Five Unconventionally Strong Women in Fiction

by Thei Roy (Class 2026)

March is National Women’s Month, the one month when you’re legally required to worship women! (That’s a joke; you’re always legally required to worship women.) It’s mainly a reminder for institutions to engage women, to understand and provide their needs, and to inspire and empower them.

But you aren’t an institution (probably), and in these times it’s hard enough to take care of yourself, let alone try to empathize with all the problems of a huge, diverse group of people. What are you meant to do?

Well, who says you can’t diversify your image of women without having to leave the sweet, sweet embrace of your mattress?

In this article, we’ve compiled a list of women in fiction with diverse problems and unconventional strengths with stories that strike the perfect balance between complex, socially significant, and actually entertaining. This serves as a recommendation list, too; and whether you’re craving a lighthearted comedy, an intricate fantasy, or a bite-sized game, there’s something for you.

Elle Woods: The strength to stay true to yourself (while being a kickass lawyer)
Legally Blonde | Live-action film | 2001 | Comedy | PG-13

If you haven’t seen Legally Blonde, where have you been these past 20 years? In this classic chick flick, hyper-feminine sorority girl Elle is dumped by her boyfriend for not being “serious enough”—so to win him back, she follows him into Harvard Law. There, she attends class in pink, carries her chihuahua to the library, and learns that she’s pretty good at this law thing.

Also, we get this priceless exchange:

Ex: You got into Harvard Law?

Elle: What, like it’s hard?

Legally Blonde is Hollywood formula sharpened to perfection, making for a fun, unchallenging watch. But its story is rooted in a belief that women can be successful without compromising their identities, which gives it heart and makes it a good pick-me-up when your optimism is wearing thin.

No streaming services offer the film in the Philippines, but you can stream the (excellent) musical adaptation on YouTube.

Trigger Warnings: One scene with workplace sexual harassment.

Vivenna: The strength to face your flaws (while taking on a court of gods)
Warbreaker | Novel | Epic fantasy | 13+

Warbreaker is like Game of Thrones, if it swapped Sansa and Arya, let its leads use magic, and ended as a satisfying standalone novel. Ladylike Princess Vivenna dreads her arranged marriage with the God-King of a global superpower. But when their father sends her rebellious sister Siri in her place, she defies him for the first time and runs away to save her.

Naturally, both are terrible in their new positions. But that’s where Warbreaker shines: to navigate a new world of street-level danger, political intrigue, and divine grudges, Vivenna and Siri must find strength from different dimensions of womanhood.

Warbreaker starts slow but accelerates towards an epic climax, buoyed by startling humor, vivid action, and dynamic women.

It’s free to read in full on its author’s website, proving that yes, we can have nice things. You can also buy the audiobook for free with an Audible trial.

Trigger Warnings: Siri reasonably fears sexual harassment, though she is never touched without her consent.

Photo by Matt Makes Games, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Madeline: The strength to overcome your demons (while climbing a mountain)
Celeste | Video game | 2018 | Platformer | Everyone 10+

In Celeste, Madeline gives herself a simple but daunting task: to climb a 4,000 meter tall mountain. To do this, she must run, jump, and climb across 2D stages filled with both colorful characters and instant-kill traps.

And yet, Madeline’s greatest obstacle to the peak remains the little voice in her head that says she won’t make it. Sometimes you’ll feel like she won’t: the gameplay is tough-as-nails, and you will die countless times on the way up. But that struggle is what makes Celeste so compelling: every time Maddie lands safely on the other side of the room, you’ll feel like you’re overcoming your demons, too.

With a frank portrayal of mental illness, haunting music, and gorgeous pixel art, Celeste spells a great future for women in video games.

Celeste is available for download on Windows and consoles. You can watch the trailer on YouTube.

Trigger Warnings: Depictions of anxiety and depression.

Wanda Maximoff: The strength to keep loving (while dealing with trauma)
WandaVision (Marvel Cinematic Universe) | Live-action miniseries | 2021 | Romance/Psychological horror | PG

(Spoilers for Avengers: Endgame in this section!)

WandaVision is the latest entry in the MCU, and also a sitcom. This, surprisingly, doesn’t faze its leading lady: magic-wielding Wanda Maximoff, who appears to have retired from superheroics and is spending well-earned downtime with her husband, the android Vision, in a perfect sitcom suburbia complete with laugh tracks.

But her idyllic world is not what it seems. Mysterious military forces are primed to burst this bubble of domesticity, objects seem to be glitching out, and—let’s not forget—Vision is dead, and Wanda had to kill him: the latest in her long chain of traumatic experiences.

WandaVision is at once a bold experiment in a blockbuster franchise, a love letter to the medium of television, and a reverent portrait of one of the most complex superheroines of all time.

Without Disney+, WandaVision isn’t available for streaming in the Philippines yet. In the meantime, you can watch the trailer on YouTube.

Trigger Warnings: Marvel-typical violence.

Eurydice: The strength to be practical (while hoping for better)
Hadestown | Musical | 2007- | Myth | 8+

If you know Orpheus and Eurydice, you wouldn’t be completely wrong to think you know Hadestown, an Industrial Age retelling of the Greek myth. It’s still about Eurydice dying and Orpheus marched into hell to get her back, armed with a song that could move gods.

But in this folk opera, hell is a factory, and the land of the living is one of violent weather. To survive, street rat Eurydice wields practicality as a shield—so it’s moving when she falls in love with the idealist bard Orpheus, and horrifyingly understandable when she chooses the security of Hadestown over a hungry life.

Hadestown’s Eurydice is a look at women in relation to industrialization and climate change, weaved into karaoke-able songs, and brought to life by Eva Noblezada in a Tony-winning performance.

You can watch the trailer on YouTube. The full Broadway cast recording is on YouTube Music.

Trigger Warnings: Non-graphic depictions of starvation.

Hopefully, you’ve found a story in this list that you actually want to try. Just remember: feminism isn’t just about celebrating women’s successes, but about enabling them to improve their lives. So when you have an opportunity to do something for one of the women in your life, do it! Understanding only has a point when you change what you do, too.

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