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We’re losing all our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome
June 16, 2014 4:12 AM   Subscribe


 
I kind of glossed over the transition from talking about The Hobbit to talking about Riddick and got very confused when they brought up a rape scene.

This kind of thing is damning not just because of the overt sexism involved but because filmmakers are taught, often by people who are yelling until they're blue in the face, never to include an extraneous element in a script. So when the female lead ultimately fails to contribute to the story in any way it fairly screams tokenism.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:34 AM on June 16 [8 favorites]


Obligatory link to Carly Monardo, Meredith Gran and Kate Beaton's Strong Female Characters comic.

I want to be disappointed in real time!

Also yes, seriously, please someone put a spoiler warning in there. HTTYD2 isn't even out of previews in the UK.
posted by fight or flight at 4:45 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


[Spoiler warning added ]
posted by taz at 4:48 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


After RTFA, I do feel like I have to object to the way the author presents Mako Mori.

I think there's a trend in fandom/media criticism of narrowing in on personal/emotional weaknesses displayed by women in movies and using them to undermine them that doesn't happen to male characters. Yes, Mako experiences trauma, but she is also (as the movie trumpets over and over) one of the best Jaeger pilots out there. She gets to have a character arc that doesn't involve falling in love with a man. She is supported by the narrative and the male leads in a way that we rarely see in big action movies, even more rarely for a woman of colour. Mako Mori is so important in ways that don't begin and end with whether or not she's Strong or whether or not she suffers trauma.

I totally get what Tasha Robinson is driving at but I think she needs to include an additional question, namely:

10. Does your Strong Female Character experience weakness or vulnerability in a way that doesn't diminish her strengths and achievements?
posted by fight or flight at 5:02 AM on June 16 [24 favorites]


Goddamnit, filmmakers, Ellen Ripley. She did it four times (albeit with varying levels of quality). Is it that difficult to emulate?
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:02 AM on June 16 [26 favorites]




I think there's a trend in fandom/media criticism of narrowing in on personal/emotional weaknesses displayed by women in movies and using them to undermine them that doesn't happen to male characters.

Yes, since people die on-screen because Raleigh and Chuck are flawed human beings who let their egos get ahead of them in key scenes.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:25 AM on June 16


Mako Mori is so important in ways that don't begin and end with whether or not she's Strong or whether or not she suffers trauma.

Not to mention that singling her out for lacking any discernible character in a movie where the mechs have more personality than any of the live-action characters is a bit unfair.

I think the problem here is that films (especially action films) are still overwhelmingly marketed to male viewers, so they tend to have male protagonists who get to do everything as part of their power fantasy. So even when you have a competent woman as a character at the beginning of a film (like Trinity), she'll be overshadowed by the male hero at the end because he's got to be specialier by the end.

I'm kind of disappointed by all the science carping toward Gravity, which really did give us a strong female protagonist who does not have a love affair and must survive entirely on her own wits and skill and drive for much of the movie. She gets to be emotional and vulnerable (and concerned with a child) without compromising her centrality to the story or her strengths. Not the greatest science, but better than average fiction.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:11 AM on June 16 [17 favorites]


Goddamnit, filmmakers, Ellen Ripley. She did it four times (albeit with varying levels of quality). Is it that difficult to emulate?

These days? Yes. There is no way that Alien gets made today.

"I love this Weaver girl, but isn't she a bit..."
"Unconventional?"
"Exactly. How about Emma Stone? She could really sass up this lame script. And I love Tom Skerritt, but isn't he a bit..."
"Weathered?"
"Exactly. How about Taylor Lautner?"

"Why we don't see the alien in the first five minutes? What's all this distress call shit? Give me a prologue with lots of aliens running around and killing people and laying eggs, otherwise I don't know what the fuck is going on. And geez, what is this, like two hours long? Cut out twenty minutes so the theaters can show it one more time per day. You can start with all those long, slow, boring shots that don't do anything. But add in a more lingering shot of the girl stripping down, and get enough naked stuff for a Director's Cut version."
posted by Etrigan at 6:13 AM on June 16 [86 favorites]


I recently saw HTTYD 2, and without putting any spoilers in, I was impressed by how they used Valka to deliberately fuck with some basic tropes in this type of film. She's integral to what the film is trying to say in more ways than one.

Not to mention that singling her out for lacking any discernible character in a movie where the mechs have more personality than any of the live-action characters is a bit unfair.

God, yes. Not that I didn't enjoy the tech guys and Perlman's character, but I feel that the film might have been stronger if they'd cut those parts and spent the extra time developing the other, non-Anglosphere mech pilots as characters, rather than Redshirting them in all of five minutes.
posted by AdamCSnider at 6:17 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


How to Train Your Dragon 2 Spoilers




It makes a lot of sense in retrospect that Valka was originally the villain. Drago seems like so much of an afterthought in the movie, not even appearing until halfway through and having done nothing to establish himself as a villain. Oddly enough he also has an alpha male under his command just like Valka!
posted by JARED!!! at 6:22 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


There is no way that Alien gets made today.

Not to mention the fact that Ripley was originally written as a male role and then changed to be a woman (without, IIRC, altering any of the dialogue). I would give anything to have been a fly on the wall for that casting discussion.
posted by fight or flight at 6:24 AM on June 16 [33 favorites]


Yesterday, I just watched Edge of Darkness, and though I was ultimately disappointed by the fact that the two leads just had to have sexual chemistry despite a really wide age gap (it would have been an even stronger story had Blunt been just been who she was and Cruise who he was), Blunt's character was as much a part of the action/story as Cruise's. Up until the tail end of the third act, I was very impressed with the way things went between them.

Maybe producers and screenwriters just need third act retraining, because that's where many great female characters seem to lose what they had in the first 2/3rds of the movie.
posted by xingcat at 6:25 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


I actually think that last question she asks: "Would you want to be her?" is pretty telling.

Maybe the real question about Pacific Rim (which I really liked) is why Mako Mori isn't the central protagonist -- it seems like her main job in the plot (besides taunting whatshisname and then giving him the chance to Win Everything!) is to complicate Elba's character's emotional backstory ...

Or I could me missing something.

Maybe the sequel will fix all that (hahahahah but I do love me some Guillermo del Toro).
posted by allthinky at 6:26 AM on June 16


it seems like her main job in the plot (besides taunting whatshisname and then giving him the chance to Win Everything!)

I'm now imagining a version of Pacific Rim more like Big Trouble in Little China, in which the movie is set up so that Becket is the ostensible protagonist, but the audience can tell that Mako Mori is actually doing all the heriocs.

