Stu Presents, Men & Women Of Action: When Genre & Gender Collide!

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I can't think of any examples of movies particularly but just people often complaining about how male action movies are toxic, etc, which seems like a general attack on the genre rather than just complaining about the bad apple ones more so.
Okay; well, like I said, I'd possibly agree with you on this if I could remember any examples of that I've come across, but I really can't, so without any more specific points, I can't really comment much.
Oh but I thought that the Bond woman in that movie was just as well written as other action hreoines unless I am wrong?
Sorry, I thought you were criticizing Corax's point by saying that the "Bond girl" in Moonraker wasn't necessarily a good character just because she was portrayed as being a badass in that movie; my bad.
He was definitely the love interest in The Terminator.
I know, I meant that in a respective sense (in that he was more of a co-lead in The Terminator IMO, and he wasn't really a love interest in Aliens). Anyway, it's not a big deal.



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You're not "butting in" here; don't be silly! Anyway, those are all good points, and I think the best answer is obviously to continue to push for more equal representation in art for marginalized groups, but to not just be content with that, but instead combine it with a real-world push for economic & societal equality for those groups at the same time; I mean, the former is naturally a good thing, but it should clearly never be accepted as a substitute for the later, since it's not some either/or dilemma between the two, you know? We can, and should, have both.If the study I linked to earlier is accurate, then there are (or at least were, pre-pandemic) more female-lead movies coming out of Hollywood now than before, and that's obviously a good thing, but, while recent Bond movies have made progress with its female representation, the women are all still supporting characters to Bond as a protagonist, so when it comes to just that individual series, I don't think its repudation of its sexist past won't be complete until it finally elevates a woman to being the main character, just like Connery, Moore, or Brosnan were in their entries. And, it's not like we haven't seen similar things done with other series before, like the increasing capability of the women in the Mad Max series, from the relative
WARNING: spoilers below
"fridging" of the mostly defenseless wife in the original, all the way until Fury Road presents Charlize Theron not just as an equal to Max, but the new heir apparent to his franchise-throne (hopefully, the young Furiosa prequel will eventually make its way out of development hell and complete the process, eh?).
Oh okay. I have no problem with a Bond movie doing what Fury Road with a lead female character for one of the movies and Bond being second fiddle, but it's just if you kick out Bond completely for a new heir, then they will loose a huge part of their Bond fan base and loose success that way. The Bond company can take a female character from one Bond movie, and give her her own spin off franchise, while still making Bond movies, but to kick Bond out completely, the company would be committing legacy suicide by doing that.

And when it comes to women's success in the film industry, Barbara Broccoli has achieved great success with the Bond legacy. So asking a real life successful woman to throw away most of her fan base, in favor of a fictional female character isn't exactly promoting women in the industry, is it?

What's more important? A real woman maintaining her success, or throwing that away for a fictional woman to be created?

Another thing is, in the case of Fury Road, do fans of Mad Max actually care that Furiosa was the main character over Max? I don't see fans saying finally the series needed this ever, and I don't think they really cared, did they?



Oh okay. I have no problem with a Bond movie doing what Fury Road with a lead female character for one of the movies and Bond being second fiddle, but it's just if you kick out Bond completely for a new heir, then they will loose a huge part of their Bond fan base and loose success that way. The Bond company can take a female character from one Bond movie, and give her her own spin off franchise, while still making Bond movies, but to kick Bond out completely, the company would be committing legacy suicide by doing that.

And when it comes to women's success in the film industry, Barbara Broccoli has achieved great success with the Bond legacy. So asking a real life successful woman to throw away most of her fan base, in favor of a fictional female character isn't exactly promoting women in the industry, is it?

What's more important? A real woman maintaining her success, or throwing that away for a fictional woman to be created?

