Category Archives: Kick ass women

Kick-ass women: Indira Varma

indira varmaThe final episode of the BBC 1 drama What Remains aired last night, and if you haven’t seen it, get yourself to iPlayer immediately. But leave the lights on.  I’m not going to post any spoilers, but what I will say is that the ending was twisted, dark and rather extreme. The final scene will haunt me for quite a while, I think.

Front and centre when any twisted, dark, extreme stuff was going on was the character of Elaine Markham, played with absolute swagger and charismatic nastiness by Indira Varma (who also appeared in Luther and has been cast in the next series of Game of Thrones). In a cast of incredible actors (Steven Mackintosh, David Threlfall etc), Varma stole every scene she was in. Elaine was, at best, bitchy, feisty, confident and sexy as hell. At worst, she was very, very bad indeed. Or, in Varma’s words, “When she’s your friend, it’s a party all the time, it’s great fun. But if she turns against you – that’s when you’re in trouble.”

Posted by PLA     (episode 1 and 2 reviewed here)

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Kick ass women: Betty White

One thing I enjoyed very much about the recent run of Celebrity Big Brother was that 70-year-old Julie Goodyear was assumed to be a sweet little ole’ granny figure, when really, her personality is far from that. She behaved like a scheming, back-stabbing minx. Much like my dear mama in fact (whom I’ve called in print ‘Arthur Daley in a skirt’ – and usually a mini skirt at that. And why not? At 76, she’s got better legs than most 20 year olds).

Julian Clary loved this about Julie Goodyear. All the young things were shocked and appalled. Bollocks to them. I like my old ladies to be Machiavellian. It’s so much more fun. Apple pie my eye. There ain’t nothing like an evil old Dame. I certainly plan to be one.

And on that note, but with a more gentle Miami spin, I’d like to dedicate this post to the fabulous Florida queens, The Golden Girls (1985-1992). I loved them, one and all. And what a joy it was to have a programme, not just focussing on women, but on (reasonably) badly behaved older ones. Tiny Estelle Getty, glamorous Rue McClanahan and elegant, acerbic Bea Arthur have sadly all died in recent years. But the ditsy Minnesota-born Rose (from the glorious town of St Olaf. Even typing that made me laugh) played by Betty White, still lives on. Continue reading

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Kick ass women: Birgitte Nyborg

Nobody in this damn coalition rocks the scarf look like I do

I am so enjoying Borgen (pronounced, by Danish friends tell me “Born” with a bit of a swallow in the middle where the ‘g’ is). And a huge reason for my pleasure is the performance of the luminously beautiful Sidse Babett Knudsen, who plays Birgitte Nyborg, leader of the (fictional) Moderate Party, who becomes Denmark’s first (fictional) female prime minister.

Clever, complicated and utterly compelling, she’s no Margaret Thatcher. She’s much more the sort of groundbreaking female PM that many of us dreamed of having. For a start her politics are magnificently liberal (think President Bartlett, on a bike, without God). Secondly, she’s a thoroughly decent human being. And thirdly, she is operating as prime minister in a nightmarishly complicated coalition, which requires the patience and diplomacy of a saint and the ability to juggle ninety balls in the air at once.

There is so much to enjoy in Borgen (which means castle or fortress, and is the Danish slang for their parliament building).

  • Copenhagen
  • Lots of scandals involving sex, infidelity and money
  • A great baddy in the form of slick, scheming Michael Laugesen
  • Vast plates of Danish pastries in meetings (oh leave me alone, I found it funny)
  • Ubiquitous bicycles which have right of way over cars, with even young children taking themselves off to school on them
  • A gripping portrayal of a marriage, with kids, in which both adults are trying to be egalitarian and fair under massively increasing pressure
  • Fascinating interplay between TV journalists, spin doctors and politicians
  • Real looking actors of all ages, some a bit overweight, with crap teeth. Very reassuring

Just loads of good stuff really. But best of all is the wonderful character of Birgitte Nyborg in her sexy boots and wonderful scarves.

