ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Gender and Relationships»
  • Advice & Tips for Women in Relationships

A Call for Female Heroes in Film

Updated on June 26, 2010
Lola from Run, Lola, Run (1998)
Lola from Run, Lola, Run (1998)

Female lead characters on screen have been around for a long time, possibly since the beginning of film history, but what I am concerned with here is the portrayal of those females as heroic: strong, mobile, and most importantly agents of their own destiny. Too often, female characters are reduced to love interests for male main characters, or to victims of unfortunate circumstances outside of their control. This is especially true of mainstream American films, where even the ‘heroic’ woman’s major purpose is to be a sexualized object of the male gaze. (Note: The male gaze is not necessarily male, but actively desiring, not identifying with, the visual image. See Laura Mulvey’s Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.)

A prime example would be Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001). We’ve all seen characters like Lara (Angelina Jolie) before—the tight clothes wearing, gigantic breasted, pistol wielding, flying kicking female action hero who is absolutely a badass in her own right, I don’t deny it, but she is also shallow. Her character exists primarily as a visual spectacle, and secondarily as what we normally think of as ‘character’: emotionally on a level we can relate to. Lara’s physical traits preside over any others she might have, and this sets up unrealistic and misguided expectations for girls looking to grow up to be her. Though this film has come a long way from the days of the silent and immobile or treacherous and seductive females of the past, it still has a long way to go before it can truly present a role model for females (the sequel didn’t really take it much farther).

Other recent movies of this type:

Underworld (2003) and Underworld: Evolution (2006)

Æon Flux (2005)

There is no such thing as a perfect role model, but I have definitely seen better. V for Vendetta (2005) provides one of my favorite female protagonists in Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman), a young woman who, after being orphaned at a young age, manages to make it on her own working at a TV station in a dystopian, borderline fascist England. She is strong, intelligent, and self-sufficient, but most importantly we identify with her throughout the story. Her feelings are very real to us, and quickly become far superior to her image on screen. It was surprising to me, when I read the graphic novel that the film is adapted from, to learn that Evey’s character was originally a prostitute, barely making her way on the streets before V comes to her rescue. Not to insult Alan Moore, who is an absolutely genius writer of graphic novels, but I found the gender dynamics of the film to be much more acceptable, with Evey and V at more equitable levels.

Contemporary American films with strong, deep female lead characters in genres other than the romance are hard to come by, but foreign films tend to get outside of Hollywood formulas and provide truly interesting female heroes. My personal favorite female is Lola (Franka Potente) from Run, Lola, Run (1998). This film, in my opinion, is a revolution in gender politics as well as so many other things, and if you take one thing away from this article I would hope that it would be a desire to see it. A close second would be Amélie (Audrey Tatou) from Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain. All of the characters in this wonderful film are brilliantly quirky, and Amélie is no exception.

As a closing note I’d just like to take a moment to point out that I am not a feminist (though Laura Mulvey certainly was, and some of this was her idea), but I do believe that female characters deserve to be represented as just as strong, interesting, or deep as male characters, because all characters deserve to be well written. I once wrote an essay on an exam about how I thought The Matrix (1999) should have had a female lead. Next time you see a film with a male hero, ask yourself, why couldn’t it have been a girl?

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • girlincape profile image
      Author

      Kasey Rubenstein 7 years ago from California

      I'm not leaving Hit Girl out or anything. I just listed the examples I found especially promising. Maybe I should list her as an honorable mention in the article, along with the Bride from Kill Bill and those other violent but lovable females.

    • profile image

      btqy 7 years ago

      I think you should reconsider HitGirl. She was not the lead, but was a force in real life and a strong female to TAKE the lead away from the male star. She made the movie.

    • girlincape profile image
      Author

      Kasey Rubenstein 7 years ago from California

      Aww, thanks.

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 7 years ago

      In my film you are my hero!

    • girlincape profile image
      Author

      Kasey Rubenstein 7 years ago from California

      I totally considered adding Hit Girl, but I thought since she wasn't really the main character and she was highly specularized (in terms of violence this time instead of sexuality) I'd leave her off. I loved her in that movie anyway.

      Ripley is a really interesting character; at the beginning of Alien it seems like she might not even be the main character but things kind of twist in her favor. There's some really interesting gender stuff going on in that movie, with the computer being 'Mother' and all...

      Glad to see another V for Vendetta fan. Thanks for your great comment!

    • Mrvoodoo profile image

      Mrvoodoo 7 years ago from ?

      'Hit-Girl' is a great recent addition to the list of female heroes. She might be young but she totally stole the show in the Kick-Ass movie.

      And then there's 'Ripley' played by Sigourney Weaver in the Alien movies, who is without doubt one of the most notable female movie heroes ever.

      Great hub, with some very honorable mentions. Especially Evey. :)

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)