Watching films and television isn’t all about relaxation. It’s about being sucked into a story, being inspired, and then taking what you’ve learnt back to your own world.
We’re lucky that there have been so many matriarchal roles on our screens lately. From the female warriors of Black Panther to the formidable and tenacious Mildred in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, we’ve seen females depicted not just as strong, but also funny and full of character; something which has often been lacking in the TV and film industry.
So with that in mind, we’ve taken a look at some of the lessons that we can take away from these fictional, yet no less applicable, or important, characters. Whether that be in comics, film or TV series, the life lessons we can draw, both from heroines and villains, can be just as relatable in real life as they are on our screens.
Here are 12 epic life lessons that might just resonate in your world, as much as they do in those fictional universes we all know and love.
Also known as Dr. (yes, doctor) Pamela Lillian Isley, Poison Ivy is a driven eco-warrior, dedicated to protecting the environment. A female leader in the otherwise male-dominated sector of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, she remained dedicated to her environmental mission, despite the problems that came with being a woman in a patriarchal sector.
Sure, she’s got a few screws loose and repeatedly ended up in Arkham Asylum, but I think we can all appreciate a little trauma, given that her biochemical biology professor conducted life-threatening toxic experiments on her.
She teaches us that ‘If you are strong enough, you will survive. That is the law of the jungle.’
And given that she turned a park in the middle of Gotham City into a into tropical paradise and took in 16 orphans to come live with her, she more than anyone shows that with a little determination, anything is possible.
We’re always told to keep our cool and that expressing anger is a bad thing, whether that be at work or at home. But what El shows us, is that anger can be used to your strength as long as you focus it in the right way.
Like in the final episodes of each season where she channels her powers to help the others. Without her charged emotions, she might not have been able to quite get there. (Trying not to spoil too much here for those who haven’t watched it. Although, if you haven’t, where have you even been?)
Don’t let anger overwhelm you. Instead, turn it into motivation, drive, a reason to work harder and better than before. You never know what you might be able to achieve with that little extra emotion encouraging you onwards.
Badass Diana Prince, shows us how to be the ultimate proactive feminist, scoffing at the idea that gender could ever be a disadvantage.
When love interest Steve advises her that they should get back to London ‘to get the men who can’ help in the war, she puts him in his place, defiantly stating ‘I am the man who can’.
If there’s ever a time where you feel overpowered because you’re female, remember you can do everything that a male can; whether that be in the workplace, in a particular sport, or field of study. Don’t let the idea of gender ever hold you back.
Fierce shieldmaiden, Lagertha, puts her life on the line to fight and protect what she believes in. She doesn’t hold back and accepts whatever fate awaits her, showing us the power of what you can achieve with a bit of strong will.
As Lagertha says, ‘The Future is open. Trust in the gods. Live for each moment.’
If you spend your time worrying about what may or may not be in the future, are you ever really present? Remember not to miss what’s important here and now, living each moment to the fullest. And who knows, you might be able to train to become a female warrior too, if that floats your boat.
Not that we condone sleeping with your family, having children with them, and pretending they’re someone else’s, but Cersei does impart some wise words to her fellow females, no matter how much she might dislike them.
Like in the case of Sansa, where Cersei tells her “Tears aren’t a woman’s only weapon. The best one’s between your legs.”
In other words, don’t underestimate the power of your sexuality. In very specific circumstances, taking control of your womanhood and using it to your advantage can give you the upperhand. Unless it’s with your brother. Awks.
Truth be told, we could have featured any of the characters who occupy the female squad in Marvel’s Black Panther. But we’ve settled on Okoye (played by Danai Gurira, who also portrays the feisty Michonne in The Walking Dead), for her liberating and empowering hair moment mid-combat.
Tossing her wig aside to reveal her natural shaved head, she declares “I want you to get this ridiculous thing off my head”, before leaping into action and being her best, most awesome self.
The lesson here? Don’t be afraid to look, or dress, or act, exactly how you want. Don’t concern yourself with blending in and doing what everyone else does, and never ever be afraid to reveal the real you.
It’s difficult to judge whether Mildred was right or wrong in multi-award winning Three Billboards (if you’ve not seen it already, you need to watch it ASAP), but amongst the questionable morals, actions and relationships, Mildred teaches us to fight for justice, whatever it takes.
We’d also love to quote her, but there are few lines which don’t contain some kind of obscenity, so we’ll leave that for you to discover yourselves. She showed the tenacity of someone truly fighting for a cause they believed in, and finding peace even though things may not always go as planned.
Whilst female characters in many films are portrayed as waiting to be saved, then falling helplessly into the arms of their male saviour, Leia was having no such thing. Luke arrives to help free her from captivity to be met with ‘Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?’, followed by a ‘WHO?’ when he explains who he is.
Let’s also not forget her sass in The Empire Strikes Back where she stands up to Han – “Captain, being held by you isn’t quite enough to get me excited.”
Of course, she goes on to become leader of the Resistance, so it shows you can get far in life with a little feminist fierceness.
On the opposite end of the spectrum to Cersei, ballsy private investigator Jessica Jones doesn’t care about using femininity to get what she wants. Quite the opposite.
“I don’t flirt, I just say what I want.” Simple. And seeing as she’s both badass superhero AND business owner, we’d say it’s worked out pretty well for her.
Sometimes it’s good to get straight to the point and make your motives clear. Honesty leads to trustworthiness, and it only takes a few seconds of courage to say what you really mean and save messing people about.
Strong-willed adventurer Lara Croft, can teach us a lot about life. We’re dying to see the new film, but until then we can take inspiration from the original video games.
One of Lara’s most famous sayings is “A famous explorer once said, that the extraordinary is in what we do, not who we are. I’d finally set out to make my mark; to find adventure.”
She could be at home having a nice little Netflix and popcorn binge for one, but no. She’s out there exploring and solving riddles and being completely excellent. She may be in peak physical condition, but it’s not like she’s a superhero, so there’s hope for all of us. Get up and do something amazing – we’re capable of almost anything if we choose to be.
What hasn’t Hermione taught us about life? Besides good manners, the rewards of heavy studying (and how satisfying it is to give Draco Malfoy a good slap around the face), the most important lesson she teaches us comes from her approach to friendship, which she values above everything.
“Books! And cleverness! There are more important things – friendship and bravery”, she replies to Harry in the Philosopher’s (/Sorcerer’s) Stone. Whilst intelligence and hard work will get you far in life, enduring friendships are the thing that’ll help you through life most of all.
In the comics, Selina Kyle, aka catwoman, spoke about how she used to be afraid of the world. Not quite sure who she was, or where she fitted in, she stumbled through life under the control of other people, until she decided it was time to take charge of her own life.
“A long time ago, before I put on this mask, I was afraid of everything” she says.
And sure, she’s a bit of an anti-heroine, doing the wrong things for the right reasons, but as soon as she put on the mask and became Catwoman, she was able to do what she wanted and create her own fate without having to seek the approval of others.
That’s exactly what we should do – not so much the criminal part, but more the ‘letting go’. Don’t let the worry of what others might think dictate your life and stop you from becoming your true self.
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