Our Sci-Fi Women
11th May 2008 at 10:23 pm #41206
Hello there, I come to you this hour of need hoping you guys know your genre, inside out.;)
I’m preparing some research on women and their
representation within Science Fiction films. (as you do:P). Firstly, let’s
jog that memory of the oldies and the more modern ones. Now, a circulating theory is that women within film are passive – they are the objects rather than
subjects that are typically male.
However, do you think modern Science Fiction films seem to,
or intend to, break this? Ever since the iconic example of Ripely, this seems
to be true, compared to the old B-movie’s damsel-in-distress. Can you speculate
why women are being presented as active ‘kick-ass’ subjects in the Science Fiction genre?
And, is this more so in Science Fiction than other genres?
Lastly, do you (and your gender counts:P), identify with
female leads and active females? Is this more so if the female acts like a man or not? Or is it because they’re clad tight in leather?
…just some prompts for a
hopeful , juicy discussion.:P12th May 2008 at 6:34 am #77763
I have a far from all-encompassing knowledge of science fiction as a genre, among many other things, but I’ll have a go at it.
I think there was a movement at one time, with Ripley and Sarah Connor, to break womens’ passive roles in film, but I doubt it was ever more than an attempt to cash in on what was profitable at the time. Increasingly, women have become more and more unbelievably (as in 4 inch long nails, professional make-up and impractical costumes) attractive in the science-fiction and action genres, in order to cash in on the increasing emphasis on what’s currently considered attractive. They’re still the object of the monster, incident or situation. There are some shows and movies that re-propogate the old "strong woman behind the man" idea. She may be strong, but she’s still behind the man. At least most of them aren’t too patronizingly obvious about it.
I feel that the tendency for less passive females is more prevalent in the sci-fi, horror and action genres simply because its a necessary component. Eye candy of both sexes is an important part of the blockbuster movie/highly-rated show equation. But both sexes need to be able to hold their own, to avoid the obvious stereotyping that would make waves.
As an everday female Joe-ette, I don’t really identify with very many of the females exhibited anywhere in popular entertainment as far as appearance in concerned. I identify with female leads whose characters think. Not the scheming female type thinking, but using actual logic to avoid walking into traps or dangerous situations. I appreciate that sexism isn’t as blatant as it used to be, but I’m cynical enough to believe that it’s more attributable to profit margin than changing attitudes.
Ultimately, I don’t really analyze what I view that intently. What I consider entertaining may be funny, moving, horrific, arousing or any number of other things depending on my mood. I want to be entertained, and if I’m not I stop watching. End of story.
That’s my two cents. Won’t get ya too far, but you asked for it.12th May 2008 at 11:26 pm #77764
I’m with aqua on much of this….. and hey Aqua, what the fuck is going on with the recent (or maybe not so recent) trend like in Supernatural where every beautiful woman dies – usually horribly – AND that’s a show aimed at women!!
I do notice that women in sci fi can, at times, lead active lead roles some of which can be, intelligent, interesting even overtly antagonistc to men and yet still very feminine. In particular Zev/Xev from LEXX and Ivanova from Babylon 5. Both series, but the series let you can explore the character more so than in a film.
Xev was portrayed as a sex slave yet she was far from submissive. Ivannova played a hard nosed commander who broke down when a prospective lover was killed trying to save her life (those imortal lines, "and I never even boffed him…. sob, sob…")
Sci fi has grown up a lot since that prehiostoric film with wassername, erm… Raquel something.
And yet, the film that portrayed the woman of this geezers fantasy was (and I’m sure many other sadgeezers would agree), Barbarella. Our heroine was a nieve, bimboesque sort of character that simply wouldn’t be allowed to be portrayed nawadays. And rightly so, If I saw a modern remake of Barbarella with the same personality, I’d be turned off and worse, dissinterested. Modern female characters in sci fi are more interesting because our view of the female role in society has changed. It’s possible now to have a strong female hero playing along a male wimp, it actually makes her more sexy! Unheard of 20 years ago.
My missus very much appreciates her masculine husband, but god forbid I tell her to clean the house or wash the dishes if the kitchen is untidy! And I (for my part) would expect her top organise things and take and equal role in important decisions – in fact I demand it! (she didn’t watch me write this by the way 🙂
And sexually, hell – I have a fantasy about meeting a beautiful bimboesque female and taking her home to meet the wife!