Posted by Inkface

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Kick Ass Women: Sarah Lund

Kick Ass and very warm

I’m officially nominating Sarah Lund  (Sofie Grabol) from The Killing as a Kick Ass Woman. Not that I’d ever call any woman ‘kick ass’ in reality, you understand, but that’s the category I’m working with, and Lund definitely qualifies. I must admit that I missed the first series of The Killing when it was shown a few months back, and by the time it was repeated, I’d already just seen the American version (which I quite enjoyed) and didn’t want to start all over again. For series 2 of the Danish original though, I was there from the start. I know that the series finished before Christmas, but in these days of boxed sets and Sky Plus, who cares about such minor details?

Lund starts off the series in some back of beyond post due to some previous unpleasantness, I’m guessing at the end of the first series two years before. She seems miserable but accepting of her fate. Before long she’s dragged back into investigating a series of murders of a lawyer and the team of soldiers that the lawyer was representing. It’s all something to do with a murder of a family in Afghanistan by a mysterious Danish officer. I won’t go into details, as it’s all very complicated. Suffice to say, Lund doesn’t really cheer up throughout the whole investigation.

Lund & Strange in happier times

She’s very single-minded, is Lund. She would win a single-minded competition even if put up against some very single-minded people indeed. She sees a suspect and then goes for him/her like a terrier after a rat. She reminds me a bit of that bloke from Taggart who’s approach to investigating a murder is to say “It was him – he definitely did it, without a doubt”, until someone points out that said suspect has a watertight alibi, when he then switches to the next ne’er do well in line as the murderer. Lund exhibits this approach to her colleague Strange, convinced one minute that he was the mystery special forces officer, Perk, then accepting that he was back in Denmark when the atrocity in question happened. This despite the fact that she quite fancies Strange, even going so far as to smile at him once, and, very daringly, hold his hand in the back of a Land Rover in Afghanistan.

I’d be very happy for Lund to investigate something on my behalf. I’d be less keen on going shopping with her, and the chances of any bloke sustaining a relationship with her long term are, I would suggest, slim. She doesn’t take no for an answer. You can imagine her suggesting the house would be better for an extension, and before you have the chance to say it’d be very expensive but perhaps you could think about it in a few years time, she’d have dug some footings and knocked a wall down.

In Afghanistan (just going there seems pretty kick ass to me), she persuades their army driver to divert to a village to look for evidence. She gets pissed off with the uncooperative attitude of a local and starts shouting at him, up close. He had a shifty look and an obvious gun, and it never occurred to her that she might need to rein in the attitude a bit.  Somehow though, she gets away with it. That same disregard for her own safety and the consequences of her actions are displayed when she chases the killer into a deserted building, with no back up, and against specific orders to the contrary. It doesn’t go well.

SPOILER ALERT – KILLER REVEALED:

Her ‘did he, didn’t he?’ suspicions as far as Strange was concerned were ultimately resolved when she realised that when he was supposed to have been back in Denmark behaving himself, he was, in fact, in Afghanistan, murdering civilians. It was him all along! Her realisation of this, and of the fact that it was Strange who’d been carrying out all the recent killings, prompted a classic Lundism; did she call back Strange, with back up, and take him in for questioning? Did she raise her suspicions with her superior officer, Brix? Nope on both counts. Instead, she finds Strange and insists on driving him and the soldier he’d been trying to kill, back to the hospital, stopping off in the park where the first murder took place, to confront him. When he realises that Lund knows he’s guilty, he grabs her gun and shoots her. Luckily, she’d put on a bullet proof jumper (thankfully, no head shots), so all was well, and after a brief lie down, she managed to sneak up behind him while he was about to carry out another murder, knock him flat on his back and grab his gun. She tells Strange not to move. He moves. She shoots him – lots of times. That’s why we like Lund. No nonsense.

So, if any woman is ‘kick ass’, it’s Sarah Lund. Tenacious, focussed, ruthless and fearless, with a deep sense of social justice, and a nice line in knit-wear. Magnificent.

