top of page

Beyond Wonder Woman

The quest for leading female characters who are not caricatures...

I loved Wonder Woman. Unabashedly adored every second of the first good leading female superhero movie. One of my favorite pieces of the movie was the character of Diana. Yeah, she's Wonder Woman, she's a kick-ass superheroine, she saves the day - but she's also more than that. She delights in exploring the world beyond Themyscira - the sight of a baby (she's never seen one!), the taste of ice cream; she embodies compassion, she mourns the pain and destruction of war; and she puts faith in humanity - "It's not about deserve. It's about what you believe. And I believe in love." Can you imagine any of the current crop of male superheroes saying something like that? Would such a statement be derided as weak? Yet it is part of Wonder Woman's strength.

Much of the hype and fervor around Wonder Woman is about how distinct she is. She stands alone in the pantheon of movie characters, the only female character ever to be so wonderfully crafted as a fully-rounded human being of a woman.

Or does she?

In the realm of superhero movies - yeah, she stands alone.

But what about all the other media beyond superhero movies? Are there female characters elsewhere who are just as satisfyingly real and fully-realized?

(I'm so glad you asked.)


(Now here come the recs! Lists! My attempts at variety!)


Look beyond superheroes, look beyond "kick-ass" even. Because who decided that for a character to be feminist she had to be kick ass? In my opinion, feminism and truly feminist representation in media should encompass all the possibilities for what a women may be or do or feel.

In no particular order:

Love & Friendship (2016)

Cars 3 (2017)

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Mean Tell No Tales (2017)

The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)

Bride & Prejudice (2004)

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Serenity (2005)

Arrival (2016)

Bridget Jones's Baby (2016)

In theaters now, or available to rent or stream pretty much anywhere.


Oh, the choices get better here! Longer character arcs, more time to revel in well-drawn, well-played women.

My top 2 current-TV recommendations:

Orphan Black


(But those are both sci-fi...what about this variety I mentioned?)

The Catch


Stranger Things

The Crown


Lost Girl


Army Wives

All highly binge-watchable shows, and all streaming somewhere easy to find.


Jackpot!! Here you can find every possible kind of female character in every possible kind of setting. And by the very nature of literature, we are allowed deeper into the characters, to understand them more fully in all their wonderful, flawed, and good and human glory.

Classic Literature

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Contemporary/Women's Fiction

Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

The Assistants by Camille Perri

Mid-Grade to YA

Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

Behind The Throne by K.B. Wagers

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin


Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Open Season by Linda Howard

Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh


The Survivors Club by Lisa Gardner

The Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry

It's a quite a short list, but it's a "you should be able to find this at your local library tomorrow" list. It's a "maybe try everything by this author" list.

What do you think? What top-line movie, TV, or book recs would you add?

bottom of page