Thursday, January 5, 2006

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all the ladies in the house say "where's my spaceship"

Happy New Year, everyone! I'm back from surprisingly snowy England, fresh from days of tea and sudoku puzzles, and starting off the year of blogging with (surprise) ranting. Woo!

Found from the Glyphs blog - take a look at Pam Noles' essay on The Wizard of Earthsea.

It's timely to me because lately I've been going through another bout of "Damn, seriously, where are the movies for women who like sci-fi and fantasy?" All of the classic science-fiction and fantasy movies - if the women exist at all, it's in a Smurfette capacity, one women to a bunch of guys. Boys who like to play-act can be Luke, Han, Vader, Obi-Wan, C3PO, R2D2 ... girls can be Leia. Woo hah. Hope there aren't two or more girls who want to play girls like themselves. It's a matter of projecting into fantasy worlds - if you like a world, you look around it for people like you, for your potential place in it. Apparently I'm asking a lot when I look for sci-fi and fantasy females who aren't just "the love interest" and who aren't the only woman in the film.

This flipped scenario has been running in my head:

Picture this movie, The Lady of the Rings. An evil queen creates a dark magical ring. Eons later, a halfling lady finds it. Her niece and three of her niece's girlfriends team up with the lost human queen, fending off nine undead queens to get the ring to the elves' safehaven, while a powerful gray witch and white witch fight about it themselves. At the elven house, the elf lady declares that nine of the women will set out on a quest to destroy the ring. You want men in this film? Well, there's a nice elf lord with some screentime, but he's mainly the love interest of the lost human queen. Plus there's an ancient elf lord in this one other scene, and some guys in the background in the village in the beginning.

Would people watch this? Would people expect men and boys to project onto the movie and play-act the characters? Would defenders justify it by saying that the story comes from old-school source material that we should respect and preserve?

I know that this is a bit of a simplistic take on it, that the marketing forces and the 18-35 male demographic and Hollywood business play into it, cash money, etc., etc. But it's still frustrating. Why am I expected to roll over, accept that there aren't people like me in the movie, and be grateful to get any fantasy movie at all? Why am I supposed to "lie back and think of sci-fi"?

16 comments!     click to join in

1 ellen   (11:29pm - Jan 5, 2006)

hm. your arguments remind me of a conversation I had with a lesbian about the lack of lesbian sf. (that isn't fanfic, that is.) i guess that's even more niche, but it was a reminder.

there seems to be a higher amount of female characters in text sf, and i surmise that this has much to do with female writers.

as for tv, all hail joss whedon. especially firefly. i wanna be zoe when i grow up. :)

2 ellen   (11:45pm - Jan 5, 2006)

me here again, commenting to myself having now read the linked article. very interesting, that. um yeah. *facepalm*

3 Mister Wolf   (5:41am - Jan 6, 2006)

Of course, Peter Jackson had to make Arwen into a Standard Issue Holywood Heroine to even HAVE a woman with a real personality in the first three hours of the movie. And ruin Frodo's best scene in the process, the bastard. In the books it's Eowen, Galadriel, and that's it. The rest is boy scout camp!

4 Jeph!   (11:39am - Jan 6, 2006)

"Fending off nine undead queens" kind of reminds me of my days working at the Colonial Theatre.


5 Rose   (11:45am - Jan 6, 2006)

I never liked the Star Wars movies, though I've now seen them all, and remember complaining as a child that if Leia was such a talented fighter, why were there no other women fighting? What kind of future was that? I certainly didn't identify with her or with any of the characters, but it was partly because I found the lone princess setup so unsettling, too.

I never did find an April O'Neil Ninja Turtles action figure, either, despite weeks of looking. I would have preferred her computer accessory to a weapon too.

I think in both these cases I was 10 years old, and I guess the world was getting clearer all the time.

6 Constantine   (6:15pm - Jan 7, 2006)

I never did find an April O'Neil Ninja Turtles action figure, either, despite weeks of looking.

Dude, ask and you shall receive.

7 Noumena   (8:20am - Jan 18, 2006)

I was never big on the Fantasy genre, so I never read The Lord of the Rings, but I did sit thorugh the films -- and the only part I really liked in the whole 9+ hours was 'I am no man!'

Today's 'geek girls' at least have Joss Whedon characters -- none of them are a Han Solo or Luke, a simple and uncomplicated hero, but even Whedon's most stereotypical 'female sidekicks' (Cordelia, Fred, Tara) have more depth of character than Luke did.

8 Sarah B. Gibson   (8:46am - Jan 18, 2006)

I find it very interesting that Joss Whedon has gotten only a couple gloss mentions here. He specifically created Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a show around a complicated woman fantasy hero. Not heroine: hero. He was sick of women always being the girlfriends. Everyone on Buffy plays second fiddle to Buffy. And then, by the end, you get Willow--most powerful being in the Buffyverse. She's a girl, too. Even on Angel, in the end, Angel was always playing to Buffy. She wasn't even there and she was still the hero.

