I heard that J.Lo is starring in a new action movie, so I read what it was about and my excitement dropped like the Tower of Terror, or any related sort of drop ride. Here’s IMDb:
“While fleeing from dangerous assailants, an assassin comes out of hiding to protect her daughter she left earlier in life.”
Sound familiar? Actually, it reminds me a bit of 2000s-era TV shows, I suppose the ones inspired by Buffy. Whether Dark Angel all the way through to Nikita, it’s always a woman on the run.
Maybe it’s Angelia Jolie in Salt or Taraji P. Henson in Proud Mary, Milla Jovovich in Ultraviolet, Gina Carano in Haywire, Karen Gillan in Gunpowder Milkshake, Melissa George in Hunted — sometimes they’re protecting a child, sometimes they’re just running away. Don’t want to get caught.
And I know that there are other kinds of women-led action movies (mostly revenge), and really, these are all just riffs on Bourne, but I’m here to register my discontent regardless. Along with the legacy of La Femme Nikita, where the woman is entrapped into her power and then liberates herself at the end (Anna, The Villainess), I hate this so much.
By pure coincidence, I’ve been reading The Violent Woman by Hilary Neroni, and just got to the part where she puts words to a long discomfort I’ve had with the inherent comedy of violent women in movies. They’ll always come up with some way to mitigate her, whether by winking at the camera or, in this case, ensuring her violence is self-defense.
Fuck that! I don’t want to see the violent woman running away from people, I want to see her running toward them. Or marching. Stalking — like Jason Vorhees. If she’s on the run, then a lot of the action set pieces can be chase scenes. No thank you.
The problem is that roles like these still “count.” The actress who does every genre — like Jennifer Lopez — can check “action heroine” off her list, and it’ll be impressive. But it won’t be iconic. Who really remembers any of the characters mentioned above? Maybe the Gina Carano one, but that’s because that movie was so brutal.
Of course, women’s violence makes people uncomfortable. The Violent Woman lays out the psychological reasons why. For example, why did Thelma and Louise go over the cliff at the end? We fear that once a woman turns violent, there’s no end to it, because there’s no frame of reference. Even male criminals are operating within an established system. Stuff like that. I think “woman on the run” is another strain of that discomfort. It’s palatable violence, and it’s bullshit.