Making change, even in a fictional world, is not easy. In the stories we’re used to it is most commonly the knight in shining armor that defeats the evil monster or saves the day. The women are often left to play the role of the damsel in distress. However, there are female characters that take the lead and use their talents and strengths to change themselves and the world around them.
This list is not comprised of the most popular female characters, nor is it the ones that experienced the most exciting romance. No, these characters made change, each in a world that challenged them every step of the way.
#1 – Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
She saved the world from numerous apocalypses, and fought a plethora of demons ranging from the common vampire to a hell goddess, all the way up to the epitome of evil itself. She managed college, her friends and family, a hectic love life, and her Slayer duty—all while looking beautiful and cracking witty jokes.
Buffy never let herself be defined by the men around her. She retained her femininity throughout the series, showing that masculinity does not intrinsically equal strength. Buffy lives on as an icon even years after the series finale in 2003.
How she changed/made change: Buffy developed from the perky cheerleader, to the person willing to sacrifice everything to protect those she loved. Not only is Buffy’s growth believable, it feels real. She truly grows up before the viewers’ eyes over the seasons. Her changes only add to her complexity as a character and help to explain why she is a female icon. At the end of the day, Buffy knew that she had to keep the world safe, and it is through these battles that Buffy becomes a true warrior and leader.
#2 – Tifa Lockhart (Final Fantasy 7)
From the classic, world-renowned game Final Fantasy 7 (1997) came a female character that captured the hearts of many. Tifa has unmatched martial arts ability; however, her heart is still clearly visible through her dedication, love, and concern for Cloud, her childhood friend, and the leader of the group.
Tifa shows no fear against even the worst enemies. She is one of the few people who have faced Sephiroth, the game’s antagonist, and live to tell the tale. She leads the group when Cloud is incapacitated, and runs to his rescue when he is in danger. Her love for Cloud is never made her weakness; rather, she uses it as a strength. Despite seeing another woman in their group having a crush on Cloud, Tifa never holds it against her, even developing a genuine friendship to the woman. A bastion of strength, heart, and bravery, Tifa remains a video game icon.
How she changed/made change: In the beginning, Tifa is merely a barkeep and member of a rebel group against the government. However, Tifa develops into a woman capable of leading the team against a psychotic man who is near to finding the answer to destroying the planet. No pressure, right?
#3 – Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones)
To fans of Game of Thrones it is no surprise that Daenerys makes this list. Beyond the fact that Daenerys is the only female character with a legitimate claim to the Iron Throne and the only female character with the potential means to achieve this, Daenerys has built herself up from nothing. Originally, her brother gave her to Khal Drogo, a fierce ruler with a powerful tribe of warriors, as a token of good faith to forge an alliance between the two. She is seen as nothing more than a pretty face and a body with which Khal Drogo can produce children.
Daenerys becomes powerful and cold, doing what has to be done, despite how difficult it is. She is not afraid to assert herself, and refuses to give up her claim to the Iron Throne. Those that have crossed Daenerys have not met a peaceful end.
How she changed/made change: Daenerys went from nothing more than a body to be used by Khal Drogo to the leader of the Dothraki people. She went from having nothing and being on the brink of starvation, to finding riches beyond belief. Basically, she is ready to make whatever changes she needs to in order to win her seat on the Iron Throne.
#4 – Tohru Honda (Furuba/Fruits Baskets)
When the manga entitled Furuba opens, the reader finds Tohru Honda living alone in a tent. A nearby family takes her in, and from there Tohru is thrust into an unknown magical world. She discovers the Sohma Family Curse, which curses the family and nine other relatives to turn into animals upon specific circumstances.
Tohru is sworn to secrecy and lives with the family, and meets many other family members through her adventure. Tohru displays intense heart, helping each family member in whatever way she can. Always putting others before herself, Tohru shows that physical strength is not always the key to power. Sometimes love is the strongest force we can encounter.
How she changed/made change: Tohru is welcomed in by a family that is in shambles. There are many secrets, and no one seems happy. It is through Tohru’s unwavering kindness and courage that the family comes to love again. Tohru herself does not change too frequently through the series, but her ability to positively change those around her clearly earns her a place on this list.
#5 – Mulan (Mulan)
Disney’s Mulan tells the tale of a young girl in China who poses as a man to prevent her aging father from having to fight in a war once again. Beginning as clumsy, unsure, and scared, Mulan fights through the training in the military camp, even accomplishing feats that the men were not able to. It is through the training and fighting that Mulan finds the identity she was always looking for. She discovers that the traditional life of a woman in China was not meant for her. Mulan eventually saves all of China from the invading Huns. Her heartwarming tale remains a Disney classic, and Mulan continues to be a Disney favorite.
How she changed/made change: Starting as a clumsy, nervous girl, Mulan can barely remember the final admonition in the beginning of the film. By the end, she is stopping enemy armies in their tracks and saving China. Mulan goes to the army to save her father, but in the end she finds the person that she always wanted to be.