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

Tools    





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.
I mostly agree with the gist of what you say here. Worth remembering too that James Bond was originally designed as an antihero anyway, so asking whether anyone needs that kind of hero at any point in history is a bit irrelevant. Ah well. I don’t know, the starting from scratch with female spies will definitely be a thing for years to come, so I don’t think there’s going to be a problem there.

But I also do think there was more to James Bond than womanising etc. It’s hard to pinpoint, but I think it was about a particular take on espionage, a “one man army” narrative which this series just happens to epitomise more than the Bourne stuff et al, coupled with his charm/wit which was always more than breaking bones. I honestly think personality goes a long way and that despite different actors, Bond has always had a fairly consistent personality, even if it wasn’t always reflected in the writing of individual films/plot lines.

Bigelow would probably do a stellar job indeed, but to me it doesn’t feel like her kind of project - I imagine she’d want full creative control and her own characters.

Speaking of female audiences feeling excluded from the Bond world, I don’t know - maybe. Would depend on the individual females, as with anything. I never felt that way, not as a kid nor as an adult. If anything, I liked being in the “boys’” club with my brothers as I never seemed to have much of a liking for anything made with female audiences in mind. I imagine there are women whose attention in a film will be solely drawn to the ways in which women are depicted/presented/treated/stereotyped in said film, but that’s really alien to me as an idea and seems like a tragically reductive approach.



I mostly agree with the gist of what you say here. Worth remembering too that James Bond was originally designed as an antihero anyway, so asking whether anyone needs that kind of hero at any point in history is a bit irrelevant. .

I would argue, whatever the initial intentions of him being an anti-hero (I can't argue either way because I have no idea what Fleming initially had in mind about the character) he has become a paragon of masculinity. Children role play 007. They imagine becoming him when they grow up. And I know more than a handful of adult men who place him on a pedastal for his womanizing and cavalier approach to violence. To me, an anti-hero is someone like Travis Bickel, a character who we grow to sympathize with in some ways, but whose behaviors we outright reject. No children dress up as Taxi Driver when they were kids (well, I probably would have if I had known about him).


But, regardless of this, I'm not personally arguing whether or not we require someone like Bond as a hero. I think it is fine to have morally compromised figures as heroes, since I believe there are also enough virtuous ones out there to balance things out. At least, ideally. But I definitely think it is a valid question for someone to ask if someone like Bond should be a hero, and if maybe we have culturally outgrown him. Because I think every assumption should always be challenged, just in general.



the starting from scratch with female spies will definitely be a thing for years to come, so I don’t think there’s going to be a problem there.

Probably. Which is why I don't think it's terribly important than Bond be taken over by a female character. And as said, I'm not against this really at all, I just personally think it's probably not where I would aim my energies if I was in a position to make these cultural shifts Stu is advocating for here.


Speaking of female audiences feeling excluded from the Bond world, I don’t know - maybe. Would depend on the individual females, as with anything. I never felt that way, not as a kid nor as an adult. If anything, I liked being in the “boys’” club with my brothers as I never seemed to have much of a liking for anything made with female audiences in mind. I imagine there are women whose attention in a film will be solely drawn to the ways in which women are depicted/presented/treated/stereotyped in said film, but that’s really alien to me as an idea and seems like a tragically reductive approach.

I'd be more than happy to be wrong about my assumption on this. And, FTR, I was entirely resistant to watching Bond films for much of my life, and it was one of my exes who really introduced me to them. So I am aware it's not an entirely exclusionary franchise (because what is?). But ever since then, I've known virtually zero woman who are fans. And, more often than not, they are openly hostile or dismissive to anything Bond related. But that's of course completely anecdotal, and so I would never suggest my personal experiences on this be entered into some sociological study. It's simply my gut feeling that maybe it is a franchise tainted in the eyes of many women already.



I would argue, whatever the initial intentions of him being an anti-hero (I can't argue either way because I have no idea what Fleming initially had in mind about the character) he has become a paragon of masculinity. Children role play 007. They imagine becoming him when they grow up. And I know more than a handful of adult men who place him on a pedastal for his womanizing and cavalier approach to violence. To me, an anti-hero is someone like Travis Bickel, a character who we grow to sympathize with in some ways, but whose behaviors we outright reject. No children dress up as Taxi Driver when they were kids (well, I probably would have if I had known about him).
Likewise. As well as practising the “You talkin’ to me?” in front of a mirror. Do you know of children dressing up as James Bond? I envy your surroundings if so! (This is not meant as snide/rude, just because I’ve been made aware I often come off as such).

