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Thursday, May 24, 2012

On Ladies & Superheros

There's a game that Eric and I like to play called "Better If They Were Gay."*

It all started one fateful night a few months back, when we were watching Frasier.**  I said (or Eric said, I can't remember which) that the show would be better if Niles and Frasier were a gay couple instead of brothers.

And that's when Eric and I started talking about other shows that would be better if they were a gay couple. Also mentioned were: Sherlock & Watson, Drake & Josh, Lenny & Carl... I'm blanking right now. But feel free to add onto this list.

It's not that I'm against women or romance. I enjoy both. I just don't like a lady being thrown in for no good reason. Often times, said lady is a 2-dimensional character with very little to offer the scene other than the fact that she is very pretty and is probably mothering/putting leading male in his place, and interfering with the chemistry between the two male leads.

Sometimes I feel like they put ladies in there just to remind you that these two characters aren't gay, because otherwise they totally would be. And to that I say, if the lady isn't bringing anything to the table, don't put her there.

Yes, I think it would be great if all ladies had well-written fully-developed characters. But I would rather see fewer ladies in movies than frequently seeing them appearing as eye-candy and arm-trophies and as some abstract justification for an action.

I was watching Thor the other day, and I quite liked it.*** I love Natalie Portman. She is my third favorite actress of all time (below Anjelica Huston & Kate Winslet but above Bette Midler). But I have never been more annoyed with a female character in a film before. I have no idea why her character was even there.

No, I have not read the Thor comics and I have no idea if her character even exists in them let alone how fleshed out she is in there. She might be the greatest character in all of comic book history, but that was not how she was presented to me in the film. I'm basing my opinion on her solely on that.

This got me to thinking about all the other superhero movies I've watched. Almost all of them have a girl. Almost none of the girls do anything except look pretty and provide some kind of abstract motivation for said hero to do something (often saving pretty lady from some form of distress).

So this is my plea to anyone making these movies: stop doing that. I would rather watch a superhero movie with zero ladies in it than see one more Jane Foster-esque character. The heroes don't need them. Do you know why Captain America wants to save the world? Because HE IS F****NG CAPTAIN AMERICA! He doesn't need a pretty lady to remind him of that.

What I'm saying is that either give me a well-rounded lady (well-rounded equal to or greater than the male lead in the film - I'll work it to scale) or don't have her there. I am sick of it. You can have pictures of Megan Fox in the background. Or maybe a little thought bubble floating above the screen where Natalie Portman winks and waves at you, then disappears.

Give me liberty or give me death.******

And what I'm usually saying when I say "This would be better if they were gay" is: "I am more emotionally invested in the two male characters because they are drawn-out fully formed characters while the female character gives me nothing to root for other than the fact that she is pretty and for some reason the dude seems into her."******

People are going to want to give me examples of strong-leading ladies to contradict the sentiments in this blog, and I encourage you to do so. I also by no means think that every lady in a movie is unnecessary or lame. Black Widow was quite good, and I think that Pepper Potts does a good job of balancing out Tony Stark. 

I'm not saying this a rule or that every film is this way. Or that I don't want to see ladies in films. What I'm saying is that I love Batman and Captain America, and I wish were there were more ladies in movies that I admired and aspired to be like as much as I do them.

I guess I just want there to be more characters like Ellen Ripley and fewer like Jane Foster. If there's no room for real ladies in film, you don't need to just shove one there. It doesn't make it a well-rounded movie. It just makes me annoyed.

Oh, This Means War came out on DVD & Bluray this week. It falls under this heading also. You should read my review: here, and then also watch it because it has Tom Hardy and Anjela Bassett. Also Chris Pine.

*We don't actually like to play this. We played it one time, listed everything that would be better, and then called it a day. I occasionally still play this game by myself, wherein I see something and think, "This would be better if they were gay." Then I quit. Because that's how you play the game.

**Six months ago or so, I was super into Frasier. I still think it's a tremendously funny show, but now I've seen every episode on the Hallmark channel, and I'm done.

***Did you guys know that Kenneth Branagh directed it? I know, RIGHT? It makes so much sense when I thought about it, but I never saw it coming.

****UCKI

*****Please do not give me death.

******Daphne was completely developed on Frasier. Niles and Frasier were just super gay. 



29 comments:

  1. Haha, very true. I also think this ALL the time. I'm too tired to try and come up with any female roles in which the character is NOT lacking severly, but can think of a few that are... *cough, cough, Twilight*. I think that's why I enjoy your books; even when your female character has flaws or is weak, she is still very much a three dimensional character and has so much to offer. Hollowland was especially wonderful. Though your characters are the lead and not a mundane aspect. Even so, this post made me laugh.

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  2. Emma Peel kicked some serious ass in "The Avengers" 45 years ago. ... Black Widow was great - loved how she tricked Loki ...

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  3. All I can think about now is how super hot Supernatural would be if Dean and Sam were a gay couple and not brothers. Then they would have been even hotter/cuter than they are and the show could lose some of those boring love interests (like Ruby).
    Love the Trylle books by the way (as a Norwegian I'm totally into trolls ;) ) Really looking forward to reading Wake.

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  4. Ahhhhh!!!!! I don't know if its possible, but you just got infinitely cooler. As a Freshman in college I bought every season of Frasier and watched them all in about two months. I didn't even like Frasier himself that much, but Niles pining for Daphne was kind of the greatest thing in the entire world ever ever ever.

