In these divisive times, it is important to focus on just about anything else. In keeping with Whitney’s inspirational post from yesterday, I thought I would start another new feature on here, Fangirly Icons. Whitney and I are never short on awesomely amazing ladies who we look up to, so this should be no problem for us.
For this first foray, I wanted to highlight my literal favorite of all time, Madeline Kahn. I recently did a binge of every Madeline Kahn movie I own and was again reminded of how amazingly talented she was and how little credit she seems to get for the groundbreaking work that she was doing as female comedic talent of the time. She was doing broad, over-the-top comedy that still came off as understated and nuanced, doing silly comedy in an intelligent way. She was able to be loud and brassy (Blazing Saddles), nagging and conservative (What’s Up, Doc?), reserved and disturbed (Clue), and cultured and refined, with a touch of animalistic (Young Frankenstein). She was often a featured player in her movie roles, most notably in her run of Mel Brooks movies, but no matter the size of her role, she always stood out.
As a little girl watching these movies, I always loved seeing this beautiful, seemingly-sophisticated lady be just as silly (if not sillier) than the guys. A woman who was described by all who knew her as shy and reserved, making jokes about “sausages” and “poo poo undies”. She delivered dirty jokes with a graceful, knowing arched brow that seemed to dare the viewer to try and scorn her for it. To that point, Madeline Kahn was once quoted as saying, “It’s acceptable for men to act the fool. When women try, they’re considered aggressive and opinionated.”
It has only been within the past 10 years or so that people have finally begun discussing this phenomenon and we as a public are still working on recognizing that yes, women CAN be as funny as men. In this humble writer’s opinion, Madeline Kahn was being funnier than men 50 years ago.
If you’re anything like me (or even if you’re not) you woke up this morning feeling pretty disheartened. It’s been a rough few months. And as I thought this morning about what Fangirly’s response should be, none of my ideas were really in keeping with the upbeat and positive tone that Ellen and I have hopefully cultivated here. So I eventually decided not to focus on events that I found disappointing, but rather to emphasis people in pop culture who represent the kind of world I want to live in. And because 2016 has been a incredible year for women in pop culture, I decided to inaugurate (get it?) a new annual feature: Fangirly’s Inspirational Women of the Year. Some of them are fictional, and some of them are flesh and blood BAMFs. You’ll notice that this list won’t be a patent pending Fangirly Top Ten. That’s because, unlike our dear President Elect, Fangirly doesn’t believe in ranking women on a scale of one to ten. So without further ado, Fangirly Presents the Bad-ass Broads of 2016.
Rey (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
After the release of The Force Awakens, Fangirly wasted no time in gushing about the galaxy’s newest Jedi-Jane. She’s tough and smart, and we salute her. In the film’s 138 minute run-time, she managed to save the galaxy and make knee-length harem pants look cool. It’s genuinely difficult to say which of those feats is more impressive.
Malala Yousafzai (He Named Me Malala)
Although Davis Guggenheim’s documentary about activist Malala Yousafzai came out in 2015, it didn’t reach most American audiences until 2016. Not that Fangirly feels that they need to justify adding Malala to any list that includes the catch-word “inspirational”. If you haven’t gotten around to seeing He Named Me Malala, you’re probably not alone. But with Islamophobia on the rise in this country, it might behoove you to do so. It’s the true story of a young Muslim girl who spoke out in favor of educating women, putting her in opposition of the Taliban. Here’s a video of 16 year old Malala’s address to the UN in 2013.
Wonder Woman (Wonder Woman)
After her turn as the most watchable part of Batman V. Superman, DC released trailers for the Wonder Woman movie, set for release in 2017. Wonder Woman has been a feminist icon for decades, and her stand-alone film is a stride long overdue. Please enjoy this perfectly bitchin’ piece of pop culture history.