And yes, I suppose the “every assumption deserves to be challenged” bit is reasonable. I do think it can sometimes serve to devalue the work/art that we have if one comes at it with a preemptively sceptical/revisionist attitude, but perhaps that’s natural. I do quite often, so can’t judge.

I'd be more than happy to be wrong about my assumption on this. And, FTR, I was entirely resistant to watching Bond films for much of my life, and it was one of my exes who really introduced me to them. So I am aware it's not an entirely exclusionary franchise (because what is?). But ever since then, I've known virtually zero woman who are fans. And, more often than not, they are openly hostile or dismissive to anything Bond related. But that's of course completely anecdotal, and so I would never suggest my personal experiences on this be entered into some sociological study. It's simply my gut feeling that maybe it is a franchise tainted in the eyes of many women already.
Well, you’re probably right that plenty of women would find something to criticise there. I think in the ideal world I’d call for everyone to take a step back and try to deranged being a woman/one’s female self (whatever that is, heh) from one’s response to art/entertainment, but I understand that it’s a personal choice to read more into stuff like the Bond films more than was perhaps intended, so that’s that.

I’d be hard pressed to think about a depiction of a woman that really, genuinely rubbed me the wrong way in the context we seem to be exploring here, within or outside the Bond franchise. The only example I can think of off the top of my head is A Beautiful
Mind
, which is a film I detest on every level (so that is clearly affecting my perception) and which, besides, is based on a true story (more or less), limiting the extent to which we can explore how Nash’s wife is written. But yeah, in that one the angelic patience and unfaltering commitment to Nash and the victim-like domesticity of the female character did annoy me; not because it was in any way reductive or made a truth claim to how women are/should be, but more because all that care and understanding seemed like a pathetic response to a situation
WARNING: spoilers below
that was putting the character’s children in mortal danger
. A response complicated by the fact that this, again, is one of my least favourite films ever and a more-or-less true story.

Realise this is a bit off topic as A Beautiful Mind certainly isn’t action. But I think (and in my experience of women as a woman) that the reports of women being outraged by the Bond films or other testosterone-fuelled and -fuelling series are just a tad exaggerated, is all.



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
Well it seems that Bond has a good number of both male and female fans so is there really a reason to change the gender when you already have the fans? It seems that it's a case of it's not broke, don't fix it?



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.
It's all in the specifics of that confrontation though, since the relative failure of Crash and its racial preachiness doesn't mean that you can't make a movie that's both socially aware and effective/entertaining at the same time, like with Do The Right Thing, and that goes for Action movies/blockbusters as well. So, the "dilemma" between either retaining Bond's sexist roots, or making more entertaining entries is a complete non-issue for me, since I never found the sexism to be part of the series' appeal (quite the opposite, in fact), so those roots don't have a right to prevail, as far as I'm concerned. I mean, something like Goldfinger is still a good movie, but that's despite its sexism, not because of it, and it would be more entertaining (and just a better film in general) without the scene of Bond dismissing a woman by nonchalantly spanking her on the ass and saying that it's time for "man talk".

Anyway, making a female/feminist Bond wouldn't automatically be a big achievement on its own (since we've already had multiple female-fronted blockbusters that failed to distinguish themselves otherwise), but that's why it matters if it's done well, and, while that would be more difficult than just keeping the status quo, it would arguably result in a better all-around film if done right; just because something's difficult doesn't mean it's not worth doing (in fact, it's usually the opposite). I mean, one of the reasons why Casino Royale was my favorite movie in the series is the way it rejected the sexism of the older Bonds, by making Vesper be a stronger, more equal character to James, as more of a "Bond woman" than just another interchangable girl for him to sleep with, which would've been the easier thing to do (and is why I'm grateful that they didn't take the easy route there).



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
Other Bond fans say the same thing that Vesper was more stronger than other Bond girls from before. But I don't really see her as anything new necessarily, because there were other stronger Bond girls that were more of a challenge for Bond such as Pussy Galore or Tracy Bond for example, and that's going way back. Unless I'm wrong?



It's all in the specifics of that confrontation though, since the relative failure of Crash and its racial preachiness doesn't mean that you can't make a movie that's both socially aware and effective/entertaining at the same time, like with Do The Right Thing, and that goes for Action movies/blockbusters as well. So, the "dilemma" between either retaining Bond's sexist roots, or making more entertaining entries is a complete non-issue for me, since I never found the sexism to be part of the series' appeal (quite the opposite, in fact), so those roots don't have a right to prevail, as far as I'm concerned. I mean, something like Goldfinger is still a good movie, but that's despite its sexism, not because of it, and it would be more entertaining (and just a better film in general) without the scene of Bond dismissing a woman by nonchalantly spanking her on the ass and saying that it's time for "man talk".

