One of my favorite lessons I ever used was an inductive study of character archetypes. As I’ve continued to use this in professional development, I’ve tried to move away from the mostly male examples I started with. I’d love your help.
There have been many great female protagonists from the last few years:
- Rey, The Force Awakens
- Officer Hopps, Zootopia
- Rapunzel, Tangled
- Anna, Frozen
But, beware! These aren’t just female main characters. A protagonist drives the action through active choices, not passively riding along with the plot. Is Aurora from Sleeping Beauty a great protagonist? Not compared to Officer Hopps, Anna, or Dorothy. These ladies take control of situations.
Mentors guide the protagonist. They have “been there” before and are now handing off to someone else. I had a few examples of female mentors, but went to Twitter for help:
- Glinda, Wizard of Oz
- Dame Eyola, The Neverending Story (via Beniy)
- Galadriel, Lord of the Rings (via Beniy)
- Miss Honey, Matilda (via Lisa)
- General Leia Organa, The Force Awakens (via Maria)
- The Ancient One, Dr. Strange (film version)
- Mrs. Whatsit (and co), A Wrinkle In Time
- Maz Kanata, The Force Awakens
- Summer, Wonder (via Mary)
Any other ideas? Mentors have power, but transfer that power to the protagonist.
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A rogue is a helper of the protagonist who isn’t afraid to break the rules. Think Han Solo or Jack Sparrow. You might also call them anti-heroes. But a female rouge? Oof. I thought and thought, and came up with a pretty obscure list of kid-friendly, female rogues. Even my Twitter pals had few examples.
- Vanellope von Schweetz, Wreck It Ralph
- Go Go Tomago, Big Hero 6
- Kate Wetherall, Mysterious Benedict Society
- (Maybe) Black Widow, The Avengers
- Beniy offered up Ginny from Harry Potter
- Maria mentioned Zoe from Firefly which reminded me of Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica, but neither are probably familiar to students.
- Janet came up with Velma from Scooby-Doo as a potential rogue
Can you (or your students) help?
Internet pal Sonya wrote up a really interesting post related to this about anti-heroines.
Female comic relief sidekicks are also pretty tough to find. We can go way way back to the Nurse from Romeo and Juliet, but who are funny female sidekicks from kid-friendly stories? Disney movies are packed with clowns, but they’re nearly always male: Olaf, Timon, Pumba, Flounder, Scuttle, Mushu, Abu, Cogsworth, Lumiere, etc
Here are the funny female sidekicks I could come up with:
- Dory, Finding Nemo
- Merryweather, Sleeping Beauty
- Tinkerbell, Peter Pan (maybe?)
- Constance Contraire, Mysterious Benedict (or maybe she’s a rogue?)
- Darcy Lewis, Thor
- Etta Candy, Wonder Woman (via Cheri)
- Melissa McCarthy often plays this role, but maybe not school appropriate
Would love to hear your examples! Reach me on Twitter or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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