I had a conversation with a friend a while back about a potential Wonder Woman movie. The conversation evolved into what we would or wouldn’t hope to see in a movie with a strong female lead. We both thought it was about time we got more of those, if for nothing else than diversity making things more interesting. We have had male dominated hero movies for a while and while I have enjoyed them, and still will, we could use to mix it up for many reasons. I am pretty sure by the time “Expendables 3” is done we will have officially found the need to kill off “bad acting guy with big muscles shoots stuff… and stuff gets blowed up”. At least for a while….
Some of this comes from my still lingering malaise about the character of Rogue in the X-Men movies. I didn’t really read comics until a college room-mate pretty much forced me to, but I have read a good chunk of the Marvel X-men focused comics, and I was anxiously awaiting the bad ass character Rogue when the movie came out. There was a little bit of disappointment to find that instead of a super strong, flying, powers stealing woman who had some deep demons (because in comics everyone has deep demons. Dr. Phil would have committed suicide long ago in the Marvel Universe) she was a frightened, confused and kind of weak character who just wanted to touch the boy she liked. I understand it worked for the character in the movie, I mean being a teenager sucks, but being a teenager that had what has to be the worst first kiss in history, is infinitely worse. She never really did fill out in to the character I had remembered from the comics though, and that always bothered me a bit. That is probably the historical start of this list in my head. Of course, I am a
possibly, probably, drunken fat guy saying this, so maybe my opinion will be deemed meaningless. With that Volkswagen sized grain of salt being given out, here are some of the things I would (ok really wouldn’t) want to see in a female led superhero movie:
You got beat by a girl implies girls shouldn’t win:
Avoid at all costs the “You got beat by a girl” moment. I know this seems like an empowering thing to do: some bad guy underestimates the hero because she is female, gets his comeuppance and is reminded that he should be ashamed because it was a girl who beat him. The reason I hate this trope is that it starts off with the assumption that if a woman is better than a man at anything, other than dealing with children or, like, cleaning I guess, then he should be ashamed. I would say it also implies that any woman that does not have superpowers is still inferior, but I guess that is sort of the point of every superhero; if not for their luck of super powers they would be pretty feeble. Still though, I think we are past the point in society where we need to make a big point of the misogynist getting his ass kicked by the one woman who apparently isn’t inferior. Please disregard this if the bad guy is a Nazi, I think it just has to be accepted that they will embody every bad trait a villain can have.
Kill the Love Interest
Ok, I don’t mean actually kill the character, I mean don’t have one at all. Actually this is on my list for any hero/action movies. I know it seems like good old fashioned instant character development to have the protagonist fall in instant, seemingly meaningless love, so they can later save said love interest after a weird and awkward sex scene that looks like high-brow porn played in slow motion. If you are going to have a love interest, let’s not make it about “we just met and what the hell” sex, think more of the romance in Iron Man. Yeah there is a budding and eventual relationship through the movies, but it’s more about the characters and their emotions than looking hot in spandex. Actually, now that I think of it, the relationship in Iron Man is more about a professional assistant becoming her boss’ girlfriend, then dealing with/taking care of his brooding, emotionally damaged drunken ass while he saves her by punching everything…. Forget I mentioned that one. Just drop the whole subject of love interests from now on, it isn’t developing character and it slows down the plot.
Random hook ups are awesome, but maybe not here.
No random sex either! This one may seem a little weird, I mean it is 2014 and a woman should be able to get a little strange if she wants to right? That is absolutely correct! However, for a female led superhero movie, I feel like any random hook up scene is going to end up being more for the straight male audience than anything else. It goes along with the outfit to just make her some hypersexual thing for dudes to drool over. It will be less about “empowerment” and more about “Oh my gawd hot!”
The costume should appeal to the character, not raging boners.
Let’s make the outfit a fitting outfit for a superhero. A dignified and respected super hero. Every costume in these movies is at least somewhat sexual: rippling abs on the Batsuit, Superman’s ever present codpiece bulge, or Wolverine’s main costume being “Shirtless”. So I expect there will have to be some sex appeal. Wonder Woman wearing a Hijab would be an over-correction of epically bad proportions. I understand that blockbuster movies have always had some sort of sex appeal for the audience whose gender it is not aimed specifically at. There is a reason I saw more Tom Cruise nipple in “Top Gun” by age 7 than I had any right to, or that there were something like 37 scenes of wet and/or sweaty shirtless men in that movie. It was certainly not for the heterosexual men who showed up to see some rad fighter jets blow shit up. Let’s just remember this is a character, not a pair of breasts with attached vagina and ass. The litmus test for this should be something along these lines: There will always be a “slutty” version of the characters costume sold in stores around Halloween. Is the “slutty” version the exact same version the character is wearing? If the answer is yes then you are doing it wrong.
