Strong Women of Fantasy: Elisa Maza

This is the next installment in my series about strong women characters in sci-fi and fantasy. My goal is to highlight some well-written female characters who are strong leaders, every bit equal to men, and yet still feminine.

Elisa Maza

I will begin by repeating that a strong female character is not a male character in a woman’s body. Women are inherently different in more than just biology, and those differences are important to portray well in fiction if a strong female character is to be believable. Yes, women can be warriors, leaders, and protectors (traditionally male attributes), just as men can be gentle, calming, and nurturing. But in a story, a strong female character needs to be so much more than just a gender-swapped man.

Many fantasy and sci-fi stories have an overwhelmingly male cast. All too often, the “token female” is just that—serving either as romance/sexual tension, and/or to simply say “this story is all about equality because look a woman.” In this post, I’ll be discussing the character of Elisa Maza from the 90s Disney TV cartoon Gargoyles. In this fantasy adventure story, the cast was, predictably, overwhelmingly male. Elisa may have initially stood out as the “token female,” but it was quickly apparent that she was to be a main character every bit as important as all the male humans and Gargoyles.

Elisa Maza, Police Detective 

Elisa starts out as a strong woman from the get-go, because she’s a New York City police officer. One can’t be a wimp if you’re a plain-clothes cop in the Big Apple. She’s determined, smart, and doesn’t back down when she knows she’s in the right—all traits of a strong woman. She refuses to be bullied (by human criminals or fantastical monsters), and though she uses her authority as a cop to get things done, she uses violence or her gun as a last resort. She also chooses to act rationally rather than react emotionally when faced with the shock of meeting living Gargoyles for the first time.

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