Another thing is, in the case of Fury Road, do fans of Mad Max actually care that Furiosa was the main character over Max? I don't see fans saying finally the series needed this ever, and I don't think they really cared, did they?
While it's certainly possible that a lot of those fans might turn away from seeing a female-lead Bond, it's not a certainty (especially not after the success of a female-lead franchise entry like The Force Awakens, after all), and more importantly, that's a bad reason not to do it, IMO. Again, I don't think the ongoing process of the series reckoning with its past will truly feel "complete" until they finally elevate a woman into the lead role, and that's the most important thing for me when it comes to this debate. Anyway, as for the point about Fury Road, I know a number of MM fans who were happy to see a female character get elevated to the same status as Max, and, considering the series's consistent process of empowering women that I explained earlier (from the fairly defenseless wife in the original, to the "Warrior Woman" in The Road Warrior, to Auntie Entity being the main antagonist in Beyond Thunderdome, until we finally get to Furiosa), it would be weird if Fury Road didn't continue that process, since not doing so would've felt like something of a betrayal of what the series had built up to that point, to be perfectly honest.



Female Fragility



But on the flipside, while Action movies have predominantly portrayed men targeting other men, it's not like the genre's never portrayed violence against women either, right from the killing of a defenseless secretary in the first few minutes of Dr. No (although this can obviously be subverted, like the way the aforementioned Die Hard avoided the potentially troubling optics of Rodrick Thorpe's novel, where half the terrorists were female). And, while this is partly a reflection of violence against women in real life, it still created a further gender imbalance within the genre, where even the male "redshirts" tend have the ability to fend for themselves onscreen, giving themselves something of a fighting chance (at least, in theory) but the women often don't have that same chance, including the cases when their gender is the factor that leads them to be victims when that violence takes on a sexual nature, such as in Taken, Robocop, or in the brutal sexual assault that serves as the inciting incident of Death Wish.

This also contributed to the tendency of Action movies of portraying women as more emotional or fearful than the men, even when they're the main heroes, like with Ripley in Aliens (although this was justified by her experiences in the original film, and be viewed more as a criticism of the overly stoic nature of men in the genre by comparison). This also contributed to the occurance of the damsel in distress characterization for women in the genre, a stock character that, while obviously wasn't invented by Action movies, has still seen some use by it over the years, such as with various Bond girls, Jennie in The Killer, or multiple Keanu Reeves love interests back in the 90's (although this dynamic was thankfully reversed towards the end of that decade with Trinity's iconic "dodge this" moment in The Matrix).



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Oh okay, it's just in my personal opinion, I feel that a lot of fans wouldn't want Bond replaced with another character, and that would include me as well.

But I guess I just don't also see why this would be a big accomplishment. Why not just make original action movies with female characters in rather than swap out characters in existing franchises? That's the reason why it comes off as not much of an accomplishment, if you do it that way.



Oh okay, it's just in my personal opinion, I feel that a lot of fans wouldn't want Bond replaced with another character, and that would include me as well.

But I guess I just don't also see why this would be a big accomplishment. There are many movies with lead female characters in so I don't think of it as a revolution, just because a series decides to swap out the main character for female one. It just feels like it's not an accomplishment mch to me, because of all the successful movies with female characters, so I don't get why it's such a revolution that some make it out to be.
A female Bond wouldn't automatically be a big accomplishment on its own if they just swapped the character's gender, but kept everything else exactly the same (like the way Captain Marvel was a fairly generic MCU movie that just so happened to star a woman)... however, it would be a big deal if they put some real thought and effort into how a female version of that character could help confront the series' sexist roots, sort of like the way George Miller consulted with Eve Ensler when they were making FR, you know?



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Female Fragility



But on the flipside, while Action movies have predominantly portrayed men targeting other men, it's not like the genre's never portrayed violence against women either, right from the killing of a defenseless secretary in the first few minutes of Dr. No (although this can obviously be subverted, like the way the aforementioned Die Hard avoided the potentially troubling optics of Rodrick Thorpe's novel, where half the terrorists were female). And, while this is partly a reflection of violence against women in real life, it still created a further gender imbalance within the genre, where even the male "redshirts" tend have the ability to fend for themselves onscreen, giving themselves something of a fighting chance (at least, in theory) but the women often don't have that same chance, including the cases when their gender is the factor that leads them to be victims when that violence takes on a sexual nature, such as in Taken, Robocop, or in the brutal sexual assault that serves as the inciting incident of Death Wish.