Boys are walking hard-ons so sex is the best weapon.
Please, for the love of god do not make her main weapon be sex. The Avengers kind of tried to turn this one, having Black Widow use an old man’s sexist tendencies against him to get information, but in the end I felt like she was still sort of pulling a “look at my breasts while I hit you” style of attack, even though it wasn’t as blatant. Ok, it was kind of funny and well-acted enough it didn’t bother me at the time; I just don’t want to see it be the main theme for a female character.
A good movie is always better than a bad movie
Make the movie good. I know this should be a no brainer, something you would assume every movie aspires to be, but sometimes they want to make money, not be a good film. The reason I want it to be good is twofold: One is that if we are going to be seeing some female leads in hero movies, and we should, it would be nice if they were the kind of movie you can enjoy as a youngster and show your daughter later in life. I just spent a weekend with a group of friends from college, and one of the kids was 10 years old and never happier than when he was watching Ghostbusters on the mini theater someone had made. I would like to think his little sister will soon have a movie with a good female lead she can show to her hypothetical daughter that won’t make her progeny roll her eyes and hide her face from Mom’s gloriously stupid movie. The second reason is that bad movies made for money tend to pander, or at least attempt to pander, to a certain audience. I would like to avoid a “girls” movie where the predominant color is pink and the protagonist drives a My Little Pony themed car or something because some old dude’s understanding of women goes as far as “likes pink” and “wants the money left on the dresser”. I know those particular examples may be taking it bit far, but Hollywood producers are not always known to be the masters of subtlety.
Women do things Ms Manners might not be OK with
Let her drink beer, smoke (ok maybe not these days), talk rough or whatever else the particular character calls for. Sure, you don’t want her to be a raging alcoholic (Iron Man already has that one locked up) or be a complete asshole (uh… so Tony Stark has that one on lockdown as well). While I don’t want a “masculine” female character necessarily, I also don’t want to see one who is kept from good character development because “girls don’t do that”. Unless somehow all of the female friends I have had in my life are supremely abnormal, they may on occasion drink whiskey, swear, say less than pink and frilly things and generally act like a normal person. I would love to see depth in a character.
So there you have it, my little list of things I kind of hope do not end up in something like a Wonder Woman movie. It may be telling that most of this list includes the same themes that are generally used to get some straight male asses in the seats, as straight male teen ass is the current money maker (I sure do hope that never gets taken out of context).
So I guess once I think about it, maybe my female superhero archetype is none other than Ellen “Nuke it from orbit, I’s the only way to be sure” Ripley. She is an intelligent, take charge person and the one time she has sex in those movies it’s with Tywin Lannister (Seriously!). Even if you want to get smart and point out that her obsession with saving Newt in Aliens shows some sort of overly soft feminine mommy instinct (apologies to Jenny McCarthy) I will immediately point you to the director’s cut. Apparently to save two minutes off the run time, and severely limit character development, a scene was cut that shows Ripley finding out she missed her daughters 11th birthday, and eventual death day, during her 52 years of suspended animation. It isn’t motherly instinct that drives her, it is her thinking she can metaphorically save her forever ruined and missed relationship with her 11 year old daughter by literally saving the life of this 11 year old girl. So, yeah, I’m totally that guy who is using a deleted scene as canon, and I am damn proud of it.
I’m not saying every female character has to be a Ripley clone, just that she is a better starting point than some of the other things we have been given (cough *Catwoman* cough) and that you can have a strong and developed female lead without falling prey to the same things that made Tomb Raider so impossible to watch for me. Let’s applaud, and hand over some cold hard cash, to a movie that can give us a character that stands on her own merits, and not one that gets male butts in the seats because they apparently have not learned that most important of lessons: The internet is for porn, the theater is for movies.
P.S. IF you have any of your own points, or more than likely hate all of mine then please let me know.