Anyway, making a female/feminist Bond wouldn't automatically be a big achievement on its own (since we've already had multiple female-fronted blockbusters that failed to distinguish themselves otherwise), but that's why it matters if it's done well, and, while that would be more difficult than just keeping the status quo, it would arguably result in a better all-around film if done right; just because something's difficult doesn't mean it's not worth doing (in fact, it's usually the opposite). I mean, one of the reasons why Casino Royale was my favorite movie in the series is the way it rejected the sexism of the older Bonds, by making Vesper be a stronger, more equal character to James, as more of a "Bond woman" than just another interchangable girl for him to sleep with, which would've been the easier thing to do (and is why I'm grateful that they didn't take the easy route there).
Maybe you’re right. I do think that, like it or not, that’s where the wind is blowing.



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.
Of course a feminist/female Bond movie could fail, and of course Hollywood could use that as an excuse to make less Blockbusters starring women, but so what? If that happens despite the film being good, then it was still worth it, IMO; should they have not taken the chance on making Fury Road an explicitly feminist Action movie because it ended up losing money? Of course not. I mean, the back-to-back financial failures of the Catwoman & Elektra spin-offs in the mid-2000's (and the subsequent decade-plus drought in female-lead Superhero movies that followed them) arguably wasn't because those movies starred women, but primarily just because they were bad movies in general, and they shouldn't have been taken as a warning to not make female Superhero movies, but to not make bad movies period, regardless of the gender of their star; I mean, Hollywood didn't use the failure of Batman & Robin as an excuse to stop making Superhero movies starring men, after all.


Besides, the industry and society as a whole has changed since then, and regardless of whatever female-lead failures come out in the future (which are going to be as inevitable as bombs starring men anyway), there's still an undeniable appetitite for more female represention in Blockbusters; I mean, literally one of the highest-grossing movies of all time (and still the number one at the North American box office) starred Daisy Ridley, and Hollywood isn't just going to forget about that, so making that point basically feels like using the industry's sexist past as an excuse to unintentionally keep holding women back in the present to me.



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?
No, because the deaths of both those women were less graphic than the male deaths in the same movies (even in the R-rated Vengeance, which actually had the ability to be more violent), so that's a tacit admission that portraying men killing women in graphic fashion would've contradicted the more entertaining tone that the series was going for. I mean, can you imagine how uncomfortable a lot of people would be with the sight of John shooting a woman's legs to bloody chunks in slow-motion during the "glass room" shootout in the original movie, or if they gender-swapped this scene in With A Vengeance so that it's a man over-killing a woman by slicing her to death with a knife?:




No, because the deaths of both those women were less graphic than the male deaths in the same movies (even in the R-rated Vengeance, which actually had the ability to be more violent), so that's a tacit admission that portraying men killing women in graphic fashion would've contradicted the more entertaining tone that the series was going for. I mean, can you imagine how uncomfortable a lot of people would be with the sight of John shooting a woman's legs to bloody chunks in slow-motion during the "glass room" shootout in the original movie, or if they gender-swapped this scene in With A Vengeance so that it's a man over-killing a woman by slicing her to death with a knife?:

The above is super-interesting and not something I’d ever truly considered, despite having seen a vast quantity of horror films. But assuming you’re right, do you not think that discomfort is odd? If the conversation is about equal representation and whatnot, surely the industry should be slowly getting used to exactly that? If we can have graphic scenes that linger on women dispatching men in rape revenge B-films, why not have a man graphically kill a female villain? I agree it’s not done often and therefore appears to be a bit taboo, but are you sure it’d really make people that uncomfortable?

Kill Bill, obviously, seeks to subvert all these things, so doesn’t really belong in the discussion (to my mind).

But the idea that there’s something wrong with men graphically killing women on screen reminds me of the conversations whether it’s “acceptable” to have villains who are gay or of a particular demographic, or whether that would serve as negative stereotyping. I think what you pinpoint above is, in a way, all the more reason to have such scenes with women being graphically killed. I remember the fuss over Irréversible with the same implication that it delights in and lingers on violence against women. But I think that, if anything, is equal treatment (assuming we even truly want that in film).

I remember the first time I watched Kill Bill, the eye scene lingered with me not because it was particularly graphic or disturbing, but because it still felt very unusual in that unflinching portrayal of women being beaten up. Million Dollar Baby is the only other example that comes to mind, and it’s obviously a very different thing, being a sports film. I think if the argument is that women deserve more and more equal representation in action films, then the best thing to do is to have more man-on-woman combat and make it as graphic as any combat featuring in action films. And then again, if one admits it will always be unequal on whichever level, that’s almost part of the problem.

