Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Female Physicality

So one of the more obvious solutions to how do you make the action movie inclusive to women problem is to simply write a female action hero. I am about to say something that might be offensive to some and obvious to others.

Eh hem. The female action hero has to be believable as an action hero. Okay let me say this as if I were talking about a male action hero for a second. I as a member of the audience have to believe that this person is physically and mentally capable of pulling off the crazy stunts that make the genre work. Moreover I have believe that physicality is going to be a primary tool in their tool box.

Even though Jackie Chan is always running away he's still using physical objects including his body as tools to solve his problems.

And that's kind of weird for female protagonists, not because there aren't a lot of women like that in real life but because due to cultural gender roles that sort of physicality is frowned upon leading to the stereotypical belief that it doesn't exist. We think of the trait of physicality as male in and of itself.

It's why society thinks of female mechanics, soldiers, and athletes as odd and also why we(male writers) don't know how to write that trait in females.

Physicality isn't a male or a female trait it's a human trait. Without the ability to use tools including our own bodies we would have been eaten to extinction a long time ago. We got the fire and we got the spear heads.

For better or worse that's one of the best things about Korra. In Avatar: The Last Air Bender one of Aang's, the protagonist's defining character traits was that he was a staunch pacifist so rather than just pummeling the bad guys into next Thursday he would try talk his way out of problems and failing that try to use a "clever trickity trick trick" to win the day. Heck this serves as one of the primary conflicts of the third season. The badguy is a genocidal maniac and every one of Aang's friends wants this guy dead. Aang, being the only guy powerful enough kill him, refuses to do it but knows that something needs to be done for the sake of everybody or else people will die.

Heck I'd even go so far as to say that Aang wasn't an action hero. He was the protagonist of an action series but he wasn't an action hero. He was friends with action heroes, but he wasn't one. Aang was a guile hero.

For its sequel series the writers wanted to make Korra as different from Aang as possible, still a good person but mentally different,so they made her more assertive as well as making her go-to tool to solve her problems her body.

Push, pull, punch, kick, chase, tackle, lift, run, climb, jump.  Her solution to most of her problems is to use her body. Korra's not a perfect character as her development is all over the place. She continually has to relearn that just punching it doesn't always work, but she does have the personality of an action hero. I believe this is the type of person who would get into a brawl, or ten. I believe that this is the type of person who wouldn't call the authorities, or try to bargain with a villain, but would chase them down... and then get brought in by the cops for all the property damage in the ensuing fight.

And yes that does happen.

The question regardless of gender is how do you convey physicality? In a visual medium it's through design. Heck that right there is part of the problem. Often that physicality is shown through musculature. Subconsciously an audience knows that you aren't just born muscular, Or at least as muscular as your typical action hero. That muscle is gained by using physicality.

Let's take one of my favorite hero's Daniel Jackson. In the start of Stargate SG1 he's a nerd, sort of wimpy looking but part of the visual conveyance of his character development was his developing tone as he hung out with and held his own with more traditional action heroes. Michael Shanks got ripped.

A problem though is that musculature, a direct result of physicality is still seen as unfeminine. Particularly with live action visual media if you aren't willing to hire a muscular actress you have problem. If the actresses aren't willing to put up with possible societal alienation from the stigma of being a muscular woman you've got a problem.

And this is starting to get into traditional notions of beauty which is way too heavy for me to just do without reading some stuff so I'm outty 5000.

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