The rise of female action stars has been well celebrated. Many believe that this is a piece of evidence that females are being given the right or privilege of being a symbol of strength and power. What many don’t realize is that many the early action films that feature women as the lead actress are actually just females doing the things that men or doing. They are but direct translation of men’s role. The best example of this is the Alien film. Feature Sigourney Weaver, she was shown holding a big gun with a magazine around her body screaming in anger while drenched in blood and her own sweat.
If you put a man in the action scenes they were in, it would still pass. There was nothing inherently feminine in their action scenes. You may also take a look a GI Jane played by Demi Moore. The only way she was allowed or accepted to become one of the boys was for her to shave her head and act like a boy.
That has changed through the years. Movie like Charlie's Angels, Tomb Raider, and Crouching Tiger have all started projecting women in their natural feminine situations. They were allowed to wear high heels and sexy dresses while they execute masterfulness in different Martial Arts..
It may be argued that it is true with men too. Slowly, men didn’t have to be all sweaty and angry like Rambo for them to do action scenes. Whether they were the ones who signalled the changes on how action stars may be projected may be up for debate. As men no longer have to be hard-bodies in order to succeed on film, neither do women. Films like Charlie's Angels are gratuitous in their depictions of the female body. The curves rather than the muscles are emphasized.
The female lead stars are designed to show their curves and soft side. They are also often projected as someone who can use their natural smoothness to gain advantage over their opponents. The success of this kind of female could be attractive to the new American male who has accepted the new ideal of masculinity. The questions is whether men will like it or not. Mencimer thinks men wouldn’t go for it because the only time women are allowed or accepted to do anything violent only when they do it for highly emotional reasons like protecting their children or their family.
Gina Arnold is leaning towards the opposite school of thought. She thinks that something like is empowers women greatly. Arnold states that if you will look at the track record of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in malls of Middle America, it seems clear that it is becoming more acceptable, perhaps even anticipated, that women are becoming better than men when it comes to fighting. She also points out that most of these films offer an almost graceful approach to violence. She said that sripped of danger and cruelty and the ugly and mean competitiveness that taints the violent actions of the male world, one may look at these action sequences with a bit of equanimity. They feel that they are being released from the box or expectations on how women should act or behave.
There also seems a trend on how much screen time women gets in actions scenes where they appear. Their fight scenes, unless they are the only ones involve, are quick and brief. They are also very carefully shown to maintain their beauty even at the heat of battle. The violence in which they partake is like an extreme form of ballet. They maintain their sophistication and attractiveness and outfight everyone else, but they can do it without leaving so much as a scratch behind.
Consider, for example, the character of Trinity (played by Carrie-Anne Moss) in The Matrix. Trinity is the first character in the film that partakes in any action. In her first scene, she was made to look like she was playing through nothing but strong ability. In fact, she was moving faster than everyone else, that allowed her to look at everything as if the world is moving in a slow motion. This is what allowed her to beat up and outfight even those police officers who are supposedly more trained that she is. She didn’t sustain a single injury and she displayed her ability before the male actors in the film did.
There may, however, be some changes in sight. The way women are going to be treated in future actions scenes may be different. Recently there were two films: Kill Bill Volume 1 and Volume 2 that showed the lead character, Uma Thurman, as a person full of anger and is out to avenge the bad things that happened to the people she loves using her assassin skills. She was shown to be in several action sequences with extreme violence, reminiscent of old action films that featured Sylvester Stallone. Kill Bill, however, is a bit more stylish. Even the violence is stylish. Thurman was ruthless in the film. She was out to get everyone even if it meant splattering blood all over the place. It almost seemed like they were doing a production number. The fact that Kill Bill did well in the box office means viewers are accepting this new kind of female action star.
Arnold thinks that men may be looking at it from a different from a different perspective. She states that there is some pleasure to be derived by men in watching women acting tough because it is a recreation of their sexual fantasy of women being in control of the sexual act. She seems to be arguing that there is an oblique, or subconscious love for inflicting pain on oneself that is buried in the inner self of many men. If the typical function of the modern male in society is to please women then it is expected that they take some pleasure in seeing women dominate and take control over men and over females too. Many of the young female action stars exet some appeal towards boys. This may be the beginning of men developing some attraction over women dominating men.
Marlo Edwards once observed how Barb Wire may have swayed the trend. The movie was a flop in the box office and panned by critics. It featured Pamela Anderson right around the time she was in Baywatch. Edwards pointed out that this is one of the first few attempts that featured female being both strong and sexy.
He said that that if you will actually take the time to think about how a woman used to project a different kind of power, you will see that she is in fact strong and courageous. Unlike other women, she instigated the action rather than just react to it. She also introduced some new standards on in terms of aesthetics, she was domineering in both actions sequences and romantic sequences.
She was shown wearing all black, which is a color associated with superiority and influence. She used everything she had as a weapon including her sex appeal, her mind, and her ability to deal and talk with other people smoothly. It allowed her to manipulate situations. This is a significant observation because it showed how a balance between feminine traits and male traits combine to become the perfect combination for a perfect action star.
Barb Wire is easily dismissed as being a chauvinistic sex film for a number of reasons. It is known by now that Pamela Anderson is the perfect vixen, the perfect bomb shell, the woman you wouldn’t expect to know anymore beyond how the gym and how to put on make up. This is due to her beginnings, a Playboy model. Her appearance in different nude magazines and constant appearance wearing a bathing suit in Baywatch contributed to this. Howerver, it is important to note that Barb Wire was brave enough to deal with a dominating female both on and off the bed. She doesn't operate with the kind of grace of a Charlie's Angel, but with the strategy of a woman who knows she can dominate men.