The Badass Women of Sci-Fi

Brian Linder
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In the world of science fiction, there are plenty of women that come to mind when you say the word “badass.” But what exactly makes a badass female hero? Sure, it’s partly a take-no-prisoners attitude and being able to beat up everyone around you. But there are so many other things that can make a woman badass: brains, fighting for what’s right, and sticking to her principles.

Enter Jazz Bashara, the latest badass woman to emerge in the sci-fi universe. Jazz is the protagonist of Artemis, a thrilling new lunar adventure from the author of The Martian. With that in mind, check out these badass women of sci-fi.

Ellen Ripley, Alien

Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in Alien.

When anyone utters the phrase “badass lady,” Ellen Ripley almost immediately comes to mind, and for good reason. She was one of the first truly strong female characters in a genre that was (and is) so often dominated by men. She brought many women to the genre, but she also validated the presence of so many long-time lady sci-fi fans.

On a ship filled with bad decisions, Ripley maintains a clear head and a steady resolve, and she also kicks some serious alien ass.

Dana Scully, The X-Files

Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully in The X-Files.

Dana Scully is the person who taught an entire generation of girls that it’s cool to be smart, which is such a badass move.

Scully provides an expert voice of skepticism and levelheadedness to Mulder’s constant emotion and brings a scientific eye to everything she sees. Even when she’s surrounded by men (as she almost always is in the series), she makes her voice heard in the most crowded rooms.

Scully makes it clear that she walks her own path, and no one chooses it but her.

General Organa, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Princess Leia may have been a badass in her own right, but it’s General Organa who really sticks out when it comes to badass ladies.

It’s easy to be idealistic and defiant when you’re young. But what about when you’re world-weary from witnessing the horrors that are out there? When you’ve fought your whole life to preserve an ideal, and that has cost you everything? Leia has been abandoned by everyone — her brother, her husband, her son — and yet she still fights with everything she has for the Resistance.

It’s hard to overemphasize just how much of a badass General Organa is.

Captain Janeway, Star Trek: Voyager

Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager.

When it comes to badass women, the Star Trek franchise is often overlooked. The logic probably goes along the lines of, “a show about science and diplomacy doesn’t exactly allow for badass characters.” That logic is wrong. Being smart is badass, and nowhere is that more evident than in Captain Kathryn Janeway, the first female captain to lead a Star Trek series.

Captain Janeway balances being a fearless leader and a scientist, but she also cares for the physical and emotional well-being of a crew that is stranded far from home. It’s not an easy feat, and yet she does it with a gracefulness we’ve all come to know and love.

Olivia Dunham, Fringe

Anna Torv as Olivia Dunham in Fringe.

Fringe might have ostensibly been a show with three main characters, but to many fans, there was only one: Olivia Dunham.

This series sees Olivia defy gender roles, as she receives the tragic backstory and “chosen one” status that so many male heroes of science fiction usually get. Olivia doesn’t let that define her, though. She knows her value, she’s well aware of the fact that she’s both smart and capable, and refuses to let anyone around her underestimate her.

It’s hard to find female characters who are as well-established and developed as Olivia in sci-fi, and she’ll always be one of the most badass characters in the genre because of it.

Rey, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Rey might not be the traditional idea of a badass heroine, but let’s remember that there’s a lot more to being a badass than just muscle and a witty quip in the face of danger.

Along with Rogue One heroine Jyn Erso, Rey shares a dogged determination to survive, but more than that, she tries to do what’s right. It would have been easier for her to ignore BB-8, to turn her back on the Resistance officer (liar though Finn might have been), to give in to torture and tell Kylo Ren what he needed to know.
There was no reason she needed to get involved; after all, it’s not as though the galaxy had treated her well. But Rey is a badass because she’s a beacon of hope who always fights for what she believes is right, even as it threatens to cost her everything.


Jazz Bashara, Artemis

Jazz Bashara of the new audiobook Artemis by Andy Weir, performed by Rosario Dawson

The final entry brings us back to the new entrant in the pantheon of badass sci-fi females: Jasmine Bashara, the protagonist of Artemis from Andy Weir, the author of The Martian.

Jasmine, or as everybody calls her Jazz, is flawed and feisty. She’s also a criminal. Sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So, smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself – and now her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

Jazz is brought to life by IRL badass, actress Rosario Dawson, who performs the Artemis audiobook, available exclusively on Audible.

Brian Linder
Brian is a Sr. Content Producer at FANDOM. He's been on the fan-media scene since dial-up. Arriving at FANDOM via IGN, Brian was a founding editor at early Star Wars fansite TheForce.net and co-created the movie site, FilmForce, acquired by IGN in 2006. He's a fan of space operas and superheroes.
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