It seems like bloggers and columnists and other people who like to hear themselves talk (write) love to make lists. "Top 10 ___" lists and such. I managed to scrape together a Best and Worst 8 of '08 list, but generally, I am not well enough informed in any media to feel comfortable attempting "10 Best" lists--how the hell would I know what the best of anything is? I can, however, give lists of my personal favorites. So here I give you my Top 10 list of characters I want to be.
First, I'd like to establish the rules that I used when assembling this list. The characters can be from any medium, and they must all be fictional. In the case of video games, where a certain character may be different depending on how the player creates the character (good/evil, female/male, mage/fighter, etc.), I will consider the character as I imagined her. I will not take into account the relations that a character has; that is, if the best justification I have for including someone is "because she gets to sleep with ___", that person is getting knocked off the list (if I didn't do this, I might as well just make a "10 characters I'd get in bed with" list). This list is not merely a list of my favorite characters, though. Great characters are not always enviable. River Tam, for example, is pure awesomeness, but her brain was all experimented on and she's a bit crazy. Kara Thrace is one of the coolest characters on TV, but she lives under pretty bleak circumstances and may even be the harbinger of doom. I would not particularly want to be either of them. That said, this does not mean that I completely rule out people to whom bad things happen. As you'll see, not everyone on this list lives a rosy life.
A note: As it turns out, all the characters I have chosen are female (or can be female in the case of games). I didn't really do this on purpose. I guess I have an easier time imagining myself as a woman because I am one. Also, you'll notice that practically all of the characters are from the fantasy or sci-fi genres, which was not a requirement, but it makes sense. Why would I want to be anywhere else?
SPOILERS: I keep out the KotOR and Elfstones spoilers (some things are sacred), but things that are more commonly known or less likely to upset I may reveal, e.g., Eowyn kills the Witch-king (if that's news to you, why on Middle-earth have you not read or seen Return of the King yet?!).
Top 10 Characters I Want to Be
10. Kaylee Frye
Source: Firefly (TV show) and Serenity (movie)
Who is she: The real genius mechanic on Serenity, Kaylee is the heart of the crew, charming all with her cheerful attitude and teddy bear overalls.
Talents: She has an innate skill with spaceship mechanics--machines just "talk" to her.
Companions: Kaylee lives on Serenity with the rest of the crew: Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Wash, Inara, Book, Simon, and River.
Nemesis: She's so lovable and loving, who could possibly be her nemesis?
Admirer: Simon, the cute but awkward fugitive doctor on board, keeps getting close, but then he goes and says all the wrong things. Again.
Why I'd be her: She lives on a spaceship, has an indispensable talent, gets to take part in the escapades of Serenity's crew, and always manages to look on the bright side of life. It's a simple existence, but it's a nice one.
9. Fa Mulan
Source: Mulan (Disney movie)
Who is she: When her crippled father is called to join China's army against the Huns because he has no son to go in his stead, Mulan disguises herself as his son and takes his place. She eventually proves herself by saving the emperor himself from Shan-Yu.
Talents: She's armed with head-strong ambition, ingenuity, luck, some newly acquired fighting skills, and a beautiful singing voice just like Lea Salonga's.
Companions: Cri-Kee the lucky cricket and Mushu the mini-dragon come along to help her out.
Nemesis: She faces off with Hun leader Shan-Yu, as well as society's oppression of women.
Admirer: Mulan develops a thing for her handsome commanding officer Shang, and he returns those feelings once he comes to terms with the fact that she's a woman.
Why I'd be her: You ever feel like you're trapped, like you're not living you're own life, and you just wish you could follow your heart? Well, that's how Mulan felt, but she managed to find herself, break down the barriers placed in front of her by society, and become a national hero. Who wouldn't want such a happy Disney ending?
*I actually recently cut my own hair to shoulder length, donating the 13 inches that I cut off. Though sadly, I didn't use a sword.
8. Egwene al'Vere
Source: Wheel of Time (books by Robert Jordan)
Who is she: She grew up in the quiet, rural Two Rivers, but when Moiraine, a member of the influential order of female magic users called Aes Sedai, comes to town, Egwene is quickly swept up into the quagmire of dire circumstances involving the impending escape of the Dark One from his age-old prison. Her path leads her to become one of the most powerful Aes Sedai and to even make a claim for the Amyrlin Seat, the highest position of the Aes Sedai.