(and with a framing story of Stacker Pentecost defending Becket to the government.)
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:30 AM on June 16 [10 favorites]


From the questionnaire in the middle, this bit is great:

Could your Strong Female Character be seamlessly replaced with a floor lamp with some useful information written on it to help a male hero?
posted by 256 at 6:31 AM on June 16 [31 favorites]


Could your Strong Female Character be seamlessly replaced with a floor lamp with some useful information written on it to help a male hero?

If the male hero were really into design this could also replace the ever-present Love Interest.
posted by winna at 6:47 AM on June 16 [23 favorites]


I wish this was posted yesterday.
posted by Jahaza at 7:08 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


I think that this article talks about two things:

a) inherent sexism in the form of giving good stories and agency to male characters over female characters (similarly giving the good bits to white, attractive, young (or big name) actors)
b) really tediously shitty writing

I propose a new test: if you could reduce the cast to as few actors as possible, and replace all the rest with post-it notes, how many characters would you have left? And how many of them would be white/male?
posted by rebent at 7:13 AM on June 16 [14 favorites]


10. Does your Strong Female Character experience weakness or vulnerability in a way that doesn't diminish her strengths and achievements?

As someone who is in the business of writing strong female characters by first taking seven years to study and explore the fiction landscape first, the problem is that strong female characters need weaknesses to overcome: how else can a lead character grow and develop?

You cannot be the best at everything. You climb to the top with luggage as well as your talents. Marvel overtook DC because their characters were more nuanced and triumph and can be counted on to do the right thing despite their frailties.

Heroes/heroines come through and learn: they grow and develop and we are watching them evolve during the course of the story. To make a female character interesting is to show she is brave enough to be aware of her good and bad and do something positive about both. Strive for excellence, and not perfection. We have too many beautiful women fretting because they have an ounce of cellulite: why would I contribute to the pain by having perfect heroines?

But a strong female character who is the protagonist is a hard sell because people sort of think that the damsels in distress are more interesting....
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 7:14 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]


Game of thrones easily has a dozen fully realized female characters, and I can't think of any that are just tokens.
posted by empath at 7:21 AM on June 16 [6 favorites]


I can't really take the Mako Mori Test seriously.
posted by imnotasquirrel at 7:28 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


[...] why would I contribute to the pain by having perfect heroines?

Actually, my point was that women in movies shouldn't have to be perfect. I've seen way too much criticism of female characters which boils down to "she goes through hideous amounts of trauma and dares to shed a single tear in one scene, therefore she is not our Perfect Feminist Icon" (see the most recent controversy over the new Tomb Raider game for a good example). I think this is a ridiculous double standard and an impossibly high bar to set for anyone. Why are our only options weepy damsel or cold hard ice queen? Give me more Ellen Ripley sheltering a child in her arms as she shoots down xenomorphs. Give me more Mako Mori faltering and failing and overcoming it anyway. Give me Éowyn weeping over her father's death as she avenges him. These are my heroines.
posted by fight or flight at 7:31 AM on June 16 [9 favorites]


"she goes through hideous amounts of trauma and dares to shed a single tear in one scene, therefore she is not our Perfect Feminist Icon"

This isn't what Tasha is saying, though, at all. She names a whole bunch of characters in the piece, and nowhere does she say that anyone should be perfect or that no vulnerability is allowed. I don't think she's saying in any way that people should be "cold hard ice queens." I mean ... I don't get that at all from it. She's looking at a trend across lots and lots of films. She's saying that it's disappointing when a female character ultimately endangers everyone and has to be rescued and tossed aside by a male character; you're talking about "how dare she shed a single tear." Those things are not the same, I don't think. In other words, I think I would agree with you that the kind of criticism you're describing is unfair, I just don't understand how this particular piece constitutes it.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 7:44 AM on June 16 [12 favorites]


I had to skim the piece to avoid media I haven't seen yet, but I agree. A few years ago I was part of a team that did and analysis involving female characters in films. You get a lot of buildup on screen about the characters abilities or past, then when it's time for something to happen, they need to be saved, or barely do anything.

Women get given these great back stories off screen, but then on screen, that same character is largely pointless. And often the very thing they are supposed to be good at is needed, and they do nothing. It's infuriating. And common.
posted by cashman at 7:44 AM on June 16 [6 favorites]


These days? Yes. There is no way that Alien gets made today.

"I love this Weaver girl, but isn't she a bit..."
"Unconventional?"
"Exactly. How about Emma Stone? She could really sass up this lame script. And I love Tom Skerritt, but isn't he a bit..."
"Weathered?"
"Exactly. How about Taylor Lautner?"


My partner and I watched the original Poseidon Adventure the other day. It was better than I expected—it moved slowly enough that its emotional moments actually paid off. When Gene Hackman weeps over Shelley Winters' body, crying out, "God, not this woman!" you really understand why he came to care for her so much. His grief is absolutely earned.

The movie also has a surprisingly strong exploration of questions of faith. Did you remember that Gene Hackman gives a sermon early in the movie? I didn't either. Or that he and another minister argue about the responsibility a pastor has to his congregation.

But the thing that really struck me was the mix of ages and phsycial types in the band of survivors who try to esacpe the ship. Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Jack Albertson, Shelley Winters. Even with Connie Stevens and Pamela Sue Anderson thrown into the mix, it's still a pretty motley crew, and like with Alien, I couldn't imagine an adventure movie today with that mix of actors as the centerpiece of the film. And, indeed, you just need to look at the poster for the remake a few years ago to see a kind of square-jawed beefcake that didn't exist in the earlier version.
posted by not that girl at 7:45 AM on June 16 [13 favorites]


Actually, my point was that women in movies shouldn't have to be perfect. I've seen way too much criticism of female characters which boils down to "she goes through hideous amounts of trauma and dares to shed a single tear in one scene, therefore she is not our Perfect Feminist Icon" (see the most recent controversy over the new Tomb Raider game for a good example). I think this is a ridiculous double standard and an impossibly high bar to set for anyone. Why are our only options weepy damsel or cold hard ice queen? Give me more Ellen Ripley sheltering a child in her arms as she shoots down xenomorphs. Give me more Mako Mori faltering and failing and overcoming it anyway. Give me Éowyn weeping over her father's death as she avenges him. These are my heroines.

All three of the primary characters are dealing with some form of trauma. Only Mako gets dismissed because of it.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:45 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


I felt Mako Mori was purely there to prop up the male protagonist (If I wanted to be more brutal, she's effectively there just to deliver a quotable line - which makes absolutely no sense in context).

A more interesting film could possibly have been carved out with her as the central character, but Pacific Rim is - as it stands - pretty bizarre even by today's standards. I couldn't get my head around the fact that the world it takes place in appears (largely) to have no women in it.
posted by panboi at 7:47 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


I've seen way too much criticism of female characters which boils down to "she goes through hideous amounts of trauma and dares to shed a single tear in one scene, therefore she is not our Perfect Feminist Icon" (see the most recent controversy over the new Tomb Raider game for a good example).

