5. Tess Durbeyfield – Tess of the d’Urbervilles
Tess Durbeyfield is a complex character to summarize. Victimized to such an extent in the novel, it is difficult to focus on her strengths, without also commenting on her weaknesses.
Plucked at an early age from her virtuous, innocent youth to a sinful and tainted maturity, all at the hand of men. The possibility of what she could have accomplished had she not been possessed by the male characters is unlimited. Despite her hardships and flaws, Tess remains determined to provide food and shelter for her family.
Unfortunately, this determination does not serve her well. Although Tess is a strong female character, Hardy reflects society’s reaction to her in her death.
4. Lisa Rowe – Girl, Interrupted
Kaysen’s interpretation of Lisa Rowe is as an unpredictable and erratic patient who often needs to be restrained.
Lisa is an essential piece of Susanna’s experience of being mentally ill as her disregard for authority seems to be something Kaysen aspires to – particularly when concerned with meeting the approvals of her parents. For Susanna, Lisa represents a rejection of modern social conduct.
Despite her mental illness Lisa is an assertive leader who knows what she wants, and when the confines of the asylum are too much, she successfully escapes.
These constant escapades represent a wish to elude social restrictions; however she always brought back to Claymore as she is unable to cope in the outside world.
3. Merida – Brave
I think it is important to give Disney some credit for their creation of Merida. Not only does she reject a prince, but her story is based on her family relationships and a triumph over her independence.
Unlike the majority of swooning Disney princesses who wait for their gallant saviour, Merida is a modernised, active character who is realistically proportioned. However, Disney managed to retract everything Merida represents with the new design of the princess for their toy range. The glamorized character contradicts the successful individual of the film Merida, from her rejection of a prince, to her reasonably sized waist-line.
Had Brave stood alone without this need to franchise, her character would succeed in being possibly the only appropriate Disney princess role model for young girls.
2. Amy Dunne – Gone Girl
When I began to read Gone Girl, I nearly put it down. Amy is presented as a ditsy, frustrating and two-dimensional character with no common sense. But stick with it, and you’ll see this red herring is simply Gillian Flynn’s incredible mind working on a character more complex and cunning than you could imagine.
Amy’s manipulative and psychotic tendencies seem to develop as a result of being compared to ‘Amazing Amy’; a fictional creation of her parents, no less. This detrimental aspect is reflected in any gossip magazine you pick up in your local shop, and although we hope its effects are not quite as drastic, the reality is that this damage is an indication of what women are subject to on a daily basis.
1. Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games
Katniss is a tough, agile and determined character who is the image of empowerment and independence.
By standing up to her society’s rules and constraints, she shatters our current social ideal of the ‘perfect’ woman, and replaces her with a real and flawed individual who is strong not only physically, but also emotionally. Katniss is a modern role model for young women who are subject to their own society’s damaging expectations, and provides hope for strong-minded women.
This is paralleled by Jennifer Lawrence’s role in the film. The actress is herself an advocate of a healthy body image, and promotes a relatable attitude to the Hollywood lifestyle.
What are your thoughts? Is there someone vital who I’ve overlooked and you think deserves to be in the top 5? Or do you disagree entirely? Comment below!