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The last two years, we've selected a single character as our Shero of the Year, a fictional woman with a huge real-world impact. In 2017, it was Wonder Woman, who lassoed our hearts and destroyed the No Woman's Land of big-screen superhero flicks. In 2018, it was Shuri, our Wakandan princess and STEM queen, who came here to do science, judge your shoes, and chew bubblegum and was all out of bubblegum.
This year, however, gave us several iconic and revolutionary sheroes who shaped 2019 and us as fans. For many, these women (and the people who portrayed them) gave us opportunities to see ourselves onscreen in ways we hadn't before, rejecting the idea of what a female hero is "supposed" to be. Some chose anger, rage, all the things that make women appear "difficult." Some chose hope in the face of impossible obstacles. And most were met with the kind of online rage no one should have to face, but most of us do.
But their presence mattered, and matters. These are our sheroes of 2019.
The last decade has not been kind to Arya Stark. She saw her father beheaded, found out that her brother and mother had been murdered just before she was reunited with them, and experienced numerous hardships across her many travels (including running into Ed Sheeran). Despite these huge losses at such a young age, she found a way to gain strength in an unforgiving world. She trained long and hard to become the best fighter, but the Stark name was something she ultimately could not toss aside. "The lone wolf dies but the pack survives," which is how Arya came to return to her home just in time to be reunited with her remaining siblings (and cousin). Arya's presence in the huge battle against the Night King was vital: her knives were out and she did what had to be done. Revenge fueled her when she thought she had nothing left, however, in the end, Arya does everything in her power to protect her family. Having grown up dreaming of becoming a fighter rather than a Lady, she got her wish and saved Westeros. - Emma Fraser
To loosely paraphrase another real-life Shero (Beyoncé), one of the most obvious traits of any nominee in this category is the ability to inspire conversation — and on that front, Rose Tico definitely succeeded. From her first appearance in 2017's Star Wars: The Last Jedi, she was both the subject of praise from those eager to see themselves represented and the recipient of ire from angry fanboys everywhere long before she even uttered a word on-screen. But in spite of the nonsensical backlash, Rose endeared herself to many, and the importance of her presence in the Star Wars universe can't be understated — which is why it was so discouraging to witness her complete and utter sidelining (not to mention friend-zoning) in this year's Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. We're not going to presume anything about creative intent, but let's just say there was an opportunity missed here, and no amount of backpedaling (or weirdly blaming the late Carrie Fisher?) is going to convince us otherwise. (Real-life props go to Kelly Marie Tran who walked that TROS red carpet dressed for the sequel she deserved, even if it wasn't the one she ultimately got.) - Carly Lane
“Let It Go” was a gamechanger. The coming-out anthem defined Elsa’s transition from a villainous role into a woman embracing her power for the first time. However, her hit song aside, Elsa was mostly a supporting character to Anna’s heroic princess in the first film. With Frozen II, she finally took the reins of her own destiny. It’s Elsa this time who drives the force of the plot, heading north, taming the elemental chaos within the creatures she meets, and uncovering the secret history of Arendelle. But her real journey is the one she began with “Let It Go.” If that song was her accepting herself for the first time, her songs in Frozen II are about truly loving and wanting herself. With “Into the Unknown,” we get an early peek into the longing she has to find answers and meaning to her life, a hugely relatable struggle for a lot of us. Later, with “Show Yourself,” we take a much deeper dive into that search and the realization that there’s not some mysterious figure out there that will give her a purpose in her life, that the only person who can do that is herself. While there are still many of us who will cling desperately to our vision of an Elsa who represents the LGBTQ+ community literally and not just figuratively, it’s also true that her journey’s internal message in this movie was extremely powerful and struck a chord with the lost. We found you years ago, Elsa, and we’re glad you have now, too. - Riley Silverman
