jump to navigation
America in
Chains

ALICE SHRUGGED December 18, 2008

Absolutely without a doubt, in terms of entertainment — and of
the underlying changes in a civilization that it both engenders and
comes to reflect — we find ourselves living in the age of the heroic
female.

I’m not entirely sure when it all began. Ayn Rand clearly had more
than a little to do with it, beginning in 1936 with Kira Argounova in
her novel _We the Living_ and continuing in 1943 with Dominique
Francon in _The Fountainhead_ and in 1957 with Dagny Taggart in _Atlas
Shrugged_.

Rand’s female heroes (the word “heroine” is now feministically
anathema) did more than just pout about equality and refuse to shave
their legs. They did all the same things men did, herowise, and, in
addition, they _liked_ men, loved them, and even rescued them from
perils only Pauline had faced a generation earlier. I’ve mentioned
“Heinlein women” before. The first Heinlein women were written by Ayn
Rand.

For a wide variety of reasons, however, I’m only going to consider
movies and television throughout most of this essay, and damned little
of the latter. To my mind, the greater financial committment movies
require represents a more “sincere” indicator of solid trends in the
culture.

Besides, if I didn’t limit it this way, I’d have to discuss hordes
of, dare I say, sleuthettes from murder mysteries (the field seems to
have been taken over entirely by women), the heroic female characters
of other writers — among my favorites, James H. Schmitz’s Telzey
Amberdon, and his young witches Maleen, Goth, and the Leewit — and my
very own Lucy Kropotkin, Elsie Nahuatl, and Robretta Islay, as well as
Llyra Ngu, Jasmeen Khalidov, and Julie Segovia whom you’ll get to know
eventually.

Instead, I want to write, just now, about the larger-than-life
female characters in several movies I’ve enjoyed over the past few
years, then ask a question about all of them which has me (sort of)
stumped.

Some observers say Sigourney Weaver was the first heroic female,
in the _Alien_ movies that began in 1979. I confess I’ve always
disliked this woman, awkward and unlovely, not my idea of a movie
star. In the _Ghostbuster_ movies, she was as humorless and wooden as
Margaret Dumont (look her up), and I particularly hated the way she
whimpered to the media about having to use an ickey old (fake) gun in
_Aliens_.

To Weaver’s tremendous credit, she handled that gun, as well as
the flamethrower duct-taped to it very credibly. When she delivered
that great line, “Leave her alone, bitch!” to the queen bug-monster,
it ought to have joined, “When you call me that, smile,” “I’ll be
back,” and “Go ahead, make my day” among Hollywood’s immortal catch
phrases.

Next we saw Linda Hamilton in the _Terminator_ movies, starting in
1984. I enjoyed her portrayal of Sarah Conner, an unremarkble college
student and waitress in a California burger chain, compelled by an
implacable robotic enemy to grow, become a fighter, survivalist, and,
ultimately, the savior of the human species, all because of an act of
love.

No, I haven’t watched a single episode of the new series. I don’t
like the way they recast Sarah Connor and, unlike almost every other
male I know, I don’t find Summer Glau the cutest thing since leisure
suits for rodents. I’m more a Morena Baccarin or Gina Torres kinda
guy.

Twelve long years were to pass before Geena Davis offered us (with
the help of her then-husband, director Renny Harlin) another heroic
female worthy of the name in _Cutthroat Island_ in 1995, and then
again in _The Long Kiss Goodnight_ in 1996. You might even throw in
her 1992 baseball flick, _A League of Their Own_. Davis proved beyond
the palest shadow of a doubt that a woman could buckle a swash with
just as much panache as Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn, or Burt
Lancaster.

Or Johnny Depp.

In 1997, Milla Jovovich starred as the “perfect” humanoid in _The
Fifth Element_, and again in 2006 as a revolutionary warrior in _Ultra
Violet_. Jovovich is an interesting actress, but not even close to my
idea of perfect. She seems fairly bright — it says here she learned
English in three months — but for some reason, she believes it’s more
noble to kill somebody with a sword than with a gun, And, exactly like
most of the hypocrites in Hollywood — which is to say most of the
four-flushers in her industry — makes millions with a gun in her
hand.

No discussion of what’s termed the “empowerment of women” in the
entertainment media would be complete without mentioning Joss Whedon’s
_Buffy the Vampire Slayer_, which ran from 1997 through 2003 starring
Sarah Michelle Gellar. Like _Star Trek_ (of which I am also a big fan)
there was much for those in the freedom movement to disagree with in
the TV series. I’ve listened to all the commentary on the DVDs; that’s
how I know that, despite what some libertarians, science fiction fans,
and gun folk think, Joss Whedon is not our friend and likely never
will be. Nevertheless, I doubt that I missed more than two or three
episodes during its run on the WB and UPN. It’s the audio-visual
equivalent of comfort food. I have it running on my office TV right
now.

What is clearer in _Buffy_ than in any other such presentation is
that — for the premise of the female superhero (as opposed to the
heroic female) to work — mythology must somehow overcome physics and
physiology. Males, on average, possess twice the upper body strength
of females, which is why, to be perfectly straightforward, men have
always ruled the world. I’m not saying that it’s right, only that it’s
true.

