Fictional Kickass Ladies: Zoe Allayne Washburn

I bring you the second in what we hope is a series on Kickass Fictional Ladies.  You may remember when The Red Menace brought you the first post about Princess Eilonwy, from the Chronicles of Prydain.   Well, it's time to share another lady who we see as a strong female character. Warning: this post contains minor spoilers for the Firefly television series and the Serenity movie......

Those of you who know me in real life may be surprised that I didn't pick Buffy Summers (the Vampire Slayer) for my first foray into this feature. I still like Buffy, and much as Buffy kicks ass, and as important a character as she was to me in my teens and 20's, I find that now that I've reached Ladyhood, it's Zoe who's caught my attention.


Where she's from: Zoe is a female character created by Joss Whedon. She can be seen in the space-western series Firefly, and the movie based on that series, Serenity. Whedon has made a career and a reputation on writing strong, smart, and capable women (see the difference between The Black Widow in Iron Man 2 vs. The Avengers), and Zoe personifies this.

What's her deal: Zoe served in the Unification War as second in command under Sergeant Malcolm (Mal) Reynolds. She continues this role when he purchases and attempts to run a "transport" business on the spaceship Serenity. Despite an initial aversion to him (to be fair, he did have a questionable mustache) Zoe married Serenity's pilot, Hoban (Wash) Washburn. Zoe's defining characteristic is her fierce loyalty -  to her husband, her captain and her crew. Most importantly, she doesn't need to be saved by her male crew-mates.  In fact, in one episode (War Stories), Zoe leads a mission to rescue Wash and Mal after they are kidnapped and tortured by a powerful crime lord.

Why she's kickass: While Gina Torres, the actress who plays Zoe, is a total glamazon, as a character Zoe is female without being girly or over-sexualized. In fact, I would argue that you could have a male actor play Zoe, and have to do very little rewriting.  Her characterization focuses more on her humanity than on any perceived gender based characteristics. While women are often characterized as overly emotional, Zoe is preternaturally calm, an anchor for the crew, rather than the one needing to be anchored.


Zoe, tellin' it like it is: Zoe: "First rule of battle, little one ... don't ever let them know where you are." Mal: "WHOO-HOO! I'M RIGHT HERE! I'M RIGHT HERE! YOU WANT SOME O' ME?! YEAH YOU DO! COME ON! COME ON! AAAAAH! Whoo-hoo!" Zoe: "'Course, there're other schools of thought." (Firefly)

Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: I'll take the shuttle in closer. Zoe, ship is yours. Remember, if anything happens to me, or you don't hear from me within the hour... you take this ship and you come and you rescue me. Zoë: What? And risk my ship? Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: I mean it. It's cold out there. I don't wanna get left. (Serenity)