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THE MORNING BUZZ: We're All Saving the World Before Bedtime

28 May, 2002 By: Stephanie Prange

Picking up a theme Joan Villa started last week with her assessment of the female appeal of Spider-Man, I'd like to take another step and give an estrogen nod to George Lucas for including so many female Jedi in Attack of the Clones. It was really, really cool. And even though they didn't get much screen time or story development, that was almost more significant. It's like Lucas was saying "Of course there are female Jedi, why wouldn't there be?" There are plenty of female Jedi in the book series that grew from the original trilogy (not that I read them).

Even this 29-year-old girl got chills watching women of diverse species battle with light sabers. I left the theater wishing I could to become a Jedi, just like my little brothers did years ago when we saw the original movies. I've been telling everyone I am in Jedi training school and have been parrying my 5-year-old neighbor in the back yard with plastic light sabers.

I realize it's hard to break the tradition of male-dominated action heroes, especially in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, but I think we're coming along a little bit, with a lot of help from anime and its many female-centered plot lines. And TV seems to be hungry for female action characters. I am addicted to Jennifer Garner in "Alias," (yeah she wears all those sexy outfits, but somehow it doesn't seem intimidating, she carries herself as though the sexy clothes were an afterthought); I desperately want to be a "Charmed One" (now those are some buttkicking witches!); and what "Buffy" and "Zena" have done for females in TV's sci-fi world goes without saying.

I was very glad to see one of my favorite novels, The Mists of Avalon, made into a miniseries. I've always liked the way the women from the Arthurian legend were given a real voice and real motivations in this book, and they got great, strong actresses to fill the roles.

I have a couple of other suggestions for the film industry of some other places in sci-fi fantasy literature they can find strong female characters, even if they are smaller, supporting ones. And they all have built-in book fan bases, like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.

Robin Hobbs' "Assassin" series: This is a great fantasy series written by a woman. The main character is male, but the overall sense of the series makes small issue of gender. The world Hobb has created is very egalitarian, royal leadership passes to the eldest child, whether male or female; military leaders, battle trainers and magicians are all equally likely to be of either gender. One of the main characters is a very strong-willed queen.

Dan Simmons' "Hyperion" novels: There are several strong female characters in this futuristic Armageddon-type series; a tough, female private investigator embarks on a fateful pilgrimage to a time-shifting planet in the first book and her daughter becomes the savior of all mankind in the last two books. Also in the first two books, the leader of the known Universe is a woman, who makes a brave, fateful decision that provides the basis for the rest of the series.

Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game: This story about a space-located school that trains brilliant children to fight an alien species bent on destroying Earth, features primarily male characters, but the few female characters are much more than decoration. I heard that this story is being turned into a screenplay and I hope they play up the two main female characters.

Sci-fi, action and fantasy aren't just for boys anymore; girls can get into the act and swing their swords along side 'em. I hope Hollywood starts letting them at it even more often.

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