Feisty Female: Neri aka Ocean Girl
Year We Got to Know Her: 1994
Best Known For: Super strength, telepathic connection to humpback whales, superhuman lung capacity mistaken for underwater breathing capabilities, and **spoiler** being an alien charged with saving Earth’s oceans (shades of Star Trek IV…)
Why She Deserves a Second Look:
Ocean Girl, an Australian import, was one of the few shows allowed in my household as a child and I loved it. I became borderline obsessed with Neri, marine biology, underwater research laboratories, and deciphering whale song. And she is probably the reason for my fascination with, and compulsive re-reading of, Island of the Blue Dolphins– whose cover image will be emblazoned in my memory forever– and Zia. Ocean Girl was introduced to American audiences by the Disney channel (reason #37 to not hate them forever) and has since been broadcast around the world, including Brazil, Vietnam, Portugal, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Germany, Norway, and the Netherlands.
To the uninitiated, of which I’ve learned there are far too many, here’s a recap: two boys, Jason and Brett, move to the underwater research facility ORCA with their mother and, once there, discover a girl, Neri, in the middle of the ocean, by herself, with no ascertainable means for survival. It becomes their imperative to find her– they inevitably win her trust and learn that she lives alone on an island and that her only friend is a humpback whale that she calls Charley and can somehow communicate with. ORCA’s competing organization (which is of course evil) UBRI finds out about Neri and tries to capture her. Throw in a dash of long-lost family members (a sister living in a research facility after being found by an aboriginal farmer, a dead father who communicates with her from beyond the grave a la Jor-El), abduction narratives (herself, her sister, the whale), a submerged spacecraft (and its implied home world), and a clear goal (completing her father’s mission to revitalize Earth’s oceans) and you get the basic picture.
Watching clips, like the one below, make me simultaneously nostalgic and queasy: a sort of “This show was awesome” coupled with “Dear God this is the cheesiest can of crap I’ve ever seen“. (And it made me remember the awkward costumes and “futuristic” hairdos)
I really wanted to rent a couple of discs from Netflix to watch today to see how it would compare to the memory I have of it, but, shocker of all shockers, they don’t have a single season! And I can’t find any episodes to watch online– mostly antiquated fansites, episode guides, or fanvids and clips like the one above. Powers That Be: you’re on notice. Ocean Girl was fascinating and empowering. It proved that survival narratives weren’t just for the boys, and that science fiction, all too often the boy’s domain as well, can be accessible and exciting for young girls. Neri was pretty much the shit– instilling in young girls everywhere a belief in animal rights, environmental responsibility, and girl power. What’s not to love?
JJ Abrams, Joss Whedon: do I hear “reboot”?