The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew
Set the mold for all intrepid teen characters to come, and considerately left a lot of room for everyone else to be more interesting. Even the other intrepid teens in books published by the Stratemeyer Syndicate were more interesting–or at least, they sounded more interesting. There were the Rover Boys, the Boys of Pluck, and the Darewell Chums. There was Dave Fearless and there was Bomba the Jungle Boy. Some of those vintage intrepid teens even sound like they could be New Wave groups: Motor Girls, Moving Picture Boys, Sky Flyers.
Jamal from Slumdog Millionaire
Jamal Malik, the protagonist of Slumdog Millionaire played by Dev Patel, is perhaps less intrepid than he is THE LUCKIEST PERSON TO EVER LIVE, EVER EVER. Yes, he survived a terrifying and heartbreaking childhood in the slums of Mumbai with such fortitude that it puts to shame our childhoods that involved little more than having to finagle the remaining three Cheerios in your bowl onto your spoon in one go (harder than you’d think). Jamal’s ass whooping on the Indian Who Wants to be a Millionaire proves Ganesha is most definitely rooting for him.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Sarah Michelle Gellar Edition)
Buffy can break a lock on a door just by kind of twisting it. Super casually, no big deal, just like, “Move, big tall man.” Twist. “Let’s go.” Her spinning hook kicks are poetry, her quippy puns could kill and she bangs all the hot guys. Plus, what could be a better role model for a kid than a girl who says, earnestly, “Mom, I would love to be doing homework right now. But somebody’s got to save the world.”
Effy on British Skins
Effy is silent and stealth. She has a small, turned up nose and the boniest shoulders you’ve ever seen, and all the boys are in love with her. You could almost put in your contacts just using the reflection of her shiny sheet of hair. She smokes, she does drugs and she’s miserable. A thousand British girls have probably stopped eating and started doing ecstasy, just to be like her. She’s dangerous, but so cool.
We would be terribly remiss to not include at least one pioneer girl. Who was more intrepid than the young settlers on the wild frontier? If a winter of only eating potatoes didn’t kill you, there was always diphtheria, slowly forming its false membrane in your throat. In the case of the headstrong Caddie, she argued about the conventions of womanhood with her mom (a Bostonian!) and as soon as that was over, she had to tussle with some Indians. Spoiler alert: She survives both.
The most impressive thing about Harry Potter is that he manages to stretch his intrepid underdog status over seven long books, despite the fact that it’s established early on that he is the Chosen One who will defeat the Dark Lord and save the world. Under those circumstances, coming across like some kind of upstart kid working against the establishment is a pretty nifty trick.
Willow Smith, the youngest heir to the Smith Dynasty, has inherited some seriously bankable genes. At the ripe old age of 10 (she was born in the new millennium, guys. Feel old yet?) she doesn’t technically count as a teenager, but her enviable wardrobe and adorably protruding ears that are reminiscent of her dad’s (Fresh Prince – original intrepid teen) certainly mean we can forgive a few years. Be wary: her intrepidness means she has a natural inclination to whip her hair back and forth – you may want to stay out of the swing zone.
Brian Robeson from Hatchet
“Brave? Me? Well I guess if you call eating turtle eggs brave then, yes, I suppose I am. They were a lot better than those poison berries I survived on for awhile. Oh these? These are the sophisticated tools I crafted while I was trapped on the godforsaken island. This is my spear I used for fishing and here is my bow and multiple arrows. Yep, I am in 7th grade. A tent? No, not really. But this overhanging rock made for pretty decent shelter for when that tornado hit. It just could never protect me from the crushing guilt I felt knowing my mom cheated on my dad.”
Harriet the Spy
Harriet made the composition book into a magical accessory. Who didn’t read the book/watch the film and then peek into at least a couple windows? Plus, she learned and important lesson about being a writer, which is that you will write mean things, and people will get mad at you, so be careful! Too bad Michelle Trachtenberg had to go on to have such annoying roles, like Dawn on Buffy and Georgina on Gossip Girl.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch
Sabrina can float, she can make Pop-Tarts appear out of nowhere, she has a cute enough boyfriend, Harvey. Who wasn’t jealous of her? Some things about her life sucked, like she could only see her mom in some weird orb thing so she had to live with her kooky aunts, her closet led to another dimension and every spell she cast gave her boils on her face – but overall, pretty sweet life.
Fred, Daphne, Velma, and Shaggy from Scooby-Doo
By the 1970s, villains had learned that if anyone was going to foil their evil plans, it was probably going to be a pack of intrepid teens. Hence, almost every episode of this show ends with the foiled antagonist resignedly muttering, “If it wasn’t for these meddling kids, I’d have got away with it!” What those evildoers are really pissed about is that they were brought down by a pack of stoners.
Tracy Flick from Election
Matthew Broderick made himself the patron saint of latter-day intrepid teens with his performances in two movies. First, he played Ferris Bueller, the kid who saved the 1980s from bitter child-porn fiends (Jeffrey Jones—it’s sad, look it up); then, like his fellow ’80s star Mark Hamill, he went villain in his late career and played the English teacher who tampers with a school election to block the ascendence of the busybody teen who ruined his colleague’s career when she allowed him to seduce her. Reese Witherspoon is having none of that.
Bethany Hamilton from REAL LIFE
Okay, we know it breaks with convention a bit to use a real life person, but a list of intrepid teen characters would not be complete without Bethany Hamilton, better known as “the girl who got her arm bit off by a shark whilst surfing in Hawaii.” Guess what bitches? Not only is she STILL SURFING, she is following suit with many of Hollywood’s once-intrepid teens (see Spears, Britney and Duff, Hilary) by launching her own fragrance line.
Queen Amidala from the Star Wars prequels
In which Natalie Portman proved that she’s such a good actress, she could very successfully pretend to be even more boring than Nancy Drew. She really should have got that Oscar not for Black Swan, but for The Phantom Menace.