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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Trend: Lady Ass-Kickers

So I am home watching the '3 Stooges Slap Happy Hour' on Spike TV (insert your jokes here), and noticed a lengthy advert for an upcoming movie called Ultraviolet. It is another in the new Hollywood Blockbuster template of action-heroines with big guns and bad-ass martial arts moves (and a bit of low-cut-tight-fitting leather, and spiked heels to boot).


It then occurs to me that the past 10 years have seen a massive barrage of Lady Ass-Kickers. Notice, too, how the Lady Ass-Kicker has become so ubiquitous that she's actually replaced the Blockbuster Hero Guy template that we all grew up on. Muscleheaded Heroes have become an endangered species at the Cineplex.

I suppose the original Lady Ass-Kicker goes back to Jane Fonda in Barbarella.


Fast-forward to the late 70s-80s as Sigorney Weaver portrayed Ripley in Alien (1-4) who defended herself, and a prepubescent girl from the menancing, single-minded, icky phallic invaders who fought to get inside of her (to make them unwilling hosts to more alien spawn). What Ripley specifically brought us was an archetypal image of Strong Lady with Big Guns - a new symbol of strength on par with the male standard. This image was the 70s Virginia Slims woman on steroids - outdoing the corporate and military dudes with a combination of decisiveness, endurance, power, and a fierce moral-compass. This image, at the time, was actually a refreshing change of pace amidst a schedule of overly-muscled dude actioners starring Chuck Norris, Arnold, Stallone and their many cheap clones.



Later, Thelma and Louise arrived and sparked a new gun-toting tough girl prototype that signaled the new sexy.


Since then, the Lady Ass-Kicker has become the new normal in film, she has single-handedly resuscitated the dying tradition of the action-movie - imposing her politically correct ideal of "woman in charge" on the unpolitically correct expectation of gratuitous violence and simplistic storyline. Typical of Hollywood to reframe the same bad movies as being "better" with the mere addition of a tough woman holding the guns.

















But is this trend good or bad? And are these Lady Ass-Kickers truly appealing to women and drawing more women to the action genre (I only notice the ads on Spike and Comedy Central, never on Oxygen and Lifetime)? Or is this simply another compromise to the same male geek consumer who may now get his action and soft porn in one production? And truly, is this Lady Ass-Kicker image indicative of Hollywood's growth since the days of Barbarella?

4 comments:

Adrian said...

if this is wrong I don't want to be right

Lachlan said...

Ah, Kate Beckinsale! Mmmmmmm, she can kick my ass any day....

Definitely more than a little of the bloke-soft-porn-appeal in most of these, but some of them (eg Kill Bill, Alien or Buffy) are, to be fair, deeper roles in decent works and are the driver of the "plot" (so far as they may go). In those cases I find it quite different than when the film is simply a shallow vehicle for sowing off lycra/leather clad booty with big guns ;-), which many of them seem to be.

So I guess what I mean is that some lady ass-kickers are more equal than others.

Or in other words, types of character aren’t necessarily always good or bad, but rather what’s done with them by the writer and director makes them so…

Lachlan said...

ps. as a sample of one, my wife is a classic literature and art history buff, who also loves a bit of Buffy, Resident Evil, Underworld, Kill Bill etc in between watching period dramas and historical documentaries. But show her most male action hero films and she'll wince and go straight back to Dickens' Sketches by Boz....

Anonymous said...

Maybe you're right 'bout Barbarella but I think the role model for the last 15 years was set by Luc Besson and Nikita in 1990. Sigorney Weasver maybe everything but a good-lookin' bad-ass girl.
Anyway, sex sells, huh?