I think it’s a very complex issue, honestly, and I think as with everything, there’s the danger of over-compensating. I remember reading Emerald Fennell’s interview about Promising Young Woman, and what struck me about her approach is how she explained the
WARNING: spoilers below
admittedly tragic ending where the protagonist dies, saying effectively, “I know viewers nowadays expect this cheery feminist fantasy when a wronged woman beats the **** out of men and survives unscathed, and that’s not what ever happens in real life, so I wanted to make my protagonist a real human who doesn’t have superpowers.”
I think that’s quite rare now.

Having women beaten up by men in action films and having them lose those fights is, to me, in a way, one of the most genuine ways of improving female representation on-screen. But as noted above, apparently that makes people really uncomfortable, because women want more women in action, but not more women losing.

I feel like for some time yet, whatever meta-changes are implemented in this regard would be judged as a box-ticking exercise (I, for one, would likely judge it as such) or as something inauthentic. As discussed in the old feminism thread, I do feel that women’s very presence in an action film needs to be justified more than men’s and that’s just because it really would be uncommon for them to engage in such activities as feature in those films. In The Times, WSJ and Tier 1 media, one often sees articles such as “Day in a Life: I am a Female Truck Driver” or “….Female Train Conductor”, that’s because these jobs are genuinely less common for women and hence draw attention.

An action film that sets featuring a leading woman as its target (among others) will just have a much harder time ensuring suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience. I mean, it’s a chicken and egg thing: I believe film industry shouldn’t necessarily spearhead change, but sometimes reflect it as an when it happens. But that’s not a popular view, so. *shrug*



Of course a feminist/female Bond movie could fail, and of course Hollywood could use that as an excuse to make less Blockbusters starring women, but so what? If that happens despite the film being good, then it was still worth it, IMO; should they have not taken the chance on making Fury Road an explicitly feminist Action movie because it ended up losing money? Of course not. I mean, the back-to-back financial failures of the Catwoman & Elektra spin-offs in the mid-2000's (and the subsequent decade-plus drought in female-lead Superhero movies that followed them) arguably wasn't because those movies starred women, but primarily just because they were bad movies in general, and they shouldn't have been taken as a warning to not make female Superhero movies, but to not make bad movies period, regardless of the gender of their star; I mean, Hollywood didn't use the failure of Batman & Robin as an excuse to stop making Superhero movies starring men, after all.


Besides, the industry and society as a whole has changed since then, and regardless of whatever female-lead failures come out in the future (which are going to be as inevitable as bombs starring men anyway), there's still an undeniable appetitite for more female represention in Blockbusters; I mean, literally one of the highest-grossing movies of all time (and still the number one at the North American box office) starred Daisy Ridley, and Hollywood isn't just going to forget about that, so making that point basically feels like using the industry's sexist past as an excuse to unintentionally keep holding women back in the present to me.

My point isn't that we should use potential failures to limit female representation in blockbusters (although we should probably take or heads out of the sand and recognize how a studio would likely treat this idea). My point also isn't that we shouldn't go ahead with a female James Bond retrofit if a good enough script warrants that movie be made. I think those points were pretty evident in what I wrote.



What I was saying is, if more female representation is the goal in these genres (and I agree it should be) I don't know what is gained through the energy of this particular fight of changing James Bond into a female. More than almost any other character that I can think of, Bond's 'maleness' is very much one of his defining characteristics. I don't know what Bond even is if you detach him from his legacy which is very much linked to outdated notions of what makes a man a man. His inherent sexism, for better or worse, is part of the characters DNA. He's a deliberate throwback to times where there was no shame in 'men being men derp'.



And as I've already said, maybe a really clever script could do something with this. But, let's just say I have deep doubts such a script would ever materialize. And if it doesn't, youre likely staring at a movie that feels like it only exists for the most superficial of reasons, which is not likely to generate much worthy discussion about the topic. So what would be the point? I don't see the great virtue of fighting that fight, when simply developing a new character would seem just as valuable (you know, one that maybe isn't already tainted with decades of misogyny) Or, if you're completely committed to sticking with the retrofitting aspect, how about doing so with a Bourne or a Taken, or something that doesn't feel necessarily 'male'. Whose legacy isn't directly attached to slapping asses and 'no really means yes please'.



