless Saiyan lineage, arrives in the first season with nothing but immortality and murder on his mind. It is during his quest for Earth’s Dragon Balls that fate introduces him to a worthwhile rival, the lowly Saiyan outcast and defender of humankind, Goku, or “Kakarot” as Vegeta chooses to address him (the hero’s Saiyan name). Though it takes an entire team of Earth’s most fearsome fighters to best him in battle, Vegeta swears vengeance on Goku, their leader, the beacon of hope and decency, the man foolish enough to show him mercy. A large portion of his story revolves around his obsession with becoming strong enough to defeat and/or kill Goku; sometimes, however, circumstances and larger threats drive him to form unsteady alliances. Threaten to beat him down—body, mind, pride—even further. Force him to reveal secrets, such as the revelation that he was not born with a soul of stone but had it twisted that way by Frieza, intergalactic autocrat, destroyer of the Saiyans’ home planet and enslaver of their race. Over the course of nine seasons and the supplementary series, Dragon Ball Super, Vegeta continues to struggle, to question, to backslide and recover, to discover hidden truths about himself, such as his growing care for those around him and the subsequent unease with this perceived weakness, this softening. Most poignantly, by the end of the series, his life culminates in self-sacrifice. And even still, he overcomes the bitterness of his own death to devise a way to save all of Earth from a similar fate, at the same time admitting a certain type of reverence for Goku and the influence his rival’s steadfastness has had on others and ultimately himself. Oh, he remains arrogant, loud-mouthed, grouchy and rude—he’s always all of that. Would we have it any other way? An ill temper as legendary as his makes for great turns, both comedic and badass, but what is truly interesting about Vegeta is that he found might that surpasses that of a Super Saiyan’s, a power more potent than the drive to be the best in the universe: He found the inner strength to change, to drain from himself the thirst for blood, replacing it with a better sense of understanding, acceptance and an emergent desire to defend the family and friends he found in the wake of Goku’s choice to spare his life. It wasn’t easy but it was worth it, and after all these episodes and arcs and all these years in publication and syndication, I think he knows that now. And I think he’s okay with it. Pssht, forget all the reasons I both love and hate him—Vegeta is one of the most complex male characters in fiction, and for what he is, was and is destined to become, he deserves to be on this list.

18. Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi – from the Star Wars series, portrayed by Sir Alec Guinness & Ewan McGregor

I will do what I must.”

Let me preface this by mentioning that I am 26 years old, hence I grew up with the Star Wars prequels. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was my first of the franchise. No, please don’t feel bad for me because for all its faults I really liked it and still do, as the reigning Queen of Unpopular Opinions. Anyway, the first character from the infamous faraway galaxy to whom I latched on was Obi-Wan Kenobi. Though he is a mere Padawan in Episode I, I admired him immediately (and not just because Ewan McGregor is so attractive, though that didn’t hurt any, ha). He is young and a bit impertinent regarding Qui-Gon Jinn’s extracurricular crusades but is also practical and modest, not without compassion or care, traits on which the ensuing films expounded better. As I mentioned in #39’s paragraph, I am a big fan of good father figures; to be frank, my favorite parts of the Star Wars series are the mentor-student/father-son/brother-brother relationships between the Jedi, and the bond between Obi-Wan and his Master, Qui-Gon, is my favorite. Much like Obi-Wan himself, it was gentle, deep and durable, and it’s the basis on which the tragedy of Darth Vader is built, of course. It was sad seeing what Anakin went through, but even worse watching Obi-Wan grapple with what he perceived to be his own “failure.” He had lost his father figure and took up his cause, grew into his compassion and proved himself to be a noble negotiator, a skilled swordsman and a wise teacher. Then, despite all his cleverness and care and best efforts, he lost his brother too, along with his extended Jedi “family,” and was forced into exile for 20 years. Even after all of that he managed to preserve his wry humor, his belief in the Force and the strength to train Luke after Anakin’s betrayal. He even reached out to Rey. His is a presence that has remained in the canon for 40 years and it should, for the kind of clarity and strength he represents are strong staples of the Star Wars universe and, we can only hope, our own. Obi-Wan makes me proud and he makes me smile. AND IF THEY WRITE FOR HIM A STANDALONE MOVIE I AM GOING TO FLIP SOMETHING OVER IN EXCITEMENT. There, you’ve all been warned. Bolt your furniture down…

17. Freddy Krueger – from A Nightmare on Elm Street series & Freddy vs. Jason, portrayed by Robert Englund

When I was alive, I might have been a little naughty, but after they killed me, I became something much, much worse. The stuff nightmares are made of…”

Night stalker. Dream walker. Big talker. Master of black humor and stupid puns. As with previous entries, how I love to hate and hate to love the original Springwood Slasher, Robert Englund’s Freddy Krueger. My best friend even calls me Freddy (and I call her “Jason” as in Jason Voorhees, lol). As much as I like horror movies, I admittedly enjoy Freddy’s comedy more than his devilry, perhaps because we got so much more of the former than the latter as the film series went on, but he did frighten me when I saw the original movie at age 11. I promptly went to bed with all the lights on, thank you very much. I know Freddy is supposed to be scarier than pop culture has made him out to be (heh, New Nightmare anyone?) and he used to be, but as a fan I’m fine with him also being silly or insane or downright inspired with the way he kills some of his victims. You know what I find to be the scariest thing about Freddy? The intrusive nature of his powers. There’s something very disturbing about the idea of a child killer waltzing through your unconscious thoughts, manipulating your mind to bend to his every whim, toying with you at night to drive you crazy during the day, leading you to slip back into sleep at night. No matter what installment of NOES I’m watching, there’s always a potential creep factor there, if you really look for it. I can feel it, and I’m comfortable with this level of discomfort in my horror films. One of my favorite actors playing my favorite slasher = a mandatory re-watch of the series every October.

16. Lee Everett – from The Walking Dead: Telltale Games Series, voiced by Dave Fennoy

I’ll miss you.”

There could be no better protagonist for the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead video game than Lee Everett. Lee, a former history professor in his mid-30s, is the player character for the five-episode arc that involves managing and protecting an ever-changing group of survivors in Georgia while forging a close-knit bond with an orphaned eight-year-old girl named Clementine. I am…seriously about to cry just thinking about this game; this first season is on par with the best seasons of the TV adaptation. The vocal performances are all excellent and the characters feel so real. To relax during finals week in college (lol, like you can really relax when it comes to The Walking Dead), I binge-watched a gamer’s walkthrough on YouTube and just fell in love with Lee as a leader, a tough survivor, mentally and physically, and a stellar guide and father figure to Clementine. Though you can play around with his responses, choosing whether or not to make him more forthcoming about his feelings and his past (Lee was actually a killer before the apocalypse, it turns out), he is clearly written to be a strong-willed, considerate and solicitous individual with a temper that’s sometimes too quick for his own good. All in all, in my opinion, Lee does what needs to be done in a zombie apocalypse—he isn’t particularly vicious or without empathy and deals with a lot of crazy-ass people in ways that will satisfy a variety of gamers. XD Mainly he’s determined to teach young Clem how to make her way in a world gone all too mad and sad… and their story is sad. But it’s important to me—Lee is important to me—because his relationship with Clementine makes me think of fight and simple advice and unconditional love and the measure of a mentor and I’m tearing up again… Lee Everett is a good man and, I feel the need to reiterate, the best man to take you on this journey. I know there’s no one I’d rather have walked beside.

15. Gary Hobson – from Early Edition, portrayed by Kyle Chandler

Sometimes that’s all a hero is, Chuck: the guy who’s there.”

Gary Hobson, the epitome of an everyman, somehow, some way, gets tomorrow’s newspaper today—that’s the premise of Early Edition, a four-season fantasy/drama series beloved by its audience but quietly canceled back in 2000. There was such extraordinary heart to this show, accompanied by both supernatural and chance circumstances and events, and I have nothing but fond childhood memories of spending nights cheering Gary on as he used the headlines from the future to race around Chicago and rescue people. A former stockbroker and later bartender/bar owner, Gary reluctantly becomes a full-time hero with the support of his best friends, Chuck Fisher and Marissa Clark. For the longest time, he doesn’t understand why he’s been chosen to receive the Paper or who sends it to him, and the origins of the mysterious newspaper are only alluded to in the series finale; nonetheless, Gary accepts early on the responsibility of changing the future, gradually growing more comfortable in the role as the people’s champion, never fully succumbing to resentment or ego. He is one of those ordinary people made extraordinary simply because of the choices he makes—he constantly chooses to be brave and run in, to advocate for other people, to talk until he’s blue in the face or nearly thrown in jail in an effort to inject some sense into the skeptics and the careless. He does all of this at great personal risk—physical and emotional—because the Paper is a gift and a curse and almost always a burden. I have always admired Gary, as a savior and a regular person. He is a nice young man, unassuming and generous, giving and diligent if a little impatient and ill-tempered at times. He’s complemented well by the cynical Chuck and conscientious Marissa, ever the voice of reason, both of whom he loves dearly. It all makes for a nice family show in the vein of Touched by an Angel or a tamer Quantum Leap, and I love Gary as a squarely good, kind and ultimately valiant man. He’s a good reminder that not everybody has to be dark or depraved or depressed to be a praiseworthy character.

