Halloween is one of my two favorite days of the year. I love Halloween. I love that you get to carve pumpkins and dress up in awesome costumes and that kids get to go around and horde candy. Now that I'm an adult, Halloween is an excuse to play dress-up and watch horror movies- two things that I think are tons of fun.
I've been a little busy lately (I'm taking the GRE on Saturday. Saturday!), so this is going to be an open post: what are you doing for Halloween? Did you carve a pumpkin? Want to share a picture? What's your favorite costume? Favorite horror movie? Something else?
In the meantime, I decided- in an effort to continue with the "I'm not just posting terrible things that make me angry" effort- to create a list of fictional women I like. These are women from books, video games, comic books, movies, and mythology that I think are pretty kick-ass for various reasons. Feel free to contribute, criticize, or congratulate my choices. I'll probably (maybe) post more as time goes on, but here are a few:
First up: Medusa, Queen of the Gorgons.
Why: Because Medusa kicks all kinds of classic ass. I've seen some feminists adopt the image of Medusa as a symbol, and I love it. It makes sense. Now, the image that most of us probably have of Medusa is from Clash of the Titans, where she's a horrible monster whose sole purpose is to be there for Perseus to kill and use as a weapon against the Kraken.
But there's so much more there. According to some sources, Medusa was originally a beautiful nymph, until she was raped by Poseidon in one of Athena's temples. Athena cursed Medusa, and changed her into a gorgon.
So why do I love Medusa?
Because it's an excellent representation of patriarchy in action. Medusa is a woman who is raped by someone in a position of power. Rather than blame him for his actions, she is blamed- if only she weren't so beautiful. She is punished for the transgression of being too beautiful and causing a man to lose control. Her punishment is to be made ugly. Instead of destroying her, though, this gives her more power (literally, in fact- she is more powerful as a gorgon, since her gaze has the power to turn men to stone and her blood has the power to kill or cure). When Perseus is sent to kill Medusa, he is aided by Athena- the very goddess who transformed Medusa into a monster in the first place.
Medusa became a symbol of female power- and the fear that power represented. Her blood was alternately a deadly poison, or a life-giving cure. I also appreciate that, in a world designed around the male gaze, Medusa's gaze- the female gaze- was so feared. I love the idea of co-opting Medusa- a being typically thought of as a terrible, evil, destroying women- and reimagining her. She's not evil- she's a victim who was punished for being victimized, but turned that punishment into a source of power, and was eventually slain for it... and yet, her legacy lives on. She's easily more recognizable as a figure than Perseus or Athena are.
Next up: Warrent Officer Ellen Ripley.
Why: It's no secret that I love the first two Alien movies. I think that they're amazing films. The first one is one of the most tightly filmed horror movies ever. There's hardly a wasted scene in it, and it's still scary as hell today as it was almost three decades ago. Add to that the fact that Ripley is completely kick ass, and you've got a winner.
What's not to love about Ripley? She's written as an actual character, not as a stereotype of a woman. She's in the charge, commands respect from her crew, and isn't hypersexualized. The only real cliche that she falls into is that of being the lone-survivor of a horror film, but I can forgive that, given that she doesn't spend the rest of the movie screaming in fear or relying on other characters to protect her. She's smart, tough, and full of awesome.
One thing I don't understand: How does she rank lower than Clarice (from Silence of the Lambs) on the AFI 100 Heroes and Villains list? Clarice is cooler than Ripley? Really? Because I don't remember Clarice kicking a bunch of alien ass.
Also: Part of what looks to be an interesting article about "tough women" is over here.