I think the main problem is that there are sooo many more traumas (of varying degree) that are used for men, while 90-plus percent of the time for women, the trauma is explicitly gendered -- either rape, death of child, or getting dumped (almost invariably for someone who's more stereotypically feminine/beautiful).
posted by Etrigan at 7:50 AM on June 16 [15 favorites]


But a strong female character who is the protagonist is a hard sell because people sort of think that the damsels in distress are more interesting....

I don't think "interesting" is the word you are going for?
posted by allthinky at 7:51 AM on June 16


I also was impressed with how tough Emily Blunt's character was in Edge of Tomorrow but then I thought - she's not a strong female character; she's a male character.
posted by Major Tom at 7:53 AM on June 16


After just watching one of the best TV police dramas I've ever seen, it's going to be hard to put up with the typical handling of female characters in movies from here on. The lead character was a 47-year-old grandmother who spends half the series battered and bruised from various encounters along the way. Beautifully performed, totally convincing, unbearably tense. Stunning stuff. Out on Region 2+4 DVD today.
posted by rory at 7:59 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


I also was impressed with how tough Emily Blunt's character was in Edge of Tomorrow but then I thought - she's not a strong female character; she's a male character.

I haven't seen this movie, so I could be missing nuance to it (based on a book and Emily Blunt plays a character who was male in the book?) but it's a huge problem that any time a woman is playing a tough, non-stereotypically-female character, it's said she is actually playing a male character, so even the "strong female characters" are excluded.
posted by jeather at 8:00 AM on June 16 [25 favorites]


The lead character was a 47-year-old grandmother who spends half the series battered and bruised from various encounters along the way.

(I should add, battered and bruised because she's a tough cop who doesn't back down from a fight, not a victim.)
posted by rory at 8:03 AM on June 16


I went and looked up the original book on which the movie's based and Emily Blunt's character is named Rita in both so I too am confused by the 'male character' line.
posted by winna at 8:03 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Discussing the ending of Edge of Tomorrow in this comment:

I was quite impressed with Blunt's character in the film and it made sense to me that on the Cruise side he would fall for her--after all, he's spent possibly-years in her company and relied on her completely for a large portion of it.

If I was to give a big studio note while it was in production it would be "Yes, he obviously cares deeply for her but still, from her perspective, she has known him for one day. Could we replace the big kiss with something more like her giving him an affectionate peck on the cheek or the intimate cameraderie of resting their foreheads together? You can keep the line of dialogue the same. We still get the implication of heterosexual coupling that's mandatory for the conclusion of large-budget Hollywood films in the last scene* anyway."

*Nice cut to credits, by the way. If the studio couldn't go with the superior original title All You Need is Kill, couldn't they consider Smash Cuts are Hilarious?.
posted by whittaker at 8:07 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


one of the best TV police dramas I've ever seen,

Oh, I'll have to watch that. BBC crime dramas have always done women well: Prime Suspect, Silk, and Scott and Bailey all do a great job. Fargo is holding up the American end pretty well right now, too.

One problem with many of today's movies is that no one -- not even the protagonist -- has a fleshed out character. More thought goes into explosions and impossible jumps. You can't have a strong female character in a movie that unreels like watching the protagonist play a platform game.
posted by tyllwin at 8:08 AM on June 16 [7 favorites]


But the thing that really struck me was the mix of ages and phsycial types...

I've been watching The Muppet Show from the start with my daughter and man is this ever in stark contrast. Just the variety of ages and sizes in the show seems so much greater than what you'd have today.
posted by ODiV at 8:09 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


jeather and winna: I have not seen the movie, but I've heard that criticism of characters in other movies, so I think I know what Major Tom is going for.

There are some movies where the "strong female character" is, essentially, devoid of any feminine qualities. She is basically an unfeeling tough-gal who is kicking ass and taking names. This is not to say that a female character must be warm or nurturing or vulnerable in order to be a "real woman" or whatever. But writing a character exactly as you would write a male tough-guy character, and arbitrarily making that character a woman and then patting yourself on the back for writing a "strong female character", seems like cheating.

As several other people have pointed out, it's possible (in TV, mostly) to write a fully realized authentic female character who is capable of being the protagonist of her own story.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:10 AM on June 16


As several other people have pointed out, it's possible (in TV, mostly) to write a fully realized authentic female character who is capable of being the protagonist of her own story.

Head on over to FanFare for the Fringe rewatch. If you haven't yet met Olivia Dunham, you're doing yourself a disservice.
posted by Fizz at 8:13 AM on June 16 [7 favorites]


I saw HTTYD2 on Saturday, and I loved every moment that we spent with Valka. But this criticism of her actual relevance to the story is dead on, and it's wearying. Despite being a relatively minor character in the film with a fraction of the screen time, Astrid is given much more to do. And thinking back on it now, I can't help but wonder why she and Valka are never given an opportunity to speak to each other; why they're kept so entirely separate until the very end of the film.

What makes all of this so much more difficult is how intensely defensive the conversation often becomes, almost immediately. I remember when the Lego movie came out, and I both liked parts of it very much and found the treatment of WyldStyle to be appalling...and in talking to my (particularly but not exclusively) guy friends about it, many of them were hurt and angry that I was ruining it for them. That I was making them feel bad about a thing they had really enjoyed. I'm sure that no one means it this way, but it really comes across as, "Hey, there's a cool woman character in this movie! What do you want? Why can't you be happy and just let me enjoy something without nitpicking it to death?"

Because asking for the bare minimum in egalitarian storytelling means that I'm nitpicking things to death, you know?

(Both of these movies, incidentally, are also pretty awful about race! But that is another conversation for another day.)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:13 AM on June 16 [11 favorites]


There are some movies where the "strong female character" is, essentially, devoid of any feminine qualities. She is basically an unfeeling tough-gal who is kicking ass and taking names. This is not to say that a female character must be warm or nurturing or vulnerable in order to be a "real woman" or whatever. But writing a character exactly as you would write a male tough-guy character, and arbitrarily making that character a woman and then patting yourself on the back for writing a "strong female character", seems like cheating.

Yeah, no. I love characters like this. Vasquez was the best. Every character that Michelle Rodriguez has ever played - awesome. I don't need my female characters to be feminine or nurturing or vulnerable to show that they are well rounded.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:25 AM on June 16 [32 favorites]


Ben Trismegistus: It's kind of a tough call in this particular case. Blunt's character, Rita, was in her own time loop for an indeterminate period of time. But we do know it was enough to turn a completely green recruit into somebody able to win the Verdun battle almost single-handedly and--unlike Cruse's character--she had to train herself up without the assistance of anybody else. When we meet her, she's worn down to the essentials and stripped of the perceived inefficiency of compassion.

