The 3 Strongest Female Roles in Cinema 2012

November 6, 2012 9:28 pm

My dream job is to become a screenwriter for cinema, and one aspect of film that I am interested in is strong female roles. We, as an audience, have moved past the idea of depicting women as helpless, waiting for the strong male character to save them. However, there is still a sense that we can go farther. Women in films are either confident, yet over-sexualised (Sin City, The Dark Knight Rises), an action hero, who falls to pieces over a man (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) or a boring background character (Sinister, Men In Black 3).

Flawed: Sin City’s strong gals have their faults

In the 80s, feminist comic artist Alison Bechdel made a test for movies. The films needed to have two female characters who talk to each other at any point in the film about something other than a man. It sounds simple, but this year, how many films passed that test? Not Looper, Dark Knight Rises, Cabin In the Woods.  My test is more simple. I searched for three female roles this year that introduce strong characters, who don’t revolve around a male love interest and can match the males for likeability.

Warning: spoilers below.

3 – BLACK WIDOW, AVENGERS ASSEMBLE

Black Widow isn’t a surprising choice here, as Joss Whedon, director and writer of Avengers Assemble, is the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and several more strong female characters. He and Scarlet Johansson, the actress portraying Black Widow, both agreed that her character wouldn’t have a love interest and would stand up against the likes of the Hulk and Iron Man. For the most part, she succeeds. She is strong, intelligent and is not once compromised by a romantic male lead, even though any other director would have almost definitely done so. There have been arguments that her relationship with Hawkeye breaks this rule, but at the same time, she is merely repaying a debt as a part of her code and she doesn’t lose control over this storyline.

2 – ANDERSON, DREDD

In the gritty reboot of Dredd, Olivia Thrilby (who plays Cassandra Anderson) is given the job of handling the emotional side of the film, as Dredd and Ma-Ma, the villain, are both emotionless characters. She is a new recruit, who would have failed if it wasn’t for her telepathic abilities, in a dangerous situation. Sure, she is weak and nervous, but when it counts she pushes past her nerves to become a decent action hero. By the end of the film, she has grown into a hardened fighter, who never lets her moral compass become compromised by the story.

Strong female leads are here to stay

1 – SARA, LOOPER

But top of the list, easily, is Sara from the amazing Looper. She is a single mother, looking after her troubled child, who probably will become a super-villain in the future. Yet, she still cares for him and tries to become his moral compass, even when Joe, the film’s protagonist, tells her she is out of time. Sure, as the film progresses, we find out that she isn’t prepared to kill anyone, but this makes her character more real than the rest of the cast, who are morally compromised.

At the end of the film, she goes to give her life to save her son. Yes, in theory, she is saved by the male lead, the same male lead she slept with earlier in the film, but there is not really any romance in the air and she doesn’t break down and cry over his death. She merely jumps on a train, holds her son close and has a moment’s silence out of respect. The film ends on pure silence. It’s arguably the most beautiful cinematic moment of the year.

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  • Isn’t there a potential feminist problem with Looper’s Sara, in that she completely conforms to the female gender role as ‘mother’. Sure, she’s a likeable badass mother

  • Luke

    Althought I agree, a female Looper would have a been a good addition to the film, the Loopers were flawed characters. They weren’t shown in a particularly favourable light. The prositute character is strong, but in the same sense as the characters in Sin City, which I feel like we should move away from.

    As for Sara, herself, I understand that ‘mother’ is a female gender role, but it’s not one I feel needs to be altered. We do not become alienated from a male character if he is a father. And I also think that the flaw in my argument is that she does sleep with the male character, but she doesn’t become emotionally compromised when it comes to Levitt.

    Despite the flaws, it is a step in the right direction, i feel. I do not want to remove all female roles where ‘love for a male’ is important, as it closes off several potential good storylines; I just want there to be roles avaliable for women other than that.

  • …”still a sense we can go further.” That is putting it mildly. Good luck.

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