I’m going to come out and say it – female characters in action movies are almost always shit. Now before you throw anything at me let me explain. I watched Edge of Tomorrow the other night and one of my first thoughts when I came out of it was ‘that’s strange, the lady in it wasn’t annoying or pathetic, something’s wrong here’. You see, I’ve become used to the following three types of women in action films:
- The damsel in distress who needs to be saved by the hero
- The hard-ass sexy martial arts wielding companion character
- The tough, foul-mouthed angry chick (who never survives the film)
However Emily Blunt’s character Rita Vrataski known as the ‘Full Metal Bitch’ didn’t fit into any of these categories. She was definitely a woman, but didn’t need saving. She was a bad-ass but wasn’t super-powered. And she was tough but not an overtly masculine ball of rage. My point is Vrataski is a heroine who isn’t a lazily written object to be saved or teenage wank fantasy. She’s just a woman who happens to be a war hero and respected squad leader.
Take for example Black Widow from The Avengers. You might think she’s a progressive portrayal of a strong woman but look a little closer (I know I have! Hey guys? Guys?). Yes she can handle herself (er…hey guys?) but she’s also dressed in a figure hugging catsuit for no apparent reason. She must rely on her acrobatic kung-fu moves to fight. And she also happens to be the only Avenger to get overly emotional or get scared (seriously, spot any of the male characters tearing up or being frightened). Plus she crashes that airplane thing she’s flying. Vrataski in contrast wears the same battle uniform as the men in Edge of Tomorrow and fights dirty, usually with a big fuck-off sword she carries around. I’m not saying action movie girls shouldn’t look sexy but ‘sexy’ is about more than cleavages and skin-tight ass fabric, its about personality and respect.
Exhibit B is from that other massive action blockbuster this year X-Men: Days of Future Past. Here the chief female character is Mystique, a naked blue shapeshifter. I’ll ignore the fact she’s nude (I never thought I’d ever say those words) and focus on her character. In DOFP the main thrust of the story is that Mystique is an emotional and irrational women who the guys have to stop before she does something stupid. Put like that it sounds pretty bad. She is essentially the villain of the piece and the male characters must talk her down from her hysterical state because you know how woman can get when they’re pissed off (not my belief, just explaining what I took from the film!). It might be a harsh reading of the situation but it’s an aspect of the story that got me thinking.
I think if I was a girl I would be more drawn towards the female action character who was tough yet grounded. If I had a daughter I’d prefer if they looked up to cool characters like Vrataski instead of the next production line sexy assassin type woman or tough girl that is basically just a male character with boobs. Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow kicks all kinds of ass yet she never has to display traditionally male traits like hyper-aggression, cruelty, or chivalry. The film demonstrates this well with no one alluding to the fact that she’s a girl, they just see her as another soldier, and a brilliant one at that. And a pro tip to filmmakers from a male perspective – a character like this comes across as a lot sexier than a thousand Black Widows (and you know how much I like Scarlett).
So take heed Hollywood, stop relying on age old stereotypes of females. They don’t all have to fit some prearranged mold you’ve created. They can be crucial parts of your action movie, not because they are a woman, but because they are a person. And people kick-ass.
What do you think? How do you like your women? Do you agree or have I thought into things too much? Let me know below and make sure you visit Screenkicker for more of this kind of stuff!