I would like to talk to you about something that is close to my heart – Action films, specifically women in action films. I love action movies. I enjoy car chases, explosions, insane martial arts moves, bullets whizzing by and witty one-liners. I am not alone. Some of the top-grossing films of all time are action movies. For example, the 2012 blockbuster hit Marvel’s The Avengers
is currently listed at number three. I won’t bore you with the details but it has made something like a gazillion dollars. It is one of the greatest action flicks of all time and this is where we shall begin.
Hollywood places an ad. Seeking actress for part of the Black Widow aka Natasha Romanova. Assassin, Russian spy, operative for the super secret organization of S.H.I.E.L.D. Knowledge of martial arts and weapons a plus.
Hollywood’s choice? Scarlett Johansson. Huh? This is Hollywood’s idea of a trained killing machine? Did anyone else think the typecasting here was a little weak, or is it just me?
Hollywood does this sort of stuff all the time. I’m not sure what the excuse is but I’m going with wacky weed. They smoke a lot of it there. I don’t know what else it could be. Just for fun one day I gathered a group of friends together, all women, and we had a sort of round table discussion about this very subject. What is it with Hollywood? Why are they so clueless? We came up with a list of strong, athletic women and the roles they’ve had in movies and on television. What makes a great female action-hero? We narrowed the criteria down to four items –
1.) Believability. 2.) Physicality. 3.) Skill set. 4.) Could I beat the crap out of her or vice versa?
Yeah, the last one is my favorite too. So, let’s start with the worst…Natasha Romanova from The Avengers.
This is a great woman’s role. A strong, physical female. But Scarlett Johansson?
Believability -- Maybe a 2.
Physicality -- The woman is 5’3” and maybe a hundred pounds if she is wearing heavy shoes. 2 again.
Skill set -- Nice voice. She has pretty eyes.
Could I beat the crap out of her? -- Uh… yeah. And I’m pretty sure my 12-year-old nephew could too.
That’s just pathetic, Hollywood.
Fail. Catwoman aka Selina Kyle from any Batman flick
Catwoman is another awesome female action-hero type role. Let’s look at Hollywood’s choices for her, shall we? Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry and the chick from The Princess Diaries
. (What the heck?)
I hate to lump Michelle, one of America’s greatest actresses in with these two but I wanted to make my point. This is how Hollywood thinks. Catwoman could have been an awesome role, but they made her into a joke. Michelle did the best she could with what she had but she scores low on all the criteria. I’m not even going to waste my time on the other two. Batgirl aka Barbara Gordon.
Hollywood goes with Alicia Silverstone. I loved Alicia in Clueless
, one of the greatest comedies ever made, and Blast From the Past
, but she is not female action-hero material.
Fail. Charlie’s Angels
with Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu.
Let’s face it, the television show was cheesy but, when I was a kid, I loved it and I wanted Jill’s car. That Cobra Mustang was sweet! But the movies were the WORST. A lame story and stupidly unrealistic wire work, all in an effort to help the actresses look like they might be able to fight. Out of the three, Lucy Liu has the best skill set. From the way she moves, it is obvious she has some martial arts training and the woman speaks 6 languages. Unfortunately she can’t cancel out the other two.
Fail. Barb Wire.
Nightclub owner. Bounty hunter. Pamela Anderson.
Do I need to say anything more? Why would anyone waste good money turning this piece of crap into a movie?
Typical lame Hollywood. Columbiana
. Stone cold assassin.
Hollywood goes with Zoe Saladana. Zoe was awesome as Uhura in the last Star Trek film. She has a confidence about her that makes her very appealing, but her physicality is probably a five. I doubt she could lift fifty pounds let alone throw a six-foot guy around a room. She’s way too skinny to be believable as an action-hero.
Fail. Selene from the Underworld franchise
. She’s a Death Dealer, a vampire super soldier. She hunts down and kills werewolves and wears tight, shiny black clothes. Hollywood casts Kate Beckinsale.
Kate scores a little higher on physicality and skill set. At 5’7” she is almost life-sized, and she looks like she knows how to handle a gun fairly well. She doesn’t blink when she shoots, which is pretty tough to do. If you don’t believe me, go try it yourself. I’m teetering on this one but I don’t totally buy her as an action-hero because... Have you seen her run? Nothing ruins the female action star as much as poor running, arms flailing about, looking like a go go dancer. You might be able to train someone to look like a fighter, but girly running is always a giveaway.Katniss from The Hunger Games
. I do not categorize this as an action film, but Hollywood does. Jennifer Lawrence received a Critics Choice nomination for best performance by an actress in an action film for this role. If you have not seen this movie it is NOT an action film. It is a real snoozer. At best it is a Sci Fi movie about an over-controlling and domineering government. It is The Running Man
with whiny kids and no action at all, unless you consider hunting critters with a bow and arrow, sleeping in trees, and having a dress that bursts into flames some form of action.