14. Captain Jack Sparrow – from the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, portrayed by Johnny Depp

The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can’t do. For instance, you can accept that your father was a pirate and a good man or you can’t. But pirate is in your blood, boy, so you’ll have to square with that someday…”

Everybody’s list of favorite characters should include a kook, a weirdo, a renegade, a character of indistinct morals yet unmistakable allure, don’t you think? Captain Jack Sparrow is the one for my list. Although I believe movies 4 & 5 have added absolutely nothing to his character (which is the main reason I wish they’d stop making them, because as a diehard fan, I’m tired of being disappointed after having my expectations met thoroughly with that amazing trilogy), I love Jack, from his tongue twisters to his constantly shifting allegiances to his unmitigated genius, implied bisexuality and half-madness. He symbolizes everything I yearned to have for myself as a preteen growing up on the Pirates series: independence, ingenuity, self-acceptance of my own idiosyncrasies, freedom and the ability to ride the waves of life, doing the steering myself. And it’s plain fun having the hero of a Disney franchise who is good but not too good. After all, who isn’t a little naughty from time to time? And despite his inherent “pirateness” (i.e. greed, sordidness, decadence), he is also a man of honor, managing to establish worthwhile connections with many of the main characters as well as coming to terms with the discomfort of his own mortality. That can be difficult to do when you’re aware (and enamored with) your own legend. He comes off as both wise but still in need of counsel, and for this reason, his on/off, hot/cold “friendship” with his former first mate, Barbossa, is one of the things I enjoy about the series the most. So, for whichever reason you care to conjure, I think Jack Sparrow is a man to be respected if not downright admired or imitated. Thanks to his well-roundedness as a character and Johnny Depp’s unique and hearty portrayal (though I did think he was lackluster in the Dead Men Tell No Tales), Jack very much deserves to be the pop-culture icon—and one of my personal fictional heroes—that he is. I haven’t had a poster of him up in my room for the last 10 years for nothing…

13. Captain Hector Barbossa – from the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, portrayed by Geoffrey Rush

Dyin’ is the day worth living for!”

Yes, I love Barbossa more than I love Jack. Part of it has to do with Geoffrey Rush being my #1 favorite actor of all time. Another reason stems from the fact that Barbossa has a more satisfying character arc. Similar to #21, he makes the slow turn from main villain to anti-hero to a hero willing to put himself in harm’s way for friends and family over the course of the five Pirates films. Barbossa is equally as interesting and charismatic as Jack, serving as a fitting foil, a confidant and ultimately a friend. Aw, my feels. On top of all that, he is, without fail, impressive and crafty, a pirate of considerable influence and authority, a master tactician, skilled fighter and gentleman rogue who manages to wring chuckles out of me with many a deadpan look, eye roll or his soft, pronounced chortle. XD I’m often in awe of Jack but admire Barbossa even more—not just because he’s powerful and razor-sharp and funny but because I didn’t see the change in his motivations coming. It is such a simple, natural development, one that is bittersweet and, most importantly, gratifying. I love everything Barbossa is and becomes, the whole of his character, and I think that makes him quite a special addition to this list.

12. Eric “Hoss” Cartwright – from Bonanza, portrayed by Dan Blocker

Every man’s got to fight his own battle in his own way.”

The middle son. The peacekeeper. The grand heart of Bonanza. Hoss Cartwright, whose nickname means “big, friendly man,” is indeed a big, friendly man. As minimal as it is, it’s the most apt description. People tend to underestimate him, mistaking his congeniality, large stature and simple tastes for slowness, but that’s their mistake and Hoss knows it. Unlike his younger brother, Joe, rarely does he struggle with who he is and unlike his older brother, Adam, he is content with his place on the Ponderosa, supporting his Pa and the ranch, communing with nature, tending to animals. This character is far too guileless and gentle to harbor any room for real darkness. Where his edge does come in, however, is when someone or something he cares about is threatened, usually Little Joe. XD As both an empath and a strapping young cowpoke, Hoss proves time and again to be very protective and does not hesitate to allude to his strength in an effort to warn baddies about how far he’ll go to stop someone from being harmed or avenge them if they are (which is, by virtue of who he is, an empty threat, but remains intimidating all the same). Speaking of Little Joe, the relationship he shares with Hoss is actually my favorite dynamic on Bonanza. Regardless of how many times Joe takes advantage of him or pokes at him or is willing to get messed up defending him, Hoss always has his back, always has his best interests at heart, even at his own expense. (Bonanza in general just kills me with how much these men love each other. It’s so sweet and amazing to see because it’s how camaraderie between men should be depicted.) He is the perfect big brother, for which Joe even thanks him in a season 7 episode. Oh, what’s that? Sorry, I can’t hear you over the massive heart attack I’m having brought on by so many feels… No, I don’t have much more to say other than there’s nothing I don’t love about Hoss Cartwright or Dan Blocker’s consistently beautiful and authentic performance. It’s no wonder the show couldn’t survive without him (may he and the character—who, it was revealed in a spinoff movie, died attempting to save a woman’s life, of course—rest in the sweetest peace).

11. Dr. Sean McNamara – from Nip/Tuck, portrayed by Dylan Walsh

I’d rather be a good doctor who helps people than a brilliant doctor who hurts them.”

Dr. Sean McNamara is one of those characters you just want to slap at the same time you want to hug him. He’s uptight but caring but vindictive but dejected and tries so very hard to be good, to be perfect even (which is kind of the point of Nip/Tuck and an impossible battle I can relate to)—the perfect plastic surgeon, perfect husband, perfect father, perfect business partner—and the harder he tries, the more he internalizes his mistakes and all the turns he had to take to achieve his triumphs, the more he falls apart, disintegrates before your very eyes. It’s painful to watch, you feel so bad for him, and I do sympathize with Sean. Sure, he’s an idiot sometimes—who isn’t? And he’s not perfect, for as much as he tries and wants to be, but unlike his best friend and partner, Dr. Christian Troy, who will also appear on this list, Sean is a good person. His sincerest desire, what he wants even more than to be good, is to do good, and he truly and usually is an excellent doctor. Whether from the job or from his upbringing, likely both, Sean is emotionally inhibited, though not without sensitivity, stricken and all too aware of his fears and foibles. He is incapable of relaxing—something I, with my general anxiety, very much understand. He has also endured a lot of pain from others and inflicted a lot of pain on others, with it all beginning with his father and biological brother and ending always with his wife, Julia, and their elder children. He is in turns tortured and challenged by his conscience, effectively setting him apart from the other half of McNamara/Troy in that he prompts himself to make change and doesn’t need those he’s victimized/abused/ruined to do it for him per se. It doesn’t take six seasons for him to become self-aware, as it does Christian. Moreover, it is Sean’s love for his “brother” of 20 years that nearly destroys him. It’s almost like a Greek tragedy or a satire, their relationship, and I can’t look away. They’re so different yet so intertwined, two men who seem like compatible partners on the surface…but Christian’s dominant, selfish personality combined with Sean’s naiveté and desperation to hold on threatens all that they know, personally and professionally. Their story, and Sean’s in particular, is just sad. There’s a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel for Sean by the end of the series (and thank Jesus because there’s only so much pain I can take in my entertainment), but it’s still sad when you reflect on how long it took and all it took for him to get to it. So I guess that’s why I like Sean: he’s sad. And you know what? I am too.

10. James “Jimmy” McGill – from Better Call Saul, portrayed by Bob Odenkirk

I’m not good at building shit, you know… I’m excellent at tearing it down.”

I love Jimmy because he breaks my heart—just shatters it into little pieces every season, nearly every episode, the tragedy of his true nature indicative in the quote I used. Why do I consider him fatally flawed? Because he has a good heart that’s connected to a very clever, very corrupt brain and he can’t help himself. And I love watching this crashing train. Love it all. Hurts so good. (Does this make me a sadomasochist? I’m starting to wonder…) In the interim between season 3 and 4 of Better Call Saul, the marvelous prequel to Breaking Bad that follows the devolution of well-meaning Jimmy McGill into the dissolute defense lawyer, Saul Goodman, Jimmy has not yet become Saul. He’s tried on the alias, worn some of the lurid suits, but is still trying, unsuccessfully I might add, to fix many of the holes he’s dug for himself and his partner, Kim. It’s a compelling but sad watch, as we of course know where he’ll end up. It’s arguably even more upsetting to me as a viewer because now I’ve seen all the hurt and hardship that drove him to such a sordid lifestyle. Very much like #34, I believe Jimmy could have and would have remained a legitimate if struggling lawyer, or at least not gotten involved with drug kingpin, Walter White, if powerful and influential Chuck McGill hadn’t been so insulted and horrified by his delinquent younger brother’s decision to follow in his footsteps. Along with Chuck, nobody else really gives Jimmy a fair shake, not really, and for what the world did give him, Jimmy either rejected or, as the above admittance tells us, ruined it. *sigh* He’s doomed. I love his tenacity, his initiative and what heart is there, but it’s all doomed, and I can’t look away.