I think it would have done her characterization--and the movie--a valuable service to have a brief flashback shot of her on Day 1, terrified and out of her element, in order to set up the contrast.
posted by whittaker at 8:25 AM on June 16


Narrative Priorities,

It's become so bad lately that I often find myself being pulled out of the media that I am attempting to enjoy. I end up focusing on all the bad because of one or two poor decisions that could have easily been fixed had a character been given a bit more depth or agency.
posted by Fizz at 8:26 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


Vasquez is a great character. But "well rounded"?
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:29 AM on June 16


I would give anything to have been a fly on the wall for that casting discussion.

Seems like a pretty quick discussion to me.

"We want Male Actor X."
"Nah. Sigourney Weaver will kick all the ass."
"...Okay."

And yeah, I'd point to Prime Suspect as a perfect example of a strong female character who isn't a cardboard cutout.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:29 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


(Oh and while Weaver was perfection itself as Ripley, thinking about that role being played by a man--with exactly the same scripts--changes almost all the subtext of the movies in really interesting ways which would probably be a major derail here.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:32 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


"We want Male Actor X."
"Nah. Sigourney Weaver will kick all the ass."
"...Okay."
Sorry, but I would bet you a sizeable amount of money that it was easy to cast Weaver as Ripley because the original Alien is a horror movie and the concept of the Final Girl is not particularly radical nor specifically gender progressive.
posted by whittaker at 8:34 AM on June 16 [8 favorites]


(Oh and while Weaver was perfection itself as Ripley, thinking about that role being played by a man--with exactly the same scripts--changes almost all the subtext of the movies in really interesting ways which would probably be a major derail here.)

"GET AWAY FROM HER YOU BITCH!"

Becomes something else entirely.
posted by Fizz at 8:35 AM on June 16 [6 favorites]


I prefer my version, whittaker :P

(I'm aware of the trope. I just want to believe in a world where casting Sigourney Weaver as a totally kickass take-no-prisoners hero is an instant and obvious choice. /pollyanna)

Becomes something else entirely.

Almost every line does, but yeah that's one that would leap right out at me.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:37 AM on June 16


She's saying that it's disappointing when a female character ultimately endangers everyone and has to be rescued and tossed aside by a male character; you're talking about "how dare she shed a single tear." Those things are not the same, I don't think. In other words, I think I would agree with you that the kind of criticism you're describing is unfair, I just don't understand how this particular piece constitutes it.

I think if you're going to criticize a work you need to, at a minimum, be accurate to the narrative as presented in that work. The description of events shown on the screen in Pacific Rim are just plain wrong.

And there are obvious double-standards of interpretation. Mako's flashback is incompetence but Raleigh's flashback ignored entirely. Mako's emotional life is "endangering" but not the recklessness of Chuck or Raleigh, who get other people killed and put entire cities at risk.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:39 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


And geez, what is this, like two hours long? Cut out twenty minutes so the theaters can show it one more time per day.

I'm with you until this bit. Movies today are way longer than they used to be. Three hours is typical for an adventure story.

Pretty sure it's so you have to take a bathroom break partway through, so that you'll buy another ticket just to see what you missed.

Also, fewer showings means less labour costs.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:40 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Sorry, but I would bet you a sizeable amount of money that it was easy to cast Weaver as Ripley because the original Alien is a horror movie and the concept of the Final Girl is not particularly radical nor specifically gender progressive.

Actually, Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett wrote all of the roles to be gender-neutral because they want to concentrate on getting the plot and setting right. Weaver was cast (in her very first lead in a movie -- she'd otherwise only done bit parts) because they specifically wanted to throw off the male-led tropes dominating sci fi at the time.
posted by fight or flight at 8:41 AM on June 16 [10 favorites]


Fargo is holding up the American end pretty well right now, too.

Yeah, I'm thoroughly enjoying that at the moment too.

Happy Valley was written by Sally Wainwright, writer of Scott & Bailey (which I haven't seen, but I'll be keeping an eye out for her stuff from here on).
posted by rory at 8:42 AM on June 16


(and on reflection, 'pollyanna' was a sexist choice of words. I apologize.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:42 AM on June 16


I just want to believe in a world where casting Sigourney Weaver as a totally kickass take-no-prisoners hero is an instant and obvious choice.

God, me too.

Somewhat on topic:

I sometimes picture an alt. version of the Star Wars prequels with Padme as the obvious smart, capable protagonist finally given enormous amounts of the agency denied her character. From middle school mock-debate club keener to political figurehead to assassin target and mystery solver to anguished alienation from her secret lover. What an arc!

(I think it's a bit of a nonstarter to have Anakin and Obi-Wan--characters who are incredibly constrained by future developments, be the protagonists of those films.)
posted by whittaker at 8:44 AM on June 16 [11 favorites]


That's exactly why prequels suck.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:47 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Actually, Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett wrote all of the roles to be gender-neutral because they want to concentrate on getting the plot and setting right. Weaver was cast (in her very first lead in a movie -- she'd otherwise only done bit parts) because they specifically wanted to throw off the male-led tropes dominating sci fi at the time.
I'm well aware, I own all the documentaries. I'm talking about casting and why there wasn't any sizeable studio resistance to casting Ripley as a woman.

Lots of producers and screenwriters have good ideas that are given the thumbs down from the people holding the cheque.
posted by whittaker at 8:47 AM on June 16


I'm with you until this bit. Movies today are way longer than they used to be.

No, the average length of a feature film has remained roughly constant for 60 years.

The average length of the highest grossing films have increased somewhat... but that's not evidence that films are getting longer, only that lots of people apparently prefer longer films or perhaps that people prefer the types of films which tend towards longer running times. Nevertheless, movies are certainly no longer today in the aggregate than they have been for our lifetimes. Unless you remember when movies were in black and white or whatever.
posted by Justinian at 8:52 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


whitaker, I want to travel to the alternative universe where that version of the Star Wars prequels was actually made, and watch the shit out of those movies.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:53 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Sorry, but I would bet you a sizeable amount of money that it was easy to cast Weaver as Ripley because the original Alien is a horror movie and the concept of the Final Girl is not particularly radical nor specifically gender progressive.

I'm not sure Ripley fits that archetype very well, since her survival isn't tied to her femininity much at all, let alone to the usual creepy stuff about chastity and the divide between "good" and "bad" femininity implied by the Final Girl concept. And by the sequels the Final Girl stuff doesn't apply at all.
posted by kewb at 8:57 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


"GET AWAY FROM HER YOU BITCH!"

Becomes something else entirely.


