The roomies and I watch movies together pretty much every night, and lately we’ve gone through the Aliens series as well as the first two Terminator movies. I’ve come to the realization that Lt. Ripley and Sarah Connor were, and still are, my personal cinematic feminine ideal.
They were complex and imperfect, but in ways your intelligence could respect, and that gave them a realness that I still rarely see in movie women. These days, it’s common for women to be presented as being infallible, perfect. The “perfect woman” trope is a weak attempt at portraying female empowerment and representation without having to do any actual creative work. And frankly it doesn’t seem like a stretch that most women are written this way because their only purpose is to be a prize for the male protagonist, and a proper trophy can’t have any blemishes after all.
Another common trope is that a strong female character is supposed to be this total badass who does kung fu in a skintight outfit or whatever. Ripley and Sarah didn’t start off as trained fighters, but they still fought back with everything they had. Not just physically, but using their wits and intelligence too. That was really special for me growing up, since from an early age I’ve always tried to stand up for what’s just, and the typical “badass warrior chick” just never rang true to me.
Since media likely influences the average American more than our own families, representation is important. I think a large part of why women still don’t get equal respect in America is because of media influence telling us from a young age all the reasons why women are not worthy of respect. We’re reduced to trophies, eye candy, plot devices, romantic self-inserts, or something to be protected, and are so rarely treated as complex human beings. It’s a shame that not much has improved for women in media in the decades since these series were at their height.