It’s a challenge to think of a heroine who isn’t passive, either loving from afar or loving too hard.
Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina
And while these passionate characters are to be admired, they tend to limit us in our view of what it is to be a woman of substance. Where are the heroines to rival Odysseus, Atticus Finch and the Cat in the Hat? I offer you my Top Six.
6. Joy Adamson (Born Free) The co-protagonist of the Born Free series, along with Elsa the Lion, Adamson is more outspoken and independent in the books – to say nothing of real life – than offered on film.
5. Hannah Arendt (Hannah Arendt) The 20th-Century philosopher, as portrayed in Margarethe von Trotta’s 2013 film, is intimidating, uncompromising and could smoke anyone under the table.
4. Gloria (Gloria) Gina Rowlands’ portrayal in John Cassavetes’ 1978 film, a modern-day Fury, is striking in her combination of anger and sentimentality.
3. Chihiro (Spirited Away) Even after her parents are turned into pigs and her name is stolen, Chihiro wants to help everyone, including the evil witch.
2. Clytemnestra (Agamemnon) While it may be true that she has the blood of her husband and Cassandra on her hands, Aeschylus makes it clear that she has her reasons.
1. Doctor’s Wife (Blindness) The only hope offered in Jose Saramago’s post-apocalyptic parable is a woman willing to sacrifice herself for the good of everyone else. Imagine that.