9. Joseph “Little Joe” Cartwright – from Bonanza, portrayed by Michael Landon

First thing that goes is your courage. Then your manhood… and this is the last thing, but it’s got to go too: this is your self-respect. And this is what’s left of you—nothing.”

Ah, from Ben to Hoss to Little Joe (I like Adam but his general aloofness keeps him off this list). The handsome heartthrob of the Ponderosa, the youngest of Ben Cartwright’s natal offspring and arguably the most emotional man on this list. I think he’s always been my favorite on Bonanza for this reason. I don’t usually like westerns or hotshot playboys; I find them stale and annoying, respectively, but I have always enjoyed Bonanza—and Joe—as a whole. His good traits and best moments far outweigh the qualities I don’t care for. He is so raw in his emotional truths, wearing all the pain and conflict of his world on his face, exorcising himself through his words and actions, it’s both beautiful and sad to see, and I love that. I love that he is incapable of hiding and therefore has to face what he’s feeling or fighting. It’s interesting. For as impulsive and idle as Little Joe can be, he is every bit as gregarious and kind. He’s silly and mischievous and also smart and serious. For as wrong as he is, he is just as right. Really, all four of the Cartwrights are, for the most part, the picture of masculinity to me, and growing up with reruns of the show, watching Joe evolve from a cocky, lovesick, angst-filled teen to a strong, mature, formidable man was very satisfying as a viewer and as someone who was following the same trajectory from turbulent adolescence into adulthood. Just thinking of the conclusion to the two-part story from the final season, “Forever,” is about enough to bring tears to my eyes. I was never prouder of Joseph Cartwright than when he put dropped that rock and let it all go. He let the darkness go…because he was stronger. Now that’s a man. I mean, it’s true: Little Joe is always the first in a fight, but he’s also the first to offer a hand. He is the full measure of a man and for that I love, admire and respect him. I always have.

8. Dr. Christian Troy – from Nip/Tuck, portrayed by Julian McMahon

You want the wisdom to know the difference between what you can and can’t change? Here’s Step 13: everything disappears. Love, trees, rocks, steel, plastic, human beings. None of us get out alive. Now you can huddle in a group and face it one day at a time, or you can be grateful that when your body rubs against somebody else’s it explodes with enough pleasure to make you forget even for a minute that you’re a walking pile of ashes. Now that is the truth. If you’re strong, it’ll make you free. If you’re weak, it’ll make you… you.”

You know how I said #26 wasn’t a good man? Dr. Christian Troy is even worse. He’s manipulative, spiteful, shallow, self-centered and cruel, especially to the many, many, many women he beds. But I can’t hate him. No, not because he’s attractive and charming and rich or even because he was molested as a boy or assaulted by a serial rapist—none of those things gives you the license to be an asshole and he is an asshole. No, I can’t bring myself to hate Christian Troy because of the good he does manage to do. He doesn’t even do more good than bad, I just feel the good so deeply because it’s so clearly from some secret place of genuineness deep inside and it keeps me from loathing him. He financially supported Gina throughout her pregnancy and took care of her baby even though he wasn’t his biological son, took care of him better than Gina did—in fact, adopting Wilbur is arguably the best thing Christian has ever done period. He jumped to get tested when it was revealed Liz needed a kidney. He was always good with Annie. He sent the superficial and sad Mrs. Grubman off respectably. He paid off Michelle’s debt to James. He freed Benny Nilsson from a life of sex slavery and gave him money to start over. He made amends with a well-endowed nun for making a pass at her and saved another woman’s life in the same episode. Yeah. Those moments are enough for me. Then there’s the bad…and there’s so much more. I don’t forgive. I don’t forget. But I can’t let go of this character. He gets under my skin and to my heart with every re-watch because he’s such a perfect disaster: so glamorous but so horrid yet so desperate and sad and lonely. I get sucked in even though I don’t want to. He’s intoxicating, reeking so much of darkness but also of victimhood. It’s beyond spellbinding to me, the complexity of this character, how there’s both meaning and meaninglessness at the core of all his sexual and personal relationships, and I think Julian McMahon’s portrayal of Christian is particularly exceptional as well.

For as captivating as he is on his own, Christian only has an arc—not even an arc, more of an epiphany—in the sixth and final season of the show, in which he transitions almost fully into a villainous role, driving those around him into madness or worse—emptiness. It takes the death of a major character and a prophetic dream to make him realize his fatalistic flaws and accept that he is, at his core, incapable of being a better person and that the effect he has on Sean is so toxic, he is very slowly killing the only person it seems he’s ever truly loved. Consequently Christian goes through with the most gracious decision he made since pledging to father Wilbur. It was a good act, maybe even his last one. An act of love, of self-sacrifice even, since the partners’ friendship will more or less go out the door with their practice and much of what tethered Christian to humanity was his relationship with his “brother.” But it had to be done to save Sean’s life. I hated it when the finale aired because I so loved them together in spite of their dysfunctionality, but over time I realize it was the right thing to do. Good enough anyway, from the man with a soul but without a heart. One foot on Earth and the other in hell, and he knows it and responds with a smile. I don’t like it—as someone naturally drawn to more virtuous characters, I don’t like it—but I have to respect it, because I love him. For all he is—insensitive jerkass, caring father, shameless slut, born of rape, calculated rapist, lonely little boy, decent doctor, loving brother—I love him, and while I can’t hate him, I hate that I love him. And I love that I hate that I love him. Ah, that’s some delicious turmoil…

7. Walter White – from Breaking Bad, portrayed by Bryan Cranston

I did it for me.”

I am in the camp that believes Breaking Bad is, so far, the greatest TV drama ever to have been produced. Every element of the show came together to create a modern masterpiece of transformation and tragedy, and much of the show’s success lies with the writing and the high-caliber talent hired to tell the story, all of which begins and ends with the brilliant Bryan Cranston’s protagonist/antagonist, middle-aged high school teacher, Walter White. Walt begins as an average guy working hard to make ends meet for his family when he discovers he has terminal lung cancer. Driven to leave behind a financial legacy to be proud of, the chemistry expert opts to “break bad,” recruiting a former student, Jesse Pinkman, to assist him in creating and distributing high-grade methamphetamine. With each “cook,” each conflict and eventually each death that comes their way, Walt’s morality decays like a carbon atom in a fraction of the time. I like Walt so much precisely because he becomes so difficult to like. You want him to win, but you don’t always like him, or yourself, for it. It’s pretty fascinating and highly emotional, the journey we go on as an audience privy to a weak man’s rise to power and corruption: first you feel bad for Walt, cursing the Schwartzes and siding with him against Skyler, empathizing with his attempts to be a good father to Walt Jr. and Holly and even a father figure to Jesse; then you get frustrated with him and his hubris; then you’re in awe of him and all his genius is capable of; then you steadily grow terrified of him because of what his genius is capable of; and, by the end of the series, you’re feeling all of the above plus a thousand things more. It’s a story and a character of the highest quality, portrayed by one of our finest (and another of my favorite) living actors, conceived by a man who clearly is the one who knocks. Kudos, Vince Gilligan, and thank you for gifting us with an unfailingly captivating and cautionary tale of what can happen when desperation and ego mix together like red phosphorus and hydrogen. Thank you for my favorite anti-hero and for how his story ended. It was perfect.

6. David Fisher – from Six Feet Under, portrayed by Michael C. Hall

Yeah, I’ll be the strong one, the stable one, the dependable one, because that’s what I do. And everyone around me will fall apart, ’cause that’s what they do.”

David Fisher has a few similarities to other characters on this list—like #12, he is a dutiful middle son, a mortician; like #11, he is traditional, emotionally stifled, tense and strangling himself with fastidiousness and the need to do everything right, to do what those around him won’t do; and like #42, he spends much of the phenomenal five-season series wrestling to come to terms with his resentment of those around him and embracing his identity and homosexuality. In spite of David’s many dimensions—his insecurities and his talents—I find that I don’t have much to say about him. I love him. I love watching him. I live inside him, almost, and David’s journey is beautifully written and portrayed—all his pain and fear and discord laid bare from minute one, realistic concerns, trauma and conflict as a religious gay man handled with finesse, his love for his family, his partner, Keith, and their brood more than apparent in spite of the often-strained relationships. I just see a lot of him in myself, believe it or not, and I love and admire him because he traverses a long, hard road to self-acceptance. I respect him because he earns it, finding the strength and the courage to shrug the devil off his shoulders in his own good time. David gives me hope and makes me proud. His transformation, his becoming, is a path I yearn to follow, a path I hope others are touched by and can get on too. We can all go together and maybe peace will be waiting for us, like it was for David.