I think (obviously this is from a male perspective) that men are less intimidated by strong female characters nowadays – especially in sci fi (writers can get away with a lot more in sci fi).
And yet… I godda say that space babes are very sexy. I know, I know, I was doing so well!! But there seems to be something more interesting about a beautiful female character in an alien universe. Sci Fi ladies seem more attractive (except of course in Battlestar Galactica – not countling the female robots of course – god forbid!).
I wonder if that is because sci fi babes are far less attainable to geezers and that is what makes them more interesting.
I dunno, and I’ve had too many beers.
Barbaralla rules!!!14th May 2008 at 5:25 pm #77766
hmmm..I gotta say that the question smacks a bit of male chauvinism
I think women and men in Sci-Fi and Action movies behave very HUMANLY.
"Ackk, I’m being attacked by a Terminator/Alien/Bad Guy or Gal/Cylon/ or other special antagonist, what shall I do? I’ll defend myself!!"
Seems a pretty human response mirrored in daily life here on Earth, I’d say.
I don’t think that most female sci-fi characters are portrayed in a masculine fashion. What do you mean by masculine? Scratching and spitting? Your example of Ripley: She wore the same clothes as everyone else in the unit ,as soliders do, exercises like everyone else (I had to do pull ups in order to pass gym and they didn’t tell me I was being manish), and fought for her life. When it comes to gender issues its Interesting that you didn’t bring up Vasquez from the same movie:
Hudson: " Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?"
Vasquez: "No, have you?"
Most women and men defend themselves when attacked. I think that the sci-fi genre often isn’t considered as commercial success "formula" and therefore has the oppourtunity to offer more well rounded characters.
One movie series your question made me think of is the Pitch Black/Riddick series; which offers you a female character (Jack) that truly does use male clothes and mannerisms but wouldn’t be a character most women would identify with. The female pilot (Carolyn Fry) doesn’t wear leather or glamazon makeup or man clothes and goes through very identifiable human conflicts and triumphs over cowardice to become a hero and never even "boffs" either lead male character…flip over to Chronicles and you have a glamazon female character who instead of kicking butt physically is a political butt kicker and is still displayed as a strong, not passive character. Obviously there are passive male and female characters in all those movies (and hopefully every movie).
So anyways, enough rambling. My point is simply that Sci-Fi explores the Human spirit and condidition which may include leather cladding or gender issues in its explorations 🙂19th June 2008 at 11:00 pm #77789
I think that Sci-Fi in the movies has always been seen as a foray into fantasy. For many years the ‘standard’ idea of the fantasy woman, was a gorgeous lass that the man could impress by showing his prowess by protecting her from the evil flesh eating nasties. And having done so, obviously she fell into his arms in wide eyed adoration (of course this can be seen in all genres of film, not just Sci-Fi).
In recent years there has been more of a movement towards the stronger woman lead. But is this entirely to do with the empowerment of women? I’d like to think so, but I’m not convinced. It is widely recognised that sex sells, and the biggest consumer in the Sci-Fi market is the adolescent male. Also society has changed in the last few decades, so that it is more accepted that men can be attracted to strong women. So it does beggar the question, is it just a combination of the Hollywood money machine still trying to titilate the consumer demographic whilst putting a venier of ‘girl power’ on it?
It is a cynical point of view, I admit. But I do feel that the entrenched Hollywood moguls are less forward thinking that we would like to believe.
I feel that to see women in more powerful (less exploitative/submissive) roles, you need to look at TV Sci-Fi. I think that the TV industry has a younger and more forward thinking group of producers. Series like Dark Angel, Bionic Woman, Terminator: Sarah Conner Chronicals, et al still have ‘eye candy’ leads, but are more successful in portraying women in stronger roles than the vast majority of cinema releases.
I feel that this is more a reflection upon the conceptions of the corporate structures producing the films or series’ (and there desire to stick to the money making formula established over the years) than the thoughts and wants of the Sci-Fi fans.
Having said all that, I do still get warm and lesivious at the thought of Princess Leia in that gold bikini… Did I just make a mockery of all that intellectual moralistic stuff?5th February 2011 at 6:24 pm #77916
oo-er….I am a female so I really should have an opinion about this..my excuse is going to be that I have only recently been gradually seduced into sci fi by a friend so am still watching and reading. Some of it just blows me away though. I will go away and come back to this one in a while, OK?
By the way Lena Heady in a vest works for me .
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