Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The ladies are coming

I'm excited about all the female protagonist action movies we've got going on theses days. It seems like Salt may have opened the flood gates a bit. There was Hanna, and soon there will be Clombiana, and Haywire, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Okay so maybe not floodgates, but still. That's some good, substantial badass chick love right there. I hope it continues.

I hear ALL THE TIME that nobody wants to make an action movie with a female lead, and yet here we are. I've been told I should start writing only male protagonists, that I'm dreaming if I think anyone will ever finance what I love to write.

I firmly believe that whatever anyone says "will never sell" just hasn't seen the script that could sell it yet. People DO want to see an action movie with a female protagonist, it's just that the offerings in the past have been so poor. Was Catwoman a bomb because it starred a woman? I think not. The story had issues.

I think maybe it's the super hero aspect that's not working, or that a lot of writers are creating women who are TOO invincible, too angry, not feminine except for sex appeal. But a woman is more than sex, she's a mom, a sister, an innocent to some degree. She's softer than a man. It's hard for anyone to root for a woman who's completely cold. So a good female action hero has to have some major vulnerability, more than a man does, if you want her to work.

That's why I'm excited about Colombiana the most. I ADORE Zoe Saldana, and I've been convinced for a while that she would be our next badass chick to break through, but I also see from the trailer that her character seems to have that vulnerability that female action heroes need. She's not just angry, she's HURT, and I think that's an important distinction. A man's revenge story can be about rage because he was humiliated, emasculated, and that matters to men. They can hurt too, of course, but their primary emotion in a revenge tale is rage. Look at Payback or Death Wish or a million Westerns.

I just don't think a woman's story can work that way. People won't buy it. But they will buy a woman who's unable to get over the pain, and wants to inflict the same amount of pain on someone else. And the pain has to feel real.

Plus, she can't be invincible. It's ridiculous to think a woman can take a large, well-trained man in a fight without some kind of edge. I'm pretty tough, but I know my limits.

So I've never believed a single person who told me the industry would never make another action movie starring a woman. I'm very glad to have been right.

Now, let's all go see these movies so they'll keep making them. Assuming they're good, of course. I really really want Colombiana to be good.


  1. We only have a handful of bankable, attractive actresses that are believable as ass kickers. That's a key thing. Almost any lead male actor, if he puts some time into the gym, can be a realistic ass kicker. It's different for a woman. I don't care if Sandra Bullock hid inside a gym for a year and came out looking like Linda Hamilton in the T2 era, I will laugh if Bullock tries to act tough and kick some ass. Same with Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, Kristin Bell, Kristin Stewart, Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Drew Barrymore, Juno girl, Michelle Williams, Amber Heard, Scarlett Johannson (hot in Iron Man 2, but not believable), etc.

    And those few actresses that could play these roles realize that in most cases audiences would rather see men in an ass kicking role than a woman. Their are exceptions, of course. But the actresses want to make smart bets, movies that will make enough money to keep them on that A or A- list well into their 40's.

    This is an area that isn't fair, and maybe it's a double standard, but their is a double standard because we have two different genders with different strengths and weaknesses.

    For the record, I love me an ass kicking female lead. Buffy is in my top 5 favorite shows of all time.

  2. For my list I've got the following:

    Charlize Theron
    Zoe Saldana
    Jennifer Garner
    Angelina Jolie (but I think we're all tiring of her)
    Uma Thurman (HOF ass kicker for Kill Bill)
    Gina Carano (maybe wishful thinking because I'm just a fan)
    Can't remember her name but the lead actress from Lost

  3. While I agree believability is important (Geena Davis couldn't cut it even in The Long Kiss Goodnight - which almost worked - she's just too all-American girl next door) the fact is that ultimately it's about story. Which is why Buffy was so successful.

    I write stories with kick-ass lead females (except for one atypical feature). I'm a Joss Whedon wannabe and I don't care who knows it.

    And my daughter would love to be one of those kick-ass lead actresses she has the moves - she's Black Belt 2nd dan Jujitsu. So if there's anyone out there wants to make one of my scripts with my daughter in the lead we'd be very happy :-)

    (Even my steampunk feature has a female lead - she may not be kick-ass, but she is *effective* and quite ruthless.)

  4. Anonymous10:31 AM

    There's a movie in production called Violet & Daisy about two female assassins. They're being played by Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) and Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls).


  5. @RBR - Evangeline Lily. Loved her in Lost. And, hey, Sandra Bullock was pretty tough in Miss Congeniality.

    I have a female protag that kicks some ass in a comedy. Relatively speaking, it's a little more realistic than the over-the-top action stuff. It may be more believable to see a man in a kick-ass action role, but the men still do stuff that, if you stopped to think about it, isn't realistic either. So it could just as easily be a female. We just have to convince the 18-25 year old male demographic, apparently.

  6. I think half of Hollywood's job is to tell us, with absolutes, what won't get made.

    This bugs me. Because it's small thinking. Boring, small thinking.

    Kick some ass girl. :)

  7. I'm excited about Colombiana, and trailer looks good. Thought Saldana brilliant casting in Losers (moves so well (dance background) and talented). Movie has same director/writers as Transporter 3, enjoyed that, and love Besson, so many smart decisions in all his work.

    Besson's first kick ass chick lead he wrote in high school (Leeloo). From writing to production to choosing terrific people to work with, Besson is so savvy, and entertaining.

    And I loved Long Kiss Goodnight. Stayed with me, the character, esp when I chop vegetables incompetently and think I could really use some assassin training.

  8. Anonymous1:36 PM

    Not to bust your bubble or rain on your parade, but all these films you listed and including COWBOYS AND ALIENS : are getting really terrible reviews.

    I would advise not to watch any of them including COWBOYS AND ALIENS.

    Just rent it.

    I saw it(C&A) this afternoon. Worst POS on this planet.


    Hope I did not ruin your weekend.

    We look forward to your review on Monday.

    All the best,

  9. cshel4:09 PM

    Yeah, I just read a horrible review of Cowboys and Aliens. I'm really bummed because I was so looking forward to it. I'll probably still see it though.

    Emily, I hope you post a review.


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