From Hillary to Miley to Condi to Britney, I find most discussion about female role models in popular culture pretty idiotic. There's always some big "controversy" brewing in the media about women in the limelight: Too emotional or too robotic? Way too sexy or too pear-shaped in a pantsuit? Overly assertive or too demure? Too many dates or too many pounds?
Despite all the controversy and chit-chat about prominent women in the media, there's one arena in which pop culture has gotten it right: fiction. In recent years, movies, books, and TV shows have presented us with some amazing female characters deserving of our admiration. In their honest depictions of the complexity of what it means to be flawed and human, these fictional women are as real as it gets. So here's my personal toast to 5 great female characters and the traits that make them work emulating:
Brenda Johnson (from TNT's The Closer) - She can deal with corpses, perverts, and chauvinism, so it's obvious that she's a cool cat. But what I really admire about detective Brenda Johnson is her demonstration of the fact that sweetness and smarts aren't mutually exclusive. Constantly relying on her southern-bred manners, Brenda is sweet, kind, and polite in a world that's often rough and rude. Brenda shows us that we need not sacrifice the kindnesses of "femininity" passed on to us by our mothers and grandmothers to still be smart, savvy, and very good at what we do.
Marge Simpson (from TV's The Simpsons) - "Poor, poor Marge!" I've often thought as I've watched Marge tough it out with her dope of a husband. But the reality is that Marge exemplifies what it means to live as a giver of grace. She doesn't love her dysfunctional family begrudgingly; her care, attentiveness, and forgiveness are given freely and generously. Her grace springs from devotion, not duty. Despite his annoying idiocies, she sees something in Homer what no one else can, and she forgives and forgets, and forgives and forgets, and forgives and forgets again.
Hermione Granger (from the Harry Potter book series) - Through the ups and downs of life as a "muggle" in a wizard's world, this feisty adolescent exemplifies what it looks like to be courageously loyal. Hermione shows us that loyalty to our friends and loved ones doesn't mean backing down or going along - it means speaking one's mind, sticking it out through arguments and misunderstandings, and if needed putting one's life and limb on the line.