Saturday, March 24, 2007

Misogyny and action movies

As someone currently working on a screenplay for an action movie with a female protagonist - not exactly any of the things I've discussed, but I'm trying to do what Stephen King calls "writing with the door closed", however, so I'll leave it at that - I'm currently having a debate in my head over what is fairly interpreted as misogyny in action movies with female protagonists.

This is a more complicated issue than one might think.

Picture, if you will, the movie Die Hard, but in this version the lead character is a woman. You can decide on your own if she's a lesbian, if the employee she's related to is her husband or, like the novel Nothing Lasts Forever, that character is her daughter, it's not important to me here.

What is important is that the film offers a significant amount of physical punishment at the hands of large and cruel villains. It does, in fact, include many of what could be termed "loving" shots of the violence inflicted on him. He is stripped of much of his clothes as well as his dignity, as the movie approaches its climax. To what extent does the change of gender, because of how our society views these things, change the way the average person would view this.

Mind you, other than those factors, it's a solid choice for reversal on most other levels. The most important thing the protagonist brings is sharp wits. The physical elements are much more about endurance and athleticism than of upper body strength.

And, no, I'm not writing a female Die Hard, but it is an interesting illustration of the considerations I'm making in writing.


Librocrat said...

It's an interesting thought, but in many ways assuming Die Hard with a woman would be the same would, in itself, be disrespectful to gender differences. Males and Females are not the same, simply their differences don't affect their worth. So if the woman was "emasculated" in the movie by having her clothes stripped off, etc., it would cause a different reaction.

However, what is also true is that movies and television - primarily hollywood - tend to not attempt to make that "bad ass female" but rather exploit the woman for, as you say, society's impact on role and gender.

So what I would say is that you couldn't make Die Hard identical, even without societal constrictions, etc., because a female in that role would be a different perspective. HOWEVER, Hollywood could easily create those "Die Hard" female main characters, but they don't. Instead they overly sexualize.

Kung Fu movies from China tend to be gender neutral. There are a lot of good movies where the female protagonist kicks just as much butt.

Neil said...

I don't disagree with much of what you say... in fact, most of it is either a restatement of what I said or so strongly implied that they just may have been the entire point of my post.

Now, here's where I sometimes get in trouble with people in interpretation, because I know I take for granted the differences between men and women and never have it occur to me to judge those differences... to the extent that judgment of those differences is a foreign thought process for me, and I walk into places where those judgments are implicit to others and merely make me scratch my head. I think that's why I sometimes need to consider these points.

Honestly, I'm not sure I believe in the overly sexualized female badass as a Hollywood issue. I suppose I could be proven wrong with examples, but the examples of female badasses that come to my mind are Ellen Ripley (from the Alien movies), Sarah Connor (from the Terminator movies) and The Bride (from the Kill Bill movies), none of which would I leap to describe as overly sexualized.

Mind you, this is, in part, with the note that the male counter-parts of those characters are also sexualized, so it's whether the sexualization of women is done in a manner that treats female sexuality, which we openly note is different, as less-than the equivilant male sexuality.

Mind you, and here's where I suppose I have the biggest open question of my own feeling, I'm not sure that we improve things by asserting that because some things cause different reactions that those reactions are indeed proper and that by yielding to them and insisting that other should yield to them that we aren't taking part in keeping those reactions perceived as legitimate.

But that's still me thinking out loud, as I was to begin with.

And I do strongly agree about Kung Fu movies. Thanks for stopping in.

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