The other day, and so this post begins, I watched Aliens. I was on my own, sitting/lying on my sofa engrossed in what was going to happen next and how Sigourney Weaver’s character, Ellen Ripley was going to handle it. As the film progressed it became more apparent how useless most of the men were and how pragmatic and badass Ripley can be. She was the reason the Mother alien (spoiler alert) was defeated; not only kicking her ass wearing a humungous metal power loader suit but also implementing a quick mind and assured authority to rally up everyone else to fight back too. It was a most joyous experience to watch and I fervently thrust my balled fist in the air when Ripley was victorious.
What struck me about this film was how surprised I was to see a woman dominate an action film so comfortably. Then I got angry. Why is it that woman are still not well represented in action films, or any film for that matter? According to a study (bit of copy and pasteage) by the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, of the 100 most successful films at box office in 2012, just 28.4 per cent of the 4475 speaking characters were female. This is a drop from 32.8 per cent in 2009. What the actual fuck? And aren’t women supposed to massive blabber mouths whose jaws must constantly ache from all the talking we apparently can’t stop doing?
Aliens came out in the 80s and films still rarely involve roles for females that are to equal men. Another film I watched recently got me tensing my fists for a reason quite the opposite to the Ripley punch. I rolled my eyes time and time again as the women were sexualised time and time again, very much not the same for their male counterparts. X – Men: First Class you are not in my good books. Almost every single female character was at least partially dressed at some point in the film, Jennifer Lawrence being totally nude because she was painted blue. Another mutant woman was a stripper for a living, another dressed in bra and pants to seduce an old man, I mean what the hell?!
You only have to look at this poster to understand what I’m talking about.
It is infuriating. Why oh why do women always have to be so sexualised? I’m sick of it and I know I’m not the only one. We seem to be so conditioned to this representation of women on screen that it mostly goes unquestioned by the actress playing the role and also the viewer. It’s just par for the course for ladies to prance around in their knickers and bras trying to get the male’s attention.
Salt was a refreshing antidote to this, as Angelina Jolie plays a character who is a highly skillful and formidable CIA agent. The fact that she is a woman isn’t questioned or made a massive deal like they do with other strong female characters; ‘look at this woman who is being brave and clever and cool as fuck and kicking the cack out of men left, right and centre, isn’t that a novelty’. However it should be noted that this role was originally written for a man, Tom Cruise I believe, and Angelina Jolie pulled it off brilliantly. It goes to show that characters aren’t just genders, they are people.
Also, Charlize Theron’s character in the new Mad Max aptly named Imperator Furiosa, drives an oil truck and shoots the bones off the enemies’ faces all with one arm, the other replaced with a manoeuvrable claw. Every time I see a heroine like this I hail society for doing something right.
It is not enough though. We need more characters like Ripley, Furiosa and Salt not just in action films but all genres. And we certainly need to give female roles more words to say. Women should have more (there should be an alternative to the word ‘more’) control and involvement in the film industry; directing, interesting, strong, rich and multifaceted female roles written which actresses can get their teeth stuck into as well as the viewers, producing and all that malarkey.
Of course this is an issue in every part of life. Put some clothes on those women and let their personalities and own mouths do the talking. Yes, boobs are splendid but they aren’t the only thing a woman is. We should be defined by our minds and less so our bodies.
Well I think that about wraps up what I have to say. I’m sure I could write on about this until my fingers bleed, especially if you get me started on Bond girls.