Kate Kane may have burst onto the pages of DC Comics in 2006, but this year The CW brought her to life for the very first time in their latest superhero series. Though not the first lesbian superhero on TV (or in the Arrowverse), Kane, played by Ruby Rose, is the first with a show that is all hers and which treats her sexuality as both utterly normal and completely essential. In just the first nine episodes, Kate Kane and her Batwoman alter ego have proven to be the heroes we need both together and apart. Batwoman is a hero for a Gotham City more broken and divided than it has ever been, a beacon of hope and a rallying figurehead for those who feel ignored or overlooked by the wealthy society and the Crows on their payroll. Meanwhile, Kate stands as a role model for those who find themselves rejected by society or those they love or respect. She has proven herself unwilling to compromise her identity and her truth in pursuit of someone else’s ideals while also grappling with her own privilege. It’s a tough line to walk, especially when doing it in Batman’s shoes, but so far she has done it with humility, if not grace, and I for one am looking forward to seeing where this journey leads. - Tricia Ennis
Sarah Connor more than deserves a nod for Shero of the Year. Hell, she had the comeback of the decade. Sarah Connor — the original, not the cosplay Sarah Connor from Terminator: Genisys — came back to the Terminator franchise like Michael Jordan wearing the 45 in his return to basketball, the G.O.A.T emerging to take back her rightful place atop the franchise. A battle-tested Sarah Connor is the best Sarah Connor and in Terminator: Dark Fate she was every bit the grizzled icon of 2019. By the time we meet her again decades after Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Sarah had killed enough terminators to fill up a Bed Bath & Beyond with their exoskeletons. She arrives in the movie in legendary fashion, flawlessly brandishing a rocket launcher and firing with ease as though it were a Nerf and we had no choice but to stan even harder. She might lack a technologically advanced body, but at the end of the day, experience and the desire to do whatever it takes wins out. - Stephanie Williams
There is a laundry list of things to love about one of this year’s best series, Watchmen. For one, Regina King stars in it as Sister Night, a woman who would give Amanda Waller a run for her money. The imagery of a Black woman giving racists all the smoke they can’t handle is most pleasing to me. Whenever Sister Night is on the screen, it’s Sister Act 3: Catch These Holy Hands. Some of the best fight sequences of the series involve her character, fights I could watch on loop forever and ever. She gets angry and acts on that anger — and there's something very cathartic watching her beat the living hell out of a racist. Perhaps one of the best aspects of Sister Night, however, is how effortlessly King is able to switch between the masked vigilante and Angela Abar, a woman who tenderly loves her family but in a heartbeat can go into lethal killer mode. Lastly, Sister Night gets her heavenly cakes smashed to smithereens by Dr. Manhattan in the body of actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. Sister Night wins. - Stephanie Wiliams
Many have joked that 2019 has been so long it seems implausible Captain Marvel was only released this year. And it's true. Because once Carol Danvers crash-landed into our hearts, it was like she's always been here.
Our whole lives, women are trained to believe we must be small, be less than, be amenable, that power is a gift others give to us that we must be grateful for and use appropriately and conveniently. Never be too much, too strong, too forceful, too angry, too emotional. Be what they want us to be, what they need us to be so that we remain controllable and malleable to their whims.
Carol Danvers and Captain Marvel said, in so many words, f*** that. She learns she's the hero, she's the one with power, and that those trying to hold her back are doing so because they are threatened by that power. And once she realizes that, the power grows. She saves the day, her best girl by her side, and calmly rejects the screaming male demanding she prove herself to him, on his terms. But the terms are hers now, she knows this.
And in Avengers: Endgame, it's Captain Marvel who gets the gauntlet across the battlefield, surrounded by her fellow female heroes, so that it can be in Tony's reach. At the end of the battle, it's our core MCU heroes: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor... and Captain Marvel, taking her well-deserved place as the once and future queen of the MCU.
2019 was a strange, weird, hard year. But it delivered one perfect moment, one that still to this day gives us chills and a swollen heart:
She has nothing to prove to you. And neither do any of us. - Courtney Enlow