I missed out on Wonder Woman. Having been born just after Linda Carter’s epic series, I wore the outfit once or twice for Halloween, but otherwise left the die-hard fans to themselves. But I never felt at a loss for female heroes. We had our fair share growing up in the ’80s. This was the era when women first began to knock on that “glass ceiling,” when ThunderCats roamed the land, and Oprah began her reign as queen of syndication. The ’80s gave us alien-hunters and tennis stars and Misfit-fighting rocker chicks.
The ’80s populated an era of “Wonder Women” all its own. Here are 10 who stand out:
1 | She-Ra
I had a red roller racer car that I would ride up and down the driveway, shouting one thing over and over: “She-Ra, Princess of Power!” I don’t care what anyone says, She-Ra was so much cooler than her brother, He-Man. She had his super-strength, but she could also talk to animals and heal people and fly around on Swift, a horse with rainbow wings, which came in a handy kid-sized version from Toys R Us. She also wielded the Sword of Protection and actually used it to protect – the definition of a true hero.
2 | Oprah
Decades before the free car giveaway, Oprah was just beginning her domination of daytime television. But she was already a queen. She began her career in Nashville as both the youngest and first black female news anchor before moving to Chicago to start the show that would make her famous. But in the middle of all this, in 1985, she played a role I can never forget – Sofia, in “The Color Purple.” That’s the Oprah whose strength we all respect.
3 | The Legend of Billie Jean
Please tell me you remember this movie. Christian Slater played the motorcycle-riding kid brother to a girl who ran away, cut off her hair, formed a band of rebel teens, and started a revolution. This is a classic girl-power movie set in Texas with all the ’80s acid wash cut offs and punk piercings you can handle.
4 | Jem
She made pink hair cool before Pink. A famous rocker turned super spy, she foiled the Misfits in their every attempt to ruin her. She was the epitome of multi-tasking as manager and owner of Starlight Music, rock star, and foster mom to the 12 Starlight Girls who lived with her and the rest of the band. And she could change her hair color with one touch of her earring. That’s a superpower I can appreciate.
5 | Sigourney Weaver
Way before I should have been allowed, I watched “Alien” on FX. Sigourney Weaver was the strongest woman I had ever seen. I didn’t even know women could have muscles like that. And then I saw her in “Gorillas in the Mist” playing Dian Fossey taming gorillas and men with fierce compassion. And then I saw her rule Bill Murray in “Ghostbusters.” There was nothing she could not subdue and I loved her for it.
6 | Steffi Graf
Tennis was always on in the background of our home. It wasn’t autumn until the U.S. Open commenced. Whether you were a tennis fan in the ’80s or not, you had to appreciate Steffi Graf. She was the only tennis player, male or female, to win the “Golden Slam” – all four Grand Slams and the gold medal at the Olympics. She was also ranked #1 for 377 weeks. And she domesticated Andre Agassi. That’s female domination.
7 | Beverly D’Angelo
I wish I could ride in the back seat with the Griswolds. The “Lampoon’s Vacation” movies all came out between 1983-89 and were instant classics. Chevy Chase might have taken the lead in one-liners and diatribes, but Beverly D’Angelo held that family together. She never lost her cool until she had to put “Sparky” back in line. Let us all remember she fixed the lights in “Christmas Vacation.”
8 | Cheetara
ThunderCats are on the move
ThunderCats are on the loose
Fear the magic
Hear the roar
ThunderCats are on the loose
You could yell the “ThunderCat” theme song at the top of your voice like a football chant. While Lion-O might have been the chief, Cheetara won my heart. That cat could run. She once clocked 120 mph on her morning jog. And she carried a bo staff. And she said things like, “I am woman! I will not be defeated.” That’s a cool cat.
9 | Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep is a wonder woman for the ages. But two films that came out in the ’80s solidified her status as a pillar of acting. She makes the hardest decision no mother should ever have to make in “Sophie’s Choice” and carved a life in the wild in “Out of Africa.” And she made us cry in both.
10 | Christa McAuliffe
No one could forget Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who died in the Challenger explosion in 1986. She taught social studies in New Hampshire and would have been the first teacher in space. Kids all over the country gathered around televisions to watch the launch. And 73 seconds later is was over. But McAuliffe remained a hero and many scholarships have since been established in her honor to help other girls succeed in the sciences.
Whether you were a kid of the ’80s or not, we can all appreciate the “wonder” of these women whose force helped raise a generation of women now ruling the present with their own strength.