5. Judge Harold “Harry” T. Stone – from Night Court, portrayed by Harry Anderson

Can we talk? As you probably know…I don’t subscribe to any particular organized religion. But then maybe neither do you, huh? All right, I confess. I’ve had more than my share of spiritual doubt. But then I’ve seen some pretty glaring examples of man’s inhumanity to man come stomping through here night after night. After night. You remember that guy? Yeah, you remember everything, don’t you? Well, I’m telling you, that one just about shook—shook my faith down to its foundation. And then…you drop a brand-new life right into my hands…”

Described in the first season of Night Court as a “sweet humanist” by his law clerk, youthful, zany, magic-obsessed magistrate, Harry Stone, is also thoughtful, gentle and loving—a devotee to compassion and impartiality, making him the perfect, albeit not the court’s first, choice to preside over wayward New Yorkers and the other disillusioned souls who cross his path. There’s basically nothing I don’t love about Harry. Of course he has flaws—cynicism doesn’t always escape him and he’s not particularly good at romantic relationships—and he often finds himself questioning where he belongs in society and his ability to make a difference. Nevertheless he is indeed an effectual (if unconventional) judge, a loyal friend and even a great father figure, fostering for a time a precocious rapscallion named Leon. Above all he’s such a goof, maintaining an air of innocence and general zest for life and the best things about it (namely Mel Tormé, ’40s fashion and Halloween XD) despite harboring a fair deal of pain from his past. He’s just a very positive person, brilliant in the nuttiest way, a great anchor for the warm, silly sitcom, and Harry Anderson inhabits the part so well it doesn’t even feel like he’s playing one. Fitting, really, because Harry and all that he is will always be real to me. He’s like Santa Claus, lol.

4. The Doctor – from Doctor Who, portrayed by William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, John Hurt, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi & David Bradley

Winning? Is that what you think it’s about? I’m not trying to win. I’m not doing this because I want to beat someone or ’cause I hate someone or because I want to blame someone. It’s not because it’s fun. God knows it’s not because it’s easy. It’s not even because it works because it hardly ever does. I do what I do because it’s right! Because it’s decent. And above all, it’s kind. It’s just that. Just kind. If I run away today, good people will die. If I stand and fight, some of them might live. Maybe not many, maybe not for long. Hey, you know, maybe there’s no point in any of this at all, but it’s the best I can do. So I’m gonna do it and I will stand here, doing it, till it kills me. You’re going to die too…someday. How will that be—have you thought about it? What would you die for? Who I am, it’s where I stand. Where I stand, is where I fall. Stand with me.”

As a (Nu)Whovian, as someone who is going to be sobbing out of grief yet grinning in excitement this Christmas night over the regeneration of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor into Jodie Whittaker’s, I have to say the Doctor is one of the main reasons I wanted to do this list. It’s so apropos… and a little ironic since the Doctor isn’t going to be a man again for a while. XD While I’m all for gender fluidity and know the 13th Doctor will be female, she hasn’t appeared in the canon at the time I’m posting this, which is why, with all of her previous incarnations being male, I am paying homage to the Doctor as a male character. One of the best there ever has been.

This is gonna be a long one, as I’m not sure I even know where to begin with the Doctor. My adoration for this character exceeds my ability to… use words well. To put it plainly, I love and look up to him, fictional or not. A Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, the Doctor is an adventurer who traverses all of time and space with his stolen ship, the TARDIS, and a few friends he makes along the way. A self-described “madman with a box,” he never sets out to be the universe’s hero but is always compelled to help those in need because he simply cannot abide the suffering of others. He tries his best to remain true to “The Doctor,” the name he chose upon leaving home. It’s in everything he is and every man he’s been to defend, to teach, to learn, to love, to hate, to hope and to heal. For being an eccentric and genius alien, he possesses all the hallmarks of the best of humanity, starting and ending always with empathy. To borrow from my previous post about Doctor Who, every Doctor is my Doctor. I don’t care how many faces he’s had or which personality traits came out in what combination or even if I like a certain combination or not—he is the same man struggling with both acceptance and change, a sinner and a savior, the shadow behind the sun and the stars in the dark. I’m attached to 11 & 12 in particular.

Eleven is just so optimistic and loving and affectionate, strong yet vulnerable, the weight of all his years and actions lurking just beneath his young, handsome face. His power is light and he’s powered by light. He is whom I turn to for hope, for the blind trust and the spirited dreams that things can get better, that maybe life’s not all shit and people really do care about one another and maybe I’m important too. And older in appearance but with an energetic air of youth, Twelve is the only Doctor for whom I can identify a clear character arc. Upon reviewing his series as the Capaldi era comes to a close, I’ve come to appreciate him for all he ever was and has become (and boy, is Peter Capaldi just magnificent. In my last post about DW, I was of the opinion that David Tennant was the best actor suited for the role. I have since changed my mind…). Twelve has really warmed up from series 8 to now, which is, of course, making Peter Capaldi’s exit even more heartrending than I originally predicted. I legitimately tear up thinking about 12’s regeneration. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I can’t help it. The Doctor is that important to my sensibilities and, frankly, my mental health. Twelve specifically comes off as more alien in nature than most of his predecessors and turns out to be the perfect mix of cool and uncool, passion and sobriety, sarcasm and warmth. Because he chooses to hide and deflect things, I find that he comes off as the most emotional Doctor of all. The lengths he’s willing to go to, what he’s willing to sacrifice, what he’s not willing to sacrifice… He is the one I turn to for strength.

As Twelve’s first companion, Clara Oswald, said, “You asked me if you were a good man and the answer is I don’t know. But I think you try to be, and I think that’s probably the point.” As a man in the middle of the universe, in the middle of all of morality, the Doctor never fails to shock or tick me off, but more importantly he never lets me down. He makes me smile and laugh out loud, makes me think and helps me hope, has for years, for all 10 years I’ve been watching Nu Who. He values the power of words over weapons and ingenuity over “facts,” despite being an expert in science and deductive reasoning. I so love the Doctor’s mind, his quirkiness, his moving, appreciative speeches. I shudder to think what kind of person I would be without the influence of Doctor Who in my life. And the thing I love about the Doctor the most, the one thing that sets him apart from so many other characters despite his being an extraterrestrial, is that he loves—always. Loves in so many different ways: as a friend, as family, as a partner, as a mentor. He loves so dearly, so ardently, and he doesn’t let inevitable loss stop him from loving again or loving still, and I love that. I love him, through and through, and have no doubt I will love him as a “her” too!

3. Glenn Rhee – from The Walking Dead, portrayed by Steven Yeun

People you love—they made you who you are. They’re still part of you. If you stop being you, that last bit of them that’s still around inside, who you are… it’s gone.”

Glenn Rhee was my first favorite character on The Walking Dead. Though I moved to #40 by season 2 and then #2 in season 4, my opinion of Glenn never changed. From the word go, from the words “Hey, you—dumbass,” he’s been humorous, he’s been kind, he’s been courageous and giving. He takes my breath away with how beautiful he is and I will forever love and support Steven Yeun for Glenn’s authenticity and credit Robert Kirkman for creating him. I love him like he were a real person and look for the best of him in the men around me, because Glenn is exactly the type of friend (or spouse, frankly—I ain’t mad at you, Maggie) I would want. Resilient, respectful, resourceful. Altruistic, thoughtful, self-sacrificing.  I mean, this is just a list of adjectives; it doesn’t really do Glenn the justice he’s due. You have to see him, have to watch Steven Yeun in action, to truly appreciate how much Glenn shines, how important he is to the survivors as a source of compassion and strength. No, he isn’t without conflict or the follies of youth, but he never gives up on loving other people, on extending a hand or trying his damndest in the apocalypse—the time it’d be easiest to murder someone—to spare a life. He literally is too good for the world of The Walking Dead. He’s not too good to be in mine, though, and thank God ’cause I need him. I need him in my heart, always.

2. Rick Grimes – from The Walking Dead, portrayed by Andrew Lincoln

The ones out there, the living and the dead, they’ll try to get in here. ’Cause we’re in here. They’ll hunt us, they’ll find us, they’ll try to use us, they’ll kill us. But we’ll kill them. We’ll survive. I’ll show you how… You know, I was thinking, ‘How many of you do I have to kill to save your lives?’ But I’m not going to do that. You’re going to change.”

