Have you ever come across a character in a book or TV show who suddenly made everything seem possible?
When I was young, back in the 1980s (yes, I know that was a horribly long time ago) a lot of the women I saw in films and on TV were a bit… well… rubbish. That was long before Buffy or Catniss from The Hunger Games, and back then there weren’t as many tough, smart female characters on the screen. In fact, a lot of them just seemed to be there to look pretty and get rescued.
It was depressing. It made me feel like growing up would mean becoming boring and useless.
When I was about nine years old, my sister and I had a tiny TV in our bedroom which we weren’t allowed to watch after bedtime. But of course we did, with the sound turned down low so our parents wouldn’t hear it.
One night I stumbled across an episode of an old, black-and-white TV show, mid-episode. I saw a young woman relaxing on a sofa, and as I watched a sinister-looking man burst in through the French windows and attacked her. Here we go again, I thought. More screaming, getting kidnapped and needing to be rescued.
So I was quite surprised when she leapt to her feet and kicked the stuffing out of him.
He looked surprised too, as he ran away in panic. When he limped back to the villains’ base to report, his boss was also pretty flabbergasted.
“You were jumped by Mrs Peel?” he asked in disbelief.
Now I knew the name of my new hero.
The old show was The Avengers, and after that day I secretly watched it every week. Emma Peel was a deadly martial artist, brilliant scientist, skilled swordswoman and cunning undercover agent. Every episode she faced strange dangers alongside her partner John Steed, and she was his equal, not his sidekick or girlfriend. She often wore a black leather catsuit that made her look panther-like and dangerous.
And now that I’m a writer, I can create lots more female characters who are Definitely Not Damsels…
Which characters made you feel that you could do anything you wanted?