History is full of countless kick ass women, and so many of them have influenced my life. I decided to narrow down that long list and focus on the ones that have had the longest lasting and largest influence on both me as a person and as a writer.
I start with two of the most iconic women in film…
Scarlett O’Hara and Melanie Hamilton Wilkes
“I’m tired of being Scarlett O’Hara. In my next life I’m going to come back as Melanie Wilkes, fragile and helpless.” – Linda Fairstein
I’m not sure when I first saw Gone with the Wind. But I do know that I saw the movie in its entirety by the time I was twelve, and that’s because I remember reading the book when I was in sixth grade. Regardless of when I first encountered Gone with the Wind, by the time I was twelve, I was obsessed with the movie and with Scarlett O’Hara.
On the surface, Scarlett is probably not the best role model for, well, anyone. She’s manipulative, immature, selfish, vain, and petty. She has horrible taste in men (sorry to all the Ashley Wilkes fans, but I just don’t get the attraction). She steals other women’s boyfriends and then marries men she doesn’t love. She shows her bosom before three o’clock. And, according to Rhett Butler, she’s no lady.
Scarlett is also an extremely intelligent rebel who bucks the rules of the Southern antebellum and postbellum societies. She stays in Atlanta without a chaperone, and then barely escapes the city as General Sherman and his Union troops are burning it to the ground. She lies, cheats, steals, and kills to keep herself and those she loves alive – seriously, she kills a Yankee bent on robbing the plantation house and then buries him in a shallow grave. She saves the family plantation from carpetbaggers. She goes into business for herself – something a well-bred Southern Belle never would have done. Scarlett is a survivor. She won’t be broken. She never gives up because, after all, tomorrow is another day.
Sure, Scarlett has a lot of flaws, makes a lot of mistakes, and does some questionable things along the way. But she knows what matters most to her, and she will do whatever it takes to achieve her goals. Overlooking what’s bad about Scarlett, you can see the good in her. You can see the kick ass woman hidden beneath that airheaded Southern Belle performance and the insane number of petticoats.
As for Melanie Hamilton Wilkes, “kick ass” is probably not a word that comes to mind when describing her. She’s more likely to faint before raising her voice. It took me years to finally appreciate Melanie because I always saw her as boring and weak. But it’s hard to shine through when you’re set up to be Scarlett’s opposite. Melanie is everything Scarlett is not. She doesn’t just play the part of a Southern Belle, she really is one. She’s dependable and loyal to a fault. She always sees the good in people. She’s selfless and caring. Melanie is weak, helpless, and dependent on others because she was raised to be that way. But her strength comes through when she needs it to. After all, she does help Scarlett dispose of a dead body.