Sunday, 11 June 2017

Sunday June 11th, 2017 Wonder Women

The release of Wonder Woman, the latest film adaptation based on the DC comic books, was a major step forward for female character driven films. Not only was it a critical darling, it was a box office success for a female centered film. Surprisingly, the character of Wonder Woman, introduced in 1941, has never achieved the level of fame as other DC characters, such as Superman or Batman. This new entry presents Wonder Woman, not as a romantic or comic foil, but as a bold and determined fighter trying to bring about an end to World War I. Strong female characters like Wonder Woman serve also to remind us of other beloved female literary and cinematic icons.

One of the most memorable female heroines in recent years is Lisbeth Salander, the mysterious computer hacker who fights to protect woman from violence in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005). What makes Salander such a brilliant creation is the writer’s refusal to create her into a clich├ęd avenging angel. Instead, the reader is treated to a nuanced depiction of a fully realized character that uses her intelligence and skill to seek and defend the truth. The progression of Salander’s story continues onto the The Girl Who Played With Fire (2006) and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest (2007). The series continued most recently with the addition of The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2015).  

Clarice Starling, the main character in The Silence of the Lambs is a similar example of a woman who completely commits herself to a professional calling in order to rescue a missing woman. Published in 1988 and accompanied by a film version in 1991, FBI agent Starling’s pursuit for justice was complicated by her gender in a male-dominated environment. One of the underlying themes in both the novel and film is the latent sexism and harassment that Starling endures while trying to competently determine the location of a missing woman at the hands of a sadistic serial killer.

The ongoing Alien franchise is another example of female led action films that have shown that when it comes to battling blood thirsty extraterrestrials, woman have proven to be the stronger sex. Ridley Scott’s 1979 Alien introduced audiences to Ellen Ripley, a space officer aboard the Nostromo, who fights to protect her crew from an alien life form that threatens to kill everyone on board. Ripley’s story continues into the sequel Aliens (1986) and Alien 3 (1992), all of which have left an indelible impact in the plethora of science fiction films. Most recently, the display of awesome feminine strength continues with Elizabeth Shaw, a scientist hoping to discover the origins of human life in Prometheus (2012), a prequel to Alien.

Strong female characters, however, do not have to be good or virtuous in order to demonstrate their strengths. Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (2012) is a powerful example of how a female character challenges sexist thought and observation about women by employing a sinister deception to demonstrate her point. On the surface level, Gone Girl may seem like well-crafted pulp fiction about murder and deception, but a closer observation reveals a complex feminist commentary on gender roles. The discussion of gender roles can also be found in television, most notably in House of Cards. The anti-hero Claire Underwood in the hit show depicts a woman in power who resorts to questionable actions in order to prove her worth among her colleagues in order to obtain one of the highest positions in the world: the American presidency.`

Petar Vidjen

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