This also contributed to the tendency of Action movies of portraying women as more emotional or fearful than the men, even when they're the main heroes, like with Ripley in Aliens (although this is still justified by her experiences in the original film) and the occurance of the damsel in distress characterization for women in the genre, a stock character that, while obviously wasn't invented by Action movies, has still seen some use by it over the years, such as with various Bond girls, Jennie in The Killer, or multiple Keanu Reeves love interests back in the 90's (although this dynamic was thankfully reversed towards the end of that decade with Trinity's iconic "dodge this" moment in The Matrix).
Oh okay, but are you saying that if Die Hard chose to make half the villains women that it would have been better or worse? But as for women being sexually assaulted to incite more of the plot, I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, is it?

One of my favorite movies is For A Few Dollars More, where a woman character is sexually assaulted, and it sets more of the plot in motion, but no one ever calls it out for being bad for doing that, unless it was?



Oh okay, but are you saying that if Die Hard chose to make half the villains women? But al for women being sexually assaulted for the incite more of the plot, I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, is it?

One of my favorite movies is For A Few Dollars More, where a woman character is raped, and it sets more of the plot in motion, but no one ever calls it out for being bad for doing that, unless it was?
I'm sorry pony, but could you please fix your typos and make sure your sentences aren't incomplete before you post? It's already becoming a hassle to respond to all of these petty complaints in the first place, without also having to struggle to decipher them at the same time.



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Sorry about that! I fixed all the typos hopefully. I apologize.



Captain America: Civil War (which is a very good movie, don't get me wrong), where Black Widow apparently took the time to apply her eye makeup and made sure her hair was perfectly feathered before the fight began; c'mon.
…Natasha is Russian. *sigh*

Any Russian woman I know would do it on her deathbed, let alone before a “performance” (which a fight is). See, I take issue with the very idea of “unrealistic” in this context. If you/someone feels a woman shouldn’t do this, in real life or a film (or her time would be best spent doing something else), that’s fair enough. But there’s nothing “unrealistic” about that - female Olympic athletes do it before the most important competitions of their lives, female CEOs do it before investor presentations, female judges do it before court room appearances - there’s nothing “unrealistic” about women desiring glamour.

In my industry, one gets up at 5 am and puts on the makeup-and-heels armour every day, that’s just what one does (willingly, for pleasure and for fun).

And if we live in a world where men wearing a three-piece (as James Bond is meant to do) are ridiculed, that doesn’t mean there is anything “unrealistic” about the depiction of the type of person that would care about how they look till the very end. Even during a fight. Anyone who knows anything about Bond’s background knows he is trying to “fit in” in high society (hence Vesper’s jibes) and therefore takes care to look smart like it’s a kind of armour too.

Deciding that in the “modern” world everyone, men, women and dogs alike, wear track suits and trainers and hoodies is anyone’s prerogative and part of creative license, but that doesn’t mean it inevitably has to be the case or that it reflects any sort of objective “realistic” state of affairs.



A female Bond wouldn't automatically be a big accomplishment on its own if they just swapped the character's gender, but kept everything else exactly the same (like the way Captain Marvel was a fairly generic MCU movie that just so happened to star a woman)... however, it would be a big deal if they put some real thought and effort into how a female version of that character could help confront the series' sexist roots, sort of like the way George Miller consulted with Eve Ensler when they were making FR, you know?
I don’t disagree with that, but I feel there’s absolutely no correlation between confronting any kind of “harmful” stereotypes in film and making better entertainment. So to my mind, one asks oneself if the objective is to make entertainment or confront anything - and if it’s the former, then the sexist roots have a right to prevail, no?

People with sexist attitudes exist, and they tend to succeed in environments such as the military (my father has been in the military in one capacity or another for almost 5 decades). A feminist James Bond is less likely to become Commander and succeed in that industry.

Now, what traditional Bond stuff does get is boring and/or predictable, so I’d see nothing wrong with a scene where Bond slaps a Vesper-like female’s arse and she breaks his jaw (which, again, wouldn’t happen because he would block her). But the scene itself, if thought through logistically, makes perfect sense. It could indeed be fun.

A film which deliberately confronts stereotypes and makes Bond female and non-sexist (which, actually, is not guaranteed, as women are becoming increasingly sexist themselves - see the curfew for men proposed by the British Parliament) isn’t an achievement in itself any more than Captain Marvel - what is the narrative value of a non-sexist Bond, save for the sheer fact of newness and the vague notion that it’s “different”?