Now, this is very different from me saying 'don't turn male characters into woman characters because might fail'. Because I would simultaneously argue that if you take what is arguably one of the most obviously 'male' action movies of our time--Predator--I think you at least have a fighting chance of making this a reboot that makes some kind of sense. There is no good reason that we need to exclude the possibility of a all female SWAT team going into a jungle, and using heavy artillery to mow down an alien Predator. The movie also has some kind of concept which is still fundamentally Predator, regardless of who the cast is. And it has all sorts of potential to usurp those kinds of traditional notions of maleness Predator was peddling--and maybe even parodying--by making it an all female cast. I can at least see the point in this.And it seems feasible since I don't even think you need to wait around for some whip smart script to do it. It could potentially just work on concept alone (obviously, a good script would be ideal, but not as fundamentally necessary)



But, all of this said, if they want to go ahead one day with a female rebrand of Bond, and even if they do so with an completely ass script, I would still support the decision. I'm just laying out my reasoning as to why I think it is a particularly perilous, and probably mostly pointless, one to tackle.


Now as for your examples of Fury Road and Force Awakens, yes both of those are great examples of how females can carry these franchises. And that all the people who gripe from the internet margins can go **** themselves with their petty grievances. But they are also pretty bad examples for what we are talking about. Neither Charlize Thieron or Daisy Ridley were replacing Mad Max or Luke Skywalker. In fact, so much so that both Max and Luke were still in those respective movies, just on the sidelines (and for the record, before you assume otherwise, I personally would be find if they did chose to make these characters women, since I don't think either Mad Max or Skywalker have any particular necessity to be male).


As for mentioning how Catwoman and Elektra were similarly used as canaries in this particular coalmine, and how it's a bull**** reason to not continue trying to make female oriented action movies. Yeah, I agree. 100 percent. And not only was it bull****, but I think it is important to understand how it is likely prophetic about what they would do in this case if it ever happened. Which is why it still needs to be mentioned, as infuriating as it may be.


Maybe I would be proven wrong, but my gut tells me they would almost certainly treat it as an afterthought of a movie even though (as I'm sure we both agree) it would be vital for it be clever and well thought out. The result of this would be that the would probably not put the resources behind it, treat it like a frivolous novelty, attach a hack director, and then when they dragged it out into the spotlight unfit for the scrutiny, it would already be standing in front of this enormous bullseye. Would I like it to be otherwise?. Of course. But I'm also being a realist as to what they would do, and I believe they would either consciously or unconsciously sabotage such a project that would (more than most) need to be developed excruciatingly carefully



And for what? This particular fight just seems like such a fools errand for so many reasons. To summarize:



1) What is Bond when you remove probably his most singularly brandable element (he's a man's man who gets to unapologetically live like its still 1955)


2) We have to have faith a studio would actually wait for and eventually receive a miraculously clever script that might make it work. Then treat it with the respect it would need.



3) Why Bond, when there are so many other possible franchises to try this with, that would probably work better and risk less for this particular cause


4) A female Bond probably really isn't as progressive a thing as we might like to tell ourselves



4) And, simply beyond all of this, if the goal is to look forward to new horizons where women can now get a better chunk of these genre film roles, why are we always looking backwards? Why don't we devote more of our creative energies to carving new roads for these kinds of characters, ones that maybe represent the present day, instead of once again taking the creatively stagnant root of just rebooting ****? Ideally, let's try and not hitch what we are trying to sell as our new and modern ideas to yesterday's news. It's just so bloody lazy.



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
Oh yes, I see what you mean, those are good points about Die Hard 1 wanting to keep a lighter tone.

As for women beating up men convincingly, I think part of the problem as to why it's not convincing in recent action movies, is because the actresses they higher are of average to less than average to petite build.

If they were to get female bodybuilders who are just jacked to play the part, then I think the female action could be a lot more convincing in my opinion. But there are female action heroes I found to be convincing though in fights, such as Gina Carano in Haywire.



The above is super-interesting and not something I’d ever truly considered, despite having seen a vast quantity of horror films. But assuming you’re right, do you not think that discomfort is odd? If the conversation is about equal representation and whatnot, surely the industry should be slowly getting used to exactly that? If we can have graphic scenes that linger on women dispatching men in rape revenge B-films, why not have a man graphically kill a female villain? I agree it’s not done often and therefore appears to be a bit taboo, but are you sure it’d really make people that uncomfortable?

Kill Bill, obviously, seeks to subvert all these things, so doesn’t really belong in the discussion (to my mind).

But the idea that there’s something wrong with men graphically killing women on screen reminds me of the conversations whether it’s “acceptable” to have villains who are gay or of a particular demographic, or whether that would serve as negative stereotyping. I think what you pinpoint above is, in a way, all the more reason to have such scenes with women being graphically killed. I remember the fuss over Irréversible with the same implication that it delights in and lingers on violence against women. But I think that, if anything, is equal treatment (assuming we even truly want that in film).