Well, yeah, but that's the second movie, not the first. By then Ripley was established, and Cameron very deliberately made his sequel about motherhood and protecting your (semi-adopted) child, and the film played so deeply on Ripley's femininity that it would have been impossible from the get go as a sequel to an "Alien" with a male Ripley.
posted by Naberius at 8:58 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


I sometimes picture an alt. version of the Star Wars prequels with Padme as the obvious smart, capable protagonist finally given enormous amounts of the agency denied her character. From middle school mock-debate club keener to political figurehead to assassin target and mystery solver to anguished alienation from her secret lover. What an arc!

It would've been a great story. A greater story.

"Hey, who wants to see Star Wars from Leia’s perspective?"

Imagine the ‘New Hope’ is Princess Leia, not her farm boy twin. Imagine the tale starting with how the princess becomes a youthful senator, but when her idealism hits the corruption of the Empire, it doesn’t crumble, but is hardened into joining the rebellion, learning to fight: diplomat and princess by day, guerrilla fighter and leader of the resistance by night! She’s like Batman, but with less ego - she doesn’t need to grandstand, she just gets the job done.

posted by Celsius1414 at 9:02 AM on June 16 [28 favorites]


I don't think "interesting" is the word you are going for?

Yes, it was as I will better explain my choice of word:

Sometimes what people want is the damsel repackaged with an empowered spin to her -- still the same old stereotype, but with a better argument that that sort of character is in control, etc. It's a lie, but with a fresh coat of paint on it.

When I first took my character Miss Magnus Lyme to publishers, that was basically what I got -- oh, love her -- but could you rework her so she was bullied or sex her up or perhaps give her a daddy issue or two? She is not a damsel or an angry man with ovaries, but trying to put out strong feminine women who do their own thing and don't brood in the gutter is not as easy as it looks because damsels do have a built-in audience -- because they are seen as, yes, more interesting.

I never really thought of it that way until I got feedback from people who read my stories -- one of the most frequent comments was that it was unexpected that women "like that" could be so interesting!
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 9:02 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Vasquez is a great character. But "well rounded"?

Vasquez is not well rounded, but it doesn't matter cause she's awesome. I don't need well rounded female characters if they rock. And I don't need well rounded female characters to be well rounded by showing typical feminine characteristics. I'd love to see some male actiony characters who are nurturing and vulnerable, though.
posted by nooneyouknow at 9:05 AM on June 16 [9 favorites]


I sometimes picture an alt. version of the Star Wars prequels with Padme as the obvious smart, capable protagonist finally given enormous amounts of the agency denied her character. From middle school mock-debate club keener to political figurehead to assassin target and mystery solver to anguished alienation from her secret lover. What an arc!

My wife and I were talking about the prequels recently and came up with the idea that it would have been a lot more interesting if Lucas had cribbed from Macbeth and made Queen Amadella a villain too. What if she and Anakin had been partners in crime egging each other on in their paths to the dark side?
posted by octothorpe at 9:07 AM on June 16 [15 favorites]


I sometimes picture an alt. version of the Star Wars prequels with Padme as the obvious smart, capable protagonist

Episode I: The Handmaiden's Tale
Episode II: Dangerous Liaisons
Episode III: I Married a Monster from Outer Space
posted by rory at 9:10 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


Interesting maybe, but bringing up Lady M necessarily invites a whole lotta discussion on sexism and The Bad Woman who made the Not Exactly Good But Not Quite Evil Man become Totally Evil.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:10 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Not to mention the fact that Ripley was originally written as a male role and then changed to be a woman (without, IIRC, altering any of the dialogue). I would give anything to have been a fly on the wall for that casting discussion.

This is true of Angelina Jolie in Salt also. I look forward to living in a world where a wider variety of female roles get written from the get-go, but while we're getting there, opening up more casting decisions to both men and women seems like a helpful step to take right now.
posted by heisenberg at 9:12 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


I was shocked as shit when I found out Salt was originally written for a man. It seemed like such a perfect vehicle for the kind of female ass-kicking protagonist that Jolie can do so well.

(Frankly I love the shit out of that movie and it can do no wrong in my eyes. Plus, Liev Schreiber and Jolie on screen together were magic.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:15 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure Ripley fits that archetype very well, since her survival isn't tied to her femininity much at all, let alone to the usual creepy stuff about chastity and the divide between "good" and "bad" femininity implied by the Final Girl concept. And by the sequels the Final Girl stuff doesn't apply at all.
I agree, I wouldn't quote her as a formal 'Final Girl' as she does miss a lot of the social messaging stuff like being a 'good girl' or even 'appropriating masculinity' by picking up a knife in the third act. But I don't even think a lot of horror filmmakers tend to have the survivor/retaliatory character in the third act because they explicitly follow this line of reasoning but simply because having the only 'hope' of defeating the monster at the end be the 98lb mousy girl is a move to make the movie as scary as possible as opposed to--say--a well-muscled male wrapped in empowerment signifiers.

I think they cast the surviving crewmember of Alien as a woman for the same reason* they had her almost naked and alone at the end of the film; to make the film as terrifying as possible by making the odds seem insurmountable.

*Well, one of the reasons, anyway... :/
posted by whittaker at 9:17 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Am I missing something -- why no discussion in the article or the comments of Black Widow in the new Captain America? I'm not sure why that movie was called Captain America: The Winter Soldier rather than Black Widow and the Steroid Menace, but she's certainly the most interesting thing in the movie. She has a ton of screen time, her own story, her own plans and schemes (and strengths and weaknesses) and in general she's far more than "support." I would at least have expected her to be part of the conversation.
posted by The Bellman at 9:32 AM on June 16 [10 favorites]


based on a book and Emily Blunt plays a character who was male in the book?

No, she plays the same female character as in the comic.

I think it would have done her characterization--and the movie--a valuable service to have a brief flashback shot of her on Day 1, terrified and out of her element, in order to set up the contrast.

Is there any scene in that movie that isn't told strictly from Cruise's perspective?

(and fwiw, I didn't read the brief kiss in a "we'll never see each other again" situation as a mutual sexual thing -- there's no real support for that before that scene. But as whittaker points out above, it would have worked with a less ambiguous sign of affection as well. On the other hand, I wonder if the ambiguity both there and in the actual end scene doesn't actually make it better...)
posted by effbot at 9:32 AM on June 16


Is there any scene in that movie that isn't told strictly from Cruise's perspective?

Generally not, but there are exceptions: "Where the hell did he go?" with the pushup crew, an exchange between two doomed members of J squad in a different part of the square at the end, etc.
posted by whittaker at 9:36 AM on June 16


After just watching one of the best TV police dramas I've ever seen, it's going to be hard to put up with the typical handling of female characters in movies from here on.

I enjoyed Happy Valley, but this character was much more original and fascinating IMO.
posted by Summer at 9:36 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


And geez, what is this, like two hours long? Cut out twenty minutes so the theaters can show it one more time per day.

