Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Great (film) Debates vol. 104

You don't have to be a dude to be an action hero, right?

Who is your favorite female action heroine?

Panelist: BevfromNYC

Okay, you knew I’d come up with this eventually, but Scarlet O’Hara is a real action heroine to me. I mean, she killed Yankees, bullied her family and friends into survival, saved her plantation, and survived the Civil War! AND she made a beautiful dress out of curtains! Curtains, for God sake! What’s more heroic than that?

Panelist: AndrewPrice

You know, I generally don't like female action heroes because they usually don't have personalities. That's the thing I liked about Ripley in Alien (but not the later films) -- she had a personality. Most are just mumblers with guns, like Alice in Resident Evil. Anyway, my favorite is Chris Parker from Adventures in Babysitting. Chris is just a normal teenage girl who needs to rise to the occasion when she finds herself in some pretty incredible circumstances.

Panelist: Tennessee Jed

I don't have one. The concept is anathema to me. It's like liberalism, being crammed down my throat. "Women on Top!" "You Go Girl!!" "Anything you can do, I can do better!!!" You never see any big tough tomboy action heroines. They all have to look like Angelina Jolie. It is bullshit, and I'm bored with it.

Panelist: Floyd

Black Widow/Natasha Romanov from The Avengers. Most female action heroines are too unrealistic and so having her in a superhero movie makes it easier to suspend disbelief. Plus it's ScarJo and that helps alot.

Panelist: ScottDS

I struggled with this one but I suppose I will go with the last survivor of the Nostromo: Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver in one classic movie, one classic sequel, one troubled threequel that I still love, and one piece of crap. Ms. Weaver was actually nominated for an Academy Award for Aliens - that would never happen today. And the role was never intended specifically for a woman - all the characters in the Alien script were written as unisex. It's just the hand that was dealt!

Comments? Thoughts?


Anonymous said...

I usually can't stand female action heroes more or less for the reason Andrew mentioned. But I did like the Black Widow in Avengers. I thought she worked, because while she could do the whole over the top super-assassin-y thing, she was written as a woman, rather than a differently-shaped man. She has a reasonably realistic relationship with Hawkeye, she doesn't freak out when she is treated like a woman by Captain America (I love his chivalry during the battle of New York SO MUCH, especially because no one makes a stink about it.), and she uses her femininity as a weapon to get Loki to reveal his plan (that was SO AWESOME).

Tennessee Jed said...

having had time to reconsider my original from the hip comment, I'll go unequivically with Hit Girl

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, She's totally cool. :)

AndrewPrice said...

goldvermilion, "A differently shaped man" is exactly what most of these women are written as. In so many of these instances, you could swap out a man without changing a single word in the script.

Anonymous said...

It's so frustrating! And that, of course, is considered by many to be women's lib.

Whereas I find it INCREDIBLY insulting.

(Especially since they're not so much differently shaped men as much as men with lots and lots of cleavage for men's viewing pleasure. Ugh! I will stop myself before I start a "your 'feminism' is so demeaning and objectifying that your inability to see it argues for a misogynistic 'women are blind easily manipulated idiots' position" rant.)

El Gordo said...

I´m usually with Tennesse Jed but there are exceptions, action heroines which are not implausibly strong or indestructible, do not confuse males by wearing catsuits or are at least plausibly written as female characters.

1. Pilot Fry (Radha Mitchell) in Pitch Black. She has her flaws but she fights, she dies, she makes Riddick want to be a better man!

2. Vasquez (Jeanette Goldstein) in Aliens. She is a bit of a "tough girl" cliche but the portrayal works for me. She´s not the star but you can argue she saves the star´s ass. She fights, she dies, she takes a few aliens with her.

3. Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Great swordplay and memorable female characters. Also: best catfight after The Mummy Returns. They do have superpowers but I guess it´s like that in Chinese culture.

I guess we are not talking about portrayals of real-life heroines. That would be a very different list.

tryanmax said...

