1. Buffy Summers
Okay, no particular order, but it's pretty much impossible for anyone to replace Buffy Summers in my heart. The scene from this picture does a good job of explaining why I love her. She's fighting the vampire (remember, this was before vampires were lame) she loved because he turned evil (long story). This guy threatened her mother and best friends, tortured her father-figure, broke her heart, and now she's fighting him in order to save the world. This moment, she's on the ground, tired and supposedly beaten. Angel says, "No weapons, no friends, no hope. Take all that away and what's left?" As he says this, he lunges a sword towards Buffy's face. She catches the blade between her palms, opens her eyes and says, "Me." She then proceeds to kick his butt all the way to hell (literally).
If you've ever heard me talk about television, you know how much I love Joss Whedon. He creates amazing worlds with amazing characters and is one of the only big Hollywood writers that can write women as three-dimensional characters. One of my favorite quotes of Joss is from a speech he gave at an Equality Now event. He's giving us a pretend exchange between himself and a reporter in which the reporter asks why he keeps writing such strong female characters. "Because you're still asking me that question."
There are plenty of people out there who study feminism and film that say he isn't all that he's cracked up to be, but I still love him. He writes his characters to be strong, but more importantly, he writes them to be real. Even when they're playing kitten poker with vampires and demons.
"'Come not between the Nazgul and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.'
A sword rang as it was drawn. 'Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may.'
'Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!'
...'But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Eowyn I am, Eomund's daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.'"
Then she kills him like, 5 paragraphs later because that's how Tolkien rolls. Let's ignore the BEAUTIFUL prose above (I think I'm going to have to take a break from Neil Gaiman and brush up on my tied-for-favorite novel) and just talk about Eowyn.
Tolkien is notoriously bad at writing women into his books. Exactly four women are characters in Lord of the Rings (and from the other Tolkien books I've read, that's doing really well): Rosie Cotton, Arwen, Galadriel, and Eowyn. This in a book over 1,000 pages long and a myriad of characters. It's probably because of that she stands out to me so much. You don't get to know Rosie at all (I don't even think she has dialogue), Arwen's too perfect, Galadriel rocks my socks but again, she's an elf and therefore perfect. Eowyn actually has a story arc and she's someone I aspired to be like as a teenager. She's independent, afraid, brave, loyal, loving, confused, and strong. She really is amazing.
3. The Doctor
I wrote an entire blog post on this show, so I won't go too far into it.
The first word The Doctor says in the new series is "run" and he never stops. He travels everywhere throughout space and time (although he does take a liking to modern-day London), fixes everything, screws a lot up, goes crazy, makes mistakes, makes friends, gets them killed, and everything in between. He's 900 years old and acts like a child so he doesn't have to look back on everything he's done. He's just fun.
4. Winston Smith
My other tied-for-favorite novel (although I may have to reevaluate now that I've read American Gods). Winston Smith is everyman. Overweight (at least I always pictured him to be a bit), unhealthy, just trying to get by. All that starts to change when he writes in a blank book. He's committed a crime just by doing that. It starts small and grows. He does the seemingly little things to stick it to Big Brother eventually leading him to try to find a group whose mission is to overthrow everything. I won't give away the ending just in case you haven't read it (if not, drop what you're doing and read it right now), but Winston is the unlikeliest of heroes who may or may not do the impossible.
"Illusion, Michael. A trick is something a whore does for money. Or candy!"
"I'm afraid I just blue myself."
"Army had a half day."
"Who'd like a banger in the mouth?"
"I've made a huge mistake."
"The seal is for marksmanship."
"Don't leave your uncle T-bag hanging!"
"Am I in two-thirds of a hospital room?"
"We've got unlimited juice? This party is gonna be off the hook."
"Michael, if I may take off my pants and pull my analrapist stocking over my head, I think George Michael may be suffering from what we in the soft-sciences call 'Obsessive Compulsive Disorder,' or 'the O.C. Disorder.'"
"Looks like a guy you think may be called 'Hermano' is going to get his ass kicked."
"I know she's a brownish area.. with points."
"Do these effectively hide my thunder?"
I could go on.
6. River Tam
Another Joss creation. If River had been able to have the 5 season story arc Joss had planned, she would have given Buffy a run for her money. This girl is incredible and this shot is one of my favorites in cinematic history. The doors open slowly to reveal a 90 pound 17 year old surrounded by a piles of dead Reavers with the Alliance ready to shoot. As the blood drips off the axe, we see River deciding whether to turn her blade onto them. We've only recently found out that she kicks major butt and for 14 episodes she was pretty much just crazy. 14 episodes and a movie did not do this woman justice.
Also... she can kill you with her brain.
7. The Count of Monte Cristo
Get that terrible movie out of your head. We're talking Alexandre Dumas' here, who wrote a man whose entire life is stripped from him by men he knows and men he doesn't for reasons it takes him years to discover. When he finally escapes from prison, he attains unbelievable wealth and uses it to hunt down and destroy his enemies. Again, this process takes years and he's practically an old man by the time he finishes. He slowly ruins the men who played a role in his demise and in doing so, ruins men who were merely passersby as well as himself. By the end he's a shell of a man, gutted by the vengeance he dedicated his life to. He's one of the most interesting characters I've ever read and it's fascinating to see his motivations as his world and convictions crumble. You begin by cheering him on and end up condemning him. Really, one of the best characters I've ever read.
I'll call that good for now. Mainly because I have to work tomorrow.