Posts Tagged ‘Columbiana’

Hello, ladies.

Before I can even get into why Hollywood Hates You when it comes to the mythical “Female Action Star”, I have to set things up with a little history about the myth and myself.

I love action movies. Action is about on par with horror as my favorite genre, so I tend to hold action films up to a higher standard than most. And one of the biggest areas that Hollywood tends to screw up is when they’re making a movie with a woman in the lead. So let the history lesson begin!

If you ask a film buff who the best strong female characters are in regards to action movies, they will undoubtedly name these two vixens:

Form-fitting panties don't exist in the future.

So if you answered Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor you’d be right… and wrong. Because it’s not these versions of the characters people are really thinking of, it’s these:

Just add guns.

You see, what a lot of people don’t realize is that Alien and The Terminator aren’t really action movies, they’re monster movies. In these two movies, Ripley and Sarah are essentially Final Girls. They each spend much of the movie running away and cowering in fear while their friends are being killed around them and then only when they are the last ones left do they take charge and kill the monster like in a slasher movie.

So when these two movies were hits and it came time to make the sequel, James Cameron jumped genres in each case (more so with Aliens though) and made them into action movies.

Naturally, Hollywood has been trying to recreate the success of those movies for decades. The problem is they tend to focus on Aliens and T2 but not so much on the originals. Ripley and Sarah are so badass in Aliens and T2 because we’ve already gotten to know them, so the sequels didn’t have to waste time introducing them and building up their characters too much (movies like The Dark Knight also benefited from this).

Fast Forward to 2011. It’s been 20 years since Terminator 2, and we have gotten a slew of Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley wannabes. Some of these attempts were actually not too bad, but the majority of them suck really, really hard and the first sign that clearly deviates from the Sarah/Ripley formula can be seen below:


And the worst offender of all being:

Crapwoman

You see what I’m getting at, right? I’m pretty sure if a woman was going to go on an Ass Kicking Spree she wouldn’t dress like anything remotely resembling these women. Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor wouldn’t be caught dead wearing any of these awfully designed skank uniforms.

“But these films are made for MEN and thus the women in them must be SEXY” is what you’re saying?  And to that I say, “bullshit”. There’s not a goddamn thing sexy about Halle Berry’s Catwoman outfit. But let’s dig deeper.

One of the reasons why people love characters like Martin Riggs, John McClane and Rocky Balboa is because they all, at some point, ceremoniously get their asses kicked. Die Hard being my favorite example. We don’t love McClane because of his wisecracks and pithy comebacks, we love him because he took on terrorists without any shoes on and his best moment is when he’s picking glass out of his feet in the bathroom. By the end of that movie he looks awful.

Women in Hollywood movies are not, under any circumstances, allowed to look anything less than stunning. These “female action stars” can get punched and kicked and set on fire and still look like they just stepped out of a beauty salon at the end.

Sarah and Ripley were not, by today’s standards anyway, “sexy”. I mean, did you see that hair they had back then? Uh-uh. Sure, they managed to squeeze Ripley into those micro panties at the end of Alien and Kyle Reese got into Sarah’s pants (which was actually plot related), but they weren’t big tittied airbrushed super models. They were attractive, but they were very common looking women. Their looks didn’t detract from their characters. Ripley looked like the kind of woman who would be on that ship. Sarah looked like a waitress. It just looked authentic.

By not being glamorous or super sexy, an audience was able to accept those women in those roles, because let’s face it, if they remade Alien or Terminator and cast Megan Fox or Olivia Wilde or Scarlett Johansson, no one would buy it. Women who look like that don’t fight aliens and robots, they get killed by them.

Since the release of T2 there’s only been one female action character I could truly respect, and that’s her:

...said Hillary.

Why does The Bride in Kill Bill get a pass? I’m so glad you asked!

First of all, you have to take into account that Kill Bill takes place in it’s own reality that’s clearly a little different than ours.

Yes, her sword DOES count as a carry-on,.

Secondly, she doesn’t dress like a cheap whore. When she goes into a battle she wears clothes she can move in and shoes that don’t have high heels. Or in other words, practical ass-kicking attire.

Third, she doesn’t fight any man in direct hand-to-hand combat, and this is very important. The one man she does attempt to fight hand-to-hand mops the floor with her face, then teaches her how to do exactly what he did to her. Every other person she fights hand-to-hand is a woman. Every man she kills she does so with a weapon or, in one case, using an ancient 5-Point Palm Exploding Heart technique.

Fourth, Uma Thurman as The Bride is allowed to look ugly (well, in the move sense of the word, anyway). When we first see her she’s beaten, bloody, and begging for her life. When she wakes up from her coma she’s without makeup. She gets into fights with Vivica Fox and Daryl Hannah and at the end of both fights she actually looks like she just got into a fight! Amazing, isn’t it? Within the world the movie establishes, she is very believable for exactly this reason.

Fifth, she doesn’t have a lover interest. And why would she? Love interests are just their so the hero has someone to rescue in the third act, and no one wants to see a woman have to rescue her man, so why should a Female Action Hero need a love interest? It’s ri-goddamn-diculous.

Angelina Jolie in Salt is also a relatively good example of this.

Yummy.

Though Salt isn’t that great of a film, Jolie’s character dresses the way a woman in her situation would dress. She starts off with long tied up blonde hair, a skirt and heels, and over the course of the film wears pants, regular shoes, and cuts her hair short. And by the end she literally looks like she fought her way through hell. Granted, she still somehow managed to beat up full grown men while barely weighing 90 pounds, but hey, it was a Hollywood movie, we’re lucky she wasn’t wearing stilettos and a bustier while she was doing it.

So what does this all have to do with Hollywood Hating You? Well, because they think you’re morons, that’s why.

Hey, this might be hard to hear or believe, but women and adults like action movies too, not just horny teenage boys. And a general audience doesn’t just want to see a hot woman kicking butt, they want to see a good character that they can respect and root for kicking butt. Why do you think that whole Wonder Woman TV show didn’t work? Because she’s basically fighting crime while wearing a bathing suit, that’s why. It works in comics, not in live action.

And when you get right down to it, it’s just plain lazy. Why waste time casting an actress who actually looks like she could kick ass and do her own stunts when you can just cast the hot skinny noodle-armed flavor of the month and dress her up in a stripper outfit and call it a day? I want another Ellen Ripley or Sarah Connor, goddamnit. Not another goddamn Sucker Punch.

Sexying up a “Female Action Star” by emphasizing her sexuality and making her look like an expensive cosplay prostitute is a lot like putting nipples on the Batman suit.

And we all remember how that turned out.