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Author Topic: Too-delicate action movie heroines
Omega M.
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This column makes a good point:
quote:
More recently, movies seem to have shoved women toward a strategy of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" in facing off against their macho rivals. In the two Kill Bill movies, lithe, lovely Uma Thurman becomes a sadistic avenger who, in one much-heralded scene, uses Samurai swords to dismember more than 80 highly trained, male Ninja assassins.

Even more improbably, the embarrassing Stealth features 22-year-old Jessica Biel (best known as the sweet, girl-next-door star of TV's 7th Heaven) as a crack Navy aviator shot down over North Korea, single-handedly battling Kim Jong Il's entire army to a standstill. Also this summer, Red Eye featured fragile, innocent Rachel McAdams (best known from The Notebook) inexplicably besting highly trained terrorist hit-man Cillian Murphy in deadly hand-to-hand combat. In the upcoming sci-fi adventure Serenity, it's ballerina Summer Glau who plays a telepathic tootsie whose phenomenal fighting abilities will decide the fate of the entire galaxy.

In one sense, such womanly superheroes follow the preposterous example of titans of testosterone like Rambo and the now-governor of California, who effortlessly slaughtered hordes of hapless extras. But Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and their preternaturally pumped-up ilk looked inescapably imposing, while many of the screen's female fighters seem willowy, otherworldly, even delicate.

But the only solution it offers is this:
quote:
In the past, Hollywood's hyperfeminine sex symbols [Jean Harlow, Betty Grable, etc.] never tried to match men in terms of physical strength, but their classic roles still showed them holding their own in the battle of the sexes by deploying traditional female advantages of smarts, sex appeal, emotional resilience and intuitive understanding.

One of today's rising young stars is Reese Witherspoon, who played the ultimate girlie-girl in the popular Legally Blonde movies - a sorority sister with hot pink accessories who confounds skeptics as the sharpest mind at Harvard.

If aspiring actresses hope to pry their way into the exclusive Boy's Club of top moneymakers, they should heed Witherspoon's example. The public doesn't yearn for stylish chicks to replicate the sweaty brutality of male action stars, but prefers watching characters who display the distinctively feminine strengths associated with the natural superiority of women.

I guess action movie heroines who actually look like they could take on their foes are still too avant-garde?
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EDanaII
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Who WANTS to watch a buff woman? I don't.

We live in a day and age when "all men are created equal, and, by God, we gonna pretend just so we can prove it!" [Wink]

Ed.

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FIJC
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Has anyone else seen His Girl Friday with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell? Still one of my favorite movies...
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Wayward Son
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Ah, Michael Medved. I should have known... [Smile]

When he says:

quote:
The public doesn't yearn for stylish chicks to replicate the sweaty brutality of male action stars, but prefers watching characters who display the distinctively feminine strengths associated with the natural superiority of women.
he means he doesn't want to see them. IIRC, Kill Bill didn't do that badly at the box office. Nor did the Laura Croft movies (we're talking box office here, not quality).

And I'd go out with the buff Linda Hamliton from Terminator 2 in a heartbeat (although I might check her for Bowie knives before letting her in the car [Smile] ).

Medved is right in that these movies are fantasies in the typical macho man vien, but generally I believe people don't mind it at all. After all, it's been around since the late 60's, when the original Mrs. Peel of The Avengers used to kick spy-booty week after week. And any man who wouldn't want to go out with Diana Rigg needs his head examined!

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EDanaII
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quote:
Has anyone else seen His Girl Friday with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell? Still one of my favorite movies...
A classic, FIJC. [Smile]

But then, just about anything Cary did was a classic. How about "Bringing Up Baby," "The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer," or "Father Goose."

"You remind me of the man."

"What man?"

"The man with the power."

"What power?"

"The Power of Hoodoo."

"Hoodoo?"

"You do."

"Do what?"

"Remind me of the man."

...

[Smile]

Ed.

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Loki
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gotta say, while I don't really care for these battling heroines, females villains get me going. In rush hour 2, the female villain was awesome, intimidating/bitch/martial arts expert, she was almost beleivable, go female villains.
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Wayward Son
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Ah, yes. "The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer." [Big Grin]
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Jesse
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Eh, I think Angelina was pretty good as Lara Croft (although the movie sucked out loud), but at least she had the muscles to make backflips and athletic fighting look somewhat believable.

I think the worst casting in the LOTR series was the woman playing Eowyn. Shield maiden my ass. Swinging a sword takes deltoids and traps. I gotta get some pictures of the young ladys in my war-band scanned to disc.

A woman doesn't need to be a steroid freak to make a believable action heroine, but the frail mousey things really should stick to the frail mousey roles unless there is a supernatural explination to prop up my willing suspension of disbelief.

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Mormegil
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It's not believable that Jackie Chan can beat up 40 guys in hand-to-hand fighting. In real life he'd be dead. But we pretend it's possible. He can beat up *one* guy, so we extend it to 40.

But when a scrawny woman wields a sword and kills 40 guys, we don't buy it as easily, because with those tiny arms, she would get tired in about 30 seconds battling *one* guy.

