There are so many films featuring strong female leads that I love; so many, in fact, that I couldn’t actually pick a favourite. While many view the term ‘strong female lead’ as relating to the kick-ass, save-the-world heroines we now find in our favourite action films (who are, of course, amazing), I wanted to write about a female lead who is often scrutinised and branded weak, but she is just strong in a different way, and that is Cinderella, in her various adaptations.
Yes, you read that right. Cinderella. She can be one of the most feminist, tenacious, and kind heroines when you learn to look at her in a different way. She is capable of saving herself just as much as the sword-wielding Mulan or the adventurous Moana. Ella’s strength comes from her kindness and optimism; many who found themselves in her situation might turn bitter and cruel, seeking some kind of revenge. We sometimes forget that Ella is a victim of abuse, and these situations can be incredibly hard to escape – that does not make her weak.
In Disney’s 2015 live action remake, Ella doesn’t go to the ball hoping someone will save her; she just wants a night out to see her friend, Kit, whom she is unaware is the Prince. Just because she needed some help getting there does not take away her agency, or her wish for a better life.
In what is perhaps the film’s most poignant moment, Ella forgives her stepmother, but she doesn’t do this for the woman who abused her all those years, she does it for herself. In the face of so much grief and hurt, Ella never gives up. She is all at once a victim, a survivor, and a hero. She chooses love over hate, and that is strength.
Let me set the scene. The year was 2017, superhero movies were growing more popular by the day and we were still yet to see a female lead out of the 17 blockbusters that had graced the silver screen. It took us nearly a decade for a female led superhero film, and it wasn’t even from the studio that makes good ones. (Sorry D.C fans, but come on, they’re not that great, are they?)
For a lot of people, myself included, it felt that if Wonder Woman flopped, that would be it for female supers for another decade. Good God was I wrong. Wonder Woman gave us the female lead many of us had waited our whole lives to see. A strong, powerful woman who was intelligent, made mistakes and did not sacrifice her femininity in order to gain respect both from her peers and the audience. For a long time, femininity was deemed as shallow whereas in Wonder Woman, it adds to her power and strength. We were finally given a female hero, who isn’t a know-it-all, who grew from the mistakes she made. We were given a person, not an unachievable idea of what a powerful woman should be.
Granted, the film was never going to win any Oscars. The third act is a total CGI mess and ruins the fun and the pacing of the rest of the film. Even in light of this, I love this film and this character. Getting to witness Diana Price cross no man’s land is a moment that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Never have I been so emotionally overwhelmed and empowered that I sat and cried in the cinema and for that reason, Wonder Woman will always be my favourite female lead.