This one should be about famous and smart female movie characters. For example, the Poison Ivy from the Batman movie, who was a scientist
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It is such a pleasure to see a smart woman on screen, even if she is a totally imaginary character. It strikes a blow against painful and damaging stereotypes, and wakes up the audience to new possibilities. If she happens to be strong and decisive, all the better.
There have been great female brains for decades, if you know where to look. The wonderful Katherine Hepburn was sharp as a letter opener in in Desk Set, a 1957 film with Spencer Tracy . She plays Bunny Watson, an information operator for a huge TV station. This job description is a sort of combination of Siri from the iPhone with access to Google, and a fabulous figure besides.
She answers any and all sorts of questions from the other staff at the station, keeping the reporters and talking heads from making utter fools of themselves. Spencer Tracy plays an efficiency expert consultant who tries to install a computer in this entirely female-staffed department of brainy youngish women. As you might expect, he and the computer are both vanquished by love and the cleverness of Hepburn.
Hepburn, in the 1949 film, Adam’s Rib, had played a lady lawyer opposing her husband in a case of a woman shooting her husband, so embodying someone smart, assertive, and highly competent was not a new sort of role for her. Tracy was her opposite number in this earlier flim, and they were joined by a wonderful comedienne, Judy Holliday.
A year later, in 1959, Holliday created a territific and paradoxical smart girl role in Born Yesterday. She played the uneducated quintessentially blonde girlfriend of a self-made magnate, tutored by a handsome young professor type – William Holden. Over the course of the movie, she learns to read and think critically and analytically. She comes into her own intellectually, and ends up showing just how smart she actually is. Needless to say, William Holden is enchanted by her, and her boorish boyfriend is kicked to the curb.
More recently, consider the smartest witch at Hogwarts – Hermione Granger. She gets her male classmates out of trouble every few minutes. The Harry Potter films would be pretty one dimensional without her magical and emotional insights.
Consider also Sigourney Weaver’s wonderfully resourceful character, Ellen Ripley, in the Aliens series. This gal figures out how to defend herself against a swiftly evolving super-predator. In the later film, she defends her young companion as well.
Weaver also portrayed a wonderfully bright woman in Avatar. Dr. Grace Augustine is the ultimate anthropologist. She immerses herself in the culture of Pandora, and ultimately becomes part of its wisdom, as the roots of the local tree life form surround her body and communicate with and through her.
Of course, smart women don’t have to be blue, half-naked, or dripping alien mucous in order to be effective. In Brewster’s Millions, Lonette McKee demonstrates a woman’s total mastery of numbers.
Dana Scully, of X-Files fame, is another smarty-pants woman. As a scientist, she maintains the skepticism needed to counterbalance Fox’s credulousness about things that go bump in the night. How she manages to deal with the paranormal, crypto species, and spontaneous combustion without disarranging that gorgeous red hair is a mystery in itself.
Other brilliant film scientists who happen to be women include Indiana Jones’ former lover and archeological equal, Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark. She is matched by a similarly brilliant Nazi scientist with strong feelings for both Dr. Jones senior and junior – Elsa Schneider. In The Last Crusade, Elsa turns out to be a baddie, but she meets her end by following the Holy Grail into the depths of the earth – literally.
James Bond even encountered another scientist misguided into putting her intelligence to work for evil. Holly Goodhead in Moonraker is in the employ of the nefarious Drax. She is literally a lady rocket scientist.
Such brilliant females on the side of wrong, however unintentionally, are rare but not vanishingly so. Another archeologist, and one whose role is rather ambiguous at times, is Dr, River Song in Dr. Who. She does some naughty things along the way to loving the Doctor – things that get her into prison. Meanwhile, she learns to fly the TARDIS better than he can.
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But there are much more heinous lady villains, Think of the one-eyed villainess in Dr. Who, leading a massive army of assorted galactic races to try and defeat the Doctor. Madame Kovarian is a crafty one, she is, and she has a plan that spans decades, that involves acting as midwife to Amy Pond.
However, it would be too easy to focus on the Who franchise. So many juicy parts for smart women! Think of all the other smart villainesses out there. Poison Ivy becomes both super-heroine and villainess , opposing Batman and his alter ego Bruce Wayne. She is a bit misguided, but she has a profound vision of the importance of the plant kingdom in the overall health of the Earth.
She seems to have started out in the Batman comics, but being a cartoon should not be a bar to being an intelligent woman character. Think of Lisa Simpson, who is wise beyond her years, and a fine saxophonist besides. The Simpsons would be pretty silly without her insights.
Whether in a series, or in stand-alone films, smart women characters light up the screen. If they are smart themselves, the makers of films and TV shows will realize that audiences love brainy ladies. Here’s to intelligence in our female characters!