I like to see warrior chicks, as phony as it is, but let's at least get some more realistic warrior chicks, preferably who weigh more than 108 pounds and have biceps larger than my wrists.

But then, my fiancé played high school football, the only girl to make the team, and she lasted the whole season, so you can't go by me as far as mainstream American tastes.

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Funean
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Let us not forget Buffy, nor the movie original.

When in doubt, imbue your heroine with supernatural powers. Problem solved!

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FiredrakeRAGE
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Mormegil said:
quote:
But when a scrawny woman wields a sword and kills 40 guys, we don't buy it as easily, because with those tiny arms, she would get tired in about 30 seconds battling *one* guy.
Arm size is not directly proportional to strength. Jackie Chan is not exactly a 250 lb bruiser himself. When you're fighting with a sword, as long as you have the strength to control your movements and ward off the blows of the opposition, that is all you require. Skill is the overarching factor - unless you've two people with a very even amount of skill, one person is going to die very quickly.

When you're fighting with no rules against many opponents, brute strength probably plays a larger role in the outcome of the fight. That said, I do not view Uma Thurman managing to take on 40 guys (given the apparent skill of the character she plays) as any more difficult than Jackie Chan taking on 40 guys.

--Firedrake

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Haggis
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I think it's pretty funny to complain about having waifs being ass-kickers when there are far more unrealistic bits in movies:

*A fighter plane becomes intelligent because of a lightning strike.

*Talking animals.

*The flux-capacitor.

*A magical ring to "rule them all".

*Anthony Michael Hall getting laid.

*A boy gets super powers due to the bite of a genetically engineered spider.

*A 900 year old toad-man shooting lightning from his fingertips.

*A school for witchcraft and wizardry.

*Partying with a corpse for a weekend with nobody noticing the stench.

*A child who talks to the dead.

*Uber-villians putting spies into easily escapable traps while laying out their plans for global domination in great detail.

*A twelve year old that can throw a 110 mph fastball.

*Ghosts of dead major league ballplayers showing up to play baseball in a cornfield.

*A supermodel in a Ferarri skinny dipping with Chevy Chase.

*A sniper trapping a man in a phone booth to make him a better person.

*Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist.

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ender wiggin
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Most women actually don't bulk up. I've known some incredibly tough and strong women who are tiny and look like sticks.

Anyway, rather than seeing strong women in action movies kicking butt, I'd rather see waif like women helpless and tied up and waiting for the man to save them, like how it used to be in the good 'ol days. O, for the 1980s when the men were men and thee women were weak and pathetic.

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potemkyn
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Man, if you didn't suspend disbelief after Uma Thurmond convinced her legs to move after having the nerves severed, there is no hope for you. The whole movie was bloody crap.
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Kosmic_Fool
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quote:
I do not view Uma Thurman managing to take on 40 guys (given the apparent skill of the character she plays) as any more difficult than Jackie Chan taking on 40 guys.
I do. Uma uses a sword. Jackie uses a ladder. Or paint can. Or chair. Or another one of his opponents. Or possibly paralyzed parts of his own body. I've never seen that last one, but I can imagine it. [Razz]
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javelin
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quote:
Originally posted by Funean:
Let us not forget Buffy, nor the movie original.

When in doubt, imbue your heroine with supernatural powers. Problem solved!

If you ever find yourself in need of another significant other... you know where to find me.

<bows down before thee>

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Funean
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Well.

Let's see, now.

The bowing down, now; that's good.

But I'll need to better understand your intentions. Will there be dinner? And will I get to drive your car?

And for god's sake, don't forget the chocolate this time!!

[Big Grin]

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Mormegil
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quote:
When you're fighting with no rules against many opponents, brute strength probably plays a larger role in the outcome of the fight. That said, I do not view Uma Thurman managing to take on 40 guys (given the apparent skill of the character she plays) as any more difficult than Jackie Chan taking on 40 guys.
Oh, I'll agree with this part (although I didn't really watch the movie, I did see some of the fight scenes). As far as movie realism goes, that was fine. They sold it well.

And Red Sonja had supernatural strength and was a pretty good size woman, so I was fine with that.

Hmm, I think I had in mind some "female beats up lots of guys" examples that *didn't* work for me, but I can't remember at the moment. I have Cinnabon's baking and that's driven it out of my mind.

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Zyne
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quote:
willowy, otherworldly, even delicate
Those words do not, IMO, describe The Bride. Biggest gore in the movies was watching her bleed and limp all over the place.
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KnightEnder
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I don't want to see women that look like men. I totally buy Buffy kicking ass. And Faith. I love Cary Grant. Kill Bill sucked as much as Pulp Fiction ruled.

KE

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FiredrakeRAGE
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KnightEnder -

Kill Bill was great. You just need to keep a sense of humor about all the gore.

--Firedrake

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javelin
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quote:
Originally posted by Funean:
Well.

Let's see, now.

The bowing down, now; that's good.

