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February 26, 2014 09:23 AM
In Response to A stranger in fiction

While it may well be true that "when Hollywood wants to signal that a female character is tough and an authority figure, the quick shorthand is to give her an androgynous name," Sigourney Weaver's Alien-fighter Ellen Ripley is a poor example, "Ellen" being a rather unambiguously feminine name. One might argue that everyone calls Ellen Ripley by her gender-neutral surname, but that's not specific to her character - it's true of nearly every character in the franchise. The drudgery and isolation of being in space is evoked by the fact that even people who have lived and worked together for years call each other Lambert and Burke and Ash and Vasquez and Ripley.

As for Dana Scully: while it's always dangerous to speculate what other people might consider to be the norm, I don't think Dana is generally regarded as a gender-ambiguous name. In America, at least, it reads a lot like Leslie or Tracy. We're aware that men can have that name, and can probably remember exactly one male celebrity so named (Carvey, Nielsen, Morgan). But if you tell us the next person walking through the door is named Dana Smith or Leslie Jones or Tracy Ripley, we would be surprised, though not exactly shocked, if it was a man.