Blondes get a bit of a bad reputation. Often they’re dismissed as ditzy or bitchy without considering that there’s so much more they can be. You may think that this is an outdated view but if you look at television and film today the blonde stereotype is still rife. It seems as if every bitchy cheerleader onscreen is blonde. Or if someone is going to make a dumb comment she’s going to be blonde. I mean just look at Mean Girl’s Karen Smith or even Regina George for that matter.
On the other hand there’s also this view that blondes have more fun which is obviously a ridiculous statement. But then why so often is most popular pretty girl in school, the one that all the guys go for, the rich girl princess, blonde?
I wonder where this view, that your hair colour determines the type of person you are, comes from. Is it society’s view in general or is it just what we’ve been told to think by film and television? And when did it start? Because I can’t imagine Henry VIII labelling blonde women as bimbos and brunettes as boring. Of course that’s a terrible example, because Henry VIII was arguably a misogynistic ass but you get my point. I look back in history and wonder where it all went wrong. Perhaps figures like Marilyn Monroe have contributed to the stereotyping, a beautiful woman but her persona didn’t exactly speak highly of her intellect. I think of the blonde females I looked to in my childhood.
The two that come to mind are Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty’s Aurora. The message shared in both of these films was that the women needed a prince to save them, to fix their problems and ultimately make them happy. And this whole damsel in distress idea is still played on today. Just in a more modern way. Look at 2 Broke Girls for example. Spoilt rich (blonde) girl loses all her money and doesn’t know how to function. Needs the help of sarcastic (brunette) waitress to survive and succeed in life. It’s just this constant idea that while blondes are pretty they aren’t the brightest or toughest, and that they must need saving. And that obviously is incorrect.
Of course that’s not to say things haven’t gotten better. Blonde women are now starring in much better roles; they can be politicians, lawyers or scientists, not just the trophy wife. Although rather ironically last year there was a show called Trophy Wife and you guessed it the titular character was blonde. I digress. The roles are changing. Even in 2 Broke Girls you find out that the blonde character has these very deep layers and is in fact the smartest person on the show. Disney is now actually making films where the blonde princesses actually take action and fight for what they want. Tangled and Frozen are perfect examples of these. Interestingly both films have been very successful, proving that the audience can still appreciate something even if the blonde isn’t the damsel in distress.
Perhaps one of things that sparked this change was the creation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon, a well known feminist, talked about in creating Buffy he wanted to create a positive role model for women. He went onto discuss that he made her the blonde cheerleader type because no one would expect her to be the hero. And yet, shockingly, the colour of her hair did not stop her from being one of the most badass characters on television. She saved the world countless times and her being blonde didn’t affect that. Since then there have been some great strong blonde women on television and film. So things have changed yes, but have they changed enough?
Some may argue that I’m being paranoid, that roles are made by personality not look and that there is no way producers sit in a room wondering whether a blonde or brunette would best fit the part. I would argue that that is a tad bit naive. Jennifer Lawrence is a natural blonde; she had to dye her hair brown to play Katniss Everdeen. Perhaps that was because of the book, but the point still stands. And if you look at other action films a ton of blonde actresses have had to change their hair colour (Charlize Theron and Scarlett Johansson for example). In fact, as research for this article I sat and wrote down all the blonde action film characters I could think of. When I could only think of one, I scoured the internet and found less than a handful more. What is it about fair hair that makes a woman less capable of combat or strength? That being said one could argue that there are not that many action roles out there for women in general and there is some truth to that. But there are a certain amount out there, some very iconic in fact, and most of them are filled by brunettes.
Of course being strong and having depth doesn’t just meaning kicking ass. Strength can be emotional and psychological. In this area I would agree that much more progress has been made. Kate Winslet and Cate Blanchett are the poster children for high quality dramatic films that feature complex and moving roles. Perhaps this is because these roles are more about the journey of the character and less about what they look like. However other genres aren’t so kind and this is an ongoing issue.
Sadly I do not have a solution to this problem. I have no idea how to make people understand that someone’s hair colour shouldn’t and doesn’t mean anything. Perhaps I should be happy things are changing, even if it is at a slower pace than I’d like. Instead I’ve written this article to try and gain some awareness. I have also compiled a list of my top 10 TV badass blondes, as a way to celebrate their efforts and talent. Whether they’re badass because they’re strong, kind or smart it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they are important and laudable regardless of their hair colour.
