Girl Power
// Jonty Davies

Whether included as an enticement to men or an appeal to women, when kickass woman are featured in film, they often attain iconic status. There’s a fascination with overt female strength in film that transcends mere sexual allure: a celebration of true feminine strength, I like to think.
Consider David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. It’s the American remake of the original adaptation of a Swedish bestselling novel. Its status as a remake, however, is far from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’s defining characteristic. As in typical Fincher fashion, it is a very controlled and atmospheric adventure into the hearts and minds of strong and flawed characters. A modern noir, the film follows disgraced magazine editor Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) as he’s hired to investigate a cold-case murder within a very rich and very dysfunctional family.
It starts off with a bang – an ultra-kinetic title sequence that features perverse, though extremely abstract, imagery over a ripping electronic cover of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song by score composer Trent Reznor (now an Oscar winner for his work on last year’s The Social Network, also directed by David Fincher) and Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. This is immediately noteworthy as reminiscent of a James Bond opener injected with crystal meth and nightmares. Such comparisons are further pervaded when the very first person you see is the current James Bond himself, Daniel Craig.
Despite these very distinctive qualities, there is one aspect of the film (in all of its international incarnations) that stands it out strongly: Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth is the asocial computer hacker who joins Blomkvist in the investigation, eventually starting a romantic relationship with him. The titular Girl, Lisbeth is the product of a traumatic childhood of institutionalization and abuse, and though awkward and diminutive in size, she is a powerhouse of female intensity and revenge.
The film (and to a greater extent the series) deals quite heavily with sexual abuse, attempting to dispel rape myths while confronting their realities. Lisbeth is the central figure of this treatment, acting as her own foil – she’s at once meek and taken advantage of, only to exact extremely hostile revenge on those who have exploited her and other women.
Outside cinema’s fictional plane, women haven’t always been met with the highest recognition but have been of steadily growing importance. Female directors were of some significance within the French avant-garde movement and the advent of second-wave Feminism in the late 1960s invited much cinematic contribution from women, especially regarding the shedding of sexual repressions and resisting patriarchal violence as seen in Barbara Loden’s Wanda (1970). 2009’s Best Picture-winning The Hurt Locker earned its director Kathryn Bigelow the Best Director Oscar. It was the first time that award has gone to a woman in the history of the Oscars.
Jonty’s Top Female Characters In Cinema
3. Sarah Connor The Terminator (Linda Hamilton): James Cameron’s The Terminator sees the mild mannered Sarah Connor pursued by a killer robot from the future. She doesn’t really understand why at first, but another, less robotic future visitor explains that her unborn child will end up being the leader of the human race in its global war against sentient machines. It then becomes her job to defeat the current killer robot and all future killer robots while preparing her whiny brat of a son for the robo-violence ahead, all of which she does with evolving prowess. Over the course of the series she goes from running scared to acting tough as nails. Even Arnold can’t stop her.
2. The Bride Kill Bill (Uma Thurman): Quentin Tarantino directed Kill Bill with everything he had, mixing in every global trope and touch like a manic DJ. Though it’s a little all over the place, it’s held together by the very strong and central Bride character. She slices her way around the world in search of her child and her revenge, and along the way there’s never one second that you doubt she’s going to succeed.
1. Ellen Ripley Alien (Sigourney Weaver): The alien from the movie Alien and its variously awesome follow-ups is surely the most terrifying monster in movie history. It’s a parasitic 8-foot space monster with acid for blood that kills on sight and is generally unpleasant. Basically, no one has ever encountered one and not died a horrible death except one person: Ripley. And she can’t get away from the darn things. Her entire adult life has been spent reluctantly fighting and escaping these things and yet they dog her at every turn, forcing her into some serious action. The most strongly feminine moment in the saga? Ripley dons a robotic exoskeleton to fistfight the Queen alien so she can get back her surrogate daughter from the clutches of the hive. It’s ultimately badass, and it does not end well for the aliens.
It could be argued that these kinds of characters are intended to sexualize a movie targeted mainly towards men, but one cannot really consider movies in terms of being targeted towards men or women as that immediately reinforces very negative double standards (with the exception of fare like Fast & Furious or Sex & The City which are both negligible additions to the global artistic canon and do reinforce such double standards). Obviously there is a sexual element to these characterizations, but there is an inherent sexual element in all lead characterizations, male or female. To dismiss these characters as mere sex objects demeans the entire role of strong female leads. They all represent a deliberate manifestation of the film’s intent.
Jonty Davies, like most, is a pretty big fan of movies. His favorite genre according to Netflix is “visually striking dark dramas" but he loves a good "visually striking dark comedy" too. When not writing about films, he likes to make dark little ones of his own.

//Jonty Davies, columnist
// Graphics by JJ Brewis

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