I remember the first time I watched Kill Bill, the eye scene lingered with me not because it was particularly graphic or disturbing, but because it still felt very unusual in that unflinching portrayal of women being beaten up. Million Dollar Baby is the only other example that comes to mind, and it’s obviously a very different thing, being a sports film. I think if the argument is that women deserve more and more equal representation in action films, then the best thing to do is to have more man-on-woman combat and make it as graphic as any combat featuring in action films. And then again, if one admits it will always be unequal on whichever level, that’s almost part of the problem.

I think it’s a very complex issue, honestly, and I think as with everything, there’s the danger of over-compensating. I remember reading Emerald Fennell’s interview about Promising Young Woman, and what struck me about her approach is how she explained the
WARNING: spoilers below
admittedly tragic ending where the protagonist dies, saying effectively, “I know viewers nowadays expect this cheery feminist fantasy when a wronged woman beats the **** out of men and survives unscathed, and that’s not what ever happens in real life, so I wanted to make my protagonist a real human who doesn’t have superpowers.”
I think that’s quite rare now.

Having women beaten up by men in action films and having them lose those fights is, to me, in a way, one of the most genuine ways of improving female representation on-screen. But as noted above, apparently that makes people really uncomfortable, because women want more women in action, but not more women losing.

I feel like for some time yet, whatever meta-changes are implemented in this regard would be judged as a box-ticking exercise (I, for one, would likely judge it as such) or as something inauthentic. As discussed in the old feminism thread, I do feel that women’s very presence in an action film needs to be justified more than men’s and that’s just because it really would be uncommon for them to engage in such activities as feature in those films. In The Times, WSJ and Tier 1 media, one often sees articles such as “Day in a Life: I am a Female Truck Driver” or “….Female Train Conductor”, that’s because these jobs are genuinely less common for women and hence draw attention.

An action film that sets featuring a leading woman as its target (among others) will just have a much harder time ensuring suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience. I mean, it’s a chicken and egg thing: I believe film industry shouldn’t necessarily spearhead change, but sometimes reflect it as an when it happens. But that’s not a popular view, so. *shrug*
I think you answered your own question there; graphic violence against women in media is more taboo exactly because it makes people uncomfortable. At any rate, I don't think the discomfort around portraying violence against women in Action movies is odd, because society in general has conditioned us to be more sensitive to such portrayals in art, and when progressive-minded people advocate for gender equality in media, I think they generally mean that female characters should be portrayed with the same level of respect and complexity that's afforded to men by default, and not necessarily that women should face 100% of the same level of violence in media that men do. Of course, if there's going to be any sort of gender equality in Action movies, that does mean that women are going to be "fair game" to a certain extent, similar to the way that men historically always have been in the genre, but I think it's less a case that violence against women should be portrayed with the same level of graphicness as men, but maybe that we should be more sensitive towards portrayals of violence in general, regardless of the involved gender (because good movie or not, I do think there's something vaguely pornographic about the close-up of the goon's legs getting shot to shreds in slow-motion in Die Hard).

There's also the issue of the intentions of the genre in question, which is why I think violence against women is portrayed more often and more graphically in Horror movies, because watching people be chased, tortured, or killed for the entirety of a movie is naturally more disturbing and, well, horrifying to many if you're watching big, strong men do it to smaller, presumably more vunerable woman. And, while Action movies can disturb as well, since violence against women in the genre is often also perpetuated against innocent women by the baddies, and usually fulfills the same basic purpose as it does in Horror movies (to undeniably demonstrate just how evil the bad guys are to the audience), the general intention of Action movies is still to excite more than anything else, which is kind of hard to do if you're constantly upsetting the audience instead, so it's no surprise that the genre tends to be less graphic with violence against the women than it does the men. I mean, I have no issue with, say, John Wick killing a henchwoman in self-defense when she targets him first, but at the same time, I still get why the women's deaths would generally be less graphic anyway.



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
What about if a female action hero had to have a really brutal fight like John McClane did with Karl in Die Hard and it just got really bloody, like in that fight... Would it be better if it were two women fighting or is it okay, for a female action hero to take a bloody beating as long as she wins?

If it were reversed, and it was a female villain fighting an action hero man, I am guessing you still want to see the hero loose the fight a lot at first, but I would be okay with a fight getting dirty and bloody if it was a good story that justifies it. If Die Hard can get away with such gore, I feel it would be double-standard-ish of me to criticizes it if one of the genders is female perhaps.



