So I’m a pretty big movie fan. In my opinion, one of the best things about the movie is it’s characters. There’s no point watching a movie play out if you don’t like the people involved.
Now in most cases, the lead role goes to a male. But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some hardcore women in films as well. One of the more prominent recent examples is Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman in the DC Comics extended universe (DCEU- writing it out fully once is enough) Batman VS Superman: Dawn of Justice (just going to call this one BVS) and her solo film Wonder Woman.
Before we go any further; watch her first DCEU appearance in BVS. It’s easily one of the coolest things in the movie. And the guitar riff…. uhhhhhhh so bad-ass. Important part is from 30 seconds to 1:10, but the whole fight is pretty great too. 1:45 is another top moment.
Moving on. So recently, some director by the name of James Cameron; the guy responsible for some movies like Terminator and Terminator 2, Aliens, Avatar, and Titanic (yuck); recently said he thought the film was “a step backwards” as female leads go. And sure; he’s got a point, there certainly is a case for the objectification of Gadot in the film; but the real kicker for me is his quote “the downside that they’re strong independent women – they inherently don’t need you!” Bit rich coming from the guy who just said Wonder Woman was too objectified. So in celebration of the strong, independent women who don’t need men in films, I want to take a look back at some of my favourites in no particular order. Now, this is obviously not going to be an original list, there’s not that many to choose from after all, but I will personally take any chance I can to talk about some of my favourite movies.
Wonder Woman- Wonder Woman/ Batman VS Superman: Dawn of Justice
I’ve already spoken a little bit about her, but I want to give Wonder Woman (AKA Diana Prince) a little bit more time in the Bat Signal- I mean spotlight. Did I mention she’s a bad-ass? She’s a total bad-ass. Her entrance into BVS is possibly one of the coolest superhero entrances ever. She is an incorruptible force for good, single-handedly (well, two armedly I guess) saves Batman’s life and goes toe-to-toe with Doomsday; a Kryptonian abomination that’s pretty much a god on Earth (the big ugly laser-eyes from the video above, just in case that wasn’t clear). In her solo flick, she takes on a trench full of WW1 Germans and deflects bullets with her bracelets. I don’t really think I need to say much more; and I’d like to avoid spoiling other parts of the movie. As a character she might not be the best practical role model, what with her being part of a tribe of immortal warrior women, but then again neither is Batman. As is the way with Hollywood she does have a love interest in the movie, but she is not lesser than Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor. If anything he is her lesser, she ‘wears the pants’ so to speak, she certainly doesn’t need him in the context of the movie. She’s proud to be what she is, a strong, independent, immortal goddess, she stands up for what she believes in and she’s willing to give it all for the fight. If that’s not the sign of a good role model than I don’t know what is.
Ellen Ripley- Alien Franchise
Just getting this out of the way, I love this movie. One of my favourite science-fiction films ever, and my favourite horror easily (I hate horror movies). Ellen Ripley is the original bad-ass, kick-ass, not taking anything from anyone, woman. Especially not from those pesky Xenomorphs. Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in the 1979 horror/ sci-fi classic will not only live on as one of the best female characters ever, but easily one of the best characters ever. Ripley’s character was originally written as a man but I don’t think a male Ripley would have been as iconic as Weaver was. The fact most people just talk say Ripley and you know who it is speaks volumes about the strength of her character. In fact, I’m not entirely sure if her first name is used at all in the movie- she’s not Ellen, she’s Ripley. It’s a trait mimicked by protagonist Daniels in Alien: Covenant. We get the letter of her first name but nothing else, and that’s all we need. We don’t need to know her first name to know her character, we see that through her actions.
Another key factor of Ripley’s character is her complete lack of a relationship with a male character at least in the first movie, unlike Ms Prince in the spot above. In subsequent movies the mains characters remain female but they do have partners. In Prometheus, Doctor Elizabeth Shaw has a husband- he dies eventually though (spoilers). In Covenant, Daniels has a husband, who immediately dies (spoilers). So they may have relationships but they aren’t defined by them, yet at the same time the loss of their loved one builds their characters. Ripley has a romantic interest in Corporal Dwayne Hicks in Aliens, but the standout relationship of the film for me is Ripley’s maternal relationship with orphan girl Newt. It shows a different side to Ripley that we wouldn’t otherwise get to see; a more compassionate and caring Ripley. Also it leads to the single greatest line in the franchise, so that’s pretty cool too.
How to be bad-ass 101:
Sarah Connor- Terminator Franchise
Another 80’s classic action film; when you think about Terminator you might immediately think about Arnie. But that doesn’t mean Linda Hamilton isn’t one of the stand outs in the movie, especially Terminator 2. Sarah is a woman who knows too much; she’s seen first hand what happens when you cross paths with a Terminator, so she certainly isn’t keen on the incoming Judgement Day. She is such an intense and fierce character that she very easily puts some men to shame. If you thought Kyle Reese was full on in the first one; Hamilton is on a whole other level. One big difference between Sarah and Ripley; Sarah is an established mother figure, but isn’t as kind as caring to her son John as Ripley is to Newt. She loves John but at the same time is prepping him for the destruction of humanity, so you can sort of forgive her if she comes across as absent sometimes… also being locked up in a mental institution because they think she’s crazy doesn’t really mesh with the whole mother thing. When you think about how strong Sarah is as a character, you sort of understand where Cameron is coming from about Gal Gadot. Gadot is a model, so naturally she’s attractive and maybe it does take away from her character? Each to their own. Sarah Connor isn’t object though, she’s a woman on a mission- a force to be reckoned with. Cameron himself said she “was not a beauty icon. She was strong, she was troubled, she was a terrible mother.” Now it might be just me, but I kind of feel like his sentiments lose their meaning when you find out he married Linda Hamilton. For a guy who makes such a big deal about how strong independent women, marrying them seems kind of cheap. That’s not a knock on Sarah or Linda by any means though. I remember the first time I watched T2, and the scene where Sarah is doing chin-ups in her cell, made me kind of uncomfortable. Not because she’d destroy me in an arm wrestle, but Hamilton just seems… well insane. She’s so just so committed to the role, it’s just scary.