How the brilliant and (please permit me once again to be shallow) gorgeous Andrew Lincoln hasn’t even been considered for an Emmy for his portrayal of former lawman-turned-survival leader, Rick Grimes, is beyond my comprehension. I have no doubt my love for this character is derived from the actor’s performance just as much as it is from the script. Still, to give credit where credit is due, I will always be grateful to Andrew Lincoln, Robert Kirkman and Scott Gimple for combining their efforts and talents to gift us with such a tough but also emotional male lead on a television show as pervasive and thought-provoking as The Walking Dead. As the main group leader since the latter half of season 1, Rick has been dealt more loss, more guilt and more mind-fucks than anyone would ever wish on a person, living or fictional, and yet he persists in fighting for the future he believes in, for his family and his community. I don’t know of many characters to crawl back from the brink of insanity, but Rick did. It was nice to see, to be able to see it and hope that maybe I can step back from the cracks in my psyche too. Rick has made many mistakes and continues to do so as we progress through the current storyline, the All-Out War arc of season 8. Personally I think it’s been a pretty shitty season so far, but at the end of the day it doesn’t affect my opinion of Rick. I still love him and know him, know his heart because he’s so often held it out for others to see. We’ve watched it bleed and shrivel and shrink and grow, nearly explode… but it’s still beating. Rick is an imperfect leader trapped in an apocalyptic world, waging war with sinners, psychos and sadists, and for all the calls he’s had to make, all the plans he’s had to employ and all the sacrifices he’s had to endure, I believe he is a good man. He is dark and he’s been death—he is also defiance and grit and love and life.  He and Negan are nothing alike and I hate that the writing this season is trying to draw existential parallels between them. There is no real comparison. Rick doesn’t enjoy killing or lord his power over his people. For better or for worse, he does what he feels he needs to do for the greater good, and I respect him. I don’t love everything he does, but I love everything he is, and Rick Grimes is a hell—and a heaven—of a man.

1. Goku – from Dragon Ball Z, FUNimation dub, voiced by Seán Schemmel

I am the hope of the universe. I am the answer to all living things that cry out for peace. I am protector of the innocent. I am the light in the darkness. I am truth. Ally to good! Nightmare to you!”

I don’t care that the speech is a little cheesy. I don’t care that the vast majority of fans consider the dub for DBZ Kai to be better. All I care about is what these words mean to me and what Seán Schemmel conveyed while saying them, and they mean to me that Goku deserves to be my favorite fictional male character of all time. To go one further, I think Dragon Ball Z is the most important TV show of my life—of my childhood, definitely. It taught me about discipline, about different kinds of strength and courage. It made me laugh. It made me cry—out of joy and relief and grief. It made me hope. It made me fight. It made me strong. It still makes me strong, and at its center is the main cause of all those lessons, the sweet, honest and simple Saiyan, Son Goku.

I know most people love Vegeta more. A lot of them find Goku boring due to his static characterization or even find him annoying with his abundance of power and moments of sheer stupidity. Again I say: I don’t care. One of the biggest reasons I love and admire Goku so much is precisely because he doesn’t change. He doesn’t let the darkness and villains of the universe(s) twist him. They don’t win. Even when they win, they don’t win. He is too pure, too kind, too guileless for the kind of arc Vegeta and Piccolo had. In fact, I think it’s even more special that he changes the people who surround him, rather than the other way around. (My cousin tells me that’s an anime trope, but I dig it either way.) I, for one, value goodness because I feel it evades me in my life. I try hard to be a good person but never really feel like one. I have all these negative compound emotions and ugly thoughts building up inside me just to tear me down, wear my soul down, and it’s only when I can witness and touch goodness that I truly feel connected with it. Goku does that for me every time. It really is that simple. Goku is a hard-working, fun-loving martial arts expert not native to but living on and protecting Earth from the forces of evil. He is a very loving and merciful individual, the best husband, father and friend he can be, which is not to say he’s as good as he should be because, as any real fan knows, he isn’t. It’s in Goku’s nature as a Saiyan and thus a being who belongs on the battlefield to keep pushing to discover new depths to his power, and it’s ingrained in his personality to go out and forge new friendships and rivalries. I won’t lie, I don’t like that he can’t stay put, but at the same time it’s a characteristic you just come to accept as a fan who loves and understands Goku. Also, I have always believed that Goku’s motivation to train continuously is more noble than selfish. Yes, he loves and needs to fight—he also loves and needs to protect the people he cares about. How can he do that if he’s not strong enough? It’s a hero’s sacrifice, being away from family and friends, and Goku understands this whether the critics do or not. They’re always the ones he’s thinking of to spur him on, to raise him to new heights. It’s not the lust for battle that makes him strong—it’s love.

Love is at the heart of this character, at the heart of my heart for this character. Did that sentence even make sense? Meh, I still don’t care. I love Goku. I love Seán Schemmel for gifting his voice and performance to the FUNimation version of Goku, as he is the perfect voice actor for this character, and love Akira Toriyama for creating him. I have since I was 8 years old and my love only grows (hell yes, I’m watching Dragon Ball Super). That’s the mark of a truly great character, I think. One who inspires you to love and love more and harder as your life goes on. So Goku is pretty great. No. Actually… he’s the best.

-BP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taboo Topics: Prejudice Against the Opposite Gender(s)

Humans are judgmental creatures. It’s part of the way we’re wired biologically, for society and survival. With these judgments come preconceived notions, sometimes even acts of discrimination. To discriminate is to treat a person/group differently based on your (usually unfounded upon) judgments, consciously or unconsciously. You can’t do this without a bias or a prejudice, which is an opinion or belief you make about a person/group again based on your predetermined judgments or assumptions.

As far as we’ve come in the world—a statement that should really make you stop and think “And far is that really?”—I think prejudices exist in people more than we’d like to admit, more than we’d like to be aware of. But when you’re as painfully self-aware as I am, as an artistic person living with depression, anxiety, OCD and BPD, the prejudices pop up like blades of grass, quickly filling the landscape of your already-muddled mind. I mow them down only to have them rise again. I pour positivity on them and they convert it into Miracle-Gro. It’s a constant process and maybe if I were Hank Hill, it’d be under control by now, I tell you what (lol).

But I’m not. What I am is a young lady with prejudices, many of which I intellectually know are stupid and ridiculous and even *whispers * untrue but emotionally have a real grip on my heart. Prejudices that hurt me and can make me hurt others. The most extreme prejudices I have are against the male gender. (I know I should probably talk about gender bias more broadly, but I feel I should speak more pointedly on this topic because my judging men is one of the running themes of my life and this blog is my life, so… But this is not to say that I don’t acknowledge that plenty of men hold prejudices against women and that plenty of men and women are prejudiced against gender-fluid, non-binary and transgendered people. Those stories need voices too. It’s just…this is the story my voice in particular is going to tell.)

Yes, fellow feminists, I know this admittance looks bad. This is what 95% of the world thinks we feminists are anyway, right? Angry, bitter, man-haters? Well, it’s not because I believe in equal opportunities and treatment for all genders that I sometimes feel I hate men. I don’t want to see men cheated out of jobs or time with their kids because of a corrupt court system. I don’t want to see them treated as inferior (I didn’t even like The Wicker Man remake, y’all).  I don’t want to see them injured or broken-hearted. I don’t like seeing them risk their lives all the time in a society that places such general value on the lives of those perceived as “the stronger sex” just because they’re supposedly the stronger sex. I don’t hate them…really. I only feel like I hate them, albeit a lot and often, and my feelings can as strong as the gravitational pull, I swear. And they always pull me back to the anger and the (false but searing) hate. *sigh* Why?

Because so many men have hurt me (or other people I love), and because they can’t seem to love me.

My parents divorced when I was five. The marriage had been an unhappy union that started only God knows how and ended only after my grandmother urged my mother to leave my father after they’d hit one another in the face. (That’s one of my earliest memories, that fight. My mother had a bruise on her lip. She has always been petite, but she never seemed smaller than on that night.) My parents had joint custody of me, but my father didn’t care to enforce the court schedule, so I went to visit him in the city whenever he decided he wanted to see me; in the meantime I lived with my mom out in the country, where it was quiet and earthy and simpler and still. Whenever he would call, it would break the stillness within. Whenever my mom would tell me, “Britney, you have to go see your dad this weekend,” a bolt of fear would strike through my heart and stick right into the pit of my belly. Why? Because my father was not a good father.

Despite having had a stroke, he drank. He smoked. He was on diabetes medication no one regulated for him. He cooked for me only once in the eight years I had to see him; I lived off Pop-Tarts, Wonder Bread and fast food the rest of the time. I’d cry when my mother dropped me off at his house, cried every single time, begged her not to leave me with him, and he’d lash out, the anger fierce, the possessiveness well presented. Mom would tell me he had threatened to enforce the court mandate of visitation every other weekend and two weeks in the summer, so she had to leave me there. She hated to, I know, but she did. What else could she do? I’d stand at the screen door and watch her car pull away, then turn around and cower like one of those beaten dogs in those heart-wrenching ASPCA commercials because I was afraid I may be beaten too.

