Jun 29 2011 9:30am

She Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Hero, She’s a Heroine of Summer TV

The CloserThey don’t drink blood, shapeshift, or command the powers of the wind.

Instead, they use a well-placed sneer, a polite thank you, an upraised eyebrow, and sometimes a big gun to save the world. It’s their charm, cynicism and tempers that make them unique and heroic.

Usually when I’m looking for a kick-ass heroine I turn to the pages of my urban fantasy/paranormal novels. But they’re not the only ones taking names, kicking butts, and saving the day. If you’re looking for a more “contemporary” heroine, one who is a bit more like you and me, one who is more like Eve Dallas (from Nora Roberts’s In Death series) and less like Merit (from Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires), then I suggest you find your remote and tune into this summer’s vast array of impressively commanding heroines.

These heroines don’t necessarily need a hero to help them save the day. It’s a take it or leave it proposition when they’re on the job, because they’re perfectly able to do it on their own.

The CloserWith her love of candy, kittens, sweater sets, and small heeled pumps, at first glance she looks as if she’s just another southern belle going to meet her mother for tea. But Deputy Chief Brenda Lee Johnson of the LAPD in The Closer is relentless, demanding, focused and intelligent. She’s obsessed with her job and doing it right; she leaves no stone unturned when it comes to finding justice. Her all-pervading southern charm is no match for murderers, rapists, and drug dealers. In fact, her one objective is to get the bad guy, even if she has to be impolite to do it. She’s definitely a heroine for the 21st century, and what’s particularly endearing about her is she proves you can’t have it all. We see her being a consummate career woman, trying to juggle her life, her incredibly understanding husband, her family, and her job, but more often than not her career comes out the winner. Despite that, there are times when I wish I could clone Brenda for her ability to take down the bad guy with just a word or a look, because that spells “smart heroine” in my book.

In Plain SightUnited States Deputy Marshal Mary Shannon of In Plain Sight uses her cynicism like a well-oiled Beretta. It drips off her skin. She takes no one and nothing at face value. It’s that well placed cynicism that makes her a great cop. She’s not very successful when it comes to love, but she gives it a go every now and again in between protecting witnesses and chasing criminals. She is sarcastic, distrustful, and pessimistic. But don’t let that turn you off, because as with any great heroine, Mary has a heart of gold. She loves, but in ways that are not readily noticeable. It’s her loyalty and constancy that makes her who she is. Two qualities all heroines must have.

Burn NoticeMy favorite TV heroine is Fiona Glenanne from Burn Notice. This five-foot, hundred-pound bundle of energy usually blows it up first and asks questions later. She’s fearless, decisive, temperamental, and self-reliant. What makes her beautiful is her intelligence and intensity. She loves and fights with equal passion and her fierce protection of her friends as well as of the underdog knows no bounds.

This fierce protective streak makes her a heroine to admire. The onscreen sexual tension between her and co-star Michael Westen keeps you coming back for more. Will they get together, or will they be doomed to unrequited love? For whatever reason, it keeps me tuning in.

Thank goodness, not a dainty wallflower in the bunch. No, these three women, with all their quirks, foibles, and eccentricities are exciting heroines who will be cleaning their guns, blowing up buildings, chasing down criminals, and kicking butt all summer long, and I’ll be there to cheer them on.


Marisa O’Neill is the Vice President of, managing television productions and everything else in life. She has a sense of humor and some very interesting opinions.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. Lucky4
Grace Hanadarko from Saving Grace was my all-time kick-ass heroine. She did what she wanted, when she wanted. She loved fiercely and unapologetically. In another life I'd like to be her.
Marisa O'Neill
2. MarisaONeill
Lucky4 - I'm with you on Grace. Her innate goodness coupled with her no apology lifestyle made her just that much more real and engaging.

Holly Hunter was 50 when she did that role and she's my hero!
Carmen Pinzon
3. bungluna
I like these tough-gal heroines; the only thing I wish is that they had some strong female friends. Mary Shannon doesn't 'do' friends, but Brenda Lee seems to me the type who should have some nice sorority sisters that she's kept in touch with, at least.
Louise Partain
4. Louise321
"Shall we shoot them?" My husband can tell you, whenever Burn Notice comes on I always cry out "Fi!!!!!!!!!!!!" Of course when White Collar comes on I always cry out "Mozzie!!!!!!!!!!" but we're discussing heroines here. For all the reasons given, these are my take no prisoners favs. I also would say that I appreciate the chance for an encore of L&O Criminal Intent's Det. Eames. She was always such an iron pixie! And a great foil for Gorham as well.
Carrie Strickler
5. DyslexicSquirrel
I love Mary Shannon. She reminds me a lot of myself, except I don't have a gun or a badge lolThat would be too scary for words.

I also love Rissoli and Isles on TNT and the two chicks on Leverage (I'm blanking on the names at the moment).
Louise Partain
6. Louise321
Oh yes, I love how Isles handled herself last week. And am looking forward to a new season of Leverage. That would be Parker and Sophie and I am so glad Sophie's back!
Marisa O'Neill
7. MarisaONeill
Dyslexic and Louise - you are women after my own heart - Rissoli and Isles are definitely the new female 'buddy cops' that are growing on me. I love their banter and how they play off of each other. Their differences are what bring them together - each smart, capeable and winning in their own way.

And yes - bring on Leverage - Sophie and Parker hold their own in any situation.

Bungluna - I'd really like to meet Brenda Lee's soroity sisters!
8. sandlog
I LOVE these women! All of them but, I would also add Ziva & Abby from NCIS.
Marisa O'Neill
9. MarisaONeill
Hey sandlog - sad to say I'm not familiar with NCIS so I have no data on Ziva & Abby - you must enlighten me.
Saundra Peck
10. sk1336
I ADORE Brenda Lee and have never missed an episode of "the Closer " and I soooo miss "Saving Grace", which I also watched every episode of. It always cracks me up when the guys on Brenda's squad lovingly mock her "thank you, thank you very much" with her thick southern drawl. Priceless! And their struggles...Brenda with sweets and Grace with alcohol. So real it cannot be denied.
Tara B
11. box5angel
I have some faves. Past and present.

Eames from Law & Order: Criminal Intent

Lily from Cold Case

Jane and Maura from Rizzoli & Isles

Calleigh from CSI: Miami

Jo from CSI: NY - Love the way she handles suspects. She talked a guy (criminal) down from jumping off a roof. And when she's in the interrogation room - watch out. lol

Lindsay from CSI: NY
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