Girl Power: 8 Stories Featuring Extraordinary Women at Every Age
“Because us girls crave records and books and fanzines that speak to us that we feel included in and can understand in our own ways,” reads the first line of Kathleen Hanna’s Riot Grrl Manifesto. We’re pretty sure she meant movies and shows too. Here at Topic we love stories about strong, fearless, or otherwise extraordinary women, and when they’re acted out by capable, dynamic actresses, there’s nothing more compelling to watch. Every month should be Women’s History Month because the world should be perpetually celebrating women and their experiences — regardless of age, background, or station in life. We’ve rounded up eight very diverse stories on Topic, both fictional and real, that exemplify the extraordinary women in all of us.
Think “Sex and the City,” but a lot more fierce. Throw in a dash of “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and you’ve got “Honour.” The series follows four female lawyers in Sweden who share a dark secret together and are now bonded by a mission to seek justice for sexual assault victims. Unfortunately, it’s still very much a man’s world and their work is constantly challenged by skeptics and deniers. When they investigate a case that could expose a crime ring of the country’s most powerful men, they get everything from blackmail to emotional terrorism hurled at them. Will they give up? Hell no. The patriarchy should be afraid, very, very afraid. As if that doesn’t sound badass enough, the four leads are also the creators and producers of the show — talk about girl power.
And you thought fitting in was hard. Toni is an 11-year-old tomboy who takes boxing classes at her local Cincinnati gym. When she sees a dance team practicing nearby, she’s immediately transfixed. It takes courage to join a new club and surround yourself with new people, but imagine doing that and watching your new friends collapse one by one around you in mysterious fainting spells. As if early adolescence wasn’t hard enough. Written and directed by Anna Rose Holmer, “The Fits” features breakout star Royalty Hightower as Toni in a startlingly measured and real performance.
There are three inescapable things in life: death, taxes, and the pains of being a teenage girl. When Greta’s parents throw her a party for her 15th birthday and invite the whole school, her universe is thrown into disarray — quite literally. She enters a parallel existence that looks like the inside of Bjork’s brain, complete with synchronized dance routines and forest creatures, where she must confront allegorical versions of her classmates so she can reconcile her insecurities in real life. The film, directed by rising talent Rosemary Myers, proves that the mind of a teenage girl may be vulnerable, but it’s damn resilient.
Trump’s presidential win sparked one surprisingly positive consequence: an unprecedented number of women have started running for political office. These women are determined to undo the damage he’s caused and unf*ck our country, with the mentality that “If Trump can do it, then I know I can do it.” “She’s the Ticket” follows five women who are entering different levels of public office, from Stacey Abrams, who would have become the first African-American woman to serve as governor of Georgia (but lost to, you guessed it, a white man), to 23-year-old Crystal Murillo who was spurred into politics by Trump’s xenophobic view of immigrants. “She’s the Ticket” is a timely reminder that if the world is on fire, we can take action to help put it out.
Speaking of not sitting back, let’s give it up for Generation Z. “Silent Rose” is a candid portrayal of high school students in modern America wrestling with how to be heard and taken seriously. This generation is louder and more active than its predecessors, probably because they know they’ll have to save the world from the older generations who have turned it into a heaping trash fire. These days kids have to deal with lockdown drills, racial tension at an all time high, and an increasingly divided country. Though the film follows several students and faculty members, the standout voice belongs to Shatira, a student and aspiring photographer who talks openly about her struggle with identity. We see Shatira trying to figure out where she stands among all the issues, but it’s the granular glimpses into her own world that will stir viewers.
Darkly relevant for current times, “Arctic Circle” starts with a search for a sex trafficking-kidnapper-murderer (naturally) but turns into a much more sinister story, as one of the victims is diagnosed with a mysterious virus. In a race against time, Finnish police officer Nina Kautsalo, whose steely gaze is a stern warning that she cannot be f*cked with, spearheads the case along with German virologist Thomas Lorenz. Smart and fearless, Nina is able to pick up on even the smallest clues and follows wherever they go, undaunted. On top of that, she’s a single mom raising a special needs daughter without any help from the father. Some superheroes wear capes, some wear snow boots and drive cool snowmobiles.
Janis Joplin shook the world with her powerhouse voice for too brief a period of time. By the time she died in 1970, joining the notorious 27 Club, she had virtually reinvented the rules of music, but she was hardly done surprising the world. In “Janis: Little Girl Blue,” filmmaker Amy Berg tells Joplin’s story through archival footage, intimate interviews, and never-before-seen letters she wrote to her parents over the years. But the most compelling parts, hands down, are excerpts of her live concerts. Joplin once said, “On stage I make love to 25,000 people, and then I go home.” Even watching it on a screen at home, you feel that. Watch “Janis: Little Girl Blue” and feel her embrace.
“Beauty and the Dogs” will awaken the dormant feminist in you — or incite the active feminist in you to action. The drama follows Mariam, a Tunisian woman who is raped by police officers after leaving a party and is forced to relive her trauma over and over again as she tries to seek justice. As you can imagine, getting justice in this scenario does not come easy for her, especially in a society where, until 2017, “marry-your-rapist laws” exempted rapists from legal consequences if he married his victim. “Beauty and the Dogs” is written and directed by rising Tunisian female director Kaouther Ben Hania and stars newcomer Mariam Al Ferjani, who delivers a gripping performance as a woman who fights for her dignity until the bitter end.