I remember he spanked me with a flyswatter once. Not so bad, right? But one time he spanked me with his belt so hard, I couldn’t sit down in class the next day. I was in first grade. My best friend, Miranda, asked me what was wrong. I felt so helpless, so pitiful, that all I could do was cry, and she cried with me. For the most part, though, the abuse was verbal—emotional, mental. He’d tell me I was “crazy” or “stupid,” tell me I didn’t “know nothin’.” When I was 11, he forced me to go to family therapy because I didn’t love him, tried to brainwash me into believing I did. He would always tell me I was his “property” and shove the Bible in my face as if it were a collection of my slavery papers. He demanded that I love him because he was my father, because God wanted me to, so I HAD to. He drove the car erratically to frighten me when I didn’t want to sit up front with him and would always parade me around to everyone in town, puffing, “This is my daughta, my daughta.” How I hated that. Hated that he treated me like a zoo animal on display, like a pet to own and order around. Almost every single time I was there, he’d scream at me for crying. Rage around. When I recall his face—and I don’t try to do it often, I loathe it so much—I see an angry bulldog of a man, eyes wild, mustachioed lips frothing. It all mattered what he did, but I wonder now if it was even what he did so much as it was what he could have done. He was intimidating, always towering over me in his cloud of fury and righteousness. The fear was born in the pauses between his blow-ups, in the thickness of the air, amid the tears, sweat and spit. He was all theatrics and it was scary, but nothing was scarier than the anticipation of his next meltdown and what it might mean for me. Yes, I was sad and lonely at my father’s house, but mostly I was terrified. From ages five to thirteen, I was terrified and utterly powerless.

Then it stopped one day. Suddenly I was fourteen and too much of a woman in my father’s eyes to sleep over at his house. I was free…or so I thought.

That same year, I developed a crush on my friend from band and track, B.W. I had other male friends—best friends even—but B.W. was the only boy who ever paid careful attention to me. Plus he was weird like me, with his funny voices and dark sense of humor. Smart, athletic. I wanted him to be my first boyfriend. Finally I wrote him a note and had one of my friends pass it to him in the back of the band storage room. She later relayed to me that he’d said he just wanted to be friends. I tried again roughly a year later and actually called him on the phone (a HUGE accomplishment for anyone with social anxiety, mind you) to ask him to escort me to Snowfest, our winter dance. He said yes. When I hung up, I whooped and cheered, jumping and hollering. Miranda, my mom and I went shopping for a blouse and a skirt, so I could feel my prettiest for my date. Miranda and I arrived in the cafeteria and waited. Sat down and waited. Took some pictures and waited. Ate and drank and waited. B.W. never came. Later, after my mom talked to his mom about how disappointed I was, he apologized, throwing out the excuse that the music they played at school dances gave him headaches. Funny. Seems his mom told my mom he skipped out because he had the ACT the next day. Which excuse was it, B.W.? And why did you say yes in the first place? Because you wanted to know what sound my heart made as it broke? *sigh* Because we were friends—because I still liked him, as the only guy to give me extra attention—I forgave him. But I did not forget.

The pattern of hanging around with guys who made it a game to treat me like shit continued as I entered junior college and university. Why? Because it was the only attention I could get from males. I know. Pathetic, isn’t it? J.R. and A.K. declared me to be their friends but openly mocked my opinions at every turn, inside and outside of class. Shat on my earnestness, fed on my self-deprecating vulnerability. I even found out A.K. wanted to have sex with me, wanted to be my first. After telling me that everything I was and said was wrong, after teasing me for every word or concept I didn’t know, after playing off every argument like I was the only aggressor, he wanted the gift of my virginity? HELL NO.

It’s been three years since I graduated college. Are you surprised I’m still a virgin? Well, I’m still a virgin because I’m asexual, so there, surprise, lol. But really, even if I were interested in sex, is it even feasible that I would trust a guy enough to very literally bare my all in front of him? Allow him inside the very core of where I live? To love me, really?

It’s not feasible because it’s not feasible to me that a man can love me. Honestly. I don’t believe men are capable of loving me—at least in that way, romantically or sexually. Wholly. Why? Because none of them have ever wanted me. No one asked me out until I was 19 years old; the other date I had when I was 25. That’s two dates in my entire lifetime and neither time did the guy want to try and fall in love with me. One just wanted “a girlfriend” who was going to the same college he planned on attending and the other wanted a fuck buddy. That’s wanting something from me, not me.

I know good men. Amazing men…all of whom are happily married/betrothed/dating, gay or dead. I would have happily gone on a serious date with any of my best male friends but…they don’t want me. They didn’t even want to try. The speakers at this self-help Christian seminar I went to said that was probably because they didn’t want to break down all those barriers I have enclosing my heart. Yeah, well, now I know I’m not even worth a try, don’t I?

I don’t know why men can’t or won’t love me. Two of my best and oldest male friends, A.B. and T.C., have told me several times over how much they love me, but I’m nothing more than a satellite to them. T.C. didn’t even invite me to his wedding. I’m just another person orbiting a vague path around them—they never tell me why they love me or what they love about me. So how do I know it’s real? How do I know they’re not lying to me to make me feel better because they’re aware of how sensitive I am? It’s like I can’t let myself believe it’s real because it doesn’t feel true. It can’t be true…

The only men I ever thought loved me were my Papa—my mom’s dad—and a few of my high school teachers. Papa died the summer before my junior year, so I was really looking for male role models to hold on to by the time school was back in session. I found Mr. B, my favorite English teacher ever (which is saying a lot because I was an English major), signed up for one more class with Mr. F, another year of track with Mr. D and continued strengthening my strongest bond, which was with Mr. R, my hilarious and supportive band teacher, whom I’d had since I was in fifth grade. When I say I loved these men and felt that they loved me, I mean it in an entirely healthy, platonic way. I know some girls who grow up without a stable father figure tend to look for male attention based on sensuality, but I never wanted that. I just wanted a dad, or the next-best thing: a surrogate father to teach me, to hold my hand, to steady me. I wanted to feel valued and protected, two things my stoic mother, as loving as she is, could never fully provide. I got that feeling from all of these men and most of the other male teachers at my high school.

Graduation just about broke me into pieces. I had to leave them. Leave them to be scared and alone and among all those other boys and men who didn’t know me or respect me or care about me as a person the way these teachers and coaches did. But it happened. I graduated high school and went away, and they went away, as good men always do, so I slipped back into bad habits and let myself be verbally abused, supposing the care I experienced in high school must have been but another dream. Over time I’ve developed this schizophrenic feeling, questioning as to whether I was deluding myself or if others have gotten the best of me at the expense of my comfort…and my own psyche.

The 2016 presidential election exacerbated my self-doubt (why, yes, I am watching American Horror Story: Cult, the irony here is not lost on me). I found out just how many of my friends disagree with me at a core level about our political and social systems. I had no idea that behind boldly beating, kind hearts could be such cold conservatives. It was a rude awakening, but never ruder than when Mr. B posted a certain comment on Facebook. It wasn’t to me—he probably wasn’t even thinking of me or former students like me when he said it—but nothing, not one other thing, hurt me as much as what he said, and he said, “I’m proud not to fight for social justice.” Those words took my breath away in the worst way. It was like looking at my dad—one of them anyway, one who’d fostered my love for literature and nurtured my writing talent and hugged me to comfort me and celebrated at my open house—and having him look me straight in the eye and say, “I don’t love you anymore.” Because if he doesn’t care about social justice, he doesn’t care about me. I am the result of social justice, our relationship was the result of social justice, of the civil rights movement. I am a multiracial woman who looks predominantly black. If it weren’t for social justice, I would have never have been in his school or any other school. I’d have no job or degree. My white mother probably would have been attacked at best and killed at worst for being in a relationship with a black man, and I would have been miles away, picking cotton somewhere or being beaten or being raped or being lynched. That’s what people fight for—so that people who don’t look like the status quo can live and hopefully live well. Social justice is everything I personally stand for. Empowering women and minorities. Empowering abuse victims. Representing people of color in the media. Advocating for the LGBTQI and A communities. If you don’t care about any of that, you don’t care about any of me.

I can’t believe he said that. I don’t want to believe it. All I can hear is Christina Grimmie’s song, “Deception,” echo through my head:

“You didn’t ever care for me, you didn’t ever care for me, oh…”

Oh, but he did…didn’t he? But how could he if he doesn’t even care about the essence of who I am as a woman? And if he doesn’t care, do the others? Did they? Could they?

I can’t deal with it anymore, can’t do this again. I can’t endure my soul shriveling up any more because men have decided they can’t love what is me. Therefore, I am prejudiced.

I don’t believe I will ever marry because I don’t believe a man can fall in love with me.

I don’t believe there is a man out there who won’t hurt or betray me.

And as a whole, I do not trust men.

I hate that I hate, I hate that I hurt, and I hate that it all makes me so willfully stupid.

