<-- Sam Flynn and Quorra in Tron : Legacy. I liked this example because they were realistic in their fighting abilities and equal in their roles. 
Plus, I just really liked this picture. Tron : Legacy is a visually stunning film. I don't mean to brag, but I was listening to Daft Punk in the 90s. ;)

Note : This post is also located in my "Fave Fictional Characters" section, hence the brief point I make about the GIF.

It's difficult to find novels where male and female characters have equal importance. I don't mean that it depends on whether the main character in a book or movie is male or female. That is entirely up to the writer. What I mean is, I feel that in most novels, one gender is given a far more important role than the other, and I don't like it. Why does something have to be strictly male-dominant or strictly feminist? It doesn't make sense. I don't understand what's wrong with a healthy balance of both.
You've probably noticed my...borderline obsession with the Avatar series by Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko (hence Avatar Aang in the gif below. It's quite awesome, isn't it). That is a great example of a beautiful balance of importance for both genders. Take a remarkable male lead, and throw him into an adventure alongside a strong, daring, capable heroine and her brother, also a wonderful, capable character in his own right. Throw into the mix, then, a blind girl who can face and overcome literally any challenge head-on. Add another young man with a dark past to this group, and a beautiful female warrior who leads an elite group of warriors, and you have achieved a perfect balance. And news flash? Guys like it too. It's not just girls bro-fisting for girl-power. It's not about the numbers. It's about the role they play.
I enjoy books and movies where the women are not domestic types. I'm not saying they have to be against a domestic lifestyle, but they normally don't choose to live it. One of my favorite book series is the Seven Kingdoms trilogy, aka the Graceling Realm by Kristin Cashore. These are considered feminist books, but Cashore has an equal amount of respect for her men. I like that her characters are androgynous in the sense that her women aren't afraid to put themselves in typically male-dominated roles and her men aren't afraid to show some sensitivity. It blends together in a way that the reader is never bored and nobody is offended. Author Cindy Pon has a similar approach. Hers is especially interesting because of the strong ties to ancient China in her Phoenix series. Even though heroine Ai Ling is less physical in her approach to fighting than hero Chen Yong, she is a kind of spirit warrior well within her right. She's more powerful than he is, yet I don't know how she would have survived some of the situations she found herself in without him. Like I've mentioned before, she doesn't have to be GI Jane to be epic. She just needs to be equal.
However, things don't always have to take a romantic turn.
In my own writing, I am very careful to maintain this balance. Though my main characters are typically male, women play a HUGE role in the stories. This does NOT mean they are there to serve as the men's significant others. For example, in my science fiction, my main character is behind the majority of the brain power element in the plotline. He's very analytical and calculating, a bit of a science geek and techie, but it doesn't mean he can't hold his own when he has to. My female lead is his co-worker. Neither one holds a higher position in the workplace than the other, but their roles are infinitely different where their cause is the same. He's the brain power, but she's the one who "gets stuff done." She's the one who is more in a soldier type of role, a role that is typically occupied by men. I love how these characters interact with each other. They are so different in every way, yet that cause and their morals are the strongest bond between them. As the story unfolds, of course, that all plays into the character development.
A medieval fantasy I still play with/work on every now and involves two main characters, a young man and a young woman. They aren't as different as night and day like the characters of my sci-fi, but have equal importance. If their world is to survive, they're going to need to work together. In my mind, you can't have characters work together if there isn't some level of equality. Otherwise, it can't keep my interest.

Perfect examples of how NOT to write an equal importance of a male character and a female character : (because there is NO equality whatsoever) :
Tony Stark and Pepper Potts from Iron Man. 
Edward Cullen and Bella Swan from Twilight.
Any classic Disney princess flick 


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