My Tribute to the Female Action Hero

*This was originally published, by me, back in May 2017 on an old blog. I loved it so much, I decided to resurrect it. The content remains the same.

Wonder Woman is finally getting a movie.

Not a simple TV movie of the week like back in the 70’s, when Cathy Lee Crosby played the Amazon Warrior Princess. I’m talking about a big budget, special FX, blockbuster. You can hear a whole chorus singing.

It’s About time.

They’re probably right. We’ve had 15 Marvel movies with two more on the way this year. DC has released three movies with more on the way. Not a single one features a woman in the lead, action hero, role. Agent Carter got a TV show, and it was fantastic, but this is a big budget tent pole movie starring Wonder Woman.

© Warner Brothers

Gal Gadot, you’ve got some big shoes to fill and I bet Lynda Carter doesn’t take offense at that. Gal was, in my opinion, the best part of Batman versus Superman. Her character had life! She’ll define Wonder Woman for this generation … if they just get over her underarms.

But this is NOW and as an American male who is rapidly approaching middle age, I want to talk about THEN. The “Good Ol’days.” Dig deep into the cinematic archives of my youth. You’re welcome join me and find those Women of Action, those Feminine Icons of Heroism, the Tough and Tender Women that turned our heads and saved our lives … all … in the name … of adventure.

Let’s start at the beginning. My beginning. The first bit of space fantasy that I was introduced to: Star Trek (The Original Series). Although back then, even in reruns, it was just called Star Trek … because it was the only series.

Lieutenant Commander Nyota Uhura, Nichelle Nichols

© CBS

Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols, was a game changer and she wasn’t even trying to be. On a bridge filled with reckless men rushing headlong into the galaxy, she was unflappable. Uhura was no damsel in distress, pining away for the Captain’s attention. She shut down Sulu. Twice. Once when he was infected by an alien virus and again when he was Evil Sulu from the Mirror Universe. She mocked Spock. To. His. Face. She relearned her entire job in a matter of days after having her brain wiped out. In Star Trek III she challenged authority and put “Mr. Adventure” in a time out (look up the credits for Star Trek III, that was his name). As the only black woman on a bridge crew of white men, she showed strength and dignity and they never disregarded her.

Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter

© CBS

Lynda Carter defined Wonder Woman for my generation. Like many a boy in the 70’s, I had a huge crush on Lynda Carter because she was more than just a pretty face, she had heart. Look past the 70’s camp and watch the show intro. It’s all Wonder Woman in action. Leaping over a building, flying the Invisible Jet, stopping a car with her bare hands, saving Steve Trevor, carrying an unconscious woman out of a building, and she finishes it all off with that iconic smile. She only got stronger as the show went on; bending steel and pulling down a helicopter. She stopped a TANK, folks. She proved herself to be as strong as Superman and as savvy to the criminal mind as Batman. With a wink and a smile she carted criminals off to jail. She was compassionate and quick with a joke. In today’s cynical climate THAT Wonder Woman remains the standard by which all other would-be Wonder Women are compared.

Princess Leia Organa, Carrie Fisher

© Lucasfilm

Princess Leia, played by Carrie Fisher, redefined the Princess. A princess is demure and waits for Prince Charming to rescue her, right? Not any more. From scene one, Leia fights the Galactic power as a leader in the Rebellion. She didn’t wait for rescue on the Death Star. When Darth Vader tried to torture the truth out of her, all it did was make her a little sleepy. Grand Moff Tarkin made her watch while they destroyed her home planet and it just made her angrier. She shoots a blaster like a pro. She kept her cool and reminded Han Solo that she gave the orders, that Chewie was a walking carpet and the Falcon was a “thing.” All while telling Luke everything will be okay. Look in the dictionary under guts and you’ll find a picture of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia.

On a sad note, with Carrie Fisher’s passing, I feel as if I’ve lost one of the heroes of my youth, but honestly, that just means I can add “Legendary” to her name.

There are more.

Margot Kidder as Lois Lane going after a story no matter how dangerous.

Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood owns a bar in a Nepal and out-drinks a man three times her size. I”m not condoning heavy drinking, but still.

Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley has saved the world how many times?

Let’s not forget Lindsay Wagner, the women from the original Battlestar Galactica, Catherine Bach as Daisy Duke and Donna Douglas as Elly May Clampett – these women were tough, smart, and as skilled as their male counterparts. All back in the day before 1982.

I grew up with these action heroes. They didn’t wait for the men to save the day, or complain about an unfair system. What they did was what any good action hero does; take action.

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