7 Female Roles that were Written for Men

"Samus" | Art by DarrenGeers. Used with permission.
Men might be the harbingers of action and combat in many sci-fi movies, action shows, and video games, but some writers are stepping up to challenge these notions. Taking over a role that was originally intended for a man is one way to break the mold, and make us wonder why we need molds in the first place, since so many are lying about in pieces at these women’s feet. Here are seven roles originally written for men, but portrayed by women instead.

1. Samus Aran, Metroid

The plot twist at the end of the first Metroid game reveals that the person in the armour (who you’ve been kicking ass with so far) is, in fact, a woman. But a lesser known fact is that the game developers hadn’t planned this surprise from the start and decided to add it in halfway through development, creating one of the most iconic women characters in video games today.

“It is true that in developing the original Metroid, we were partway through the development processes when one of the staff members said, “Hey, wouldn’t that be kind of cool if it turned out that this person inside the suit was a woman?” So that’s how we decided on that. We’ve tried to express her femininity a little more without trying to turn her into a sex object.”Yoshio Sakamoto

2. Toph Beifong, Avatar, the Last Airbender

Known as the tiny blind girl who can throw boulders around with her earthbending prowess, this Avatar: The Last Airbender star was originally intended to be a large, muscled jerk. They even elude to this in the episode “The Ember Island Players,” where Team Avatar attend a play about their journey so far, and Toph is portrayed as a buff man. She was meant to be a foil for Sokka’s nerdiness and a potential love interest for Katara.

“Bryan and I conceived of Toph as a tough, brash, blind teenage boy who would become Aang’s Earthbending teacher. As we began the writing for season two, Aaron Ehasz suggested making Toph a girl. Bryan and I resisted the idea at first, but the more we talked about it, the more we loved the idea of taking all of Toph’s original personality traits and putting them in the body of an adorable twelve-year-old girl. Now, I can’t imagine Toph any other way.” —Mike DiMartino

3. H.G. Wells, Warehouse 13

Warehouse 13 takes us for a spin of awesome when H.G. Wells turns out to be a woman, much less an inventor genius and former Warehouse agent. Playing on the gender inequalities during the Victorian era, the man commonly referred to as “H.G. Wells” was actually her brother, and the stories he wrote were all based on her adventures and ideas.

“As a woman, she wasn’t even allowed to write under her own name. And then she meets Myka, and she’s like, “Oh, thank God. I’m not completely alone in the universe.”Jaime Murray

4. Lara Croft, Tomb Raider

If it hadn’t been for Lara Croft, theTomb Raider games would have looked like Indiana Jones rip-offs. She is one of the first female protagonists in an industry filled with gun-wielding male leads (and you can thank the slip of a designer’s hand for her bodily proportions, which all the men in the design studio at the time certainly did).

“Looking to get as far from Raiders of the Lost Ark as possible, Gard suggested bumping one of his female character designs up to the lead role. At the time, females in games existed mostly as victims or hostages… nobody even considered asking male gamers to play as a girl.”IGN

5. Karsi, Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones is no stranger to women of steel, but deciding to change a male fighter to not just a female, but to a mother, created large-scale emotions that nothing else could have. Her inability to fight the children of the dead squeezes the cockles of our hearts.

“She was a guy originally, and then somewhere in the process we thought it might be cool if she were a mother, and show her sending off her own kids to make that moment with the corpse children really resonate emotionally.”Miguel Sapochnik

6. Starbuck, Battlestar Galactica

Yes, Starbuck used to be played by a man. Yes, Dirk Benedict, the actor for Starbuck in the original series, ranted about his character being taken over by a woman. But Katee Sackhoff took on the role with such a cocky, feisty, and sometimes berserk manner that we really can’t complain.

“Taking cues from the original 1979 series, in which the character was a man, the female Starbuck is a cocky, promiscuous, pugnacious troublemaker (and the aforementioned talented pilot). She’s also not delicate. Starbuck has short, blunt hair and visible muscles for most of the series, and she usually doesn’t wear makeup or style her hair or clothes.”AAUW

7. Major Anderson, Ender’s Game

An officer at the battle school in Ender’s Game, Major Anderson is played by none other than Viola Davis in the 2013 film adaptation of the novel. She’s also a psychologist in the movie; I guess the writers figured they should give some sort of attention to the psyches of the children they were turning into killing machines.

“Of course we’re the same in a lot of ways but [women are] also different. We have a different emotional life. we have a different approach to even, humanity. And I’m saying it’s good, it’s a good balance. I think it was right to put a woman as Gwen Anderson.”Viola Davis

Allison Barron

Allison Barron

Commander at Geekdom House
Allison is like Galadriel, offering wisdom where needed but turning treacherous as the sea when competitive games are involved. She is the executive editor of Area of Effect magazine, co-host of the Infinity +1 podcast, and staff writer for Christ and Pop Culture. When she’s not writing, designing, or editing, she is often preoccupied in Hyrule, Middle-earth, or a galaxy far, far away.
Allison Barron

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