When watching television or movies it’s always interesting to think about how much a character has had an impact on us. Or more specifically, how much you admire them and want to become a better person because of them. While representation of vegetarians and vegans in popular culture is not always as prevalent as what it could be, there are still some pretty inspirational, funny, mesmerising and gorgeous animal loving characters out there. Here’s five of my personal favourites:
#5 Elle Woods-Legally Blonde
I’ll start off with the character who probably had the most influence on me as a child. Elle Woods in ‘Legally Blonde’ and ‘Legally Blonde II’ was not just a fun-loving, enthusiastic babe of a main character, she was an insanely motivated and compassionate woman. She was a vegetarian, she designed a “line of faux fur panties”, a responsible pet owner and not to mention her sequel being based around her battle with congress to approve Bruiser’s Bill and ban animal testing! I love this girl because she proved that you could be feminine, care about your hair and makeup, but still be a compassionate and thoughtful person. She overcame female rivalry with kindness, was comfortable enough in herself to be different, realised she didn’t even need that bone-head love interest anyway and empowered those around her. Elle Woods was (and still totally is) a major animal loving inspiration to me. And be honest…you’ve had an ‘Elle Woods studying’ montage moment at least once in your schooling life.
#4 Hayley Smith- American Dad
Oh how I do love to indulge in a bit of ‘American Dad!’ in my spare time. Social commentary among a suburban family’s daily lives is a winning combination. Hayley is indeed a stereotype of the ‘new-age hippie’, but she also acts as a counter to Stan’s far conservative ideals. Which is often a great way to highlight how exploitive the real world can be. Hayley tries to unionise the homeless, fosters monkeys from an animal testing lab, is pro gun control AND of course she’s a vegetarian. She is often presented as hypocritical and finds herself giving in to moral dilemmas…but in her defence, animated cartoon characters tend to go through strange phases which inevitably returns to normal by the end of the episode.
#3 April Ludgate- Parks & Recreation
It was a sad day indeed when I watched the last episode of ‘Parks & Recreation’. Although Leslie was probably my favourite character for her undying enthusiasm and work ethic, I identify with April Ludgate on a spiritual level. She’s the animal lover that prefers the company of dogs over humans and her ‘tell it like it is’ attitude made her an iconic character. April holds an adoption fair in an effort to find homes for the animals in an over-crowded animal shelter. However, she only manages to find one animal a home, which makes her miserable that the event wasn’t more of a success. When shown a photo of the dog in its new home, she realised that even one small win was worth the effort. Which I think is the essence of the show and what makes it so heart warming.
#2 The Elves in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’ movies
I’ll admit my favourite part of any LOTR/The Hobbit film is the whimsical portrayal of the elves. They ride around on majestic horses and elks, have long flowing hair, beautiful skin, dreamy outfits, live in epic foresty waterfall settings AND eat an abundance of leafy greens. What I’m trying to say is that if I got asked to runaway and become an elven princess, I wouldn’t hesitate! Little fun fact for ya: an alternate name for Galadriel (pictured) is ‘Gladwrapiel the Vegan’.
#1 Lisa Simpson-The Simpsons
I’ve saved the best for last. Lisa Simpson has been on my television screen literally my whole life. And since we became vegetarians at the same age I like to think that we have a very special bond. Lisa stands up for what she believes in, takes the flak for being different and keeps herself critical of the world, which makes her the voice of reason and justice in the show. ‘The Simpsons’ has a clever way of reminding us how shonky, cruel and greedy the world can be, which makes Lisa’s character such an important role. I think any animal lover can relate to her in the ‘Lisa the Vegetarian’ episode. She transitions to a cruelty free lifestyle and feels disgusted in her family, particularly her meat obsessed dad. She distances herself from them and is then enlightened by Apu, alongside Paul and Linda McCartney who let her know that having strong beliefs about certain issues is great, however, it is also important to lead by example and educate others compassionately. I think this was a nice moral to the story as it can indeed be infuriating to watch the world around you consume and ignore injustices, but it is important to stay open minded and show others how rewarding a cruelty free lifestyle can be.