As mentioned by Sys Rq, modern Hollywood blockbusters have a ton of problems, but brevity is not one of them. The Transformers movies are all around 2.5 hours long. Same with Amazing Spider-Man 2... And let's not get into the Hobbit movies.
posted by brundlefly at 9:43 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


We watched the GoT season finale last night and SPOILER ALERT





I was surprised to see Brienne face off against the Hound. My wife, who has not read the books, was alternately screaming at the TV "if you kill her I'll never watch this show again" and cheering for Brienne. I'm not sure if they did this to give the Arya's farewell to the Hound a little more oomph or if someone decided, "hey, let's give our kickass woman something cool to do." But damn, that fight scene was a breath of fresh air.
posted by Ber at 9:55 AM on June 16 [6 favorites]


Correct me if I'm misremembering, but wasn't Trinity meant to be Neo's avatar in The Matrix in some of the early versions of the script? That would have been a much more interesting movie.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 10:11 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


As mentioned by Sys Rq, modern Hollywood blockbusters have a ton of problems, but brevity is not one of them. The Transformers movies are all around 2.5 hours long. Same with Amazing Spider-Man 2... And let's not get into the Hobbit movies.

All of which are big tentpole movies featuring established franchises and creators who make money. Alien was from a guy who'd written a well-received student film (which then bombed at the box office), another guy who'd written a Twiggy vehicle. It was literally about to be a Roger Corman movie. It got made for exactly two reasons: Star Wars was huge and 20th Century Fox wanted a space movie fast, so they hired some British guy with one (admittedly well-received) historical drama and a few TV episodes on his resume.

That movie today gets made by Asylum, maybe SyFy, and it runs at 100 minutes on the dot, and it may well have a female lead, but that's only because the woman from Warehouse 13 picked up the phone before the man from Warehouse 13.
posted by Etrigan at 10:14 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


apart from the obvious difference that Trinity is human and Neo is software...
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:15 AM on June 16


I'm not sure Ripley fits that archetype very well, since her survival isn't tied to her femininity much at all, let alone to the usual creepy stuff about chastity and the divide between "good" and "bad" femininity implied by the Final Girl concept. And by the sequels the Final Girl stuff doesn't apply at all.

Apart from anything else, it's not clear that the Final Girl was an established trope in 1979. Halloween had just come out a year earlier, and it's the clearest antecedent. Before that I guess The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the earliest examples. You could arguably consider Alien one of the films establishing the trope, but I'm not sure it would have been a conscious factor in casting.
posted by figurant at 10:18 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


I was shocked as shit when I found out Salt was originally written for a man. It seemed like such a perfect vehicle for the kind of female ass-kicking protagonist that Jolie can do so well.

Reminds me of the old Secret commercials -- strong enough for a man, but made for a woman...and yeah, that was a neat flick...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 10:30 AM on June 16


whittaker, I thought it was pretty clearly implied that Rita did have help, someone that she became attached to, and whom she watched die hundreds of times.
posted by bashos_frog at 10:34 AM on June 16


Vasquez is not well rounded, but it doesn't matter cause she's awesome. I don't need well rounded female characters if they rock. And I don't need well rounded female characters to be well rounded by showing typical feminine characteristics. I'd love to see some male actiony characters who are nurturing and vulnerable, though.

Well, that's kinda what Hicks is; somewhat sensitive, but not a caricature because the freak-out caricature is Hudson. In fact, that's how awesome Vasquez is: not every supporting male badass needs to be well fleshed-out, and Vasquez is just a supporting badass who just happens to be female.

This is one of the reasons I love to hate and hate to love Cersei from GOT - She's mean, but she's got her reasons. She's dealing with it the best she can (which isn't really that great), and she falls down, gets up, and falls down again. I love my heroes and heroines flawed.

This is also why I winced at Gina Davis in Long Kiss Goodnight - that weird lampshading of her femininity with her kids. On the one hand, the movie could be seen as reclaiming the toughness of a maternal instinct married with military training, but it seemed to me to be a weird, sorta ostentatious display of it instead.

My opinion, YMMV. Takeaway - I want the prequel of Alien to be The Further Adventures of Hicks, Hudson and Vasquez, with frequent guest appearances by the long-suffering Apone.


Secure that shit, Hudson!
posted by eclectist at 10:40 AM on June 16 [7 favorites]


I saw HTTYD2 yesterday. I think that Valka was an interesting character with interests and motivations of her own. I was also very confused about how Drago McBadsguy entered into the picture and why he did anything. His entire story was horked up during a non-fight with Hiccup. It's easy to believe that Valka should have been a baddie, but changing her from that to a woman who just peace-outed on her dick husband (or so she thought) and wound up pursuing her own interests was a recovery for her character. Not the best recovery, certainly -- but she is a more interesting character than an alternate "I became evil to oppose my husband being a jerk" character that. This alternate, by the way, is what the first portion of the movie sets up pretty clearly, and to have that not happen was a great twist.

Tasha Robinson also wrote that:
She faces the villain (the villain she’s apparently been successfully resisting alone for years!) and she’s instantly, summarily defeated. Her husband and son utterly overshadow her; they need to rescue her twice in maybe five minutes.
I think this puts that event out of place with the others that surround it. Drago Dragonscreamer's army wrecks everybody's situation. Hiccup, his dad, that character that Craig Ferguson plays, the other juvenile dragonriders, his own mercenary. Hiccup is rescued by his dad, by his mom, by his dragon in ways that are similarly instant and summary in nature. Hell, look what happens to Hiccup's dad during that sequence. He's basically chastisement with a beard for most of the movie and then THINGS HAPPEN.

I think that this movie was clearly written as a middle. I'd like to see Valka take more of the stage. I'd like to see more of Astrid. I don't know if you can write an enormous ensemble animated movie in this day and age, but there's many different avenues that
posted by boo_radley at 10:41 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


Takeaway - I want the prequel of Alien to be The Further Adventures of Hicks, Hudson and Vasquez, with frequent guest appearances by the long-suffering Apone.

I would watch the shit out of this if all the actors weren't way too old to make it believable now. Recasting just... no. Would not work.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:51 AM on June 16


One of the other things about Vasquez: you might remember that in addition to Vasquez, the squad had Dietrich, a tall tough-looking redhead. Jenette Goldstein is significantly shorter and curvier (basically, IRL she looks more like the characters she played in Near Dark and Terminator 2). So, who is the team medic and who gets the big gun? It's one of those small touches that Cameron put in that are kind of brilliant.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:10 AM on June 16


Correct me if I'm misremembering, but wasn't Trinity meant to be Neo's avatar in The Matrix in some of the early versions of the script?

