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Heroine With a Thousand Faces: The Rise of the Female Savior

Male hero figures abound in our culture. But in a time of economic turmoil, they just don’t seem to be getting the job done.

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Both Lisbeth and Katniss extend the limits of what is possible in the stifling worlds they inhabit. Notably, both women display violence – they show, through their physical aggression, the ultimate proof of their subjectivity. They are committed to their own survival -- quite the opposite of the martyrdom and physical sacrifice traditionally demanded of female saviors. But they also show openness to collaboration with both men and women that points to the limitations of the lone-cowboy-hero model and the traditional gender dynamic of male dominance/female servitude.

For these female characters, the waiting game of young womanhood is supplanted by active conquest, and the path is opened for independent, strong-willed and admirable heroines. The ethical, intelligent, fearless female becomes the preeminent challenge to sinister, intangible forces. Mold-breaking female protagonists subvert the rules of a rigged game in a way that is all the more thrilling and cathartic for their break with tradition.

As women continue to gain power and influence, they will be tested as heroes, and many, no doubt, will fail and turn to corruption and compliance, just as their male predecessors have done. But for the moment, the female superhero may be our last hope.

If not her, who?


Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet contributing editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of 'Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture.' Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.