I feel that thought and effort would be well spent on figuring out how not to make a female Bond a preachy, proselytising affair, and I think success is highly unlikely there.

The very act of making Bond a woman is, if not a slap in the face, a reminder that the series was “wrong” all along and now, boys and girls, we are teaching you to do it right, in a socially conscious way with the rights of trees and lobsters taken into account. I honestly cannot see a scenario in which that can be well-received by the traditional series’ fan base. Hence, it might make more sense to wait until said fan base dies off.



I personally don't feel there is that much to gain from having a female Bond. While I'm all for winding up the people it would drive up the wall by removing double 0's dick, it just feels like such a lazy cosmetic fix to whatever issues we may associate with the character. Maybe, as Stu suggests, if there was a clever or thoughtful way to retrofit this, it could have some value beyond the novelty. But, if this ends up being the case, it just seems more likely than not to be used as the canary in the coal mine that would justify studios not investing in making action oriented films with females as the protagonist. And, call me a pessimist, I think it's ultimate failure would be almost be baked in from the beginning (considering the studios would undoubtedly muck up the promotion, and journalists would muck up and chance for us to take it on its own terms) It is a brand which has almost exclusively pandered to the male gaze since its inception and I can't help but imagine this has made a lot of your average female audience members feel excluded from the franchise to the point that a woman in the role would do little to change their appetite for it. And, sadly, we probably know how a good chunk of the male audience is going to react. And so if (when) the movie fails, we know exactly what element is going to be blamed. And no one is going to give two ****s how thoughtfully it was done.



As always, the bigger question is why hasn't a female director been enlisted to helm a Bond film? This could potentially lend the film the interesting perspective Stu is talking about. And it skirts around having to fundamentally change a character that has by now become ingrained in pop culture, warts and all. Frankly, I think Katherine Bigelow would absolutely shame the last few entries if given the chance.



And talking about warts, it is also worth considering what James Bond even is without these elements. Remove the decades spent detailing his specific kind of sociopathology and unapologetic womanizing, is it really even Bond? Don't we sort of need to take the bad with the good for it to still qualify in any meaningful way. While you can argue if modern society needs this kind of hero anymore, I think the argument starts losing the plot when we say we still want to keep him around only to make him something more palatable for today's mindset. It's like removing the cannibalism from Hannibal Lector. Why not just start from scratch with a new character? One which will have their own quirks (which will no doubt be tut-tutted by audiences in the future), and who can at lest begin as a female, and not step into a character that already has generations worth of rape stink on his lapels.



Sorry about that! I fixed all the typos hopefully. I apologize.
Okay, thank you. At any rate...
Oh okay, but are you saying that if Die Hard chose to make half the villains women that it would have been better or worse? But as for women being sexually assaulted to incite more of the plot, I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, is it?

One of my favorite movies is For A Few Dollars More, where a woman character is sexually assaulted, and it sets more of the plot in motion, but no one ever calls it out for being bad for doing that, unless it was?
...Die Hard almost surely would've been worse if it retained the female baddies from the novel, but didn't change tonally as a result, since keeping the upsetting visual of McClane gunning down young women would've clashed with the relatively light tone of the rest of the movie (it's the same reason why John McTiernan changed the baddies from being ideologically pure terrorists to money-motivated "common thieves", after all). As for the second point, while it depends on the specific movie, and it obviously isn't automatically wrong for a film to depict or reference sexual assault against either gender, it's still a tricky thing to treat in a sufficiently reverent manner, and I dislike it when movies try to include it merely as a plot device, or as some form of cheap shock value (like in Gladiator).



…Natasha is Russian. *sigh*

Any Russian woman I know would do it on her deathbed, let alone before a “performance” (which a fight is). See, I take issue with the very idea of “unrealistic” in this context. If you/someone feels a woman shouldn’t do this, in real life or a film (or her time would be best spent doing something else), that’s fair enough. But there’s nothing “unrealistic” about that - female Olympic athletes do it before the most important competitions of their lives, female CEOs do it before investor presentations, female judges do it before court room appearances - there’s nothing “unrealistic” about women desiring glamour.