Posted by Our Man In The South

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Kick ass women: Shirley Henderson

I’ve been enjoying Death in Paradise. It’s easy, light viewing and a bit Agatha Christie in approach, but Ben Miller is rather good in it, and the setting is so delightful, it feels like being bathed in glorious sunshine. You can feel your skin absorbing the vitamin D.

And now I’ve heard Shirley Henderson will be guest starring, there’s another fine reason to tune in. I loved many things about the BBC adaptation of The Crimson Petal and the White, but my favourite actor in it was Henderson. She’s quite a diminutive person, but whatever role she’s in, the character is portrayed powerfully enough to steal every scene. In The Crimson Petal, she played Mrs Fox, consumptive saviour of prostitutes, and the object of Mark Gatiss’s superbly wracked religious nut, Henry Rackham’s, constant lust. He played it, to misquote Colin Firth’s directions on how to play Mr Darcy, “as if walking around with an erection”.

She’s been in many things, and been wonderful in them, including Trainspotting and Hamish Macbeth. Plus she plays Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter films of course. Jo the Hat reminded me she snogged Rufus Sewell in The Taming of the Shrew (I hate that play, but it was difficult to hate this, because those two were in it). But it’s a sign of how much I like Henderson that I will even forgive her this.

Posted by Inkface

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Kick ass woman: Anna Chancellor

Fans of the BBC drama, The Hour, are spoilt for choice in terms of top-notch acting. It marks the moment Dominic West has finally broken free of The Wire (it was the same with Idris Elba in The Big C – I think they both needed an interim ‘rebound’ part to help get me past the brain-searingly strong characterisations of McNulty and Stringer Bell).

I’m loving the general aesthetic of The Hour, as well as watching the beautiful Romola Garai in action. But my favourite character is the excellently named Lix Storm, played by Anna Chancellor. You may know her from that Boddington’s advert, or as Donna Lathaby in Tipping the Velvet (described as ‘amoral, capricious and predatory’, someone who introduces another, Nan, into a world of ‘luxury and debauchery’ – which is pretty much a description of my favourite kind of woman). She was a superb as the snooty bitch, Caroline Bingley in Pride and Prejudice and is preposterously famous (because she’s so attractive) for being Duckface in Four Weddings and a Funeral.

But she’s a legend in her own trousers in The Hour. The character of Lix Storm is that of a rare (especially for its time) female war correspondent. Apparently tough as boots, she has a sharp sardonic wit, one suspects, a cupboard full of messed-upness masked by a heavy whisky and Gauloises habit. But spot-on in her judgement in terms of news. And very cool, smart and beautiful.

Other kick ass women posts here.

Posted by Inkface

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Kick ass women: Fiona Glenanne

I can’t believe that we haven’t worshipped the kick-assness of Burn Notice’s Fi before now. If she knew we’d probably be locked in the trunk of her car right now…

So let’s put things right before she notices.

You want something blowing up? Fiona’s your woman. You want someone shooting? Make sure Fi’s number is in your cellphone. You need a babysitter? Wait, don’t go – she can even charm small boys. (Fi: [playing with plastic army men with wide-eyed boy] “Hmm, my guy has an M2 Browning 50 caliber. It’s a belt-fed weapon, so it’s big and hard to hide, but it’s got good range though. So I think he would shoot from up here. Let me see your guy. Okay, your guy has a Mark 2 Pineapple Fragmentation grenade. Short range. So he needs a really, really good hiding place. [looking all around] In the flower pot. Let’s see if we can get you some more tactical support. [dumps rest of toys on floor]“)

She loves Michael fiercely and woe betide anyone who threatens to harm him. There’s pretty much nothing she wouldn’t do for him – and if it involves making things go BOOM! that just adds to the fun. Barely an episode goes by without Michael or Sam scolding her for making her explosions a little too big. (Michael: “Fiona, you were supposed to stop the car, not blow it into the Everglades! What happened to shorting the ignition?” Fi: “You said disable; it’s not going anywhere.” Or this – Fi: [setting up C4 in a boat] “You want this big, right?” Michael: “Just enough for the boat, Fi. Try not to break all the windows in South Beach.”)

