Science Fiction And The Women Who Run the Place

Who run the world? Girls!

Tickets for Annihilation are on sale now!  

If you’re a lady, you’ve likely been told that something you love isn’t for you, but for dudes. Science fiction has certainly had its share of sexism and gatekeeping, but it’s also historically been a haven for exceptional female characters. As a matter of fact, the “modern” form of the genre itself was created by a woman. Mary Shelley penned Frankenstein as a teenager in 1818, laying foundation for the genre as a whole. So just keep that in your back pocket next time some mouth-breather tells you that Star Trek is for boys.

Fittingly, Shelley was as much of a badass as the women who would eventually rise up as characters in the genre (the lady’s maiden name was Wollstonecraft, and - as you well know - you don’t just go off and do nothing with a bitchin’ name like that). Shelley believed that it was a woman’s job to challenge the societal views around them, and while she may be long gone, that idea still lives on in today’s science fiction.

Over the past several decades, we have seen women step into trailblazing roles that would lay the groundwork not just for sci-fi, but for other genres as well. Pieces of Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley and Carrie Fisher’s Leia Organa can be seen in nearly all of the heroines we look up to today. Nichelle Nichols’ Nyota Uhura acts as a cornerstone of the Star Trek universe and as diverse representation well before it was a thing society as a whole would call for. Danai Gurira’s Michonne and Okoye, Gillian Anderson’s Dana Scully, Kate Mulgrew’s Kathryn Janeway, Lupita Nyongo’s Nakia and Maz Kanata … the list of incredible women in science fiction goes on, and most other genres don’t hold a candle to it.

Also among those women: Natalie Portman. She’s played all manner of characters throughout the decades of her career, but her first science fiction flick was just two years in, with her role as Taffy Dale in the ridiculous (and beloved) Mars Attacks. Obviously, she didn’t stop there. Portman would go on to become the Queen of Nabu as Padme Amidala in The Phantom Menace just three years later. Immediately after the Star Wars prequels concluded, she would move on to be Evey in V for Vendetta, before eventually taking on Jane Foster in Thor a few years after that. Fast forward to today where we see the scientist, writer, director, producer, and actress still taking on these sci-fi roles with the upcoming Annihilation.

Portman’s character, Lena, is a former military biologist who signs up for a top-secret expedition after her husband returns from his mission and immediately lapses into a coma. Lena leads a team entirely comprised of women (including Westworld and Thor: Ragnarok’s Tessa Thompson, eXistenZ’s Jennifer Jason Leigh, and new-to-the-genre-but-still-wonderful Gina Rodriguez), into what looks to be a not-at-all threatening environmental danger zone, and ... well, let's just say things unravel from there. Despite the mission’s inevitable failure, Annihilation continues the trend of countless science fiction pieces before it - women getting shit done.

Centuries after Mary Shelley started laying the foundation for the genre, science fiction is both still going strong and continuing to evolve. As we see the landscape for cinema change to be more inclusive of things like sex, race, and orientation, it’s a comfort to know that sci-fi will still be there leading the charge when the other genres forget. Here’s to hundreds more years of women leading the way.

In the meantime, we’re sure we’ve inevitably forgotten your favorites above, so feel free to give them a shout-out in the comments below. Everyone needs more leading ladies in their lives!

Reminder: tickets for Annihilation are on sale now. Trust us, you wanna see this one in theaters.