I was born in the 80s, raised in the 90s. I’m of the generation where girls were taught to scream Girl Power! at the top of our lungs by the Spice Girls. It didn’t matter whether you were facing aliens or robots because Ripley and Sarah Connor had your back. I watched Buffy Summers slay vampires by night and struggle through adolescence by day. I saw Sailor Moon and The Powerpuff Girls save the day hundreds of times, all before bed time. But now?
What happened to the Girl Power of the 90s? What happened to ladies kickin’ ass and taking charge? Where did the female action stars go? What happened to the superwomen?
DC Women Kicking Ass, a phenomenal blog that’s always up to date with female superhero news, picked up on these comments made by Marvel Entertainment CCO Joe Quesada at the recent Kapow! Comic Con. Reported by Ain’t It Cool News, Quesada talked about the possibility Marvel would make a movie with a female superhero in the lead,
In a chat afterwards, Joe told me that he’d love to make a tentpole movie with a female lead, but that he really doesn’t think there is an actress right now who could carry it, or a character that would work either.
Uh, cool, I think. At first he’s seems excited by the prospect of a female-led superhero movie then turns around and tells us there’s no female character or actress who could make it work. I can’t say I agree with him. Isn’t Black Widow and Scarlet Johansson proof a movie with a female superhero and a capable actress is within their grasp? They just need to seize the opportunity.
A script for a Ms/Captain Marvel movie is ready to go. They just needed an actress. Marvel are having a meeting in a couple of weeks and will be ready to announce some films then … He said we’d be pleasantly surprised.
Okay. So Ms. Marvel is a a female character who could get her own movie, but without any capable actress around it probably won’t happen soon. Yet they’re promising film announcements that will pleasantly surprise us? Could this be the Black Widow movie that would just make so much freakin’ sense right now? Or maybe the Wasp plays an integral role in Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man film?
I’m so confused by the mixed messages Quesada presented. Why won’t anyone give the female-led action movie a shot? Was The Hunger Games a fluke? Where are today’s Ripleys, Sarah Connors, and Buffys? I just don’t get it.
Thankfully, I’m not the only one. In an interview with Comicbook.com, Greg Rucka, probably the comic book writer that comes to mind when you think “strong female characters,” spoke about the treatment of women by Hollywood and DC Comics in particular. Here’s a few snippets,
There’s an absurd marketing issue which is this conceit that Hollywood labors under and they’ve got studies to back it up, that their market is men 18 to 34, and they won’t go see a woman in an action role, which is utter bulls**t. I mean, if you can think of any demographic that’s more likely to go see women in an action role it’s going to be a guy who’s eighteen! What’s the thing that eighteen-year-old is constantly thinking about? Girls. It’s absurd and the more you look into it, the more the fallacy falls apart….
….The same studies that these guys swear by—‘our demographic is men age 18 to 34, who drive purchasing’—well, alright. Those same studies say it’s women age 20 to 40 who control the income outlay. They control the pocketbook, so why aren’t you marketing to them? It doesn’t make any sense and it’s a fundamentally misogynistic market field and people wonder why we see such negative representations of women or the same consistent galling of women and objectification of women in media and you strip everything away and the only argument that remains is it’s a misogynistic industry—they don’t like women. And you see that all over comics now, too.These things aren’t going away now and I think in large part the reason they’re not going away is that in particular DC did an extraordinary job of revealing the truth of their situation—they don’t care.
That’s what they said at San Diego—not only do we not care but we actually don’t want you here, go away. Well, guess what? That’s a sh***y business model and you’re going to lose money and you’re going to lose readers. It doesn’t make any sense to me from a business standpoint, right? I was lecturing at the University of Oregon yesterday and the only analog I can come up with is if Apple had said, ‘you know what? We’re only selling iPhones to blondes.’ It doesn’t make any sense—why would you just exclude a whole portion of your market? And the combination of arrogance and ignorance is appalling, and people should be angry. And the mere fact that the people who then actually spoke out about it who were threatened—talk about wanting to make ourselves look good. Nice endorsement for the industry, there.
Couldn’t have put it better myself. It’s frustrating to look out on the scope of pop culture, and in particular action movies and often the comic books that inspire them, and not see yourself represented. And I’m only talking on the general scale of gender, I’m not even delving into the nitty, gritty of race, sexual preference or anything else. Over half this country is women but overwhelmingly our action stars and superheroes are almost all men. What the hell, right?
Who do you think of when you think, female action star? I took to Twitter with my query and received a bunch of great answers, but the top three were definitely Ripley, Sarah Connor and Buffy. Okay, Alien and Aliens were in 1979 and 1986. Terminator and T2 were 1984 and 1991. Buffy the Vampire Slayer went off the air in 2003, that was nine years ago! The Kill Bill films were in 2003 and 2004, Lara Croft movies in 2001 and 2003, the Underworld series began in 2003 and while it’s still going there’s debate over whether it’s still going strong. Battlestar Galactica gave us a whole new Starbuck, but that ended in 2009.
Where does this leave us? It leaves us with something of gap in time since we’ve had real good action movies, with superheroes or without, starring a women. What gives? Is Quesada right, there are no actresses capable of carrying an action flick? What about Angelina Jolie, Uma Thurman, Charlize Theron, Scarlett Johansson, Michelle Rodriguez? That’s just naming a few off the top of my head. There must be a bevy of up and coming actresses with the acting and ass-kickin’ chops for the job.
So bastards, let’s lend Hollywood a helping hand, who could you see playing Ms. Marvel on the big screen? What other superwomen deserve to get the summer blockbuster treatment? Are there any actresses you’d like to see lead a big-budget action flick?
This summer does show some promise. We’ve already had The Hungers Games which was a smash hit. Brave releases June 22nd and Prometheus, while a ensemble movie, could do for Noomi Rapace what Alien did for Sigourney Weaver. It’s a start.
As an addendum, I had a few people mention the movie Haywire starring Gina Carano as a good action flick with a female lead. I haven’t seen it, or actually, even heard of it, but I do intend to check it out. Here’s hoping in the future when an action movie with a female lead is released they’ll spend the time marketing it so more than handful of people will hear about it.