This one is all about the women who go out there and make a living...whether it's as a reporter or a spaceship captain for an interstellar delivery service.
Hildy Johnson, reporter, from His Girl Friday
From the time I was 8-years-old when I first laid eyes on Hildy Johnson, I wanted to be Just. Like. Her.
No. Wait. Not just like her. I wanted to be her.
And whaddya know. For a little while there, I was Hildy Johnson (minus an ex-husband played by Cary Grant), complete with high-pressure workplace, completely insane newspaper job, nutso city editors always hunting for the big story (one even promised me a statue in the park! hah!), skewed sense of humor, and screwy personal life.
Granted, reality was not nearly as much fun as the movies, and (unlike Hildy) I decided that the saner, better-paying life was better for my long-term health and happiness. But I wouldn't trade the years I spent being Hildy Johnson (or at least a version of Hildy Johnson) for anything in the whole, wide world.
And that's why if you made me order my entire "Women Who Rock My World" list starting with the rockingest woman who ever rocked, Hildy Johnson would be number one with a bullet. Now and always.
A little known fact, His Girl Friday — considered one of the greatest screwball comedies of all time — was originally based on a play called The Front Page. In the play, and in two filmed versions for the play, Hildy was a man.
But the Hildy who reached iconic status, the Hildy that's remembered, is the Hildy that was portrayed by Rosalind Russell, who will never, ever be confused with a man.
Why was it changed? Because director Howard Hawks loved the way Hildy's dialog sounded when it was read by a woman — namely his secretary who was feeding lines to the actors during auditions. And thus, a classic movie — and a classic character — was born.
By the way: His Girl Friday is actually in the public domain. Which means that you can watch the whole, glorious movie via the Internet Archive for free.
Hildy Johnson dictating one of the craziest stories of her career (a murderer who's escaped custody after receiving an accidental hand from the police) via the phone in the most rat-tat-tat fashion. And this is just before all hell breaks loose:
Hildy: All right, now here's your story. The jailbreak of your dreams. It seems that expert Dr. Egelhoffer, the profound thinker from New York, was giving Williams a final sanity test in the Sheriff's office — you know, sticking a lot of pins in him so that he could get his reflexes. Well, he decided to re-enact the crime exactly as it had taken place...In order to study Williams' powers of co-ordination! Of course, he had to have a gun to re-enact the crime with. And who do you suppose supplied it? Peter B. Hartwell, [laughs] yeah, "B" for brains. Well, the Sheriff gave his gun to the Professor and the Professor gave it to Earl, and Earl shot the Professor right in the classified ads. No. "Ads." Ain't it perfect? If the Sheriff had unrolled a red carpet and loaned Williams an umbrella, it couldn't have been more ideal.
Kay Howard, like all the other characters in Homicide: Life on the Street, was based on real human being. The real human being also happened to be the only woman in the Homicide unit.
The H:LotS writers — both men and women — consider it a point of pride that Howard actually looked and acted like the kind of woman who'd be a police detective. Something that unfortunately was lost in later seasons thanks to network interference that forced them to hire an increasing number of "pretty people" to become part of the cast.
Kay, in a lot of ways, was a better cop than anyone else she worked with (and that includes Pembleton). She was the only Homicide detective to have a 100% clearance rate on her murders. She took the sergeant's exam, passed, and got a promotion. And, she managed to carve out a new role for herself as a supervisor when she got that promotion.
But most of all (and this is important), Kay had to deal with the constant low-level noise of sexism among her co-workers — although Kay fell into that mindset herself at times, such as her sneering at some of the women in uniform and calling them "glorified secretaries." She had to constantly prove herself and had to constantly show that she deserved her job. And then, when she got her promotion and began to assert her authority, she had deal with resentment that had an element of sexism mixed in (looking at you Meldrick — man, I love you, but you can be a dick when it comes to female cops).
Although it took her awhile to get the more reluctant guys in the squad to heel, she managed to pull it off thanks to guts, grit, force of will, and reminding people that no matter what they thought, she was still one of the best "murder police" in the Baltimore police department.
Howard, upon finding out that her old partner, Beau Felton was murdered and did not commit suicide like she originally thought.
Howard: If we don't close this case, it's on me. I should've known it wasn't a suicide. I let the case get cold because I believed the worst of Beau. I believed he was capable of killing himself and I hated him for that. For his being weak, selfish, everything I hated about him when we were partners. But with Beau, it was always when I was hating him the most that he would turn around and do something incredibly, stupidly, sweet. It just got me to hate him all the more...don't tell anyone I cried.
Oh, c'mon. Is there a better starship captain that our one-eyed, purple-haired mutant from the future?
Before you answer that, please take into consideration that her normal crew consists of Bender, a kleptomaniac robot, and Fry, thawed from a cryogenic tube after an accidental 1,000 year-long nap. Also please consider that her boss, Professor Farnsworth, may be considered more than slightly balmy by some — and justifiably so.
But Leela is more than just a starship captain. She's also a martial arts expert, the sanest person working at Planet Express (although, in truth, the competition isn't exactly that fierce for the title of "most sane"), and definitely the one with the most common sense. She loves fuzzy animals (all fuzzy animals), hates male chauvinist pigs (she's still trying to live down Zap Brannigan), and just kicks ass in general.
Okay, her love life's a mess, and she's more than a little bit insecure about having one eye. Yet, when it comes to faith in her own abilities as a pilot and as a captain, her confidence remains unshakeable.
Leela, trying to convince Zap to let her enlist in the military by spelling out the importance of her role, when Fry and Bender are being dragged off to war against the planet of the Bouncing Balls:
Leela: I would like to enlist. My friends always die if I'm not there to save them. [Cue Fry nodding so fast that his head's almost a blur.]
I know what some of you are thinking. How can Elizabeth Bennett be considered a working woman? Well, no, she's not in the modern sense of the word, but you can't deny that Lizzy was a working woman, despite the lack of gainful employment.
But Lizzy doesn't rock because she preferred rambling out of doors to playing piano (which she totally cops to), and she doesn't rock because she and Jane were often engaged in holding back their foolish sisters and mother from making complete spectacles of themselves.
No, Lizzy rocks because she more than once refused to give in to societal pressure to accept her first offer of marriage as well as the second. And she refused them both times for the same reason: because she couldn't respect the people who made those offers. It didn't matter that one was securely ensconced in a comfortable living (Mr. Collins) or that the other was fabulously wealthy beyond her dreams (Mr. Darcy). The fact is, they treated her like she was an item on a list of accessories that was needed (Mr. Collins), or like a shameful secret that had to be endured (Mr. Darcy).
But Lizzy held her ground and, in no uncertain terms, told them where to go and why they should go there.
In the end, it was the man who took her smackdown to heart (Mr. Darcy), and learned to respect her for her fine mind and quick wits, the won her over. And was happier for it in the bargain.
So to Lizzy, who bucked society for all the right reasons, and was willing to accept the consequences (she herself points out more than once that suitors were not exactly lining up for her hand) rather than tie her fortunes to someone she couldn't respect...and who wouldn't respect her.
Elizabeth, when turning down Mr. Collins's marriage proposal, trying in vain to convince him that she actually has a brain and is actually capable of thinking rationally:
Elizabeth: I do assure you, Sir, that I have no pretension whatever to that kind of elegance which consists in tormenting a respectable man. I would rather be paid the compliment of being believed sincere. I thank you again and again for the honour you have done me in your proposals, but to accept them is absolutely impossible. My feelings in every respect forbid it. Can I speak plainer? Do not consider me now as an elegant female, intending to plague you, but as a rational creature, speaking the truth from her heart.