Registered User
Personally, I'd like to see the 90 pound manic pixie ass kicker tear through a platoon of little people (e.g., Warwick Davis, Verne Troyer). It would be a woman kicking the crap out of evil men, which would be good (gotta smash the patriarchy), but they would be so much smaller that it would not be a fair fight (e.g., the reason why we have cultural rules about men not hitting women), which would be bad. I mean like Kill Bill levels of violence, complete with quips assaulting their masculinity ("What's the matter? I only punch like a girl!" SMASH!!!!).



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
Why does the action hero have to insult masculinity though? I mean it's not like that would have to do with the story, would it?



My point isn't that we should use potential failures to limit female representation in blockbusters (although we should probably take or heads out of the sand and recognize how a studio would likely treat this idea). My point also isn't that we shouldn't go ahead with a female James Bond retrofit if a good enough script warrants that movie be made. I think those points were pretty evident in what I wrote.

What I was saying is, if more female representation is the goal in these genres (and I agree it should be) I don't know what is gained through the energy of this particular fight of changing James Bond into a female. More than almost any other character that I can think of, Bond's 'maleness' is very much one of his defining characteristics. I don't know what Bond even is if you detach him from his legacy which is very much linked to outdated notions of what makes a man a man. His inherent sexism, for better or worse, is part of the characters DNA. He's a deliberate throwback to times where there was no shame in 'men being men derp'.

And as I've already said, maybe a really clever script could do something with this. But, let's just say I have deep doubts such a script would ever materialize. And if it doesn't, youre likely staring at a movie that feels like it only exists for the most superficial of reasons, which is not likely to generate much worthy discussion about the topic. So what would be the point? I don't see the great virtue of fighting that fight, when simply developing a new character would seem just as valuable (you know, one that maybe isn't already tainted with decades of misogyny) Or, if you're completely committed to sticking with the retrofitting aspect, how about doing so with a Bourne or a Taken, or something that doesn't feel necessarily 'male'. Whose legacy isn't directly attached to slapping asses and 'no really means yes please'.

Now, this is very different from me saying 'don't turn male characters into woman characters because might fail'. Because I would simultaneously argue that if you take what is arguably one of the most obviously 'male' action movies of our time--Predator--I think you at least have a fighting chance of making this a reboot that makes some kind of sense. There is no good reason that we need to exclude the possibility of a all female SWAT team going into a jungle, and using heavy artillery to mow down an alien Predator. The movie also has some kind of concept which is still fundamentally Predator, regardless of who the cast is. And it has all sorts of potential to usurp those kinds of traditional notions of maleness Predator was peddling--and maybe even parodying--by making it an all female cast. I can at least see the point in this.And it seems feasible since I don't even think you need to wait around for some whip smart script to do it. It could potentially just work on concept alone (obviously, a good script would be ideal, but not as fundamentally necessary)

But, all of this said, if they want to go ahead one day with a female rebrand of Bond, and even if they do so with an completely ass script, I would still support the decision. I'm just laying out my reasoning as to why I think it is a particularly perilous, and probably mostly pointless, one to tackle.

Now as for your examples of Fury Road and Force Awakens, yes both of those are great examples of how females can carry these franchises. And that all the people who gripe from the internet margins can go **** themselves with their petty grievances. But they are also pretty bad examples for what we are talking about. Neither Charlize Thieron or Daisy Ridley were replacing Mad Max or Luke Skywalker. In fact, so much so that both Max and Luke were still in those respective movies, just on the sidelines (and for the record, before you assume otherwise, I personally would be find if they did chose to make these characters women, since I don't think either Mad Max or Skywalker have any particular necessity to be male).

As for mentioning how Catwoman and Elektra were similarly used as canaries in this particular coalmine, and how it's a bull**** reason to not continue trying to make female oriented action movies. Yeah, I agree. 100 percent. And not only was it bull****, but I think it is important to understand how it is likely prophetic about what they would do in this case if it ever happened. Which is why it still needs to be mentioned, as infuriating as it may be.

Maybe I would be proven wrong, but my gut tells me they would almost certainly treat it as an afterthought of a movie even though (as I'm sure we both agree) it would be vital for it be clever and well thought out. The result of this would be that the would probably not put the resources behind it, treat it like a frivolous novelty, attach a hack director, and then when they dragged it out into the spotlight unfit for the scrutiny, it would already be standing in front of this enormous bullseye. Would I like it to be otherwise?. Of course. But I'm also being a realist as to what they would do, and I believe they would either consciously or unconsciously sabotage such a project that would (more than most) need to be developed excruciatingly carefully

And for what? This particular fight just seems like such a fools errand for so many reasons. To summarize:

1) What is Bond when you remove probably his most singularly brandable element (he's a man's man who gets to unapologetically live like its still 1955)

2) We have to have faith a studio would actually wait for and eventually receive a miraculously clever script that might make it work. Then treat it with the respect it would need.