But I’d rather be stupid than a slave to love I won’t ever be able to hold on to.

Do you have prejudice against men? Against women? Against the gender-fluid? This is a safe space to share, if you would like. I’d love for some concrete confirmation that I’m not the only one in the world with this dirty but oh-so human foible. Please…leave a comment. I’d appreciate it. Thanks.

-Britney

Millennial Nostalgia: Yeah, It’s That Bad Podcast

Yeah, It’s That Bad was a quiet but successful film-review podcast that ran from 2011 to 2013. Though there were a few off-topic conversations, the majority of  episodes centered around the three hosts, Joel, Martin and Kevin, analyzing alleged bad movies, walking listeners through the film’s events and their impressions of them to determine if the work deserved to have a “rotten” score on Rotten Tomatoes. While the show is for listeners of all ages, I head it under the banner of “Millennial Nostalgia” because all of the hosts are Millennials and because they sometimes reviewed films kids born in the ’80s and ’90s will likely remember, like Richie Rich, Return to Oz, Batman Forever and of course, Batman & Robin, which often leads to references I think only Millennial-aged people would truly appreciate.

By the by, my definition of a Millennial is someone born between the years 1980 and 2000. I know the age range varies source by source, but I personally don’t consider anyone who born after 2000 a Millennial—you’re the current Generation Z, darlings, now run along and play before you have too many adult responsibilities.

And I know, I know, all the other generations think we suck—we’re lazy, entitled, too loud, too liberal, obsessed with caffeine and technology—and most of that’s true (and some of that also reflects on who raised us *cough, cough*), but occasionally young representatives of hard work and honest talent rise up, and that’s what these guys did just by talking.

I discovered Yeah, It’s That Bad on iTunes while looking up reviews for The Human Centipede. Not only did their 93rd episode lead me to my 25th favorite movie of all time, it led me to the comfort of having a genuine, intelligent and hilarious dynamic between three friends nestled right in my ear! I went on to devour hours of laughs and jabs, tearing through all 143 episodes, even going to sleep to them at night. The first few episodes are admittedly a little rough, but by the eighth episode, in which they respectfully reviewed Twilight (dear God, how I wish they’d been even harsher), they introduced the format they would follow for the rest of the show by explaining their “history” with the movie and discussing the actors’ performances.

The show was a hit with more than just me, as I was late to the party. Ever-evolving, the series included the indoctrination (and eventual dismantling) of listener voicemails, emails, “Question of the Week” segments and “After Dark” specials (in which the guys would chat and tell anecdotes from their lives). The podcast even had a Facebook page, a page on Bandcamp and a website. They also did the occasional “Yeah, It’s That Good” episode to determine if they felt a movie deserved its “fresh” score on Rotten Tomatoes.

If you’re in the market for a consistently entertaining movie review podcast, the complete archive of episodes has been uploaded to iTunes by an ardent fan, John F. The show was much adored by its loyal fanbase, and I don’t believe any of them escaped the feeling of a genuine loss when the hosts pulled the plug. I know I didn’t when I was done with the series. Exactly why was it disbanded? The easy answer is “Nobody knows for sure.” If you’re interested, however, and would like to explore the theories as to why, Google “yeah it’s that bad eulogy” for an in-depth and poignant memoriam on the show written by a one Señor Spielbergo. As for a rundown on what made Yeah, It’s That Bad a truly special show, please see my reasons below!

1. The Hosts: Joel, Martin and Kevin. Our trio of critics. The triumvirate of venerable judgments. Three dudes who had the impeccable chemistry of three real-life, long-time friends. Gosh. I could gush about them for hours, I have so much love for them all. Each had a distinctive voice (Martin had the lowest tone, Joel the middle and Kevin the highest) and with them came distinctive personalities. Joel was often the earnest jokester, Martin the master of sarcasm and Kevin came across as the most grounded. Altogether, they sounded like an easy-going group, though. Equally intelligent, equally articulate. Fit and gelled together like peanut butter, jelly and bread.

Joel, as the owner of the recording equipment, helmed every episode, and the show began with just him and Martin with Kevin being utilized as a substitute when Martin could not record. There were even a couple of guest hosts: Carissa in episodes 4 and 5 and Ryan in episode 72, both of whom were fair replacements. Eventually, though, the duo made room for Kevin and the final piece was laid in place. And not only did they play off each other well, they were funny to boot. I even recall them saying in an After Dark that all they were trying to do—besides review films—is make each other laugh, and because their intentions were earnest, so was their charm.

I have a couple of criticisms about them as hosts, as I do about anyone in the entertainment industry, famous or not. They, like many others, could come off a bit flippant about the subject of rape, which showed up in the movies they reviewed more than you’d think. To be clear, I never got the impression they approved of it or honestly thought it was funny or anything like that—they just brought it up more nonchalantly than I liked. I expect people to be as outraged about abuse as I am, and when they’re not, I’m put off. It’s more of a personal thing, I think, because these are good guys, guys who were always the first to point the finger at themselves when anything that could be considered sexist slipped out, which happened rarely and was usually done to call one another out purposely. Despite this, my other complaint revolves around the fact that they talked too much about how hot the actresses were. They talked about attractive actors too, labeling them “beefcakes”—one of their many running jokes in the series. But it got annoying. I’m sorry. It did. I have eyes, I can see how attractive someone is. That says nothing about their level of talent, as audiences assuredly go on to find out. I just want to hear about the acting prowess in a review, not how smoking hot they are. There, I said it. I’ve aired my grievances as a sensitive, bleeding-heart, feminist liberal.

But truth be told, these are just seeds in a watermelon—little irritants to be noticed and then spat out so you can continue to revel in the lushness and sweetness of all there is to enjoy, and enjoy Joel, Martin and Kevin, I did. I do.

2. Their reviews make you open your artist eyes. Yes, I just referenced the title of my blog. Forgive me, I have a point. What I mean is that listening to the guys review movies makes the listener use his or her imagination to envision images he or she is not privy to. They make you, as the boys themselves often said, “Open your third eye, your mind’s eye.” I’ve seen a few of the movies they reviewed and even watched some after listening to them talk about them, but most I’ve only watched in my head based on what was said in the review, and honest to God, for me, what I come up in my head, with their narration and description, is better than what I eventually see play out on screen. Isn’t it almost always like that, though? It’s like the principle of the book being better than the movie. Your rendering is going to be more detailed, more fanciful, and in the fulfillment of fancy and fantasy, more real. It’s not just a challenge to use your imagination—it’s another full experience of a storyline. As a writer, I naturally see scenes come to fruition in my head as movies anyway—“mind movies” so to speak—so having a podcast draw the sketch for me and then filling in the colors myself is right up my alley for an aesthetically pleasing experience.

3. Constant Laughing and Inside and Running Jokes. This podcast is rife with running jokes, jokes that stretched from episode to episode, all of which made listeners feel closer to the hosts, knowing they were bringing something up that only they would get as part of this wacky community of everyday people who gets its kicks out of poking fun at bad movies. This community—and it was a community—was like its own social generation, just like Gen X-ers or Millennials or Baby Boomers, because it shared (and re-shared) experiences only a certain number of people knew. In my opinion, the inside jokes, are a staple of Yeah, It’s That Bad, one of the reasons it was unique and so well liked, but I also think they were a big reason of why it was so sad when the guys had to end the show. I’m serious—you felt a loss, a jarring sense of displacement, like you’d lost something you didn’t know you’d miss until it was gone. At least I did, and I know I’m not alone in that feeling. But, to cheer myself up and for anyone who’s curious, here is a “short”-list of many of the running gags and references on the show:

