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Discussion point May 26, 2006

Posted by Winter in film.
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Here at mind the gap we thought it might be nice to get a little online debate going and so we’ve decided to mix a few discussion points in with our usual posts to encorage debate. mind the gap was originally set up, in part, as a space where people could explore all kinds of feminism and related issues. So in the spirit of this, all comments and views are welcome, from what ever feminist perspective you are coming from, although we won’t publish any that are outright rude.

We have quite a nice gentle one to warm up with;

Why is it that in action movie franchises, the man pretty much always stays the same, but the women always change for each film (think James Bond)?

I’ll try and think of a more spiky issue for next time but intill then Ladies, gentlemen, you have the floor.

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1. bookdrunk - May 26, 2006

My first thought would be that the status of the male character is tied into his “manliness”, seen specifically as sexual virility: his ability to seduce and sleep with many women.

The women aren’t really characters so much as mobile props; they are proof of the male lead’s worth rather than essential characters in their own right, so can be fairly interchangeable. There are some exceptions to this but that’s the main trend in Bond, at least.

Consequently, the male leads in these films are designed primarily as wish fulfilment for men rather than women, even if the male characters are conventionally attractive for women. Cue implicit homoeroticism here. šŸ™‚

Oh, and I’d add that it isn’t just a case of films pandering to existing “natural” tastes – but also legitimising and (re)producing the circulation of specific kinds of desire.

2. I, Jester - May 27, 2006

I don’t have an answer to your question (I think bookdrunk pinned it down pretty well). But I do have an action film to recommend that reverses this dynamic nicely.

Bloody Mallory is a French vampire movie, featuring a vampire slayer called Mallory as the star. She “goes through” men in much the same way as James Bond goes through women. It’s a nice example of role-reversal. And a fun film, although I won’t pretend it’s “good” per se…

3. IrrationalPoint - May 28, 2006

I think Bookdrunk is right — the women aren’t characters in their own right, only testaments to the man’s manliness (the ones who are characters do stay, like the fabulous Judi Dench in Bond).

The expectations for manly men are different from those for action women. Can you imagine the flack a woman would get for being as much of a slut as Bond? The standards are different. Women action characters (eg Lara Croft) are not supposed to sleep around, otherwise their too independent. Instead, they are essentially monogamous.

–IP

4. belledame222 - May 28, 2006

I have always been similarly irritated/bemused by the Berlin song, you may recall:

HIM: I’m a man!

HER: I’m a goddess!

HIM: I’m a man!

HER: Well, I’m a virgin!

HIM: I’m a man!

HER: I’m a blue movie

HIM I’m a man!

HER: I’m a bitch

HIM: I’m a man!

HER: I’m your slave

HIM: I’m a man

HER: I’m a little girl

BOTH: We’ll make love together…

And I’m all, him and what army? seriously, damn.

5. Diane - May 29, 2006

What about action movies in which women are the protagonists? Do the men stay the same or are they different each time? I don’t know because I don’t watch many action movies.

6. Morwen - June 1, 2006

There aren’t many action movies with a female main character – and so fewer ongoing franchises to pick apart (certainly in the mainstream). These are the only ones I can think of:

-I think the Tomb Raider movies effectively repeated the same male character. Despite the Male Audience Security Blanket character being killed in the first one, a virtual duplicate is in the second. Also, on some level the gadget guy and the butler function like M/Moneypenny/Q/Robinson* for Bond (unexciting people at home), but also, having the men who live with Lara Croft be unmasculine by movie standards is also to put the men watching at ease. But they come back.

-Alien movies… Once (Aliens/Alien3). Well, kind of twice if you count Alien vs Predator (as part of the same franchise).

-Resident Evil, I say no: same “person”, different character (man turned into monster). I guess it depends how you feel about that one. Does the Evil Umbrella Chap turn up at the end of the first one for a few seconds? I suppose you could say that the mercenaries running about the city in the second one are clones of the super crack team of useless people from the first one.

So, based on a few minutes thought: Male characters come back in action franchises with female main characters when it’s for continuity.

I am damn sure there’s another ongoing series of action movies with a female lead, I just can’t remember what it is.

I remember now! Underworld! YOU SUCK, UNDERWORLD! *ahem* Underworld has the same annoying male character in it’s sequel. I was rather unimpressed.

Oh, Speed! Speed/Speed 2 changes male characters for no good plot reason – but like the Tomb Raiders, I seem to recall them sharing a lot of characterisitics. I can’t recall exactly, since I refuse to watch either again.

*The black MI6 staffer who seems to be edging Miss Moneypenny out of a job in the Bond films.


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