Sweden’s Greta Thunberg is making headlines and waves as she travels to next month’s United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York by way of a zero-carbon yacht. The teen climate activist is inspiring her peers, as well as members of generations before her, by taking a stand for her beliefs. And she has the potential to make a real difference in global climate policy. Greta’s TED Talk has been viewed more than 3.5 million times, and her name is often mentioned as a potential 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner. While we don’t know what motivates Greta’s activism, we can’t help but wonder if media played a role. From documentaries about the climate crisis to films about environmental activists, media can play an important role in the career paths and passions that young people choose. This is especially true for young girls who see women featured as protagonists on screen.
Here’s a list of our five favorite female characters who’ve inspired real breakthroughs by girls and women in real life.
- Elle Woods of Legally Blonde inspired of a thousand memes and encouraged a new generation of young women to apply to law school—proving that being a brainiac and a fashionista are not mutually exclusive.
- Dr. Dana Scully from The X-Files was the first leading lady shown as a STEM professional. She inspired an entire generation of women to pursue STEM careers.
- Erin Brockovich from the film of the same name showed us how a single mother could care for her family while fighting for the health of her community. This inspiring a new era of citizen activism around environmental issues.
- Maxine Shaw from the popular 90s television sitcom Living Single was an iconic lawyer. She inspired a generation of Black girls to pursue careers as attorneys.
- Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games caused an unprecedented spike in girls signing up for archery lessons. This was a bullseye for boosting the confidence of young women everywhere.
Take Action! Introduce these classic films and shows to the young people in your life. Also, let us know how female protagonists have helped shaped your life path.