Being a tomboy has its fair share of ups and downs: from always being “one of the guys,” which was somehow NEVER a good thing, to not grasping the concept of makeup until you’re way older. And for a while, it was tough to see yourself in any movie/TV/book character because it seemed like every girl depicted was just some stereotype interested in “girly things” like gossiping about boys and playing with dolls.
But if you look in the right places, there have actually been a cascade of amazing tomboy characters that have shown us that no matter what — we are pretty awesome. From Disney princesses to Stranger Things, these tomboy characters taught us the importance of being yourself even when it makes you stand out.
15. Viola, She’s the Man
Right after she was a Nickelodeon darling and right before she made headlines for all the wrong reasons, Amanda Bynes was Viola in She’s the Man. All Viola wanted to do was play soccer, but when her school’s team gets cut, she had to look elsewhere. Thus, Viola went undercover as her twin brother to play at his boarding school while he was off playing music in Europe. Viola was bomb because she really could have it all. She makes the game-winning shot in the final soccer game (the goalie just so happens to be her douchey ex) and that’s even after her gender is revealed to her teammates. Plus, she didn’t want to be a debutante and still ends up landing Channing Tatum‘s Duke. So, basically, she wins in every aspect.
14. Roberta, Now and Then
It was harder to find someone cooler than Christina Ricci in the early ’90s. She slayed in Casper, The Addams Family and, of course, in Now and Then as our favorite throwback tomboy, Roberta. Fellow tomboys celebrated when it was Roberta who got the kiss from Scott Wormer at the end of Now and Then. Why? Because he was played by ’90s hottie Devon Sawa. That’s why!
13. Lil DeVille, Rugrats
Lil may’ve been a baby, but there was something badass about her. They could have easily made her girly, and her twin extra masculine but they didn’t. Instead, they made them both have the same, gross interests. Lil was never afraid to get her hands dirty.
12. Katarina Stratford, 10 Things I Hate About You
One cannot get through adolescence without watching and admiring Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You. She was a total rebel who didn’t care about anything. She just wanted to play soccer, stay away from douchey high school guys and go to Sarah Lawrence for college. Of course at the end she gets Heath Ledger and cries while reading a poem she wrote about him — but come on, how could you not be sobbing after all she’d gone through?
11. Jo Polniaczek, The Facts of Life
One of the queen bees of tomboys in pop culture is Jo from The Facts of Life. She personified what it truly meant to be the anti-feminine ideal. She was perfect just the way she was with her love of cars and backtalk. Many of the tomboys on this list were fashioned after the almighty Jo Polniaczek. An icon.
10. Spinelli, Recess
Every crew needs someone to be the intimidator and in Recess, that was Spinelli. She had a lot of power wrapped up in a tiny, feisty little package. Throughout the run of this cartoon series, Spinelli was a constant reminder that tomboys were not ones to mess with! (True that.)
9. Darlene Conner, Roseanne
With an older sister who was into makeup and boys, it was fun to watch Darlene Conner be the complete opposite on Roseanne. She played sports as a kid and then became an angst-ridden middle child in her teens. Talk about relatable. She maintained her tomboy image all throughout the series’ first run and we just hope she keeps it up during the revival!
8. Mulan, Mulan
How many girls related 100% to Mulan when she bombed at the Matchmaker’s house? Just about every girl who knew that being perky and pristine was not for her and failed miserably whenever she tried to pretend. Mulan was the definition of tough. She showed them boys that when you need a man to get the job done, call a woman. But, seriously.
7. Debra Morgan, Dexter
Growing up, girls in particular are usually told to watch their mouths. “Girls don’t use that kind of language,” “speak like a lady,” etc. Well, Debra Morgan from Dexter ignored all of that. She swore like a sailor and we loved her for it! Being a woman in a police station can be rough, but Deb was always fearless when it came to her work. We can’t say as much about when it came to her serial killer brother but we can understand why.
6. Jess Bhamra, Bend It Like Beckham
All Jess wanted to do was play soccer and maybe hook up with her coach. All her parents wanted to do was assume she was dating her gal pal and not taking life seriously. We’ll always love Jess for following her heart and doing whatever she had to for the love of her game.
5. Amanda Lemmon, It Takes Two
Once the twins were done with Full House, Mary-Kate Olsen always got the more tomboy roles between the two. Which made her our favorite twin. Sorry, Ashley! Out of all of those roles though, Amanda Lemmon in It Takes Two was the one we loved most. A wise-talking kid from New York City who played streetball and pulled pranks? Uh, yes, please!
4. Kristy Thomas, The Baby-Sitters Club
Whether you read the books or watched the TV show or the movie, you related to at least one of the girls that made up this club of babysitters. Shy girls loved Mary Anne, artsy girls were all about Claudia, writers were all for Mallory and tomboys had nothing but love for Kristy. She was the leader of the pack, way into sports and would only wear a dress if she felt guilted into it by her distant dad. Even non-tomboys thought Kristy was pretty damn cool. The way she tucked in her shirt? So good.
3. Merida, Brave
This Disney Princess got some haters just because she wanted to shoot a bow and didn’t want to be married off. Let’s face it, Disney hadn’t really given us tomboys many people to look up to until Merida came into the picture. Princesses don’t have to sit around wait to be saved. They can do it themselves. Love doesn’t always have to be the thing they’re fighting for, either, which is rare in kids’ movie depictions of females — which is yet another reason we’re all so obsessed with Brave.
2. Max Mayfield, Stranger Things
New to the Stranger Things family in season two was Max Mayfield and she was bad ass. A gamer girl who rode a skateboard and managed to steal two of the gang’s hearts, Max gave Eleven a run for her money for the coolest person on the show. Much love to the Duffer Brothers for giving us yet another amazingly strong female to adore.
1. Becky “Icebox” O’Shea, Little Giants
Becky O’Shea, more commonly known as Icebox, will forever be an ultimate hero to tomboys everywhere. A girl who could throw down on the football field with the boys showed that anything a guy can do, a gal can do better. It’s a simple fact of life. She did quit the team to cheer but ultimately had to come back to kick some butt with, and for, her boys.