Happy Women’s History Month! We at Idiomanic firmly believe in the feminist cause and think people of all sexes (even that weird third one) should support it. As such, the following recommendations, which celebrate women as full-rounded human beings, all come from our male contributors. That is, except for Pam’s. Pam has boobies and a vajayjay.
Y: The Last Man
I’ll come right out and state it: women are so often stereotyped in genre fiction that it’s hard to say whether the Fantastic Four’s Invisible Woman is the chicken or the egg (egg, certainly, but whatever’s hatched since is still stumbling blindly and scratching at the dirt). I see that; I know that; I hate that; and yet I love genre fiction. In my defense, one series, written by a man (sigh), rises to the challenge of breathing real, nuanced life into female characters. I’m referring to Brian K. Vaughan’s comic book series Y: The Last Man, which ran for sixty issues between 2002 and 2008.
Utopian or dystopian, depending on your point of view, the premise tells of a world where every male mammal has suddenly died, save for one man and his monkey. In a state of shock, the survivors, all women of course, strive to re-establish a sense of normalcy in an utterly surreal situation. A one-of-a-kind comic, Y: The Last Man is compelling from start to finish. It showcases great artwork by Pia Guerra as well as some of the most intricate female characters to have graced the medium.
Spanning seven seasons between 2000 and 2007, Amy Sherman’s Gilmore Girls is, to my knowledge, the only successful adaptation of the literary subgenre dubbed “Americana quirky”, which blends romance novel and fairytale with a pinch of postmodern deconstruction. Lorelai (Lauren Graham) functions as our notional Snow White, oppressed by a matriarchal figure (Kelly Bishop) and forced to live in a magical village called Stars Hollow. The contemporary twist lies in the show’s subtle feminist statement: the heroine leaves her kingdom, Hartford, of her own volition, and, instead of finding a prince, she sets out to raise the perfect daughter, Rory (Alexis Bledel), a symbol of her second chance at empowerment.
With its clever, rapid-fire dialogue, Gilmore Girls also excels at the Bechdel test, which requires any work worthy of a woman’s attention to have at least two female characters talking to each other about something other than a man. Brimming with wit and energy, Lorelai and Rori discuss politics, art, history, and current events with such irreverent ease that one is sure to miss an obscure pop culture reference or twelve in every conversation. On the subject of phenomenally intelligent ladies, I once caught Lauren Graham on Celebrity Poker Showdown. Now, I’ve seen my share of porn, but I don’t think I’ve ever been as turned on as I was, watching her dominate the table and dispatch her opponents one by one.
Now and Then (1995)
Now and Then tells of four women who get together in 1991 and reminisce about the summer of 1970, when they worked together and saved money for a tree house, learning about each other, themselves, and the power of friendship in the process. Truth be told, the film isn’t so much about women as it is about girls, including the ones that remain within us long past puberty. It explores the role friends play in the lives of girls and women, whether as a springboard to adulthood or an anchor to childhood.
I love Now and Then for so many reasons, including the clever casting and lively soundtrack. Mostly, though, I love the idea of it. What woman wouldn’t want friends like Chrissy (Rita Wilson / Gaby Hoffmann), Roberta (Rosie O’Donnell / Christina Ricci), Samantha (Demi Moore / Ashleigh Aston Moore) and Tina (Melanie Griffith / Thora Birch): lifelong companions who remember both the girl you used to be and the woman you aspired to become? Whether in the midst of a divorce or of childbirth, these women have each other, and I wish I had them (or a variation of them) for myself.
Back in the early days of home consoles, the plot of a video game typically involved a big, strong pixelated man shooting down monsters to rescue a damsel in distress; a short, nimble pixelated man leaping over platforms to rescue a damsel in distress; or a cute pixelated primate climbing vines to rescue its dad, who previously kidnapped a damsel in distress. Nintendo broke the mould in 1986 with Metroid, which stars a tough bounty hunter by the name of Samus Aran. Little is told about the protagonist until the end of the game, when Samus removes that clunky red helmet and reveals her long brown hair: one small pixelated step for skillful players, one giant leap for video game heroines everywhere.
Though canonised for the sex of its main character, Metroid owes its status as a video game classic to Okada Satoru’s awesome game design (and maybe a little to Tanaka Hirokazu’s eerie score). From the labyrinthine stage layouts full of secret passages to the plentiful enemies with their quick, swarm-like attacks, everything in the side-scrolling platformer will push your mind and reflexes to their limit. The game is sort of like a woman that way, except it won’t get the urge to slap me upside the head after reading this concluding sentence.