Maybe she simply plays a differently shaped man, but I have to give props to Angelina Jolie for carving out a strong niche for herself as an action heroine. (I'm not past gender-specific nouns.)

I must push back on TN Jed; "Women on Top!" is not always a bad thing. The view from below is particularly nice. ;-)

Outlaw13 said...

Hit Girl from the first Kick Ass not the second one...

Marion in Raiders is pretty awesome, except that for someone so tough and supposedly street smart she keeps getting rolled up by the Nazis.

Tennessee Jed said...

tryanmax, l.o.l. Can't argue with that. It is not so much action "heroines" per se. No, it's more the current meme on t.v. drama. The woman is almost always the supeervisor (usually cops who look like Beckett from "Castle.") The same thing with black actors. Look, I get it, and am not totally unsympathetic with the notion of trying to change stereotypes. It just isn't particularly realistic, and it has become so obvious, it is kind of annoying (see the new Hawaii 5-0, Mentalist, CSI L.A., Major Crimes, Longmire, etc., etc. ad nauseum. Hey babes kickin' ass. What could be more natural or realistic.

Tennessee Jed said...

Outlaw- I haven't seen the sequel, since they usually suck. Is it really, really bad?

Individualist said...

In order to make my point I think I will go with Nancy Drew from the Books although they did make a movie and it was not that bad. I am going to a book because I can't think of current examples on film.

Nancy Drew is a female hero and she uses intelligence and wits to accomplish her goals. Part of the problem with the "differently shaped" men meme is that it ignores that women are differently sized as well. Yes you can learn martial arts to make up for size but big tough tall men can learn martial arts and maximize their agility as well. Since men are 20% larger than women even women who work out or all tall will find that they are still smaller than the men who do.

Yet the movies portray women as going in and fighting men head on and since stunt minions are paid to fall over when the action star hits them its all good in the land of Hollywood.

Nancy Drew is a smart young teenager who uses her intelligence to solve the case and when the huge 7' Neanderthal is chasing her she uses her agility to get away so that the Neanderthal gets caught by police. The problem is that the feminist motif would demand Nancy go Angelina Jolie and double kick the villain out just to prove women are as good as men. It teaches that Nancy is shown as weak for her approach but the reality is Nancy is smarter. She finds away to get the bad guys locked up despite the fact that she cannot face them for more than three seconds in combat. To me this makes Nancy better than the differently shaped men.

Anonymous said...

In defense of The Mentalist, Jed, I have to say Patrick Jane is WAY more in charge than Lisbon is . . . I like that one because she wants to be all tough, but she isn't really. (Not to mention that she fell for Jane's "Let me do something really sweet for you" manipulation, which I would have fallen for, too, but wasn't exactly police chief material.

Interesting new show -- Almost Human. I'm not ready to say it's great, but I thoroughly enjoy it. It has a female police chief who was the stereotypical female police chief for the sake of having a female there, and then an episode ago, there was talk about her being all masculine to put on a face and prove a point, etc, that I found interesting. I want to see where that goes.

Anonymous said...

Good morning everyone. I wanted to let you know Andrews internet is down today. He will comment as soon as it's up again. Thanks!

Tennessee Jed said...

goldvermilion87, I don't disagree, but she is a great example of how female cops look on t.v., and how they do not look in real life. How many female cop supervisors are there in real life, let alone who look like Robin Tunney? Hey, apparently this is mainly done to appeal to male viewers, and I love the Mentalist.T.V. doesn't put ugly people in the cast. How can we forget Heather Locklear together with Shat as beat cops :)

Tennessee Jed said...

Indie - I think Nancy Drew nicely illustrates the point. And whether the point is to get males to want to watch or to encourage young women to "be all that they can be," it just is so implausiblr and so frequently done, it has gotten under my skin.

Anonymous said...

I see what you're saying, Jed. I always thought she was plain/slightly weird looking (This is even more true with Maldonado in Almost Human), but my brother says I'm not allowed to make judgments on the relative plainness of actresses.