  • “Here, at Yeah, It’s That Bad headquarters…”
  • “This movie starts off in typical ‘Yeah, It’s That Bad’ fashion…”
  • Alliteration (“This was a piss-poor performance perpetrated primarily by…”)
  • Hyperbolic measurements of time and/or distance (“Ten thousand years ago”)
  • Dragon Ball Z references (one of my personal favorites, of course)
  • Homoeroticism (another of my personal favorites XD)
  • Professing their love and excitement over the wooden and crazy performances of Dennis Quaid and Nicolas Cage, respectively, whom they’ve described as the show’s “patron saints”
  • Professing their love for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
  • The presence of a “rag-tag team”
  • Recording in the haze of a “fartcloud”
  • The term “bio-digital jazz,” originating from Tron: Legacy
  • The term “Darwinian capitalism” originating from In Time
  • The moniker “Dr. Laser” and phrase “100% medically accurate” from The Human Centipede episode
  • The phrase “I’m God now!” paraphrased from Hollow Man
  • The phrase “Jumby wants to be born now” from The Unborn
  • The moniker “Topsy Crets” from The Number 23
  • The word “Fidelio!” referenced from the film Eyes Wide Shut
  • The phrase “Catch ’em, kill ’em”
  • The phrase “Pin me, pay me”
  • The phrase “Follow the money”
  • The term “Gumby mouth”
  • The phrase “Pre-natal fetus”
  • The phrase “Don’t tread on me”
  • The phrase “He/She/I/You had no right to out him/her/me!”
  • The term “Double-cross!”
  • The term “Gin mill”
  • The phrase “Psycho sick lunatic”
  • The description of “piss-yellow beards” originating from The Perfect Storm
  • Describing attractive actresses as “pretty hot and tempting”
  • Describing attractive actors as “beefcakes”
  • Referring to someone with a title as a “vice cardinal”
  • Bell ringing, literally, first beginning in the Batman Forever episode
  • Referencing “How to Save a Life” by The Fray originating in the Stealth episode
  • Referencing “Stan” by Eminem
  • Referencing Seinfeld
  • Classifying every firearm as a Taurus Judge
  • Asking listeners to open their “mind’s eye/third eye”
  • Calling out many instances of “gender-bending”
  • Hypothesizing about adults going to St. Jude Children’s Hospital
  • Describing someone as having a “sick fascination with the macabre”
  • Determining an IMDb synopsis was a “Claudio classic” (written by an IMDb user from Brazil named Claudio whose English was a bit stilted and whose synopses always run on)
  • References to “The Cowboy-hatted Man”…who he was, we never got to find out…
  • References to the Philly Fanatic—the full story of Kevin’s encounter with this mascot comes at the end of the Anaconda episode
  • Referencing Joel’s “hobby” of shaving
  • Referencing Kevin’s irritation with short bob haircuts on actresses in the early 2010s
  • Describing themselves as having a “dark, checkered past” with a movie
  • Describing repeat actors as having “triumphant returns” to the show
  • Describing someone to be “wallowing in his own chaotic, insecure delusions”
  • “Only a weak, weak man/woman cries over their dead child/children” originating in the Saw episode
  • “Yeah, the mummy showed up” originating in The Mummy episode, used to reference the fact that in so many of these movies, the action only begins an hour in, which is when the mummy showed up in The Mummy
  • Joel telling the guys, “I choose my words very carefully”
  • “I was movin’, I was groovin’, my teeth were like Chiclets; I was flying through the air with the greatest of ease…”

Also, for those interested…

Recommended episodes for Millennial Nostalgia: Gothic, Richie Rich, Return to Oz, The A Team, Hook, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, Willow, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Bicentennial Man, Donnie Darko, Jingle All the Way, Wild, Wild West, Jumanji, Lost in Space, The Faculty, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, The Polar Express, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie, Catwoman, Underworld, Constantine, Fantastic Four (2005), The Twilight “Saga,” The Transformers series, I Saw the Devil, Legion, Watchmen, Cube, Battleship

Recommended episodes for the biggest laughs: The Human Centipede, The Pirate Movie (marveling over this PG-rated movie’s surprisingly adult-themed jokes makes for an interesting time), The Unborn – Again, Hollow Man, Twister (lots of fart jokes and a little-known piece of trivia about my second-favorite actor, the monumental, late Philip Seymour Hoffman), Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (one of the best “Yeah, It’s That Good” features), The Wicker Man, Legion (a review both atheists and religious people with a sense of humor will enjoy), Showgirls, Van Helsing, House of the Dead, Anaconda, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, House of Wax

Recommended episodes for the best analyses and reviews: Donnie Darko, Pandorum, The Cell, Constantine, Twilight, Twilight: Eclipse, In Time, House of Wax, Jumper, The Box, Killers, The Butterfly Effect, Skyline, The Darkest Hour, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Equilibrium, Man on Fire, Watchmen, Art School Confidential, Cube, V for Vendetta, The Island, I Saw the Devil, Oldboy, Sucker Punch, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

Episodes featuring the show’s “patron saints” and other actors the guys have placed in the “Yeah, It’s That Bad School of Acting”: Dennis Quaid (Vantage Point, Legion, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, The Day After Tomorrow, Pandorum); Nicolas Cage (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans, Knowing, The Wicker Man, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, National Treasure); Emily Browning (The Uninvited, Sucker Punch); Cameron Bright (Ultraviolet, The Butterfly Effect, all movies in the Twilight series except the first); Kate Beckinsale (Whiteout, Van Helsing, Underworld); Shia LaBeouf (The Transformers movies, Constantine, I, Robot, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull); Jessica Biel (Valentine’s Day, Stealth, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The A Team); Val Kilmer (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Top Gun, Batman Forever, Willow, Deja Vu, Mindhunters); Mark Wahlberg (The Happening, The Perfect Storm, Max Payne)

Repeat directors include Michael Bay (The Transformers series, The Island, Armageddon); Stephen Sommers (G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, Van Helsing); Tony Scott (Top Gun, Man on Fire, The Last Boy Scout, Déjà Vu); Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, Pandorum, Event Horizon, Mortal Kombat); Zack Snyder (Sucker Punch, Watchmen, Man of Steel – in a mini-review in the final episode)

Yeah, It’s That Bad is silly and sarcastic and just a really good movie review podcast. For all my blustering and praising, it’s just as simple as that.

I don’t pretend to hope for a “triumphant return” from the guys, but for what it’s worth, I am indescribably grateful Joel, Martin and Kevin took the time to do the show and that John F. thought to re-upload it so others could enjoy it too, because I listen to it all the time. I turn to entertainment to combat my depression, and recordings of Yeah, It’s That Bad consistently make me feel better. Because of them, I have another tool to boost my mood. That’s a big deal. In fact, to me, it’s huge. It’s life-changing and because it’s life-changing, I love it and I love them—for being so candid and bright and for being themselves.

Yeah, it really was and still is, that good.

Have you found any good podcasts for Millennial listeners? If you have or if you think this one sounds interesting, drop a comment and let us all know. Thanks!

-BP

Guilty Pleasure: My Birthday Bravado

Were you one of those kids who, in the words of comedian Kevin Hart, got “HYPE” as the pages of the calendar were flipped over and the days passed, heralding the oncoming anniversary of the most important day of your life, the day of your birth?

I think most kids were one of those kids. I know I was. As June passed, then July, I would get butterflies in my stomach as I imagined the kind of presents I’d get, what my cake would look like and how my family would dote upon me all day for one special day of the year—my day.

And as my day rolled closer and closer this year, I found that the sentiments I hold have not changed—I still get excited for my birthday for the very same reasons, and though I find pleasure in the prospect of having a day revolve around me, I feel quite guilty about it too.

Why?

Because this kind of anticipation, the butterflies blitzing through your belly and the imaginings of bright decorations and declarations of love, should belong to the youth. Or at least I feel we associate it with children, not young women who have just crossed over to the shady side of 20.

It’s another reminder (as if I need any more—I don’t) that I am but a woman-child, a person who mentally arrested development between the ages of 8 and 17 but appears to the world as a grown woman and, in appearing as such, is expected to tackle and succeed at all the tasks and challenges that society would use to deem someone a mature adult.

I’ve done the therapy and the self-reflection—I can think of countless reasons I’ve emotionally trapped myself as an adolescent: It was easier. It was more fun. I was actually happy on a consistent basis. Safe, to a degree. Protected, kind of. Valued absolutely. Taken care of and cheered on. And because I’m so uncomfortable being uncomfortable, I won’t let myself move to the next stage. I’m afraid I’m going to fail at “adulting,” so I choose ways not to make the transition. I work but not full time. I pay for gas but not for bills. I lived alone at college but moved back in with my mom after graduating. I try to compensate for all of the pain and trauma I have experienced in my childhood by trying to go back and nurture that part of myself by playing it safe, and in doing so, I stunt the young adult who’s waiting to become a woman.

I don’t know how to stop, and I am duly, truthfully, terribly, irrevocably ashamed.

So where’s the pleasure part in the guilty pleasure of still getting giddy about my birthday? Hell if I know. *Sigh* I guess it’s because I like the innocence of the joy I experience celebrating myself for just one day. I miss celebrating myself. I miss it so much. So I’m happy to get presents. I’m happy to eat cake multiple times a day for days. I’m happy to have people I love fawn over me because I was raised in a very emotionally inarticulate family and I’m over here like an emotional volcano waiting to go off, a living personification of sentiment, a husk made specifically for empathy and feelings, so when my birthday comes and they love on me, it’s like, “Finally!” It’s like, “I belong with them, even if just for now, just in this moment!” It’s everything I want that deep down I feel I shouldn’t want if I were truly a smart, savvy adult, and therein lies the guilt.

No one else I know cares about his or her own birthday—not anymore. Because they’re adults. They’re mature. They’re better…than I am.

I turned 26 on August 25th, but that age? It’s just a number. I’ll never grow into it. My shell ages, withers, and I stick to myself on the inside, smothering myself by trying preserve myself.

Every year I live is a year I die.

This is trauma. This is un-health. This is reckless guilt and broken pleasure.

This is masochism.

Happy birthday to me.

-BP