Aside from that, though. . . Yeah, fantasy isn't a good place for the girls.

9 Liz   (4:18pm - Jan 18, 2006)

A couple of links... Feminist SF, Fantasy, and Utopia site,

Feminist science fiction convention, WisCon, (SO FABULOUS!)

For fantasy and sf there's tons of books! But yeah, movies and tv are so slow to catch up. not to mention non-manga comic books.

Tamora Pierce particularly rocks for YA fantasy, especially her later books like the Circle of Magic series or Protector of the Small.

10 Kitty   (8:34pm - Jan 18, 2006)

Hello to everyone from When Fangirls Attack and the Carnival of the Feminists!

I'm a big fan of Joss Whedon's work as well - I love how his stories offer a decent variety of characters with whom you can identify and plenty of women to project onto. (Hell, I'm just glad to see women characters who don't have to wear corsets or catsuits to get screentime.) Pity it's so much of an exception in the world of sci-fi/fantasy.

11 Valerae   (8:47am - Jan 19, 2006)

I agree that pretty much anything Joss Whedon is good. Also, check out J. Michael Strazinski's work - if you ever have the opportunity to watch Babylon 5 beginning to end you're in for a treat.

As far as movies go, there's always the Alien series. Who doesn't love Ripley? And Joss Whedon wrote Alien Resurrection - so bonus points for that too.

12 Kitty   (9:33am - Jan 19, 2006)

Ripley! I always forget Ripley! I think it's because I haven't seen the Alien movies out of utter fear. I'm an enormous wuss.

13 Katherine   (7:13pm - Jan 20, 2006)

This isn't as mainstream as Joss Whedon's stuff, but Sci-Fi currently has some great female characters on Stargate SG-1 and Battlestar Galactica. BG actually has a woman president, and turned the classic character Starbuck into a kick-ass woman. All hope may not be lost.

14 shallowness   (1:10pm - Feb 13, 2006)

Dark Angel and Farscape are a couple more of the usual suspects to mention, one with a strong female protagonist, the other with a rich array of strong female characters - though all supporting, really. I couldn't ut nod at the pointedness of the Lady of the Rings question, because, no, of course it wouldn't get made, boys are not expected to identify with girls, and ditto, to a large extent, men with women. Meanwhile we can and do identify with the male characters (up to a point) because we've had so little choice, not to metnion other issues.

My action figure angst came from wanting Amy from the A-team but getting Hannibal, snd I remember much role playing angst at about the same time because all the girls wanted to be Amy. (We didn't get to be the male heroes, oh no.)

Although all of that is genre television rather than films. I suppose with Serenity (and hopefully with Wonder Woman) we can have the Whedon take on female skiffy heroes on the big sreen (although cogent criticisms of his brand of feminism have been made). Otherwise, it's a big fat 'um' - I'm awaiting Aeon Flux in the UK, although my expectations are about the level of 'it might be as good as Equilibrium - ripped off mush of other scifi films, but looks pretty and has its moments' though I'm expecting worse.

15 GregED   (6:03pm - Mar 8, 2006)

You should totally watch the Alien favorites being 2 and 4 (she wasn't as badass in 1, and 3 wasn't as cool as the others). There's scariness, sure, but there's also a lot of kicking ass.

I'd also argue there are a few more non-smurfette female characters out there besides Joss Whedon's stuff: Commander Ivanova in Babylon 5, Major Kira in Star Trek:Deep Space 9, and Sarah Connor in Terminator 2 just to name a few.

I don't deny your point: sci-fi/fantasy visual media still tends to be male-dominated. But what there is gives me hope...

16 Emily   (10:51am - May 30, 2007)

I was actually trying (so very hard) to find information on a genre assignment given to me in my media class when I stumbled on this thread.

I'm doing an assignment on 'The female protagonist fantasy film genre' and let me tell you I'm haveing some trouble with the '4 cycles every genre passes through' (Primitive, classic, revisionist and parody).

I probably should have picked and easier genre but I really wanted to do this one (being a fan of 'Labyrinth', 'In the Company of Wolves' and 'MirrorMask'. Though MirroMask seemed to be missing something).

Reading through this kind of did help me with my information gathering with some of the links provided ^^;

I really wish there were more realistic females in sci-fi and fantasy on televison and in film but I supose for now I'll just have to keep reading (and hopeing they don't mess up 'The Golden Compass').

Thanks for the help ;p

P.S. Would totally go see flipped LOTR ^^

P.P.S. I really wish Aeon Flux had turned out better...>

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