This week I thought I might write about some female characters out of the media, from mythology to more recent movies. I don’t know that I would call them ideal feminine heroes, but I do know that they all have at least one excellent heroic quality; they don’t let their egos get in the way.
Athena. The Goddess of Wisdom and the smart deity of War, she had access to the bests weapons, armor, and strategy. But she didn’t pull out her gear every time she had a dispute. On the contrary. The Titans overthrew their father when he tried to kill them. The Olympians overthrew the Titans when Chronos tried to swallow them. But when Zeus was warned the same thing might happen to him and he swallowed his lover, Athena, his child did not perpetuate the family tradition. She sprang from his head and never attempted revenge on her father.
Instead, she guided heroes in their struggles, helping those who deserved it and not helping those who were not worthy. The scene that most clearly stands out for me happens during the original Seven Against Thebes. Her favorite, Tydeus, was mortally wounded. Not wanting him to die she went to get ambrosia. But when she returned she found him eating an enemy’s brains. Such barbarity disgusted her, so she did not offer him the drink. In a similar situation, any gods who cared would have tortured him or sent him to a nasty part of Hades.
Cassandra is another one of the Greeks that seems very much apart. She was born with a perfect clarity regarding the future, and the curse of never being believed. She could have used her gift for money or to change world events. But she understood those things to be distractions from what really mattered. Instead, she did what she could to save her family; the royal house of Troy. Now the fact that she didn’t save them is not her fault. There was that curse. Nor is the fact that she could not think of a clever way of using the curse to her advantage. I would call her lack of creativity more of a tragic quality.
One of the best car scenes I have ever come across involved Julia Roberts in Conspiracy Theory. The moment she realizes she is being followed she pulls over and waves her tail forward to have a conversation with him. That is definitely not a Hollywood thing and not what the audience wanted. But it worked better for both sides that she just dropped pretenses and actually talked to the guy. No ego, no attitude, just good sense.
Finally, I’d like to mention Willow in Buffy. O.K. yeah, she is shy and lacks confidence. She is also the most powerful human in the Buffyverse (and do not mess with anyone she is in love with!). Even after she comes to a full realization of her powers, her personality never really changes. She is a nice girl, supportive of others. Buffy can have center stage, Willow doesn’t need it. One gets the distinct impression that Willow is delighted that she can help her friend in her destiny, and is grateful that she doesn’t have one of her own.
All four women are put in situations where there are certain expectations. None of them follow through. They don’t “fail” so much as they choose their own path. And their choice is not a path that gives them more wealth, power, or even fame. They just choose a path that has the best chance of helping others.