Author’s note: This article contains several movie spoilers.
What do a 1950s housewife, a post-apocalyptic warrior, and a Jedi all have in common? Not much, besides the fact that they are all characters in some this year’s Oscar-nominated films. They’re also showing off the power of strong female characters on screen.
The lack of female representation in the entertainment industry is an ongoing issue, but if you’re looking for evidence that not all hope is lost for feminist mainstream film then these awesomely strong female characters are a great place to start.
1. Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
This self-sufficient desert-dweller was left alone on the planet Jakku to take care of herself, and she more than excels at the job. Once she gets swept into fighting with the Resistance, she shows off her pilot skills. When a man grabs her to guide her to safety, she defiantly shouts, “I know how to run without you holding my hand!” She doesn’t need anyone guiding her. Rey is here to lead.
2. Joy in Joy
Joy’s life is overcrowded with her family, her house filled with her two kids, her ex-husband, her mother, her father, and her grandfather. She spends her days looking out for everyone else, which leaves her with very little time for herself.
But, when she gets the idea for a “Miracle Mop,” she fights to the bitter end to make her dream come true. Even after being worn down by hard work and tough relationships, Joy’s ambition leads her to some stellar personal success.
3. Carol in Carol
Being a queer woman can be hard, and being a queer woman in 1952 is an especially challenging thing. Between her domineering husband, the constraints of societal expectations of a housewife, and discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
But, Carol doesn’t hide away. She fights for her divorce, to be with the woman she loves, and to be there for her daughter along the way. That level of self-actualization is empowering.
4. Ma in Room
Ma is put in the horrifying situation when she’s abducted and locked away in a shed. But, she is strong and builds a life for herself and her son, who’s born two years into her captivity. Her ingenuity and love for her child push her into survival mode, showing the power of a mother’s love and a woman’s strength in even the worst of experiences.
5. Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
In Mad Max, a nuclear holocaust has left the most of the world in ruins, and most of the population at the mercy of the tyrannical Immortan Joe. It takes a woman, Furiosa, to lead a group of Joe’s subjects to rise against him.
We’re used to seeing men save women on screen, but in this case, Furiosa is the true hero, helping Max and guiding a strong girl gang. Not to mention the fact that the heavenly “Green Place” in this movie’s world is led by a clan of women called the Vulvalini. It doesn’t get much better or feminist than that.
All of these characters are incredibly resilient women. They combat the power structures within their worlds in order to become self-actualized. They’re all women who combat power structures to survive and flourish beyond them, and that alone is reason enough to watch and root for any of these movies at the Oscars this Sunday!