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television: five reasons why Leela kicks ass

Futurama – it’s back baby! After being cancelled in 2003, resurrected in a series of straight to DVD movies, and ultimately saved by DVD sales, Matt Greoning’s futuristic space comedy is back on TV!  In the U.S., at least. Since I am a diehard Futurama fan, I have been avidly acquiring episodes from America as fast as I can. In celebration of this wonderful rebirth, and in lieu of these episodes reaching our shores, I give you a list in ascending order of what makes Futurama headliner character Turanga Leela kick ass.

5) Because She’s Hot (But It’s No Big Deal)

Lets face it, Leela’s hot. A well-defined bust, svelte legs, muscular arms and a generally lithe frame due to plenty of exercises. She’s a looker. Whether she’s in her everyday work clothes, or dressing up for a disastrous date, Leela always looks hot.

But unlike other famous female characters in comedy, her hotness is not central to her character. It’s almost incidental. Leela’s a babe, but she doesn’t spend much time worrying about shaving her legs, or fitting her thighs into a mini-skirt. She’s too busy saving Fry’s ass, escaping from bad guys and flying spaceships to think about her looks. It’s clear from her plain and sturdy work gear (tank top, black pants, and combat boots) that Leela puts work before silly things like looking hot.

Leela is first and foremost true to herself. And the result? She’s a babe anyway.

4) Because She Kicks Ass

The infamous Futurama trio (Fry/Leela/Bender) have a way of getting themselves in deep trouble (especially for unknown un-skilled delivery boys). More often than not, they get gunned down by the robot mafia, have to fight off alien life forms, or save the world from impending doom (that they have somehow created).

In a nice twist on gender roles, Leela is the only one of the three that can fight. She’s a master of eastern hand-to-hand combat, she’s quick with an atomic ray gun, and her jumps and flips can only be described as acrobatic. Her skills are so prominent, that her catch phrase is a shrill “hii-ya” accompanied by a high kick.

Leela can hold her own in a fight and save Fry and Bender to boot. And boy is it good to see a babe kicking ass and taking names.

3) Because She’s In Charge

Leela is not only the fighter of the trio; she’s also the leader. She is the Captain and Pilot of the Planet Express crew. In every situation, Leela takes charge. She keeps Fry out of trouble, and Bender from creating it. She easily orders around the subordinate crew, and she doesn’t take shit from them when they screw up.

It’s a role that instantly seems right for Leela. As the rational, sensible, and most intelligent member of the trio, she’s the only suitable captain (a theme explored in The Bird-Bot of Ice-Catraz, where Bender tries his hand at captaining and fails miserably). She’s a woman in charge and no one is going to question her authority.

Leela is a great example for other TV shows to follow – you can have a powerful, strong woman in charge.

2) Because She’s a Girl

Having gone through why Leela is a great feminist anti-stereotypical character, let me say: she’s still a girl. She goes gaga over animals, she’s attracted to pretty sparkly jewels, and deep down she can be swayed by her mushy romantic feelings for Fry. It’s this combination of tough and girly that makes Leela such a great role model and a realistic woman.

Leela proves that being a strong woman is not an oxymoron. She can be kick ass and be girly at the same time. In fact, Leela is strongest and most committed when she’s kicking ass to save something girly that she loves.

Characters like Leela are redefining what it means to be modern feminist women. Leela lets young girls know that its okay if they want to like horses and dolls, so long as they are strong and opinionated too!

1) Because She’s Funny

First and foremost, Futurama is a comedy. It’s meant to be funny. Too often, women in comedy aren’t funny. They play the nags (Marge/Lisa on The Simpson), the dumb blond (Francine on American Dad) the attractive love interest (Dr. Kim Briggs in Scrubs) or the downright hated character (Meg on Family Guy). Rarely are they comedy leads themselves.

Leela manages to play the double role of sensible straight man (to Fry and Bender’s madness) as well as being genuinely funny herself. Her obsession with animals, her fallible logic, her violent streak and her femininity drive the humour in countless episodes. Leela is just as much the funny (wo)man as Bender or Fry.

Ultimately, this is Leela’s most kick ass quality. She makes us laugh – a lot.  And much like in the real world, I’d take a funny woman over the stereotypical ditz any day.

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