At the very least, Grace Van Pelt is totally completely and utterly unrealistic. :P I'm always particularly amused that she's the computer geek of the team . . .

Anonymous said...

But you forget, Individualist, that Women are JUST AS GOOD AS MEN physically! They can be Marines and go into combat, too! Would you question the judgement of the executive branch of the United States government?

Anonymous said...

I have been watching Chuck on Netflix, and I can't decide if Sarah is a spoof, and thus hilarious, eye-candy, and thus a demeaning [okay, she is definitely that, if only for the absurdly high number of girl-fights], or meant to demonstrate that women are as physically capable as men, and thus irritating.

Tennessee Jed said...

yeah, I'm not trying to say Robin is the hottest actress eveer to play a cop. She is hotter by order of magnitude than most major crime detectives, though, and wears the standard uniform of skinny jeans with tailored blazer over a colored tank top. Cote de Pablo is another example as well. Ex Mossad with 6 ways to kill you with her little toe. I see NCIS is going for their own Van Pelt with a little cutie computer whiz who wears skinny jeans, fitted blazer .....

Outlaw13 said...


The Kick Ass sequel in an attempt to broaden their characters lost track of what made people like them in the first place. The tone of the whole thing was off, in my opinion.

Tennessee Jed said...

Outlaw - thanks! I suspected it would be hard to duplicate the fresh take of the original.

Tennessee Jed said...

El Gordo - sorry I missed your earlier comment. Yeah, I think super heroines are a different class altogether. And I think your comment is absolutely valid. It is o.k. to have an action heroine, whether it be Angelina Jolie or whomever. However, it seems to me the cliche of having beautiful babes be "the muscle" evertime out has gotten to the point of being as much a cliche as the old damsel in distress was.

Loyal Goatherd said...

What no Sarah Connor love? Perfectly played and written In T1 and T2 by Linda Hamilton, Sarah Connor goes from clueless waitress, to psycho warrior in a logical and consistent (read non-comic book) world. No flying on wires, no indestructible BS, Hell, you can break her bones and it hurts her, but she still fights for her survival and in turn mankind's survival.

Rustbelt said...

Sorry, LG, but I couldn't disagree more on Sarah Connor (in T2). IMO, she set the tone for all the bad 'tough chick' cliches that we complain about today.
In T2, she's impossible to identify with. In the first movie, she's having a bad day at work (something we can all relate to) when she's suddenly thrust into a situation that's completely out of her hands. She eventually defeats the T-800, but by being intelligent (a la Nancy Drew), not by suddenly becoming a martial arts expert. In the second, she's a mass murderer* and domestic terrorist. She attacks innocent people (whom she's theoretically trying to save), attempts to murder an innocent Miles Dyson, wounds several people, causes tons of property damage, and is the one who is constantly putting John Connor's life in danger. (Not that I care; I actually hated him almost as much.)
Thus we got- I believe as KRS put it- the ridiculously skinny chick who is impossibly strong and beats up anyone who, in real life, would easily kick her butt. And she's arrogant and annoying as h***. Honestly, I would've cheered if the T-1000 had finished her off. Then again, I would've cheered if the T-1000 had killed John Conner, too, but that's another story.

*- I know she doesn't actually kill anyone, but I think that motif was rushed in during script revisions so Cameron could claim she's a hero character. I'd bet in the original scripts, she probably killed a lot of people before being incarcerated. (Given her insanity, that actually would've made more sense!) But in Cameron's little world, as long as the hero doesn't kill anyone, they can commit any crime they want (the end justifies the means) and remain the hero because the director said so.

Now that I think of it, James Cameron's supposed 'strong' heroines are pretty bad. In fact, they seem to cause most of the trouble. Think about it:

-Because clingy Rose pulls Jack into her social world, he's nearly killed by her suitor and her suitor's manservant.

-Because Sarah chooses to go kill Dyson (for the exact same reasons the T-800 previously tried to kill her), she pulls John back into the T-1000's vicinity and puts him in danger again.