Now let us look at some successful athletic actresses and the roles they’ve made famous. How does Hollywood respond? Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day
. Linda was in insane shape for this role and audiences everywhere went a little crazy for her. How does Hollywood respond? Linda was cast in a few movies afterwards, most notably the volcano disaster film Dante’s Peak
, but nothing action related.
Her recent work includes television appearances on Weeds
. Michelle Rodriguez in Girlfight
. Not a well-known film, it is the role that put Michelle on the map. The film showcases her athleticism but it was her acting that garnered rave reviews. She plays a boxer and looks the part. Word is Michelle became so skilled that she was approached about fighting for real. Michelle scores high on all the criteria. She is an actual tough chick and I love that about her. She is one of the more successful actresses with the Resident Evil
and Fast & Furious
franchises keeping her in the public eye. But Hollywood continues to overlook her acting ability and is content to keep Michelle fenced into tough girl only roles.Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies
. Michelle was a huge star in Asia and known as the female Jackie Chan when she decided to kick her way into the Bond franchise. She was not your typical Bond girl. She did her own stunts, kicked major booty and was freakin’ awesome in this movie. It had me hoping the Bond movies would finally go in a new direction -- stronger women, less eye candy -- then Halle Berry appeared in the next one and my hopes were dashed. Oh well.
Hollywood threw Michelle a few crumbs afterwards. Hidden Tiger, Crouching Dragon
was a success and she did appear in one of those mummy movies. That’s about it.
Hollywood, shame on you. Andrea Parker in The Pretender.
Oh my gosh. I LOVE Andrea Parker! If you haven’t seen her in the television series take the time to check it out on NetFlix. It is truly one of the greatest roles ever written for a woman. Andrea scores high on all the criteria. She’s almost six-feet tall, a trained dancer, an excellent marksman, a certified stunt driver and not a bad poker player. Her role as Miss Parker, the ice queen is legendary. I was sure she was destined for greatness, but after The Pretender was cancelled, Andrea practically vanished. She was cast on the television show Less Than Perfect
as Lydia, a blonde secretary (Huh?) and on Desperate Housewives
. (Ugh.) She still does guest appearances on other shows from time to time and I keep thinking someone will snatch her up. She would make an awesome addition on one of those CSI or NCIS shows.
So far… Nothing.
What a waste of amazing talent. Hollywood, you suck. Jennifer Garner in Alias
. CIA Super Spy Sydney Bristow, ‘nuff said. Jennifer appeared in Daredevil
and The Kingdom
-- All films that showcased her butt-kicking ability. Then she got married, had a few babies and Hollywood developed amnesia and forgot she could totally kick their ass. Bummer. Angelina Jolie
. She is the most successful of our actresses. She has achieved super stardom with Tomb Raider
, and Mr. & Mrs. Smith
. All great action roles. Angie scores high in most of the criteria but her physicality bounces up and down all over the scale. She packed on weight and muscle for the Tomb Raider
films and looked amazing, but she looked almost anorexic in Salt
. She is highly skilled with knives and I think she’s a little crazy. I mean, I think if you looked at her wrong, she might punch you in the mouth. That’s my personal feeling. Am I wrong? Jessica Biel in Blade : Trinity
. Wow. She rocked that movie and Ryan Reynolds was cute too. Jessica scores high. She is a decent fighter and a heck of a physical specimen. They said she got down to something like thirteen percent body fat for this movie? How is that even possible? She is a versatile actress and appears in an action flick every now and then like Stealth
, The A Team
and Total Recall
so I have hope for her. I can’t figure out why she was not cast as the Black Widow in The Avengers
movie. Can anyone explain that? Gina Carano in Haywire
. Gina is the only actress that gets high tens across the board. Holy crap. I’m pretty sure she could kill me with her foot, possibly her toe. No one can compete with her skill set. She’s the real deal. She’s only just starting out, so here’s hoping Hollywood doesn’t stuff her into the lame, B-Movie, action-girl-in-tight-spandex box. Gina is kind of a rebel so I don’t see that happening. Please, Hollywood. Don’t screw up this opportunity. Gina is one of a kind. Treat her well. Do something magnificent for once.
So what do you think? Did I miss anyone? Who are your favorites? Who do you think were horribly miscast? Do you think Hollywood will ever get it right? What kind of roles do you think will benefit Gina Carano? Inquiring minds want to know…