Switch (the one in white) was originally going to be a different gender in the Matrix (hence the name.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:12 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


"Yes, he obviously cares deeply for her but still, from her perspective, she has known him for one day. Could we replace the big kiss with something more like her giving him an affectionate peck on the cheek or the intimate cameraderie of resting their foreheads together? You can keep the line of dialogue the same. We still get the implication of heterosexual coupling that's mandatory for the conclusion of large-budget Hollywood films in the last scene* anyway."

If that had happened it would have solidified my opinion that Edge of Tomorrow is basically this summer's Pacific Rim.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:14 AM on June 16


I want the prequel of Alien to be The Further Adventures of Hicks, Hudson and Vasquez, with frequent guest appearances by the long-suffering Apone

Damn, in the hands of a good writer, a book version of that would be stellar. And don't forget Bishop. Gotta have Bishop.
posted by Ber at 11:17 AM on June 16


What are any of y'all's opinions on Olivia Thirlby's character of Judge Anderson in Dredd? I'd like to think she transcended the limitations of typical Strong Female Characters.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:26 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


you might remember that in addition to Vasquez, the squad had Dietrich, a tall tough-looking redhead.

Don't forget Ferro!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:27 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


In the pipe, five by five.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:34 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]


It's one of those small touches that Cameron put in that are kind of brilliant.
The most transgressive thing Ellen Ripley does (again, my opinion) is bring out the economic undercurrent of the grimdark cyberpunk future:

Burke: Hold on a second. This installation has a substantial dollar value attached to it.
Ripley: They can bill me.

and

Ripley: You know Burke, I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage.


Ellen Ripley vs. Carter Burke is one of the things I love most about that movie. They could've given Burke's lines to Lt. Gorman or a central computer (which is what they did with 'Mother' on the Nostromo in Alien), but no, as a character for Ripley to interact with, and indeed, to move the plot forward at a critical juncture, Burke was just slimy, black-souled magic.
posted by eclectist at 11:39 AM on June 16 [14 favorites]


Also I love that they got Paul Reiser to play him because he looks like he arrived from a different movie entirely, and that is perfect for the character. As far as Burke's concerned he belongs in the 23rd century version of Wall Street.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:47 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]


That and Paul Reiser just always seems like a slimeball trying to make a quick buck anyway. Casting for type.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:49 AM on June 16


Collette Ferro!

She turns, surprised by an alien creature that obviously means her no good. Does she throw her hands up and scream in typical horrorshow fashion? No.

She goes for her gun.
posted by eclectist at 11:57 AM on June 16 [11 favorites]


whittaker, I thought it was pretty clearly implied that Rita did have help...

Oh, good point. I guess I meant in the "they've been through this, is the top soldier in the army, and can quickly be brought up to speed in terms of what's happened to you" sense.
posted by whittaker at 12:01 PM on June 16


HTTYD2 SPOILERS





I think this review mischaracterized the last 3rd of the movie. True, Valka doesn't have much to do in the last 3rd, but I don't think *any* of the humans actually achieve much. It seemed pretty clear to me that the movie was establishing 3 different "schools" of titular dragon training- Hiccup is initially defeated by Valka, who has a more ancient and mysterious/animalistic training method.Then Valkas "school" is defeated by Drago's "school" who has an even more ancient, and even more animalistic style (I loved the fact that he just yelled like a crazy person.) which is then finally defeated by Hiccup & Toothless and the power of love, rock-paper-scissor style.

Also, her initial introduction through the arrival of DadViking (whatever his name is) is one of my favorite animated scenes in years. The clouds/mist flying scene! The dark cave/flaming dragon mouths!
posted by DGStieber at 12:11 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


I would watch the shit out of this if all the actors weren't way too old to make it believable now.


Ooh- if you haven't seen Edge of Tomorrow yet, do so as soon as possible. Bill Paxton is fantastic in it.



As is Emily Blunt. Tom Cruise is actually tolerable.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:18 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


What are any of y'all's opinions on Olivia Thirlby's character of Judge Anderson in Dredd? I'd like to think she transcended the limitations of typical Strong Female Characters..

Oh hell yes. She goes from scared rookie to hero in an amazing character arc, while wonderful Karl Urban basically functions as her backdrop. Despite the movies title, this is very much the Judge Anderson movie. Also, Lena Headey is a fantastic villain here.
posted by Mogur at 12:28 PM on June 16 [6 favorites]


TWS, I love both Blunt and Paxton, but I have a personal Thing about never paying money to see a Tom Cruise film. As tiny an amount as it might be, some of my money ends up in his pocket, and thence to Scientology.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:31 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


So sneak in.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:44 PM on June 16 [5 favorites]


Just saw HTTYD2 last night. I love Valka's character and do wish they'd done more with her. She's got all this vast knowledge of the dragons (even more than Hiccup!); it would have been great to see her share some of that and/or use some of that knowledge to defeat their enemy.

I also really wish that (spoilery thing that happened) hadn't happened. :(
posted by kira at 1:35 PM on June 16


I, too, love Judge Anderson in Dredd. (Also Lena Headey's Mama is a pretty awesome villain). I also like that Dredd did not have any hint of a romantic subplot (even as some kind of motivating factor in Anderson's past).

I guess discussions about this topic get complicated because people want to say "But I liked [insert title of movie!] and I thought [name of female character] was cool!" Hey, that's OK. There are plenty of things I like that I feel conflicted about.

I think Pacific Rim is the best example of this. It was a ton of fun. I thought Mako Mori was OK -- she had a generic backstory but so did everyone in that movie. Still, I do feel like most people who hold her up as some kind of exciting example of who female characters on screen should be are responding to the fact Pacific Rim was delightful popcorn entertainment (and ignored there's really only one other female character with a significant role in the movie). Does that mean it's bad? No. It just means it could've been better.

Anyway, I did just rewatch Alien Saturday night (like one does) and I am so putting together a Ripley costume for Halloween. That's probably been long overdue.
posted by darksong at 2:32 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Could your Strong Female Character be seamlessly replaced with a floor lamp with some useful information written on it to help a male hero?

This is one of my biggest pet peeves in fiction. I think of it as the Ron Weasley problem: does this character mostly exist to explain your worldbuilding?

Anyway, I, like The Bellman, mostly read this thinking BLACK WIDOW BLACK WIDOW BLACK WIDOW. Because she does a lot of this stuff well. She's an interesting character, she has a really great backstory, she is reasonably complicated for an action heroine, she is funny, and she isn't a love interest for the male heroes, so she actually ends up fulfilling the secondary hero role while Cap does the romantic comedy type stuff with Agent 13 and Sam and the rescuing the princess type stuff by saving the WS from himself or whatever.