3) Why Bond, when there are so many other possible franchises to try this with, that would probably work better and risk less for this particular cause

4) A female Bond probably really isn't as progressive a thing as we might like to tell ourselves

4) And, simply beyond all of this, if the goal is to look forward to new horizons where women can now get a better chunk of these genre film roles, why are we always looking backwards? Why don't we devote more of our creative energies to carving new roads for these kinds of characters, ones that maybe represent the present day, instead of once again taking the creatively stagnant root of just rebooting ****? Ideally, let's try and not hitch what we are trying to sell as our new and modern ideas to yesterday's news. It's just so bloody lazy.
I'd say a ton would be gained by Bond making an effective transition into explicit feminism or having a female lead, and it wouldn't necessarily be that jarring a change, either; for one thing, to a certain extent, it would merely be an extension of a process that's already been going on within the series for some time now, a process that's undeniably changed the series for the better. I mean, do you not feel that Vesper being an unexpectedly strong-willed and independent woman in Casino Royale made her a better character, and by extension, made that a better Bond movie (which, again, is still my favorite in the series)?

Besides, it's a necessary change, because regardless of Bond being partially defined by his inherent sexism earlier in the series, the movies were good not because of that sexism, but despite it, so drawing the line here and now makes little sense; the series has been around for over half a century now, and they've always been set in and reflected contemporary times, so it's inevitable that the series was going to evolve to reflect the changes in society since the 60's, and trying to keep the character frozen in time makes little sense, and is just counter-intuitive. I mean, the AV Club just posted an entire list dedicated to detailing the examples of when Bond adapted to its times, so trying to resist that would just be steering away from the curve of progress (and off a cliff like those guys in Dr. No), instead of steering into it so it can get ahead of that curve, which is what it should be doing, as far as I'm concerned.

And the legacy of the series' sexism is the reason why explicitly rejecting that would say more than making a female Bourne successor or reboot, because that character obviously doesn't have the same taint, so doing so would carry so much less weight; a series can't drop baggage that it wasn't carrying in the first place, which is why Bond has to be the franchise to reject all of that. And I'm not saying that a female Bond would automatically be a good use of energy if it had a lazy, pandering, or mediocre script, which is why my point is predicated on the premise that they have a good script, which they have had before.

It's the same basic thing for the point about Max & Luke being there to pass the torch onto Furiosa & Rey, since there's obviously nothing stopping them from doing the same thing with Bond (in fact, Skyfall already teased this with having Moneypenny joining in on the action early on, and that movie would've been better if it had "pulled the trigger" on this idea, instead of her to go back to being just a secretary after she messed up, which was pretty disappointing to me). And of course, it's important to remember the way Hollywood's reacted to failed female blockbusters in the past, but again, things have changed since then, and it's only important to remember that in order to argue against Hollywood doing it again, so they won't again assume that audiences just don't like the "novelty" of female-lead Blockbusters (instead of those just being ****ty movies, the same thing as with any lousy film starring a man).



Registered User
Why does the action hero have to insult masculinity though? I mean it's not like that would have to do with the story, would it?

Sure it would. That's the liberating and ennobling part. Showing again, for the first time, women in a dominant role on screen. Denied that role by leading males of past movies, she takes would be leading men down a notch, making a statement about female empowerment. Her misandristic quips countering the misogynistic quips of James Bond. Girls rule. Guys drool. If it was just a competent protag that happened to be human, that would not be feminist, but humanist. To focus on the intersection of action and gender, you have to make a statement about gender through the dialogue and action.



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
Sure it would. That's the liberating and ennobling part. Showing again, for the first time, women in a dominant role on screen. Denied that role by leading males of past movies, she takes would be leading men down a notch, making a statement about female empowerment. Her misandristic quips countering the misogynistic quips of James Bond. Girls rule. Guys drool. If it was just a competent protag that happened to be human, that would not be feminist, but humanist. To focus on the intersection of action and gender, you have to make a statement about gender through the dialogue and action.
I guess that would depend on how you make the statement, as to whether or not I would be into it or not. When people say they want to change James Bond around to make a statement about how men suck, it sounds like these people, don't even like James Bond and are just using it to do something that comes from a negative place perhaps. It just sounds negative, like they are not real fans, when people say things like that.

Bond himself has misogynstic qualites, but I never thought of the moves as making a political/philosophical statement though.

But with this kind of talk it feels like people who say this don't want to make a real movie with a real story, and are just using a movie as a vehicle for a 'screw men'. Where as I want the filmmakers to make a movie because they actually want to. But that's just what it comes off as.