2016's Most Influential Women in Genre

Contributed by
Dec 29, 2016

As we look back on 2016, we obviously wanted to highlight the noteworthy and groundbreaking moments for women in genre this year. But equally important, if not more so, is celebrating the women that have made a monumental difference in the nerdverse this year. Whether creators behind the scenes, actresses in front of a camera, or whatever the role they play, these woman have proved themselves to be powerful forces in geekdom. They've spoken honestly, worked tirelessly, and have all in one way or another changed and impacted the lives of numerous other women. As genre has continued to dominate the mainstream, the influence of these women has been felt far and wide, not just by a subgroup of niche fandoms, but also in important conversations on the national stage. Whether as outspoken activists or quiet leaders, each of these ladies have helped change the landscape of pop culture in one way or another. Here is our first annual list of the Most Influential Women in Genre.

 

Denise Gossett, director of Shriekfest Festival

Gosset singlehandedly runs one of the biggest horror film festivals in the industry, Shriekfest. She's done it for years and has helped to build a huge community for the genre and actively seeks to include more women.

 

The cast of the Ghostbusters reboot


From the moment the female-led reboot was announced, Ghostbusters was surrounded in a tsunami of drama. Angry "fans" of the orginal called for a boycott, while lashing out at anyone involved with or in support of the film. But perhaps in spite of or because of the negative backlash, the movie brought feminism and female representation to the forefront of summer movie season discussion.The stars themselves were also shining examples of how to stand tall and persevere when met with unwarranted and disgusting sexist and racist opposition. At the end of the day, all the b.s. proved worth it as the film resulted in endless pictures and accounts of little girls enamored with the film and it's stars.

 

Maurissa Tancharoen, co-showrunner for Marvel's Agents of SHIELD

Tancharoen has quietly and resolutely put together a TV cast that's more diverse than all of the Marvel movies combined, and where WOC are major characters. This year, the show brought on the Robbie Reyes version of Ghost Rider, probably one of the only times in TV history where a young Latino man is depicted as a hero. (Anti-hero, in this case I guess, but he does get to work with the good guys.)

 

Lexa from The 100

The 100 quietly built up a cult following and loyal fanbase. But shortly after Clexa, the fan favorite and lesbian couple of Clarke and Lexa,  consumated their relationship, the controversial decision was made to kill Lexa. The move instantly saw fans rally and speak out against the all too familar outcome, one where gay characters are treated as disposable, and at times gay-baiting, props. Lexa's death thrust the Bury Your Gays trope into an even bigger spotlight than ever, thus leading to the Lexa Pledge. 


 

Harley Quinn

Harley’s always had somewhat of a cult following. A cosplay favorite, she's typically known as little more than Joker's girlfriend, rarely getting the opportunity to step out from behind her manical love's shadow. However, this year she was arguably the biggest draw for Suicide Squad and her popularity undoubtedly led to the spinoff Gotham City Sirens, something Joker has never been able to pull off. 

 

Jamie Broadnax , founder of Black Girl Nerds.

Black Girl Nerds continues to grow and attract big name celebs to their blog and podcast, and is at the forefront of inclusion in geekdom. In December, Broadnax announced that she and The Black Geeks founder Robert Butler were partnering up to launch Universal Fan Con, a con dedicated to inclusion and diversity in fandom. 

 

Amanda Deibert, for her essay "Dear Trump Supporter"

This year's election was one of the most, if not the most, polarizing events of the year. For one comic book writer, the results were incredibly personal. Amanda Deibert took to Medium and wrote a moving and honest essay titled "Dear Trump Supporter" that spoke frankly about what our newly elected President may mean for her, her wife ( artist Cat Staggs) and their daughter. The essay instantly went viral on social media, with countless members of the LGBTQ community thanking Deibert for putting into words what they were feeling but couldn't, or didn't, express.


 

Sana Amanat, Marvel Comics Director, Content & Character Development 

Sana's work within Marvel is well known, and in 2016 she continued to help the company further diversify behind the scenes as well as on the page. Amanat spoke at this year's United State of Women summit about the importance and impact representation in pop culture has for young girls, drawing from her own experience and inspirtation behind the creation of Kamala Kahn. 

 

Gale Anne Hurd

Hurd is no stranger to genre fans. But being the executive producer of the biggest show on television, The Walking Dead, was apparently not enough for her. In 2016, she was the EP of not one, not two, but SIX different shows on TV. 


 

The Wachowski sisters 

Lilly Wachowski came out as trans this year, joining her sister Lana who officially came out in 2012, earning her the Human Rights Campaign's Visibility Award. Together, they are the first trans women to have written and directed a series with Netflix's Sense8


 

Ming-Na Wen, actress 

Wen has used her platform to consistently speak up against whitewashing and for Asian representation in media. She's also killing it as fan favorite and all around badass Melinda May on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

 

Rebecca Sugar, Steven Universe creator

Steven Universe has been hailed for its honest stories exploring gender fluidity and gender norms.This year, Sugar announced the release of The Answer, the kids book based on the Steven Universe episode of the same name. It was an opportunity for Sugar to tell the story of Ruby and Sapphire in a way that couldn't be done in the episode. 

 

Melissa Rosenberg, executive producer Jessica Jones

Rosenberg knew she wanted to seek out female directors first and foremost for Season 2 of Jessica Jones, but after someone else involved with the production suggest only hiring women, she quickly followed through.

 

Diane Nelson, President of DC Entertainment (DCE) and President of Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP).

What does is mean to sit at the head of a multimedia empire? Nelson oversees DCE’s total portfolio, including Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, across all media and platforms, including ten DC shows during the 2016-2017 season and the growing slate of films, including the DCU, the Harry Potter franchise, and moreShe's also in charge of integrating the DC, Vertigo and MAD brands deeply across Warner Bros. Entertainment, inculding gaming and consumer products. 

 

Kathleen Kennedy, President of Lucasfilm

There's a reason Vanity Fair has called Kennedy "the most powerful woman in Hollywood." In the last two years, Star Wars has managed to once again dominate pop culture in a way that may have seemed almost unfathomable a few years back, and the woman who has been passed the baton has definitely proved to be a worthy leader. Kennedy has guided the franchise as it's reemerged from the ashes known as the prequels and risen as a female-led phoenix with a slate full of new entries in the movie-verse.