In my industry, one gets up at 5 am and puts on the makeup-and-heels armour every day, that’s just what one does (willingly, for pleasure and for fun).

And if we live in a world where men wearing a three-piece (as James Bond is meant to do) are ridiculed, that doesn’t mean there is anything “unrealistic” about the depiction of the type of person that would care about how they look till the very end. Even during a fight. Anyone who knows anything about Bond’s background knows he is trying to “fit in” in high society (hence Vesper’s jibes) and therefore takes care to look smart like it’s a kind of armour too.

Deciding that in the “modern” world everyone, men, women and dogs alike, wear track suits and trainers and hoodies is anyone’s prerogative and part of creative license, but that doesn’t mean it inevitably has to be the case or that it reflects any sort of objective “realistic” state of affairs.
I know that, but that rationale still doesn't fly with me; I mean, Black Widow usually isn't coded as being Russian at all, and she certainly wasn't in Civil War, seeing as she's played by the biggest American actress currently working, and who tends to exclusively speak English with her natural accent when she's playing the part, so the idea that she was Russian was the farthest thing from my mind when I was watching it. I also doubt that the character's original nationality played any part in the decision to glam her up so much while making the movie; I think they just didn't want Johansson looking like anything less than perfect, even in a situation where it doesn't make much sense (I mean, did female Russian soldiers always apply makeup before battle in World War II?), so that feels like a cop-out excuse the filmmakers would offer to weasel out of criticism after the fact:



Also, that fight scene wasn't performative; it wasn't some scheduled sparring bout, or an advertised UFC fight in front of a live crowd/pay-per-view audience, and the average female MMA fighter doesn't try to look anything like Black Widow before their bouts (who looked glam-ier in that scene then Ronda Rousey has for some photoshoots she's done), so the idea that Widow apparently thought "I better apply my cat's-eye makeup and feather my hair as I rush off to this unexpected fight!" is just silly to me.



I know that, but that rationale still doesn't fly with me; I mean, Black Widow usually isn't coded as being Russian at all, and she certainly wasn't in Civil War, seeing as she's played by the biggest American actress currently working, and who tends to exclusively speak English with her natural accent when she's playing the part, so the idea that she was Russian was the farthest thing from my mind when I was watching it. I also doubt that the character's original nationality played any part in the decision to glam her up so much while making the movie; I think they just didn't want Johansson looking like anything less than perfect, even in a situation where it doesn't make much sense (I mean, did female Russian soldiers always apply makeup before battle in World War II?), so that feels like a cop-out excuse the filmmakers would offer to weasel out of criticism after the fact:



Also, that fight scene wasn't performative; it wasn't some scheduled sparring bout, or an advertised UFC fight in front of a live crowd/pay-per-view audience, and the average female MMA fighter doesn't try to look anything like Black Widow before their bouts (who looked glam-ier in that scene then Ronda Rousey has for some photoshoots she's done), so the idea that Widow apparently thought "I better apply my cat's-eye makeup and feather my hair as I rush off to this unexpected fight!" is just silly to me.
Okay, this is from someone who has never cared about comic books in any capacity, so please don’t take this as any sort of truth claim - but Wikipedia tells me Natasha Romanoff/Romanova has been Russian and born in Stalingrad since 1964: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Widow_(Natasha_Romanova). She is apparently meant to have been a Russian spy before defecting to the US.

Johansson herself recently spoke in an interview (that she’s clearly been overcoached for, but whatever) about how integral Natasha’s Russianness is to her character. In terms of accents, that’s a reasonable adjustment to make to make sure the audiences could understand the character/the portrayal didn’t veer into parody. (Though again, recently watched The Courier - the way actual USSR military prepared their spies is beyond anything there’s space in this post for; agents left Russia in their teens and passed for tenth generation Texans/ Canadians/Brits under years of torture, so I doubt the accent in this context is an issue.

Konon Molody, who left Russia as a teenager and operated the Portland ring, passed for a Canadian for decades and was only discovered to be Russian literally by accident.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konon_Molody)

Anyway, I was being light-hearted/sarcastic, though there’s a high degree of truth to what I said when it comes to Russian women. I’ll leave that there, don’t want to get bogged down in this, but you would be surprised re: WWII. Even during the Siege of Leningrad (3 years!) people ate paper but wore makeup.