She’s a woman who will taser herself as well as the man she’s wrangling  if it’s the only way to bring him in. And then, when asked if she’s okay, say “Everyone could use a few thousand volts from time to time. It clears the mind.”

If you haven’t already got the picture, perhaps this line sums up her up as well as anything can: “Well, in my experience, if something is too good to be true, it’s best to shoot it. Just in case.”

The world is a better place for having Fi in it. Well, a better and slightly singed place anyway.

Posted by Jo the Hat

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Kick ass women: Elizabeth Taylor

“I’ve had enough to fill four lifetimes. I feel damn lucky, I’ve had a ball.”

1932 – 2011

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Kick ass women: President Laura Roslin

I confess to having found myself surprised to be watching Battlestar Galactica (the 2003 NBC mini-series) and even more surprised to be enjoying it. It came about after I’d been watching Jake Yapp’s highly amusing clips about The Apprentice on The Poke and started following him on Twitter. A conversation ensued about how good he thinks Battlestar Galactica is. I raised as quizzical an eyebrow as I could manage over Twitter, but he was clear on the fact that 1) it really is very good and 2) his girlfriend likes it. And so it was I promised to give it a go.

I admit, I was dubious. I enjoy Dr Who, and loved Blake’s 7, but in general, I hate sci-fi and what I view as ‘space tosh’, especially boysy, fight-based intergalactic nonsense, and I feared that’s exactly what this would be.

But not so. The fact that most of it takes place in space is not the point, or at least not all of it. This is quality drama; sexy, dynamic, well-written and highly engaging. And it’s not boysy, at least not in an unbalanced way. There are a wealth of strong, interesting female characters. Impressive, feisty, muscular pilot, Kara ‘Starbuck’ Thrace, is the obvious choice for a kick ass woman. And you really wouldn’t want the terrifying, gorgeous blonde bombshell Cylon Number Six (Cylons being the baddies) as your babysitter.

[Her lover in this, by the way, is Dr Gauis Baltar, played by James Callis, who I knew as the adorable male bezzie mate in Bridget Jones]

But I’m going to plump for Laura Roslin (played by Mary McDonnell) as my top kick ass woman. She starts the mini-series as a slightly mumsy Education Minister who has just been given a diagnosis of terminal cancer. She ends up (after the Cylons wipe out most of the population of Kobol with a nuclear attack) as President of the Twelve Colonies (thank you PF) when all the other 42 in line have been killed. And she steps into this role with calm, compassionate aplomb. She’s brilliant, and is an elegant counterpoint to the rugged masculinity of Commander Adama and chums.

She’s one of the reasons I’d recommend Battlestar Galactica to anyone, and particularly women who are dubious about space-based drama. This is all very human and beautifully drawn.

Now I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of Series 1.

Posted by Inkface

For other kick-ass women posts, see here

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Kick ass women: Hedy Lamarr

I knew Austrian born Hedy Lamarr (Hedwig Kiesler) was a very beautiful and talented actress, but I didn’t know the woman was also a whip smart, genius inventor. And how did I discover this? A pub quiz (unlikely, I don’t go out after dark), from a book (‘Women Who Dared’)? I have such a book but that wasn’t how I found out. It was in fact, from watching Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention with my son. In the way Newsround brilliantly explains complicated issues to children, Wallace & Gromit’s World of Adventure does the same with sciency/invention stuff. Bitesized and predigested, like Brodie’s Notes. Perfect for me.

So now I know Hedy Lamarr, along with composer, George Antheil, invented something that enabled ‘frequency hopping’ of radio signals, using piano rolls. It was brilliant and could prevent U-boat radio signals being intercepted by the enemy during the war. Or would have done if the numpties in the military had not failed to believe that a girl, let along a film star beauty, could be smarter than all of them placed end to end. It wasn’t until much later, 1962, that her patented secret communication system was used, during the Cuban crisis. 

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