A GUEST POST BY ALEXANDRA BRADLEY
A while back, Daddy BOF invited me to write a guest post for his blog, and though I graciously accepted the challenge, I had an extremely difficult time coming up with a topic. What could I, with half as many years of experience as he has, add to this blog that my movie buff father could not say better and with more nuanced accuracy? After months (literally) of pondering this issue, I was suddenly struck with inspiration thanks to our outing to see Prometheus a few weeks ago. What better perspective could I bring to a film that my father cannot than that of being a female viewer? With many discussions on this very topic with my father already under my belt, I felt confident that I could bring something to the table.
So, with all that in mind, here is the first entry of my wild and crazy thoughts about movies through the eyes of a female viewer. In honor of my Prometheus inspiration and because it is probably the easiest genre through which to introduce my point, I have decided to begin the discussion with action films. Take from this what you will, and I welcome any and all productive discussion on the topic. Just be nice to me; it’s my first time blogging ever!
Hugs and kisses, Alexandra
Part I: Where Alexandra explains the source of the problem
As the years go by and my understanding of the world around me rapidly develops, I am becoming more and more of a feminist. And for those of you who still think that means that I am using The SCUM Manifesto [immortalized in I Shot Andy Warhol —BOF] as my “bible,” let me clarify that I call myself a feminist because I am an advocate for equality and social change, not a raging lunatic.
Anyway, with this developing mindset, I have had a hard time reconciling my values with my deep affection for horror, sci-fi, and even (the few good) action films to which my excellent father introduced me. You see, it’s very hard as a woman to watch a classic horror flick and leave feeling your value is any greater than a pair of breasts posed to be torn into by some weirdo’s knife, or to watch an action movie where you’re not seducing somebody (or being seduced by them), or to watch any of these films where you’re the one saving the day and not being saved by the big handsome man.
Are there exceptions to this problem? Oh, most certainly yes. As a matter of fact, Daddy BOF and I have had many a conversation about the various kick-ass female characters of recent years, and he was very surprised to learn that his normally “let’s go women!” daughter did not automatically fall in love with any film that featured a female protagonist, even if she was a seemingly rocking chick. The problem is, unfortunately, that most of the exceptions aren’t much better than the rule.
“But why?!?! Why, oh, why is Tomb Raider not going to be totally up your alley?” he asked, far less dramatically in real life.
Well, the response to that question is surprisingly difficult to put into words. However, I strongly believe that the root of these differences can be traced back to something as simple as why the character was created to be a female.
In the Lara Croft/Wonder Woman/Charlie’s Angels/Catwoman category, the characters’ problems lie not in their being written by men, but in their being written for men, and mainly fan-boys at that. Just taking one look at any of these characters (go ahead, look up a picture or two) tells me a lot of what I need to know. Sporting the skimpiest costumes or the tightest bodysuits ever made, these women race around the world fighting crime or whatever they do without so much as a stray hair (a real one, not that very-well-planned one they used for Angelina Jolie) or a smear of their eye liner. Everything about them drips with sexuality, and the fact that they are running around beating up on bad guys is just another way to make their sex appeal bounce up another level. And considering they are not written to be women we can look up to or who do amazing things or who have any kind of true strength to them or even a real personality, you can forget about it if you expect them to look like real women.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against the existence of these movies and characters per se. You gentlemen don’t get a complete monopoly on enjoying fun, frivolous, and/or adrenaline-boosting flicks, nor do you have one on appreciating how sexy fill in female action star’s name here looks in that oh-so-revealing outfit. My point is merely to explain why I’m not going to herald Angelina Jolie as the next role model for our young girls (or any females, for that matter) to look up to for setting the standards of how to be a strong woman.
“So what is the alternative?” you ask. Well, I happen to have one very specific example in mind. You see, there are a few action ladies out there for whom I have an immense amount of respect, and I cannot think of a better example than the character I consider the greatest female badass of all time: Ellen Ripley.
But you’ll have to wait to find out why….
Tune in next time to find out more about why Alien rocks my socks in Part II: Why Ellen Ripley is the cat’s pajamas, and other stories.