Intergenerational childhood heroes Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and Donatello have officially been joined on their sewer-based capers by Jennika, a female turtle donning a snazzy yellow mask and some rather Wolverine-esque weapons.
Issue #95 of the IDW comics would have you witness the body-horror visual of a human woman mutating into a turtle by blood transfusion, but honestly it’s about damn time! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have had half-shell heroines in the past, but only briefly (and kind of disturbingly), so this is some serious progress.
It’ll be pretty exciting to see what Jennika gets up to on their adventures, especially since the ‘token females’ in male ensembles have a tendency to completely steal the show.
Elaine Benes of Seinfeld was a sitcom saviour, and she owned some of show’s most memorable moments. Her origin story is surprisingly problematic – she wasn’t in the original pitch but NBC insisted there be a female character if they were to sign off on it. Despite that she ended up being complex, flawed and fun.
There are so many iconic women in television we can look back on who surprised us for being unreasonably awesome.
If you grew up on Nineties Nickelodeon you probably watched Hey Arnold!, where the brutal and bossy Helga is by far the most memorable (and oft-times relatable) character. Thank you Helga, for tearing down feminine beauty standards one eyebrow at a time – literally one.
Modern sitcoms like Brooklyn Nine-Nine feature plenty of funny female ensemble members, like Rosa and Amy, where their gender isn’t the butt of the joke.
Honestly guys, we ladies aren’t actually that different from you, if you’d stop goofing about the ‘old ball and chain’ for about 5 seconds.
In film, girls like Hermione stole the spotlight from the titular character all the time. I honestly can’t believe there’s a single person on Earth alive who doesn’t know the correct pronunciation of wingardium leviosa now.
The Marvel Cinema Universe has a controversial relationship with its ladies, but in Black Panther it was Shuri’s casual genius and Okoye’s spear-slinging skills that stunned audiences.
But things aren’t perfect yet, not by a long shot. The TV drama formula of the 2000s was basically male lead(s) + gritty plot + grey morality = profit, with shows like The Sopranos, then followed by Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, True Detective, House of Cards… you get the idea.
If there are any “strong female characters”, you can bet they’re going to be relegated to secondary cast members. Even the ones that have shined haven’t been the protagonists. Women were the main characters in less than a third of the films released in 2018, and it was worse still when comparing the number of speaking roles overall.
So Hollywood, I have a challenge for you: Stop thinking that every ‘edgy’ story with sex and violence is the exclusive domain of males. If your hero has a female sidekick, step back and flip it. It’s not going to ruin the narrative, I promise. And making the entertainment industry a more comfortable place for women to tell those stories well would be a great place to start.