I really, really hate the Big Major Spoilery Thing that they did with Black Widow's mind in Winter Soldier for this reason. I don't think they'd do mind control/memory control like that, specifically related to a love interest, to a male character, and it ended up having the effect of friging her to give Bucky angst while leaving her free to become a standard romantic interest for Hawkeye or whoever. Memory erasure like that can be such a loss of agency, and there are connotations to it that I'd relate to being sort of in between sexual assault and mind control. I've seen it work exactly once, and that was in a Jaqueline Carey novel, and it only worked then because the character spent basically half of the book figuring out how to get out of the shackles and for a significant portion of it the protagonist/her love interest was voluntarily under a similar spell for disguise purposes.
posted by NoraReed at 4:36 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Calling it "Trinity Syndrome" reminds me, I wonder how many notes Joel Silver and the Wachowskis received which basically read "So, uh, we think Trinity should be captured and held in the building rather than Morpheus. That way the emotional stakes would be higher."
posted by whittaker at 5:43 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


I noticed an odd thing in the trailer for HTTYD 2 that they're playing on terrestrial broadcast in my area. The first version of it has a scene where a dragon snorts a bunch of spooge into Hiccup's face, and Valka (I believe), who is standing next to him, turns and and says "He likes you."

This was very rapidly followed by a version that has the same visuals, except an off screen voice says "He likes you" in a goofier, higher voice, and Valka is seen just turning, not speaking. The first version of the trailer has not reappeared.

After reading the discussion here, I wonder if having her speak in the trailer was giving her too much of a role, or setting expectations for her character too high.
posted by the Real Dan at 6:28 PM on June 16


I sometimes picture an alt. version of the Star Wars prequels with Padme as the obvious smart, capable protagonist finally given enormous amounts of the agency denied her character. From middle school mock-debate club keener to political figurehead to assassin target and mystery solver to anguished alienation from her secret lover. What an arc!

This is the story in my head. Also that she survives for longer than in the movie and the funeral is a blind that had to fool Obi Wan, too. Amidala is an enormous web of I wishes and what if's in my heart.

I want a Black Widow movie like a wanting thing that wants. And a Wonder Woman movie. And a Scarlet Witch movie (I'm learning to love her). And a comic-book-Rogue movie. So may awesome characters not getting the time and attention they deserve.

Part of me wonders if the enormous vat of money which is Urban Fantasy might start spitting out movies at some point; I would love to see Seanan McGuire's October Daye in her own TV series.

I feel like there's a tipping point coming - that the prejudice of the old guard against seeing women as money spenders is falling in the face of sheer greed. One can only hope.
posted by Deoridhe at 11:30 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Oh god yes an October Daye series would be the bestest thing ever. Because these fictional women do exist - they just never seem to make it to the big screen intact. So I believe an October Daye series would be brilliant, but I would be very wary of what they'd do to the character in a feature film.
posted by harujion at 3:48 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Lena Headey is a fantastic villain here.

Haven't seen Dredd, but Lena Headly as Sarah Connor in the unfortunately shortlived Sarah Connor Chronicles is surely a (relatively) recent counter-example to the trend mentioned in the article? I can think of few male characters as richly developed as she is. We know all her fears and we know what she feels for her son, and we see her doubt herself every day. But no one can say she kicks insufficient ass.
posted by OnceUponATime at 8:05 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


Joss Whedon on writing 'strong women characters'

also btw brian k. vaughn's saga is pretty good, but probably unfilmable...
posted by kliuless at 8:24 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


also btw brian k. vaughn's saga is pretty good, but probably unfilmable...

In similar news, evidently Rat Queens was picked up for an animated series by Heavy Metal and Weta. Which could be a good thing, a bad thing, or just a thing.

I've generally given up on good feminist science fiction in mass-media however.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:49 AM on June 17


I think in her excitement to endorse Edge of Tomorrow, Robinson actually gives Emily Blunt's character short shrift in a way; she really doesn't fall into all the Strong Female Character traps. She and the Tom Cruise character are a straight-up team, pulling each other through battle, both benefiting each other along the way. The only complaint I'd have is that her battle-practice yoga (...yeah) feels over-sexualized given everything else about her.

Switch (the one in white) was originally going to be a different gender in the Matrix (hence the name.)

In retrospect, I'm sort of curious what Lana Wachowski's mindset was like at that point, it being so far ahead of her own transition.

posted by psoas at 10:02 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


So, yeah, Ferro. I knew I could count on someone in this thread, because y'all are y'all, so, yay y'all.

But let me flesh out what I see with those brief moments;

Attacked? Goes for the gun. Big deal, even if she got splattered.

Countdown to the drop, elevator to hell, going down? Tension in the troops, measured but real, doors are opening to expose the very different environment the drop craft operates in, Ferro is the cool pro, running procedure, counting down. She has an assistant, calling gauges to her.

And "one, drop" and things are complicated, it's transition, and that's always complicated, and then atmosphere, another transition, and then comms to confirm status, and then the classic "In the pipe, 5 by 5", with one of the best smiles, of someone getting it right, being good at something demanding, and owning the shit out of it.

Of course, I could have read too much into that smile, but it looked to me like I wanted very badly to be a drop pilot.

But I always like the dust off, right after dumping the rolling door stop the Marines roll in. Light touch, bay is opened, door stop rolls, and drop ship flares up and right back the direction it came in, because that space is at least known, which makes it better than any other direction, and also it looks cool, straight up, and roll right back to where you came from.

I'll watch those other shows you proposed, especially if we get some Apone, but I would pay to see Ferro's tale. Somebody make that movie.
posted by dglynn at 9:30 PM on June 17 [5 favorites]


A counterpoint by Aja Romano: Why 'How to Train Your Dragon 2' is a radical feminist triumph.

As usual, don't read the comments.
posted by metaquarry at 10:42 AM on June 23


A counterpoint by Aja Romano: Why 'How to Train Your Dragon 2' is a radical feminist triumph.

Nice response. I don't think HTTYD2 is quite that good. It is ultimately about Hiccup. But thinking about the criticism that Valka doesn't do anything, and I realized.

Valka is Yoda.

She's the second act sage who's mostly but not entirely right, who helps the kid who has largely been in the position of trying to figure things out on his own. And yeah, riding into a confrontation with Hiccup bareback on a dragon in that armor is beyond badass.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:18 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


Let us shed a tear for River in Serenity/Firefly, not to mention all the other well rounded female kick-ass characters.
posted by olya at 7:19 AM on June 27


Part of me wonders if the enormous vat of money which is Urban Fantasy might start spitting out movies at some point; I would love to see Seanan McGuire's October Daye in her own TV series.

I am constantly amazed that Sookie Stackhouse made it to series before Anita Blake. I guess the contract Laurell K. Hamilton made with the devil didn't include TV rights.
posted by Etrigan at 4:55 PM on June 27


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