Generally, though, this conversation is about something else. Are you looking for hyper-realism in Marvel? People with hairy legs and armpits and bad breath and messy hair? What purpose would that serve? Ultimately, popular cinema (which Marvel epitomises) is meant to be pleasing to the eye and not too complex, that’s what makes it popular.

Marvel itself is evidently performative and all fights are designed almost as dance sequences - of course, it has nothing to do with an actual MMA fight.

Now, I would not necessarily dispute that the idea of her putting on makeup is “silly”, but silliness has its place on Earth (that’s actually an idea I struggle with, but I admit the fact). So I read it as almost humorous - surely you wouldn’t argue it could affect suspension of disbelief in Marvel films, for crying out loud?

I do think, regardless of all of the above, that if someone hasn’t seen someone take such care of their appearance, that doesn’t mean people don’t do it. Although maybe I’m wrong.

I remember the point often made here that film should occupy a kind of middle ground between what works in terms of storytelling and reality. I guess I usually struggle with what that would look like in practical terms.



Registered User
Can we talk about the vaguely sexual "scissors the bad guy with her mighty thighs spins and throws him to the ground" maneuver? With or without make-up, this seems rather, shall we say, salacious? I mean, I know there are films where guys do this maneuver too (however, I challenge you to name a single film where a man does this trick to a woman - imagine the Rock's ass in some woman's face as he spins around to break her neck), but this seems to be a real favorite of "hens-fighting-roosters" action scenes.


This isn't to say that there isn't something vaguely sexual, even homoerotic, about male action, but male action is largely predicated on power/dominance. Female action scenes which are vaguely sexual, seem to me more direct in implying a sexual act -- enticing us to want to be near/touch the female (dare I use the word penetrate?), whereas the male fantasy appears to be that dominating, keeping away, subjecting everything to one's will.








Can we talk about the vaguely sexual "scissors the bad guy with her mighty thighs spins and throws him to the ground" maneuver? With or without make-up, this seems rather, shall we say, salacious? I mean, I know there are films where guys do this maneuver too (however, I challenge you to name a single film where a man does this trick to a woman - imagine the Rock's ass in some woman's face as he spins around to break her neck), but this seems to be a real favorite of "hens-fighting-roosters" action scenes.


This isn't to say that there isn't something vaguely sexual, even homoerotic, about male action, but male action is largely predicated on power/dominance. Female action scenes which are vaguely sexual, seem to me more direct in implying a sexual act -- enticing us to want to be near/touch the female (dare I use the word penetrate?), whereas the male fantasy appears to be that dominating, keeping away, subjecting everything to one's will.






Ha, dear Xenia Onatopp. I don’t disagree that it’s sexual, but perhaps there is indeed something inevitably and inherently sexual about male-female combat/interaction? I wouldn’t necessarily go all out endorsing that view, but it does not seem that improbable.



Registered User
Ha, dear Xenia Onatopp.



Ah yes. She had those improbably powerful hips-of-death. Xenia is about as on-the-nose as you can get with this sort of thing.



Ah yes. She had those improbably powerful hips-of-death. Xenia is about as on-the-nose as you can get with this sort of thing.
Indeed. And the surname too. *sigh*.



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
Okay, thank you. At any rate......Die Hard almost surely would've been worse if it retained the female baddies from the novel, but didn't change tonally as a result, since keeping the upsetting visual of McClane gunning down young women would've clashed with the relatively light tone of the rest of the movie (it's the same reason why John McTiernan changed the baddies from being ideologically pure terrorists to money-motivated "common thieves", after all). As for the second point, while it depends on the specific movie, and it obviously isn't automatically wrong for a film to depict or reference sexual assault against either gender, it's still a tricky thing to treat in a sufficiently reverent manner, and I dislike it when movies try to include it merely as a plot device, or as some form of cheap shock value (like in Gladiator).
But Die Hard 3 and 4 had female henchmen in that John killed and they both still manage to have just as light as a tone as the first movie though, didn't they?