Copyright 2001 Mary Spicuzza / Metro Active
[ March 30th 2001 ]
Spicuzza from Metro Active takes a look at a growing
trend of female action heroes matriculating from
the surreal Sigourney Weaver portrait of Lieutenant
Ripley to todays cyber action heroine Lara Croft:
two shotguns while swinging from the ceiling on
an archaic, fraying rope. She wipes blood from
her lip as carelessly as if it was smeared lipstick.
And throughout the preview for the latest tough-chick
action movie, Tomb Raider, Angelina Jolie, starring
as video game heroine Lara Croft, walks strong,
talks tough and fights foes in a feminized version
of Rambo meets Die Hard. Unlike her cinematic
male counterparts, Jolie manages to pummel her
enemies in the skimpiest of shorts, wearing weapon-holders
that look more like garters than holsters. When
she flirts with death, her sexuality is a key
piece of her arsenal.
never kill you," one slick gent says weakly, with
the sincerity of a stranger on a bar stool. "I
didn't say you could kill me," she banters back
coyly, eyebrows raised and plump lips pursed.
"I said you could try."
sex-kitten Croft in Tomb Raider, headed for theaters
this summer, leaps into action as the latest addition
to an undeniable trend in the evoution of today's
action hero, the butt-kicking babe. Other recent
films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Charlie's
Angels and The Matrix have all featured women
who can not only hold their own, but prevail in
combat. On television, female heroes have gone
the way of undead-dueling Buffy the Vampire Slayer,
genetically engineered Dark Angel, historic cult-hit
Xena: Warrior Princess or cartoon animated superhero
trio the Power Puff Girls. Movies and TV, combined
with video games like "Tomb Raider," have launched
a full-frontal, multimedia assault with visions
of women warriors dominating male and female villains.
wouldn't continue cranking out female action heroes
if audience response wasn't overwhelmingly positive.
Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has been
nominated for 10 Oscars and recently beat out
Roberto Begnini's Life Is Beautiful as the top-grossing
foreign language film in America--an amazing feat
for a movie with subtitles. Buffy put the then
fledgling Warner Brothers Television Network (WB)
on the map when it began in 1997, and now the
show is caught in the middle of a major custody
battle with several networks vying for the viewership
of the vampire slayer's millions of fans. Shopping
malls and schools across America show that beloved
butt-kicking preschoolers, the Power Puff Girls,
are enjoying enormous success both on the air
and in marketing merchandise.
is thrilled with this trend, and many critics
are calling for the heroines to drop their weapons
and put on more clothes. Surprisingly, the loudest
complaints aren't coming from conservatives urging
women to trade their weapons for baking utensils,
but rather from feminists and liberal media watchdog
groups concerned about what they believe to be
damaging sexist portrayals of violent female heroines.
"I am awash in a Dark Angel, Buffy the Vampire
Slayer glow. I have seen women kick butt in Charlie's
Angels and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and,
in my heart of hearts, I know this much is true:
It's good for the economy," Margaret Finnegan
writes in a widely celebrated article, "Sold!
The Illusion of Independence" (Los Angeles Times,
Jan. 1, 2001).
argues that, unlike battling the June Cleaver
image, butt-kicking babes are much harder for
feminists to fight.
"The commercial embrace of kick-butt girls breeds
a less obvious threat to women's struggle for
equality: the illusion of equality. Feminism has
fewer enemies." Since Finnegan's article, other
critics have stepped forward to caution against
today's heroines as scantily clad, over-sexualized
male fantasies who promote barbaric shows of strength
rather than women's equality--and may even be
encouraging violence against women.
do I love these butt-kicking babes?