The other evening I was having a discussion with a friend about things in movies and on television that distract us from the story. I’m willing to overlook a lot if I’m enjoying the plot or the characters are compelling, but there are a few things that annoy me more than anything. Like, clunky, earnest lines delivered with a great deal of earnestness1 or when an actor can’t commit to an accent2
However, the greatest sin as far as I’m concerned is this: female characters who fight, either with weapons or in hand-to-hand combat in full makeup with their hair down, in short skirts or otherwise impractical outfits and high, pointy heels. Men, I don’t know if you realize this, but that’s bullshit. It’s nearly impossible to run for any distance or length of time in any sort of heel, let alone ones with spike heels3 The outfits are implausible for several reasons, including limited flexibility, equipment failure4 and the fact that no one ever seems to sweat or get grubby. Hell, whenever I fetch something out of the stacks at work I come back with dust or something on some part of my being.
And the hair thing? Mine isn’t all that long, and I’m a librarian, meaning the scariest thing I fight on any given day is the urge to roll my eyes at some of the excuses people give for not wanting to pay their fines. But there are times when I’m trying to hook up a VCR/DVD player/projector/computer or searching for cases or paper or barcodes and it’s all in my face and I just want to cut it off. Why do the powers that be insist on making them fight with it all in their faces?
I stopped watching Alias because of this, and pretty much any movie with Angelina Jolie. It’s also what I love about Olivia on Fringe – that she wears practical clothing and footwear and her hair pulled back when she’s working and still manages to be extremely capable at her job5
So, we came up with a list of female characters on film who seemed to buck this trend:
- Ripley, from the Alien movies
- EVE, from WALL-E (yeah, she counts!)
- Tank Girl
- Sorsha from Willow
- Princess Leia
- The Bride from the Kill Bill movies (with the same reservations as Olivia and Zoe)
- Hawaii 5-0 reboot, I’m looking at you. [↩]
- John Hannah, whom I adore, does this in the Mummy movies – his accent keeps slipping from Scottish to English and it’s distracting. [↩]
- Guys – try this: stand on your tiptoes and put a roll of dimes under your heel. Now, try balancing on that roll of dimes. Hard, isn’t it? Try running in those, and then imagine trying to kick someone’s ass. [↩]
- Such as runs in nylons, torn hems, popped buttons, etc. [↩]
- I have a theory about why, even when you have a female character who kicks ass, she has to have long hair, as if it’s some kind of acknowledgement that although she’s busy busting shit up in a sensible outfit, she’s still a sex object. This also applies to Zoe on Firefly. [↩]