Sleepy Hollow film, Katrina van Tassel

‘Sleepy Hollow’ is a movie about strong women

Before we knew that the bad boy act wasn’t an act at all, many of us Geek Gals swooned over Johnny Depp. From Edward Scissorhands to Fantastic Beasts and Pirates of the Carribbean, to Dark Shadows, we thought we’d found a hot and sophisticated actor who could lead our favorite fantasy movies, YAS!

And then we learned about some episodes in his private life, and that took the polish off that pearl. Ick.

If you’re worried that liking Depp movies means you don’t like strong women, think again! Looking through many of his most iconic movies will quickly show you that the blockbuster actor often plays characters who are weak, conniving, and sometimes monstrous. It is evident that there are always strong women surrounding him, whether it’s supporting his character or antagonizing him. Today’s case in point: Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow.

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the 1999 movie Sleepy Hollow. Continue at your own risk!

Movie Overview

While Washington Irving’s 1820 short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow inspires Sleepy Hollow, the film makes its own path by following Ichabod Crane. Crane is a constable from the big city sent to a small township to investigate some mysterious beheadings by a supposedly headless horseman. Through flashbacks and investigative stumblings, Ichabod slowly unravels the mystery until we learn the truth in the final climax. It is with the interaction of a few strong women – and clues dropped by a few very faulty men – that all this can happen. Let’s take a look at some of the women that have an impact on the fussy constable.

Maiden: Katrina Van Tassel

Katrina is Ichabod’s love interest and the daughter of the local largest landowner. She’s sweet but strong, challenging the constable’s notions about good and evil and racing into danger. Even after seeing her father brutally murdered, Katrina continues to fight. Katrina’s most-notable quote is directed in anger at Ichabod when he misjudges the situation: “I think you have no heart, and I had a mind once to give you mine.” Ultimately, though, she inspires him to be stronger and find the confidence to defeat the headless horseman.

Mother: Lady Crane

Through flashbacks we learn of Ichabod’s mother, Lady Crane, a woman with witchy powers who married a severely religious man, Ichabod’s father. We see how she beguiles her son with the beauty of magic, spinning like a leaf in the wind, lighting up his face with love and wonder. Then we discover that his father tortured and killed his mother in a rage. And the little boy’s belief in magic dies with his mother. While his belief in magic is suppressed until he reaches Sleepy Hollow, that belief rises up again and helps Ichabod understand the difference between good and evil.

Crone: Lady Van Tassel

The stepmother – who, of course, turns out to be wicked – is introduced as upright and proper. Which Ichabod understands better than the superstitions of country folk. As we progress through the movie, though, we see the trappings of manners fall away until what is left of Lady Van Tassel is an adulteress and a raging, scheming murderer. That vengeful spirit powers her through controlling the headless horseman all the way to the bitter end. It is her schemes that challenge Ichabod and shake his foundations. 


Without these three strong women, Ichabod would not have had the early sympathy for magic, the motivation to be stronger and more open to alternate solutions, and the evil to push him from flight to fight and find his own strength. Take any one of them out of the story, and it dramatically weakens the plot and characters. In fact, for the next Sleepy Hollow reincarnation, I’d like to see Ichabod… as a woman. STRONG WOMEN RULE!

What are your thoughts on the 1999 movie Sleepy Hollow? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments below!

Featured image credit: Tim Burton Productions

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