Thursday, January 26, 2012

Real Women (Kick Ass)

Gina Carano, fyi.
After a few months of writing on here off and on, I think I've gotten a little bit of my point across. I like my women feisty, strong, and interesting. I like them realistic. And I really like it when they kick ass. But what do I like most of all? Well, I like it when they actually look like they could be those things in real life.

I'm an action movie person, I always have been. When I was ten, I saw Terminator 2 for the first time and decided that I wanted to be Sarah Connor. When I started working out in college? It's because I wanted to look like Wonder Woman (which is impossible, but still). I loved Eowyn so much that I still have a set of binders from highschool with some really embarrassing printed out pictures and a couple of fake Rohanian names on them shoved into the back of my closet.

But I have a confession to make.

Sorry, honey, but no.
I didn't watch Colombiana. Or Salt. I thought, as I said here, that the new Charlie's Angels reboot was shit on toast. I wasn't a big fan of Malin Ackerman's portrayal of Silk Spectre II in Watchmen, and Scarlett Johansson's hot and all, but Black Widow? Really? These women are all beautiful, and I'm sure those films up there are even pretty good*, but my biggest problem is that I can never forget I'm watching an actor when I look at them.

Think about it.

Zoe Saldana is like 100 pounds soaking wet. Maggie Q is too, but she's all angles and terrifying muscles. Zoe Saldana? Less so. I do not believe that Ms. Saldana is a mercenary trained from birth to kill. I just want to feed her a cheeseburger.

A little more believable.
It's like when Faith showed up on season three of Buffy. Watching Eliza Dushku (younger, more muscle mass Eliza Dushku) beat up on vampires made you realize that, mystical superpowers or no, Sarah Michelle Gellar was a little shrimpy for a bruiser. I mean, the show made fun of it, and it was 90% of the premise, but all of a sudden it just was kind of...weird.

So, for this reason, I'd like to take a moment and recognize the women who I do believe. When they kick an ass, I know that ass is kicked. If you met them on the street, you'd walk a little faster, clutch your things a little tighter. These are the women who really, truly, could beat you up.

Sigourney Weaver (Ripley)

Who doesn't love Ripley? From a movie all about rape (Alien) to an even better movie about motherhood (Aliens), Ripley took no shit, suffered no fools, and committed some seriously impressive alien genocide. Along the way, Sigourney Weaver convinced me, and most of the people watching, that she was one scary chick. Take the scene at the end of Alien. She's stripping down to her underwear, completely vulnerable, and for the first time in the movie you can see her arms. She's actually ripped. This isn't movie fu making her able to fight, she can really work it. From there, her eventual takedown of the alien seems justified. Earned. Sigourney Weaver made an underwear scene less about sex and more about vulnerability, and in the process proved that she has what it takes to protect herself. Which is, in and of itself, pretty damn sexy.

Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor)

So, in the first Terminator movie, Sarah Connor's kind of a mess. She wilts and screams and cries and whines. She clings, and then she gets knocked up. But in the second movie, it's like her pregnancy hormones gave her superpowers, because there Linda Hamilton is, doing chinups on a hospital bed in an insane asylum, and it is awesome. Seriously. Not only is she an exponentially more interesting character, she's also tough, and cool, in a way that's realistic, achievable, and really, really badass. I can only imagine the kind of training Linda Hamilton went through to play that Sarah Connor, because those muscles aren't fake. That chinup is real. And that badassery is epic.**

Lucy Lawless (Xena)

It's not exactly that Lucy Lawless is Xena, it's more that I can never unsee it. No matter what else she does in life, for me, she will always be Xena, Warrior Princess. And that's not a bad thing. I entirely believe that Lucy Lawless, with her broad shoulders, strong legs, and definitely not a model physique, could wield a sword. Those things are heavy! And it wasn't just her on the show who displayed this preference for realism in casting. Renee O'Connor's Gabrielle began the show as a more girlish sidekick, who slowly transitioned into a fighting role. As she transitioned, she gained muscle mass and stamina. She looked like a fighter.***

Michelle Yeoh and Gina Carano

And, finally, a tip of the hat to those ladies of cinema who don't just look like they can really win a fight, but who really, really can. Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) started out in stunt work, and slowly transitioned into acting, though she still does all her own stunts. Gina Carano  (Haywire****) is an MMA fighter that Steven Soderbergh saw on television and thought, "What if I made a movie starring her? A movie where the action lead could actually fight?"

What if, indeed?

There's nothing wrong with skinny women being skinny (unless they're forcing other women to be skinny), and there's nothing wrong with indulging in a little Hollywood fantasy every now and again. Sometimes I watch Tomb Raider too. But when you see Angelina Jolie pistol whipping a man like her arms can actually whip a pistol, it's important to remember that there are women out there who can do that, and do it well.

And it's very important to remember not to piss those women off.

Shout out to Gina Torres, who always looked realistically murderous on Firefly.

*Or not. Colombiana got pretty bad reviews.
**A special shout out to Lena Headey who played Sarah Connor in the Terminator tv show. She was pretty darn epic herself, but just not quite believable enough to make this list. Still, the quality of her acting was amazing, and well worth it.
***The canonical lesbianism didn't exactly hurt my love of this show. It was way ahead of its time. Hell, it's way ahead of this time.
****Out in theaters! Go see it now! DO IT!