Winona Ryder (Stranger Things)
After years away from the spotlight, Winona Ryder returned to the screen in Netflix’s Stranger Things. If you haven’t binged Stranger yet (and I promise, binging is the only way to go), you’ve not only missed one of 2016 best shows, but also one of it’s best performances. Winona, in the words of Veronica Sawyer, you’re beautiful. Only, in this case, we actually mean it.
Ellen (Of Fangirly.com)
This year alone, Ellen moved cities, jobs, and wrote a hit web-series, The Cate Moreland Chronicles. She was an inspiration to me this year. Get it, girl.
Peggy Carter (Agent Carter, Captain America: Civil War)
2016 marked the last time we will most likely see Hayley Atwell’s iteration of Peggy Carter on screen, and it’s a loss that we feel already. Peggy was the embodiment of smart, strong women in a male dominated field. She was a reminder that if women everywhere can learn recognize their own value, we’ll get that patriarchy slayed in no time.
Hillary Clinton (The 2016 Pre-Apocalypse, I Mean, Election)
Whether or not you agreed with her policies or trusted her judgement, this woman has done something amazing. She is the first ever woman to be nominated by a major political party in the United States. She’s worked her entire adult life to open that door, and thanks to her, one day a woman will walk through it. Thanks for reminding us that women are more than just a p#ss to grab. You may not be my president, but you are one Nasty Woman.
There’s a moment during Marvel’s Dr. Strange when the titular Sorcerer Supreme, while discussing the (spoiler) sometimes dubious motivations of The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) with Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Mordo, thinks for a moment and says, “She’s… complicated.”
Complicated is a pretty good word for Dr. Strange, too. It’s characters are layered, it’s action set pieces are frickin breathtaking, and it boasts a level of political and social awareness and I, for one, am coming to expect from Marvel. But first things first. Let’s reign it in for a sec and talk about the Cumberbatch of it all. If you’re not a fan of England’s finest import since Posh, Scary, Baby, Sporty, and Ginger, you’re either not female or not a fan of marine mammals. If such is the case, this might not be the post for you. So… scoot. Yep. Go watch the new XXX trailer on repeat.
Are they gone? Oh good. Now that it’s just us Cumberbitches, let’s get to it.
Even as someone who expects only the very best from Benedict Cumberbatch, I found his performance impressive. His interpretation of Stephen Strange (a Marvel Comics deep cut) is part Dr. House, part Tony Stark, and part Hilary Swank from The Next Karate Kid. It’s a zag for Cumberbatch, who’s characters tend to be varying degrees of austere. Dr. Stephen Strange is a celebrated neurosurgeon who loses everything when a car accident causes permanent nerve damage to his hands. He wanders the globe in search of a cure, only to stumble upon a secret order of sorcerer ninjas in Kathmandu who take him in and teach him their ways. He’s thrust into a world of magic, inter-dimensional evil, and Danish bad boys. That last one, of course, refers to Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), zealot follower of a malevolent force hell-bent on forcing the Earth into submission.
Dr. Strange doesn’t subvert superhero tropes by any means, but because the source material is so unknown and the film itself so visually arresting, I sort of didn’t care. We still had an unfailingly loyal girlfriend (Rachel McAdams), a conflicted BFF (Ejiofor), and a reluctant teacher (Swinton). No, what made this movie interesting wasn’t it’s humor or complex characters or it’s new, mystical approach to superheroism, but it’s uncanny timing.
Stephen is given a choice between two opposing, but equally fanatical, factions. One is lead by a woman forced to make difficult, and often morally compromising, decisions that she believes will facilitate the greater good. The other is driven by a radical who, while claiming to be acting in the best interest of the world, actually seeks to acquire eternal life and make the human race as miserable as he is himself. Sound familiar?
And THAT is what I love about the superhero genre, and why it will never bore me. Because almost without trying, they manage to reflect our own experiences back at us, in a way that encourages and rewards bravery and self-sacrifice in the face of overwhelming tyranny. Also, the muscles.