But I'll need to better understand your intentions. Will there be dinner? And will I get to drive your car?

And for god's sake, don't forget the chocolate this time!!

[Big Grin]

I'm at your disposal [Smile]
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Omega M.
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Having not seen any of the movies in question, I don't know how plausible any of the fight scenes are. Since martial arts aren't all about brute strength, maybe the fights are better than the column makes them out to be. What really bugged me was the idea that women can be convincing only if they beat their enemies with "feminine charm."
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Lisa M.
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Speaking as an ex female wrestler... the strongest of us are not always bulky. The strongest girl I ever wrestled looked like a twig. Heck, one of the strongest guys on my team at school (he was in the top three for lift vs. body weight, but I don't remember which place) looked like a twig. He looked like he couldn't hurt a fly.
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LoverOfJoy
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Wrestlers try really hard to look (and weigh) like twigs.
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Omega M.
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Ex, Lisa? Have you graduated from college?
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Lisa M.
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No, my college doesn't have wrestling.

... plus I busted up my knee.

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Jesse
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I don't think I implied "bulk" when I said that Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider shape looked like a believable example of an athletic woman capable of performing acrobatic fight scenes.

Cameron Diaz in Charlies Angels? Not so much. Skinny without muscle tone. (Her identical twin sister, 15 pounds heavier, is a much healthier looking specimen).

Has anyone else ever run around chopping watermelons swinging from ropes in half with a sword? I mean, it's fine to talk about "art", but it takes muscle. Let alone hacking through a ham wrapped in riveted mail.

Ever carry a ten pound shield strapped to your arm for a couple hours, in full armor weighing 60 lbs, and then try to block with it? Strength to weight ratios got nothin to do with it. Strength does.

I used to work with a 110lb woman who most people would have guessed weighed about 90, and she could swing an 8 lb sledge 8 hours straight, and give me piggy-back rides. Thing is, she had muscles. Not guy muscles, she wasn't "cut" or bulky, but it was clear she had muscle tone.

I'm not talking about "reality" here, I'm talking about the willing suspension of disbelief. Even though Bruce Lee couldn't really block every attack 30 men threw at him, he *looked* like he might be able to pull it off.

I wouldn't buy Dana Carvey as Rambo, why should I be expected to buy Cameron Diaz as a gymnist/martial arts expert?

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KnightEnder
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FD,

I couldn't get past her being raped in the begining. There were parts I liked, but over all it seemed to stilted and overly dramatic.

KE

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A. Alzabo
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quote:
I couldn't get past her being raped in the begining.
On that note:

Here's some real-life action heroines...

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JS Millings
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On the one hand these kinds of movies are appealing because they make us feel empowered to face the insecure, overpowering world around us. We imagine ourselves in the role of the hero or heroine, kicking more butt than we truly ever could. Insecurity, meet your fantasy bath...Calgon, no Arnold, take me away! Women need this as much as men do now given their active roles in employment and society.
There is also the mythological truths that hide in such stories that provide a metaphor for our real lives rather than just providing fantasy. We do have obstacles to overcome. We do have to rise above what we feel we can accomplish at times. Life gets overwhelming, but we can respond to it. 911 and Katrina are overwhelming things to respond to. We need these stories...these myths. I prefer it in literature to film...give me Beowulf over Commando any day.
That the author doesn't want to see women in these roles is, to be psychoanalytical about it, probably a sign of male insecurity with women taking on roles that compete with his. A bit of misogyny is present. Mother issues come to mind. lol. Conservative male talk show hosts are prone to such insecurities. Liberal male talk show hosts have another way of handling these fears...tell the women what they want to hear. lol

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kelcimer
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A year or so ago I worked at one of these home improvement centers. There was this one lady who had to have been 20 years my senior and weighed maybe 120. I'd say 100, but muscle weighs a bit more. And damn if she couldn't break any man in the store. Her previous job was felling trees. And she decided to do that because she was afraid of handling trees. She had many a woman say that she shouldn't lift that or that "that's a man's job".

She was very sound in the opinion that most women were pansies who liberally abuse the excuse that they are women to avoid honest labor.

And her name was Barb...which was short for Barbie.
No joke.

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Jesse
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One of my previous bosses was the first woman ever to work on a USFS trail crew. She was 5'2, about 115, and used to run 100 mile races in the off season.

She was 45, I was 19, and shovel for shovel she would beat me hands down any day of the week. I could lift a bit more than her, but not all that much, and she could throw me one time in three arm wrestling.

Thing is, she sure didn't look "waifish". She wasn't a bulked out steriod freak either.

<edited to add> Her name was Dolly...what's with that?

[ September 24, 2005, 12:53 PM: Message edited by: Jesse ]

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Ivan
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Yeah. But are either of you going to say that Jessica Beil resembles Dolly or Barb?
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KnightEnder
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A woman could beat you at arm wrestling?

Oh, and because of this conversation I just watched Kill Bill Volume 2 and while it was better than one, it still wasn't very good, IMO.

KE

[ September 25, 2005, 07:12 PM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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