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13 Brainy Female Characters Who Will Teach Your Daughter What It Means to Be Smart and Brave
  • Despite the times when we know girls can be anything, many female characters on movies, TV shows and even books are still focused on looks and appearance and often more concerned with love and romance than academic or career goals.

    Parents should not settle for it because studies have demonstrated the significant ways that media influences body image and gender stereotypes, as do the high percentage of hypersexualized female characters in kids' media — even in cartoons. In fact, research published in 2017 indicate that girls start underestimating their intelligence by the age of 6.

    So, yes, brainy media role models matter. 

    Meet 13 female role models we can all look up to

    These characters are great examples of positive media role models for girls and boys. No matter their gender, kids will love watching and reading about these female geniuses:

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    Strong, smart, and strategic, this Disney "princess" never lets the boys — or the bad guys —underestimate her. Mulan uses her resourcefulness and ingenuity to stand out in an army full of men and to solve seemingly impossible problems, such as saving all of China from invading forces.

    Calpurnia Tate

    Even as she struggles with the limited roles available to her as a girl growing up in 1899, 12-year-old Callie demonstrates exceptional curiosity for science and the natural world. She rescues animals and aspires to be a veterinarian in two book series aimed at middle-grade as well as younger readers.

    Hermione Granger

    It's impossible to imagine the Harry Potter books and movies without this intelligent young witch who knows all the answers (or hits the library to figure them out). The ultimate smart girl, Hermione uses her brains and her books to help defeat Voldemort and ace her classes while she's at it.

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    Leia Organa

    Otherwise known as Princess Leia, this Resistance general uses her strategic mind and unfaltering sense of justice to bring peace back to a galaxy far, far away. She's as comfortable leading a mission to destroy the Death Star as she is repairing a spaceship. And not to mention, her leadership helped inspire a few other smart Star Wars women: Rey and Jyn Erso.

    Akeelah Anderson

    At only 11 years old, Akeelah studies, works hard, and overcomes personal challenges to reach her goal of being a spelling bee champion in Akeelah and the Bee. Not only is she a gifted speller, Akeelah also learns to embrace her talents and passion instead of hiding her intelligence to fit in.

    Meg Murry

    The daughter of two brilliant scientists, A Wrinkle in Time's Meg Murry has an innate knack for math and science, even though her grades don't always show it. She even helps her older brother with his homework. On top of that, it's her strong mind that eventually allows her to save her father from the clutches of the evil IT.

    Annabeth Chase

    It's no surprise that the daughter of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, would be a genius. Annabeth is clever, brave, and analytical, with a wide variety of skills ranging from designing buildings to weaving. A master strategist, she frequently uses her intelligence to help her friends in the Percy Jackson book series and movies.

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    Violet Baudelaire

    This mechanically minded 14-year-old uses her sharp intellect to get herself and her siblings out of a number of sticky spots in A Series of Unfortunate Events, a book series that has been made into a movie and a Netflix series. Violet is also a natural inventor who creates grappling hooks, lock picks, signaling devices, and more from seemingly random parts.

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    Elizabeth Bennet

    Accomplished and well-read, Pride and Prejudice's Elizabeth Bennet uses her knowledge and wit to win people over in a society where relationships are everything. She's perceptive, self-assured, and, most surprisingly, willing to accept when she's wrong, proving that she's more interested in knowledge and truth than in being right.

    Lisa Simpson

    As sharp as her pointy hair, Lisa is much smarter than the average second-grader, though it certainly helps that she's been the same age for nearly 30 years while The Simpsons has been on the air. Though she's just a kid, her sophisticated views on social issues and world affairs, prodigious talent on the saxophone, and intellectual nature set her apart.

    Elle Woods

    This sorority girl turned law student rejects the stereotype that being smart and being feminine are mutually exclusive. It's not only her optimism that gets Elle into Harvard Law in Legally Blonde. She's also a bright, tenacious student who refuses to change who she is to fit in, and she uses her skills and wit to help others.

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    Betty Suarez

    With an impressive work ethic and loads of self-confidence, "Ugly Betty" is a strong, smart role model who stays true to herself no matter the situation. Betty's ambition and career as a journalist are all due to her intelligence, passion, and dedication.

    Leslie Knope

    As ambitious as she is kind, Leslie Knope turns a minor job in a small-town Parks and Rec department into an impressive political career. She's intelligent, determined, and fiercely organized, and she refuses to stop working until she's achieved her goal, no matter how many elaborately detailed binders it takes.


    Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out its ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org and sign up for its newsletter to read more articles like this.

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