The 5 Most Underrated Pop Culture Heroines
What happens to female characters who don't fight like men?
December 31, 2012 - 7:00 am
3. Princess Allura, The Consummate Heroine
Princess Allura, heroine of the ’80s anime Voltron, is the only surviving member of the royal house of Arus. The forces of Doom conquered her planet, killed her family, and took most of her people as slaves when she was about 8 years old. Her father’s diplomatic advisor hid her from raiding parties for years until five space explorers — all men — came looking for the mythical robot Voltron. They find the component lion ships and, at Allura’s direction, begin to defend the planet. Eventually, one of the space explorers is killed/injured (the show has a Japanese version and a sanitized American version) and Allura insists on flying the lion herself.
Undaunted by threats to her person, Allura always steps in to defend her people. But the fight isn’t easy, and Allura contends with many female vulnerabilities. While her piloting somewhat equalizes her footing with the men in the air — male strength and size isn’t decisive in a cockpit — her lack of piloting experience often creates tension with the men who she nominally leads. Since Allura is the last member of the royal family, her advisor, nanny, and people pressure her to stop flying so she can marry and produce an heir. The villain, Lotor, lusts for her from the first time he sees her and mounts incessant kidnap attempts to make her his queen. He even rapes her lookalike cousin because until he can have Allura, Romelle “will do.” (As with Star Wars, one must infer the details, but children understood that evil lurked while adults could figure out the specifics.)
Despite overcoming all of this to bring peace to her planet, she gets rescued too much for modern tastes. The boys teach her how to fight, but instead of filling the show with unrealistic escapes, the training mostly enables her to keep her head and stall until help arrives whenever she is captured. In several awful reboots of the cartoon the writers toughened her up and got rid of any amorous subplots. The shows did not last long because messing with Allura was not the only mistake the writers made, but in the Voltron fandom there is a fair amount of chatter that new Allura is more heroic than the original “wimpy” Allura.
I emphatically disagree. Original Allura is my favorite heroine, a mythical and campy mashup of Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria. If interested, I recommend the original Japanese version of the cartoon, Golion, which is available with English subtitles.