-Because Vasquez ignores the order to turn in her explosive ammo, she fires it and starts the nuclear sequence- that she was warned about!- that puts the entire group in danger. (Then again, Cameron said he based the marines on overconfident U.S. troops in Vietnam and wanted them to look overconfident and stupid.)

Hey! Brainstorm! Someone needs to try this experiment:

-Round up a group of people- a 'control group,' if you will- who have no knowledge of the Terminator movies. Show them T2, with the prologue cropped out. Then, after watching the movie, ask them who they initially thought the bad guys were and how it took before they realized who the real villain was. I have a feeling the results might be interesting.

AndrewPrice said...

Howdy everyone. Sorry about that. Out internet died this morning and didn't come back on until a few minutes ago... no explanations offered.

AndrewPrice said...

El Gordo, Fry is good. I like her because she's a real person with some serious flaws and that makes her an interesting character... in a film of interesting characters.

Outlaw, Nazis are tricky that way! LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, Nancy Drew is old school. She's all about brains and cleverness. Modern heroes are all about gun size.

Goldvermilion, It is insulting and the feminist don't seem to get that. They actually call these "strong roles," even though they are just playing a nerd-porn fantasy.

AndrewPrice said...

LG and Rustbelt, I didn't like Sarah Connor at all in the second film. I thought she was great in the first one, but she was a psycho nut in the second and I didn't care if she lived or not... I wanted her off screen. I actually think that was intentional, by the way. I think they wanted to focus on the relationship between the kid and Arnold and she would have gotten in the way if she was a decent person.

AndrewPrice said...

Nice discussion today, by the way. :)

Kit said...

"Modern heroes are all about gun size."

Insert Freudian joke here.

Kit said...

I will say:
Black Widow from Avengers. Put well above.
River Tam from Serenity. No power in the verse can stop her.
Hermione Granger from Harry Potter, though these are more books than movies.

Perhaps Chihiro from Miyazaki's amazing Spirited Away. Not much of an action heroine, though she does get in some pretty dangerous situations and goes from bratty 12 year old girl to a capable young girl. She is constantly in over-her-head abut each time overcomes it. A great character.

And, of course, Queen Elsa from Frozen. She is a Disney princess (Queen, actually!) and has X-men-style freezing powers
Image 1
Image 2

Anonymous said...

Ellen Ripley (Alien movies), Sarah Connor (Terminator), Alice (Resident
Evil) and River Tam (Firefly).

The first two are normal women who are forced by crazy situations to raise above their normal abilities and do extraordinary things, but nothing really beyond what the greatest women could do. The last two have extraordinary powers and are faced with situations beyond that and raise to the occasion and do things that would be considered impossible for any human.

If the normal women did the impossible it would ruin the story, so I only like it when the women with superhuman powers do superhuman acts.

And 'different shaped man' is a classic way to describe more female action


Anonymous said...

I guess as far as a straight up action heroine I'm gonna go with Pam Anderson from Barb Wire. It was a bad movie, it should have shown more of her ;) and it was made before her boobs were as big as they are now,but I've loved her since Baywatch and when you love somebody you're with them for the whole ride.
Next is Helen Parr, Elastigirl from The Incredibles. Yeah, she was animated, but the rules here at commentarama have always been pretty flexible.
Sarah Connor. She literally had an otherwordly experience drop in her lap and she overcame all her fears and terminated the terminator.(I only acknowledge the first film.)
Laurie Strode and Sidney Prescott were both ordinary girls who reached deeper than they knew they could to do what had to be done. And they did it without super kung fu or bazookas.
I already mentioned Laurie Strode. Jamie Lee Curtis comes in again as the reluctant action hero in True Lies. Hanging from a helicopter and kicking Tia Carrera's ass while the limo you're fighting in is racing towards a blown up bridge with a dead driver at the wheel isn't too bad for an afternoon's work.
Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy is an all timer.
And of course, no discussion of this topic would be complete without mentioning Ellen Ripley, the ultimate cub protector.(Get away from her you bitch!)

KRS said...

