There’s a Someone I’m Longing to See

My mother died when I was thirteen years old. I’ve read a number of books on the subject and discussed it at length with all manner of people and I’ve come to the conclusion thirteen is a very difficult time to be a motherless daughter. My father did his best raising me and I had a lot of women who stepped in to try and be a role model. But, despite all these wonderful real people, it was perhaps easier for me to find a maternal substitute in the fictional character Dr. Beverly Crusher of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame. Easier because I was not replacing anyone, I was not choosing anyone and because Dr. Crusher very easily lived up to my expectations. And when she didn’t? Well after all, she was just a character in a story.

I was drawn to Beverly for a number of reasons. She was a doctor as my mother was a nurse and they both had red hair and the temper to go with it. And I’d watched Star Trek since I was very young; in fact I’d been against TNG when it first premiered. I was a typical stubborn eleven year old and I refused to watch. But fate intervened and flipping around channels I stumbled upon the last fifteen minutes of Datalore. Assuming you are not an obsessive Trekkie like me I will explain that in the last fifteen minutes of that episode, Dr. Crusher talks back to the Captain, is both supportive of and firm with her son, figures out the mystery and takes on Data’s evil twin all alone coming at him like a lioness with a phaser snarling in defense of her son. In that instant I was hooked on both the show and the doctor.

Dr. Crusher, as it turns out, was a pretty good role model. Yes, she had a typically ‘female’ job on the ship but she was in the command chain — could, and in fact did on more than one occasion, relieve even the Captain of duty. In the horrific second season she was not on board the Enterprise but ran Starfleet Medical. In the final episode of the series she is shown in command of her own ship. And throughout she raised a son, a brilliant and thus often troubled son, on her own. And never once is she seen in one of the micromini-and-go-go-boots get-ups (not that clothing takes away from role-model-ness but it does create controversy). She was a hero, she was my hero; a caretaker, a commander, she even danced. I wanted to be like her when I grew up.

Four years later I went to university at Brandeis (Gates McFadden’s alma-mater). I was a Dance major and a Women’s Studies minor. Women’s Studies, like African-American Studies, Asian Studies or Jewish Studies, being one of those fields that (as a feminist) I almost think shouldn’t exist. It is the study of history, sociology, philosophy, psychology, the arts…all from a feminine perspective and that it does exist simply means the standard fields of History, Sociology, Philosophy, Psychology, the Arts are all actually History, etc. of the White Christian Male. But my point here is not to redefine fields of study at university but to introduce my new monthly topic of note:

The Quest for Strong Female Role Models in Comic Books

I know. It needs a catchier title. But it references my earlier study at Brandeis. My final project for my Women’s Studies minor was entitled (I bet you can guess) : The Quest for Strong Female Role Models in Comics and Animation. It was ambitious then and now. Not for lack of SFRM, they exist. But just as in a perfect world Women’s Studies wouldn’t be available as a study, in a perfect world there would so many SFRM, and they would be so obvious, the topic would be boring.

So here’s the plan. Every month I will profile a new female protagonist from the pages of a comic book. I’ll discuss her in terms of history, sociology, philosophy, psychology…you understand by now. I’ll touch on relationships, occupations, roles, and of course, costumes. I’ll share my thoughts and I’ll ask for yours. In twelve months we’ll have a calendar.

I’ll end — and begin — by defining my parameters.

The Quest: I, and hopefully you along with me, we are embarking on a journey. A search. We’re looking for
Strong Female Role Models: Female should be obvious. Role Models are those that inspire, people we look up to, people we want to be, people we want our daughters to be. Strong means in spirit, not just physical might, someone who stands for something. Someone found in
Comic Books: If you don’t know what we mean by comics I am not certain why you are reading our blog! But comic books are stories told as narrative artwork — in pictures and word balloons. I will pull from as many different stories and publishers as I can.

There you go. I am excited. I hope someone out there is, too.

Posted by Anika
email: anika@fantasticfangirls.org
twitter: magnetgirl

  • Caroline

    This is great; thanks so much for sharing your experience. Now I’m trying to think of what comics characters are most like Beverly. Sue Storm, maybe? I’m looking forward to what you come up with!

  • sigrid

    What makes this whole question even more complex is the way the characters shift over time, over ‘verses, and from one writer to the next. Fascinating!

  • A few months ago, I posted a small list of strong female characters I enjoyed. I’d also add Jenny Sparks, Swift, and the Engineer from the Authority, Kate “Manhunter” Spencer (DC), and the women of Echo and Strangers in Paradise.

  • Twyst

    awesome! i look forward to this! 😀

  • Anika

    @Caroline — Yes! I almost included a picture of Sue even.

    @Erica — Excellent!! Thank you for sharing with me :)

  • Alexa

    I’d like to put forward Jessica Jones, though maybe more as an honorable mention–she’s not quite a role-model, but I’d rather my daughter be her than that girl in “Twilight”. Her flaws and neuroses run deep, but they make her so real in a way that most any other comic book character just isn’t. She’s an amazingly independent woman who takes crap from nobody, and (incredibly rare in today’s media) a self-identified feminist.

  • Wash

    Death, in Sandman, is really the only one of the Endless I’d trust with anything important. Also, she doesn’t take her responsibilities so seriously that she forgets how to have fun–but she does take them seriously.

    Agent 355 in Y: The Last Man is pretty awesome on a variety of levels, not just because she’s good with a retractable baton.

    And of course there’s Promethea, but some of her are better role models than others.

  • Jamie

    I highly recommend both Big Barda and Oracle from DC, mainly because I can’t just use strong to describe them. They’re so much more than that.

    Also, I highly look forward to reading this series, and was reminded pleasantly of one reason why I liked the TNG series.

  • Maura

    Cool–I’ll bookmark your blog!

  • Jeff

    Thanks for sharing! I, too, am a tremendous fan of the Dr. Beverly Crusher character. I didn’t like the show at first, either. One night in 1991, I caught a repeat episode of “Remember Me” from TNG and I fell for the Doctor big time. Sexy and maternal at the same time? Being a gay dude, I thought that my fixation on her was a weird fluke. Later, I found that alot of the gays loved Dr. Beverly Crusher. I really liked the movies, but they didn’t give her much to do in them. I’ve been a frustrated fan for years. Glad to read of someone else’s love for Gates McFadden, though! Maybe with the resurgence of the franchise they’ll be some way to bring the character back somewhere. Here’s hoping…!

  • Давно искал подобный материал, перерыл весь инет, а тут на тебе. Благодарю автора

  • Весёлые посты у вас выходят, но они выходят очень не часто 😉

  • Блог очень достойный, у вас очень интересная манера письма, продолжайте так и дальше!

  • Действительно вы очень интересно пишите, не зря мне друзья посоветовали, спасибо за посты!