    And I totally agree with you on the gals in superhero movies thing. I think we're getting better, but...I guess we'll see what happens.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

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  5. Charlize Theron as the villain in the upcoming Snow White & the Huntsman!

    Obviously not a superhero, but a strong female character nonetheless : )

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  6. Thank you for articulating EXACTLY what I feel about these types of lady-roles. This is something I find myself noticing more and more frequently when watching movies.
    The part about the thought bubble with Natalie Portman is PRICELESS.
    <3, b

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  7. I'm so glad you mentioned Drake and Josh! I so wanted Josh to be gay, but they had to keep trying to get him a girlfriend (although I did love Mindy!). Josh's character just seemed like it would have expanded perfectly as a gay teen, but played as straight, I literally just had to get over that. I wasn't looking to put a gay character somewhere just to do it - to me it just felt like Josh's character was gay.

    And I really liked Daphne on Frasier, but that show drove me crazy after she and Niles got together because come on, Niles was gay! I'm sorry, I just couldn't see him as straight, ever. Although I did think it was so funny when - was it Patrick Stewart's character when he liked Frasier? - someone thought Frasier was gay but was certain Niles was! argh talk about forcing a straight role where it didn't belong!

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  8. Jane Foster, you were supposed to be a scientist not a giggling teenager. In fact, I was actually happy when Thor broke the Bifrost just to have a break from you. Wasted potential of a character makes me furious!!

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  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    Replies
    1. ^ Note, that had nothing to do with the post above. ^

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  10. Very cool post. My novel, The Destiny of Ethan King, features a gay protagonist. It's an urban fantasy and when the character first formed in my head, he was gay. It's almost incidental to the story line, but it's the way it had to be.

    Perhaps the story would appeal to a greater audience if Ethan King were straight, but then I would have felt like I had cheated him somehow.

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  11. Hi Amanda,

    Shows--The Golden Girls(classic) and Buffy. I used to watch Frasier, but I still watch the aforementioned.

    Movies--Milla Jovovich(Alice--Resident Evil) and Gabriel Union. She's tough in every movie she's in. Rent DELIVER US FROM EVA. Lol.

    There are lots more but I'm sleepy. Lol. ;-)

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  12. I like this blog so much. I have liked it so much that I have saved it to my bookmarks .

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  13. I hear you, Amanda. There's something called the Bechdel test that I find myself thinking about when I'm watching a show or movie: (1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man.

    This test doesn't stop me from enjoying a good flick but it does make me think about the overall picture. It is amazing how many mainstream movies/series fail the test.

    "Supernatural" fails the test 99.9% of the time but I am willing to overlook that for the sheer pleasure of watching Sam and Dean hunt beasties. And since the characters are brothers they have an emotional bond that simply being buddies would not allow.

    Also looking forward to another Hollowmen adventure when you're ready.

    P.S. I'm having a hard time not posting as 'anonymous'. I am L. Margaret Martin in case it doesn't show up top when I publish.

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  14. X-Men First Class, for reals, yo. :)

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  15. Hmm. I'm thinking Cat Woman in the next Batman movie. Cat Woman has always been a strong, crafty, better-off-alone female.

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  16. You've just given me an idea for a screenplay about two super heroes that are lesbians... Well-rounded, totally fleshed out women who kick ass and don't need a man in any way, shape, or form.

    Or maybe, just to turn the tables and even out the score a little, they'll be straight but their boyfriends will be the ones who are flat eye-candy trophies for the women.

    **runs to open new Word doc and start writing it**

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  17. Would you mind if I do a shameless plug? My forthcoming novel "A Hero's Journey" is about a young woman who becomes a superhero. I went to great pains to try and make her slightly more realistic, not a Barbie doll in tights and spike heels. Even though I'm a straight male, I still think the way women are portrayed in comics (and most comic book movies) is pretty lame. As you said they're usually arm candy or otherwise window dressing, which is symptomatic of Hollywood as a whole where most women are cast more for their talents than their talent.

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  18. Replies
    1. They've both had girlfriends. So I'm assuming that they aren't.

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  19. As a fantasy movie executive with huge stacks of money, I'd love to take great movies with an all-male cast and remake them with all women. Guy movies are always about doing stuff. Going somewhere. Getting the suitcase. Whatever. Girl movies are about getting a makeover so you can get a guy. (Sweeping generalizations abound in this example.) I would love to see Stand By Me, for girls. This doesn't exist. The closest I've ever seen is Ghost World, which was, when I saw it, a revelation, because for the first time ever, I saw myself and my teenage best friend in a movie.

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    1. Love stand by me. A girl adventure? Yes, yes, yes. Girl version of without a paddle (hee-hee). What about Now and Then, too girly?

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  20. Clark Kent and Lex Luthor. I'm on the fence as to whether that would genuinely have made Smallville better, or if just coming from my somewhat yaoi obsessed mind.

    I would love to see stronger female characters, appreciating that there are different kinds of strength. Pepper Potts can't match Tony Stark on the battlefield, but she's as intelligent as he is, and she's no simpering damsel.

    I thought the creators of Dark Knight did an admirable job of depicting Rachel Dawes as confident and intelligent. And I really hope Gwen Stacey is well developed in the new Spiderman movie. I hated Mary Jane in the Sam Raimi movies with a passion.

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