Some coarse language in this clip; just a heads up. Also if this doesn’t give you chills, you’re lying.
Imperator Furiosa- Mad Max: Fury Road
For a film about a guy called Max, I certainly wouldn’t hold it against you if you thought it was about Furiosa. Charlize Theron is tough and unforgiving as Furiosa; and Fury Road is as much, if not more, her movie as it is Max’s. There isn’t a lot of dialogue in the film we don’t need it to see what kind of a character Furiosa is. She can hold her own pretty damn well for someone with only one arm, and she builds up quite the body count throughout the film. She is incredibly driven- she is willing to defy tyrannical post-apocalyptic warlord, Immortan Joe, to get a group of young women away from the citadel and to her long lost home the Green Place. The film has a pretty strong feminist message, something that annoyed a lot of petty men, and it’s no clearer than in Furiosa. She doesn’t need Max’s help really, but their cooperation is of mutual benefit to both. I mentioned before how she builds up the body count, but that certainly doesn’t come easy. She is pretty beaten up by the end of the film, and that’s mentally as well as physically. One of the most gut wrenching scenes is Furiosa’s revelation that her home that she was taken away from, the Green Place, no longer exists. The safe haven of the Many Mothers is but a distant memory. Despite her utter heartbreak, she continues on. She doesn’t give up and when the come up with a new plan to take back the citadel, she is at the head of the charge. Many people are pinning her as the new lead of the Mad Max franchise, and there’s been talk of a solo Furiosa film. Whatever, i will totally watch more of her.
Get the tissues ready. I certainly needed them.
The Harry Potter Franchise
Ok, I went 4 movies without talking about Harry Potter, so now I’m going to talk about all 8 films at once. I could be wrong, but from my point of view; there are plenty of strong women in Harry Potter. For starter’s let’s talk about one of my favorite characters of all time- Hermione Granger. She might not be as hardy as some of the others on this list, but I don’t think that makes her any less significant. Magic aside, Hermione is an ordinary person, and that makes her even more inspiring. She is strong willed, compassionate, smart, sensible, I could go on. Really, I could. Viewers can relate to her because she goes through ordinary things; she has boy trouble; she worries about school, normal stuff. All the while battling the greatest dark wizard ever- that part, bit harder to relate to. And Emma Watson herself is another incredible role model for young girls and even boys. It’s not part of the character but she is an icon for human decency, and the kind of person we should all strive to be.
But wait there’s more; I could talk about Tonks or Luna; who are other strong female characters with quirks, but nevertheless are very level head people (maybe not Luna). But people I do want to talk about are the mother figures in Harry Potter. Harry himself is tragically robbed of his parents, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t strong mother figures to watch over him. Now I want to make something clear, I’ve spoken about mother figures a lot but not for a second am I suggesting characters are only important because they are mother figures. The mother figure adds another level of complexity to the characters and they have their own personalities and flaws and strengths. Take Minerva McGonagall, one of Harry’s teachers and a carer before he even knows who she is. She keeps her distance so she is not as overtly a mother figure to him, but she keeps an eye on him. She is a stern woman, probably thanks to Dame Maggie Smith’s portrayal, but not uncaring. I suppose she’s like a grandmother but she is steadfast in her ways, and her ways are pretty right. She’s willing to stare injustice in the face, and nowhere is it more clear than her showdown with Delores Umbridge, an ungrateful toad of a woman who no one should look up to. There is another upfront mother figure in the series though, and she probably embodies it the best. Molly Weasley, played by Dame Julie Walters. She is pretty much the perfect mother; she is kind and caring and compassionate. She is strict and ruthless when she needs to be. But she cares. She virtually adopts Harry into her family, giving him a place to feel safe and loved. She has her angry moments but it is solely for the benefit of her children. I admire her character for her mothering skills, but more important I admire as a character. She is the embodiment of purity in a world tainted by evil and greed. If the world was full of people like Molly Weasley, the world would be a beautiful place.
She’s a lovely woman, unless you threaten her daughter.
Do I think it’s coincidence that some of the most iconic characters in film are women? Absolutely not.Like I said, not an exhaustive list and certainly not original. But these are the women in film that I think you can look up to, or at the very least admire them for their characters. Should there be more women like this in films? Absolutely.
So there James Cameron. They might not all be leading ladies, and they might not all be Sarah Connor, but hopefully we will see some more steps forward for women in film in future. As long as there’s film, I’m happy.