An Open Media/Culture Question

Yesterday, after between watching the Saints treat the last regular-season game kind of like it was the last preseason game and watching LSU’s basketball team make progress in their quest to drive away whatever remaining fans they have, I started watching movies.

And happened upon this ultra-weird Alice In Wonderland thing which just came on cable.

Not to build a post off Alice In Wonderland, but after watching that, I have a question I’d like input from the readers on.

And the question is this – is it really a good idea to have so many movies where the female lead is shooting and stabbing bad guys?

Alice In Wonderland isn’t exactly the best example of this, though at the end Alice is the one with the armor on and the sword in her hand killing the dragon. But it seems like every time one turns around there’s another movie where women are participating in physical violence.

Pretty much every flick Angelina Jolie makes, for example. Or Milla Jovovich. Or Uma Thurman’s character in the Kill Bill movies. They’re everywhere. And while a decade ago the violent female character was sort of a gadget in movies – take Sarah Conner in the Terminator franchise, for example, which was an integral part of the story but not central to it – now entire movies seem to be built around the theme. The Laura Croft movies which made Angelina Jolie’s career lit the fire on the genre, and now it seems that there are as many or more female action-hero movies than the traditional male variety.

Some of this has to do with the fact that the guys who used to drive the shoot-em-ups are all but done. Steven Seagal draws more interest as a cop in Jefferson Parish, nobody has seen Jean-Claude Van Damme since he rode in that Mardi Gras parade a few years back, Arnold Schwarzenegger is now a bad governor of a failed state and Sylvester Stallone, while he’s still around and while he made what I thought was a terrific sendup of the genre in the Untouchables, is almost ready for Medicare. And the ranks of their successors are pretty thin. The Rock makes a pretty good action hero, but he’s as likely to be the put-upon musclebound doofus as he is the sword-weilding avenger. And the latest swordplay flick to come out in a couple of weeks, Season Of The Witch, stars Nicholas Cage – who while he’s a very good actor and no stranger to action/adventure is more conflicted Everyman than Terminator. That goes for Johnny Depp, too – Depp’s latest offering The Tourist, co-starring Jolie, has been a box-office fizzle. Depp has scored with the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise, but he’s anything but a classic action hero in those movies.

In other words, Hollywood isn’t interested in hard-core traditional action flicks anymore. You’ll look far and wide for a damsel in distress these days, or a single-minded tough guy bent on kicking bad-guy ass. You’ll find the reverse, though.

Some of this is just an attempt to give audiences something new. At the end of the day Hollywood is just trying to make a buck – if the public wants to see a drag queen popping Martians with a six-shooter, Sony Pictures will gladly produce something to fill the void. And it is not unentertaining to see, for example, Jennifer Garner in Alias or Jessica Alba in Dark Angel.

But that brings us to a question I don’t have an answer to. What’s the cultural effect of all this?

We know that domestic violence complaints originating from females are sky-high right now, surveys have been showing the rise for at least five years. We’re raising a generation of girls who have no qualms about throwing a punch – something we saw over the holidays when Amber Portwood, one of the stars of MTV’s abysmal Teen Moms reality show, was arrested in Indiana for having beaten the stew out of the father of her child on camera. If we’re presenting girls with Angelina Jolie or Milla Jovovich as their role models, while as a guy I would have little problem with the idea that every young woman on the street looks like Angelina Jolie or Milla Jovovich, what’s that society going to look like?

But on the other hand, one of the messages the female action hero movies sends out is independence and self-reliance. You don’t have to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Steven Seagal to kick ass or be strong, and we do need that in our culture. That’s a message just as important for women to absorb as men. Particularly now that women outnumber men on college campuses and are taking on leadership functions in the business world more and more often.

So what do the readers think? Is this a trend opening up more opportunities for women, or is it a further erosion of society?

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