Talents: Not only is she one of the strongest living wielders of the magic of saidar, she is also multi-Talented with a capital "T"--she's the first Aes Sedai Dreamer in about five hundred years, and she has rediscovered the art of crafting the unbreakable cuendillar.
Companions: It's been a long road with many companions, but ones that merit special mention include childhood friend and Dragon Reborn Rand al'Thor, heir to Andor's throne Elayne, fellow Two Rivers villager-turned Aes Sedai Nynaeve, and Aviendha of the Aiel.
Nemesis: In addition to the baddies that every non-Darkfriend faces, such as the Forsaken and the Dark One himself, her particular adversary would be rival Amyrlin Elaida.
Admirer: Elayne's older brother Gawyn is in love with Egwene, but he unintentionally ends up on the wrong side of her power struggle with Elaida.
Why I'd be her: She goes from plain rural girl in a tiny village to one of the most powerful people in the world. She's come a long way, and with her smarts, skill, and determination, she just might succeed in the role she must play to save the world from the Dark One.
7. KotOR protagonist
Source: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (computer game)
Who is she: A new recruit in the forces of the Republic, the KotOR protagonist survives the attack on the Endire Spire, rescues the Jedi Bastila, becomes a Jedi padawan, and saves the galaxy from Darth Malak and his Sith followers.
Talents: The Force is strong with this one.
Companions: Over the course of the game, she gains nine companions: Bastila Shan, Captain Carth Onassi, Mission Vao, Zaalbar, Jolee Bindo, Juhani, Canderous Ordo, T3-M4, and HK-47.
Nemesis: Darth Malak, the new leader of the Sith, is her main adversary.
Admirer: Carth Onassi has some serious baggage, but he comes to love her in the end.
Why I'd be her: Whatever her past, she can find redemption in saving the galaxy. I think I read a lot more into her character than was provided in the game--her psychology, her philosophical crises--but she is one of the most fascinating characters whose heads I've gotten into. I don't know how her story ends, but until The Old Republic MMO comes out and smashes my dreams (and probably writes her as the male she is in canon--humph!) I can imagine whatever sappy, happy ending I like.
Source: The Lord of the Rings (books by J.R.R. Tolkien, and movie adaptations)
Who is she: A shield maiden of Rohan and niece of Rohan's king, Éowyn defeats leading Sauron pawn the Witch-king whom it is said no man can kill. After all, she is no man.
Talents: She's got some pretty mean sword skills, plus immense determination.
Companions: The Hobbit Merry accompanies her from Rohan to the Battle of Pelennor Fields and is a crucial part of her victory against the Witch-king.
Nemesis: The Witch-king of Angmar, Lord of the Nazgûl, faces off with her in an epic battle.
Admirer: Faramir, a captain and son of the Steward of Gondor, meets her as she is recovering from the battle, and they soon fall in love.
Why I'd be her: She has some rough years there; she experiences great tragedy and strife, she is neglected for being a woman though she yearns to prove herself, and she is rejected by the ever attractive Aragorn. But she overcomes the obstacles before her, proves herself by defeating a foe that no one else could defeat, and lives happily in Ithilien with Faramir till the end of her days.
5. Amberle Elessedil
Source: The Elfstones of Shannara (book by Terry Brooks)
Who is she: When the Ellcrys, the sentient tree that prevents the Demons from invading the world, senses that it is dying, it chooses Amberle, granddaughter of Elven king Eventine Elessedil, as the one person who can restore it.
Talents: While the Ellcrys picks her as the first female Chosen in about five hundred years, this does not grant her any obvious special abilities... beyond the mere fact that she is the only one who can save the world.
Companions: Part-elven, blue Elfstone wielder Wil Ohmsford, Elven Hunter Crispin, and the Rover Eretria all accompany her at some point in her quest to restore the Ellcrys.
Nemeses: She faces Demons in general, as well as her inner demons--doubt and fear.
Admirer: Wil Ohmsford develops feelings for her as he protects her on her quest.
Why I'd be her: Her life wasn't an easy one, and it didn't end with the classic fairytale ending. But she came through and selflessly completed her task to save the world. She is the reason that Elfstones, rather than the earlier and more famous Sword of Shannara, is the right choice for the first Shannara movie.
