It's an unfortunate event that many women in the world's history have not been allowed to reach their full potential due to the role they wish to fill being deemed "a man's work". However, thanks to (usually) forward progress in the past few centuries, much has changed. And though there are still strides to be made, women are closer than ever to being on an even playing field where they belong.
While we still have far to go, we can't forget to celebrate how far we've come! In memory of the generations of women before us who have fought inequality, and conquered it, here are a few fictional women in film who have risen to the occasion in a way many wouldn't dare to do: by working under the guise of a man.
Mulan is by far everyone's favorite cross-dressing female film character. In order to save her father from the fate war would undoubtedly bestow on him, she disguises herself as a man all the while trying to protect the honor of herself, the honor of her family, and honor of her... cow? Yes, the honor of her cow. You have to love Mushu.
Eowyn's story is a beautiful subplot to the second and third installments in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. She stands up for one's ability to fight for what they want, not only in herself, but in the Hobbits as well when her brother looks down on them as being of little contribution to the war. She also holds one of the best lines in cinematic history for the world of feminism: after the Witchking of Angmar says no man can defeat him, she proudly proclaims "I am no man!" before pulling off her helmet and stabbing him in the face.
Those familiar with the theatrical world know Eponine, who in my opinion was one of the most emotionally powerful characters in the highly successful Les Miserables film (and musical). In order to support the cause of the French Revolusion, as well as protect the one she loves, she disguises herself as a man. On top of this, Eponine also (SPOILER ALERT) dies in order to save the man she loves, breaking the archetype often fulfilled by a male character.
Elizabeth Swann, in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, dresses as a man to avoid the dangers of being a woman as well as the myth sailors had developed about how unlucky it was to have a woman aboard a ship. Still, Elizabeth manages to fight the downward looks of men in this fictional world by becoming a rather powerful entity in the series. So far, in fact, as to become the pirate lord, the highest position we've seen in the film series so far.
In Salt, Angelina dresses up as a man, not because of any female inability to reach her full potential, but to take down the terrorist plan to destroy the U.S. because she is just a butt-kicking female actor. This follows the new, positive trend in film to show women as people who can be just as successful or influential as any man.