Rustbelt - thanks for the shout out. And, as you might expect, I'm not fond of most of the action "babes" - that's really how women are treated - in these movies. Either they're punching well above their weight or they're being pushed through a ventilation duct in a low cut gown, or some variation thereof. Black Widow uses a pair of cute widdle 9 mm Glocks to shoot invading armored alien hordes armed with laser lancers. But we do get to see butt and cleavage, so suspend disbelief.

Our gal Riley almost made it, but even she shows us a little candy as she slips on the spacesuit near the end of "Alien."

I don't object to eye candy at all; I just don't take the character seriously. If you're wearing boob-armor, you're not serious.

So, my top heroine is Helen Mirrin from "Red." Honorary mention goes to Michele Rodriguez for "Battle for Los Angeles" and absolutely nothing else she's ever done anywhere at any time. I really mean that.

I think it's also worth giving a hat tip to villainesses, and my vote goes to Margaret Hamilton in the Wizard of OZ. We may quibble over whether she's an action villainess, but any character who's willing to burn another one alive and has squadrons of flying attack monkeys at her beck and call should qualify. No woman not wearing a nun's habit ever scared me more.

KRS said...

Oops - Ripley, not Riley - I need to reread my posts before hitting publish.

Anonymous said...

Some thoughts, in no particular order.
1 - I forgot Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises. Her line after she kills Bane is a classic -" That whole no guns thing. I just don't feel as strongly about it as you do." I thought the character of Catwoman was well handled. She was shown as a badass through the whole film but she had to shoot Bane. He was a badass too,and one that was 3 times her size. She also shot him with something that was already mounted on the motorcycle,not some superweapon that was dropped from the sky just at the right time,so it didn't break the continuity of the story. I liked her.
2. As far as Ripley goes, under her clothes she's still a woman. The reason for that scene wasn't to show us some t&a but to have the alien attack her when she was completely vulnerable. She was dirty,she was physically and emotionally exhausted and she was going into the hibernation chamber. It made sense for her to strip down to her underweat to go to sleep,as opposed to stopping the movie and having a t&a moment for it's own sake.
3. I have thought of the ultimate action heroine - Drumroll........... Pam Grier.
Peeled out of her shirt at the drop of a hat. Fought men, women,whites,blacks,made no difference. If you crossed her you were sorry.
Fought with anything she could lay hands on. Barstools,razorblades in her afro,broken bottles,shotguns you name it. She had Arnoldesque quips before anybody knew who he was."I got my blackbelt in barstools bitch!"
And as a bonus, proudly wore the 4th best set of breasts ever.
1-Dolly Rebecca Parton - Best Little Whorehouse In Texas
2 - Mimi Rogers - Full Body Massage
3 - Uschi Digard You mostly have to see her on the internet as most of her stuff never made it to dvd.
4 - Pam Grier.

Koshcat said...

Some great choices, although I swear Bev hasn't seen a new movie since she saw GWTW.

How about Eowyn in LOTR? Regular woman with no special powers who defeats the Witch-King of Angmar.

shawn said...

No love for the original Avengers? Emma Peel.

Anonymous said...

Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman. Would it be too much of a stretch to include Cheryl Ladd's Kris Munroe?

Kit said...

Eowyn is definitely a badass in the book.
“Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!"
Then Merry heard in all sounds of the hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel.
"But no living man am I! You are looking upon a woman. Eowyn am I, Eomund's daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him."

5minutes said...

One I've not seen mentioned, but who I think is a surprisingly enjoyable aciton heroine... Geena Davis as Samantha Caine/Charlie Baltimore in "The Long Kiss Goodnight".

I'll also throw in Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. Honestly, there aren't too many women I could see as an actual threat to the men they face down, but those 2 nail it.

Anonymous said...

Clarice Starling, even though she's not an "action" heroine.

After the (entirely appropriate) Sarah Connor T2 bashing, how about T3's T-X? Ever notice how the virus that is revealed to by Skynet doesn't turn up until after she's used the mobile phone? Checkmate, bitches!

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