4. Sydney Bristow
Source: Alias (TV show)
Who is she: A CIA secret agent and sometimes double agent, Sydney brings down countless destructive plots of evil organizations, kicking butts as well as saving butts in countless disguises.
Talents: She speaks basically every language fluently with a native accent, has super butt-kicking skills, can talk or fight herself out of any hairy situation, and, speaking of hair, she looks great in wigs of all styles and colors.
Companions: She works closely with her father Jack, who is also a double agent, her CIA handler Michael Vaughn, and her partner Dixon.
Nemesis: At least for the two seasons I saw, it was Arvin Sloane who was the object of all her loathing.
Admirer: Sydney had a serious thing for Michael Vaughn.
Why I'd be her: She's TV's coolest secret agent, a master of every skill a CIA agent could want. She is also a genuinely warm, fun, likable person. Hate to say it, but Olivia Dunham just can't hold a candle. Of course, I only saw the first two of the five seasons of Alias, so I don't know what happened to Sydney in the later seasons, but, assuming that she continued to win her battles in the end, she deserves a high spot on my list.
3. Commander Shepard
Source: Mass Effect (computer game)
Who is she: Already a hero of the human Alliance, Shepard becomes the first human Spectre, the Spectres being a group of elite operatives that directly serve the Council, the alien leaders of the known galaxy. Her first task as a Spectre is to bring down rogue Spectre Saren, and in so doing she discovers there are even greater dangers from which she must save the galaxy.
Talents: Shepard possesses keen survival skills, military prowess, and the player's choice of skills including usage of biotics, techs, or assault rifles.
Companions: Joining her on her mission to catch Saren are Lieutenant Kaiden Alenko, Chief Ashley Williams, and alien pals Garrus, Wrex, Tali, and Liara.
Nemesis: Her archenemy is Saren (along with his scary big spaceship).
Admirer: Shepard is greatly admired by Kaiden... and Liara as well, but sorry, the feeling is not mutual there.
Why I'd be her: She's a hero, she's even a bit of a celebrity, and she knows how to get the job done. And that job is saving all sentient life in the galaxy from total annihilation. She's smart, she's sexy, she's talented, and she makes sure she gets her way, because her way is the right way.
2. Hermione Granger
Source: Harry Potter series (books by J.K. Rowling, and movie adaptations)
Who is she: A brainy muggle-born witch, Hermione is a best friend of Harry Potter and a crucial part of the team to save the world from You-Know-Who.
Talents: She's not just any witch--she's the cleverest witch in famous Harry Potter's class.
Companions: Hogwarts pals Harry Potter and Ron Weasley stick together with her from book one until the end.
Nemesis: He's perhaps more of Harry's nemesis, but Lord Voldemort is the one they're all out to defeat.
Admirer: As they start to mature, it becomes apparent that she and Ron Weasley are meant for each other.
Why I'd be her: She's brilliant, she's magical, she has cool friends, she helps save the world, and she gets a happy ending. What more could I want?
1. Gorion's Ward
Source: Baldur's Gate, Baldur's Gate II (computer games)
Who is she: Raised by Gorion at the Candlekeep library, she turns out to be a Child of Bhaal, a status which leads her on many adventures, some by choice and others not. Her decisions have great significance to the world and all the planes.
Talents: Player's choice for the most part, but the ability to turn into the Slayer is a guaranteed bonus.
Companions: In her travels, she encounters about sixteen people willing to join her, including childhood companion Imoen, crazy ranger Minsc, and the druid Jaheira.
Nemeses: Gorion's ward faces a new nemesis in each installment: blood-thirsty brother Sarevok in the original, malicious wizard Irenicus in Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn, and mad priestess Melissan in BG2: Throne of Bhaal.
Admirer: Pompous knight Anomen Delryn falls in love with her over the course of their adventures together.
Why I'd be her: It's rough being a Child of Bhaal, but saving the world from big baddies like Sarevok and Irenicus and helping lots of people on the side sounds good to me. She also gets to hang with the coolest group of NPCs in any game I've ever played. And while her decision at the end of Throne of Bhaal is a tough one, it's not entirely unenviable.
Well, that's my list. The order was tough to decide, but I stand by my ten choices. So am I crazy? Am I right on? Who would you be?