This bitingly sweet blog post by Flickfilosopher is just what the doctor ordered : It makes a point of breaking the news to Hollywood that the Female Protagonist is not box office poison, as evidenced by the roughly $430 million being grossed by Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock as the astronaut left stranded in space after an orbital disaster.
Not that you’d think Hollywood needed to be told this: Dating back perhaps to the first female protagonist to make box office gold in adventure or science fiction movies, Pam Grier (HA! You thought I was gonna say Sigourney Weaver as Alien‘s Ripley, didn’t you? Didn’t you?), and following the careers of women like Linda Hamilton, Milla Jovovich, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence, Uma Thurman, Zoe Saldana and so many others, there should be no one in Hollywood with trepidations about putting a strong female in an action-adventure lead.
But it’s still a rare thing to see… and not just in Hollywood. Movies worldwide have historically been more likely to cast a man in an action-adventure lead, and leave it to the women to be femme fatales, damsels in distress or comedy relief. But as audiences slowly but surely convince Hollywood that they’ll go see Michelle Yeoh or Chloe Moritz kick ass just as fast as they’ll watch Jackie Chan or Vin Diesel, we should see a sea-change in adventure fare.
And it’s about time, too. At the moment, many of our most famous male action-adventure heroes are getting pretty long in the tooth, to the point where they’re even parodying themselves as old men forced back into the fray and struggling to take out the bad guys while hobbling around on bad knees. And the action hero genre has pretty much covered all the bases, leaving little room for those new and awesome moments that action movies thrive on.
But putting a female into some of those scenarios opens up a new set of variables… the differences between how men and women deal with problems… and give us an entirely new set of awesome moments. Characters who aren’t afraid to take cues from a wider emotional range; who see options other than punching and shooting to solve a crisis. In short, less testosterone-fueled stories, and moments when emotion and intelligence can naturally shine through. The action-adventure genre desperately needs an infusion of female protagonists to keep it fresh.
I’ve applied female protagonists to Evoguía, the Kestral Voyages series, and to Sarcology. In each case, the difference in perspective was refreshing, and made for a more interesting and wider variety of story options than from the traditionally male point of view. And each has featured plenty of action and excitement, as well as more introspective moments and genuine emotional investment. These have been my best novels, the Kestral series being the most popular by far.
Books, of course, tend to be further ahead of the curve than Hollywood, often helping to show it the way. Hopefully, literary examples will stand with the latest box office numbers and convince the studios that they can afford to take female action-adventure leads seriously, and they won’t scare moviegoers into staying home. If anything, a healthy infusion of newer characters and perspectives might convince more people to check them out… or, at least, slow the gradual shrinking of the ever-more-jaded theatre audience, and give us a reason to see movies on the big screen again.