10. Billie Jenkins (Kaley Cuoco) – Charmed
Named the “Ultimate Power” Billie Jenkins certainly lived up to her name. Although not as powerful as the Charmed ones, she had great magical abilities and was a quick learner. She vanquished numerous demons saving many lives in the process. But it’s really the ultimate sacrifice she made that lands her on this list. Billie’s sister had been abducted when she was younger and she dedicated her life to finding her. However when they were eventually reunited her sister had become brainwashed and was intent on killing the Charmed ones. At first Billie sided with her sister but she eventually realised that she was beyond saving and made the excruciating decision to kill her. The strength involved in that decision was far greater than her powers.
9. Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) – Sex and the City
Despite not hailing from a fantasy show, Samantha Jones makes the list because let’s face it the women oozes strength. When SATC first aired it was refreshing to see such a confident, self assured woman who knew exactly what she wanted. She made no apologies for who she was and didn’t let anyone tell her how she should behave. Very modern thinking, Samantha didn’t want a traditional family life; instead she just wanted to enjoy casual sex. While some questioned her unwillingness to have emotional relationships she embraced it which I thought was fantastic. Samantha proved that you don’t have to fit into society’s norm to be happy and for that reason she is a true role model.
8. Amanda Clarke/Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) – Revenge
There is no denying that Amanda is a complete badass. The woman takes vengeance to a whole new level, actively trying to destroy those people’s lives that resulted in her father’s imprisonment. Now I’m not saying we should celebrate that particular idea of retribution but many of the character’s attributes that make her so successful deserve to be praised. Amanda is highly intelligent, determined and resilient. She refuses to give up even when the odds are against her. She remains calm and collected in high stress situations but also has undeniable passion. Let’s face it the woman would make an excellent spy. What I really love though is that like any human it is emotion that drives her. In her eyes she is delivering justice and in a way she is. Her actions may be morally questionable but her reasons are understandable. Throughout her journey she remains focused and stable and it is that resolve that lands her on this list.
7. Catherine Willows (Marg Helgenberger) – CSI
For 12 seasons Catherine Willows showed off her charm, skills and intelligence to the CSI team. She was excellent at her job, cracking numerous cases throughout her time as a crime scene investigator. What I really love about Catherine though is how realistic her character is. She frequently faces the struggles that normal people go through. One such example is her role as a single mother. In the earlier seasons we see her difficulty in maintaining the balance between being a good CSI and a good parent. It takes a great deal of strength and determination to raise a child on your own, and Catherine displays that throughout. Her motherly instincts also extend to the CSI team, often checking her colleagues well being and giving them advice. She was like the glue that held the group together. Perhaps this is why she was made head of the team after Grissom’s departure, a role she excelled at, again showing off her professional capabilities and earning her a spot on this list.
6. Clarke Griffin (Eliza Taylor) – The 100
Although the character of Clarke only debuted last year she is more than deserving of her place on this list. A true leader, Clarke immediately took on the responsibility of keeping her people alive when they landed on Earth. Quite a big job for a 17 year old girl. Despite her young age Clarke showed excellent leadership skills; being fair and just but also willing to do morally questionable things to keep the group safe. Clarke started out the series as quite a pacifist, preferring to solve problems through talking instead of rushing to violence. This level headedness stopped her people from getting into many dangerous situations. It is interesting to note that by the end of the season Clarke was more willing to use physical force as she realised that battle is sometimes necessary. This is the reason Clarke is so badass. She sees the strength in negotiation and politics but she is also a fierce warrior ready to fight if it means her group’s survival. That balance is what makes her the best leader and why she appears on this list.
5. The blondes of BSG: Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff), Number 6 (Tricia Helfer), Ellen Tigh (Kate Vernon) and D’Anna Biers (Lucy Lawless) – Battlestar Galactica
BSG was one of those shows where all of the characters had so much depth and power no matter what they looked like. So naturally there were a handful of amazing blondes for me to pick from to put on this list. However I couldn’t choose between them so I decided to celebrate them all. Starbuck, Number 6, Ellen and Number 3/D’Anna were iconic figures in the BSG universe. Each woman made their mark and influenced many storylines on the show. These women all had their different skill sets but they each showed themselves to be intelligent, strong and caring. Throughout the show each one of them displayed self sacrificing and heroic actions, cementing their status as role models to many people across the globe.
4. Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) – Game of Thrones
A warrior at heart, Brienne has repeatedly proven that she can fight just as well as any man and as a result she was made a knight. She faced constant mockery and jeers from numerous people due to her refusal to conform to what they think a woman should be, and yet she stood tall unwilling to let them get to her. Whilst Brienne has a tough exterior she also displays kindness and loyalty to those around her. She is also a women of strong morals, always striving to keep the oaths she makes to people (something which is hard to come by in the world of Game of Thrones), even if that means risking her life. Although Brienne is very physically strong and has excellent combat skills, it is actually her mental strength that puts her into the top 5 on this list. Her continuous determination, conviction and self belief earned her the respect of both her peers and us as an audience.
3. Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) – Veronica Mars
Of course Veronica Mars had to be in my top 3. This super sleuth was intelligent, resourceful and could kick some ass when she needed to. You definitely wouldn’t call her a damsel in distress. Never one to sit on the sidelines and watch injustice happen, Veronica always fought for what was right. What I love about Veronica is that she never really had to use physical strength to achieve her goals. Instead she used her intellect, powers of persuasion and charm to get what she needs. She was also a great juggler; managing to maintain a balance between her school studies and investigating crimes. But the best thing about Veronica was her willingness to help anyone, no matter their gender, class, race or sexuality. She even helped people she didn’t like, including her ex boyfriends. That selflessness is a key reason of why Veronica Mars is such an iconic figure.
2. Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping) – Stargate: SG-1
Just missing out on the top spot is Samantha Carter. What I love about Sam is that she was strong in every possible way; physically, intellectually and emotionally. Sam was a top astrophysicist, engineer and pilot. She had strong combat skills and led the SG-1 team for a period of time. Basically this woman could do anything. As well as her impressive resume she was a caring and compassionate person, often displaying kindness to the alien races she encountered. Regularly marching into battle and always willing to sacrifice her life for the greater good, Sam proved that she was a true hero.
1. Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Could the number one spot really have been occupied by anyone else? As well as being a sort of catalyst for change, Buffy is probably the main character that inspired this article. For seven seasons Buffy proved that she could slay any demon that threatened humanity’s safety all while trying to juggle her difficult personal life. While she did have many complicated romantic relationships on the show she never relied on a man to come save her. Instead she was fiercely independent, raising her sister on her own after their mother died, and being a constant support figure for others. However the best thing about Buffy was that she never gave up. Even in the face of certain failure she refused to be beaten, she would always do what was necessary to save others, even when that meant sacrificing her own life (twice!). Buffy was not only a hero to the characters around her, she was a hero to the millions of viewers that watched the show. She inspired numerous girls around the world, including me, proving it didn’t matter if you were female or a cheerleader or blonde, or any other category that is often looked down or made fun of. Buffy showed the world that anyone can be a hero and that’s why she’s my number one blonde badass!
Writer and Whedon fan girl
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You should have had Rose Tyler (Billie Piper). She has a great journey from a teenager who has no direction in her life, to a woman who knows what she wants to do. But great article! I definitely agreed with your number 1.
You forgot some other awesome blondes:
The Bride (Uma Thurman) from Kill Bill. Not only is her stamina, will, and resilience in getting her revenge for her “Dead Daughter” (until the reveal), but the emotional scene were she lets it all out just humanized her and made us love her.
Sailor Moon, Venus, and Uranus. Badass ladies who save the world. While the first two are kind of ditzy, they always rise to the occasion when it counts. Heck, Venus pretends to be dumb at times so people will underestimate her snd she’s a great leader. Uranus is the ruthless but conflicted leader of the outers and she will keep the world safe no matter the cost.
Shinku from Rozen Maiden. A quiet proper lady doll who is not afraid to stab people with her sword-cane when they attack her or her loved ones. Has a great journey from extreme Darwinist to more caring warrior who would protect the weak.
Caroline Forbes (Candice Accola) fromThe Vampire Diaries. She was slated to be the dumb blonde “other friend” of the protagonist but after a lot of personal tragedy and turning into a vampire, she rose above the occasion and became both the big guy and the heart of the team, keeping them all safe and caring for everyone all the while proving to her mother and best friend that just because she’s now a vampire doesn’t make her evil.
Setsuka from Soul Calibur. A foreign woman living in medieval Japan. Dies her hair black as a safety measure and lives on the streets until a kindly swords master takes her in. He is crippled by a samurai and she vows vengeance when he dies. Her journey is nothing short of heartbreaking.
I am shocked that you did not have Sarah Walker from Chuck on your list.