And so — especially because her creator irrationally disparages
the very real contribution of Sam Colt to the history of feminine
equality — Buffy’s power has to come from _magic_. However, just as
Batman was the favorite hero of my boyhood because he operates without
any help from the supernatural, I greatly prefer heroic females who
triumph because of their character and their arduously acquired
skills.

Just as Buffy was leaving us, Jennifer Garner made her first movie
appearance as the sai-wielding comic book assassin Elektra in the 2003
movie _Daredevil_. Unfortunately, she was just the hero’s eye-candy
girlfriend, and she got tragically bumped off in the end. However, by
2005, she had come back to life and ditched Daredevil, who I had
always thought was pretty lame anyway. _Elektra_ is one of my favorite
examples of the heroic female genre. I learned the other day another
actress had wanted the part, but although I think Jennifer Love Hewitt
is cute and curvy, there can be no Elektra for me but the angular Miss
Garner.

Little did I know, when I first saw Kenneth Branagh’s _Much Ado
About Nothing_ that the little brunette ingenue with the unlikely name
of Hero, who bawled and sniffled her way though the Shakespearian
comedy would someday be transformed into my favorite vampire, Kate
Beckinsale — Selene — star of the _Underworld_ movies of 2003 and
2006.

Selene, at the tender age of 400-something, doesn’t look a day
over 25 as she pitches headlong through the epic adventure — vampires
versus werewolves — in her skin-tight, shiny vinyl suit. Selene is
tough, unrelenting, an unabashed user of powerful, modern firearms,
especially a pair of high-capacity fully-automatic pistols she uses in
a unique way to escape the ravenous, furry horde. She is absolutely
unstoppable, and Scott Speedman, who plays her love interest, in
constant need of rescuing, admits that he’s the initial movie’s
“girl”.

Because I listen to all the commentaries, I know that Beckinsale,
a Brit, was worried about handling guns at first, then grew to like it
– as she did the movie’s American director, Len Wiseman, whom she
married.

I didn’t see the gorgeous Sanaa Lathan in _Alien versus Predator_
when it came out in 2004, because of the way the _Alien_ series had
deteriorated, and I don’t care for movies where the main attraction is
things jumping out at you and yelling, “Boo!” I did see her in _Blade_
and was impressed. I finally got around to _AvP_ recently and it was
completely different from what I’d expected. Lathan plays an excellent
adventurer, a mountain-climbing survival guide hired by a billionaire
(Lance Henrikson) to assist him in the exploration of a pyramid found
under the Antarctican ice. Wanna know why they didn’t hire her for the
sequel?

Because they’re _stupid_.

Which brings us to Jessica Biel, seen in _Blade Trinity_ in 2004,
and in _Stealth_ in 2005. Both of these movies took big hits from the
critics (which usually serves as a recommendation, as far as I’m
concerned) and did relatively poorly in theaters. I found both very
entertaining, in the sense that they offer you a couple of hours to
forget your own troubles, while you watch others attempt to solve
theirs.

In Jesse Biel’s case, highly decorative others. In _Stealth_ she’s
a Navy flyer, part of a quick-response team that, among other things,
carries out high-tech aerial assassinations. In short, she’s a thug,
although she acts as her team’s “conscience”. If outfits like this
really exist, they need to be disbanded, and everyone connected with
them prosecuted. But as the basis for an adventure movie it works well
enough, and we get to see Biel not only as a jet-jockey, not only at a
party in a pretty dress, but as a fighter pilot downed behind enemy
(North Korean) lines, hurt and trying to evade capture and death — or
worse.

_Blade Trinity_ is the third film in a Wesley Snipes series about
Blade, a not-quite-human vampire hunter. The first, with Sanaa Lathan,
was terrific, the second a seriously-flawed disappointment. But the
third more than made up for the second and may have been better than
the first. Jessica Biel plays Abigail Whistler, a previously unknown
daughter of Blade’s mentor, played by Kris Kristofferson, left to
Blade as a sort of legacy. Biel handles a big sixgun nicely (although
early in the filming, she and her costars were pretty shaken up by a
scene in close quarters they had forgotten to take their earplugs to).
Biel learned to shoot a compound bow at a competitive level, and it’s
worth buying the DVD just to hear the story of the arrow through the
camera.

Finally, we come to Charlize Theron in 2005′s _Aeon Flux_. I don’t
get cable, so I was unaware of this storyline, but I enjoyed the movie
very much, even though it was full of the usual self-despising leftist
hatred toward the notion of life extension (something I plan to write
about in the near future). Theron’s dedication to the role, and to
doing her own stunts, got her a stay in the hospital, but the effort
was worth it. Aeon Flux comes closest to being a female Batman of any
of these actresses and their roles, although all of them are pretty
commendable.

So the question naturally arises: why the hell should any of these
highly interesting and outrageously beautiful women, who portray hard,
skilled, individualistically self-determined characters in the movies
stoop to describe themselves in what passes for real life as “liberal”
or “progessive”, both of which expressions are euphemisms for
_socialist_?

Socialism is, among other things, the political habitat of low
self-esteem, incompetence, self-loathing, and a willingness to steal
– or have stolen for you — what you are unable or unwilling to work
for. Socialism is a philosophy fit only for slugs, leaches, and
mosquitos.

These women work hard. They are good at what they do. I know some
voters, black, white, and otherwise, when they gave their electoral
all to Barack Obama, seemed to be operating under the false assumption
that they were voting for Denzel Washington. But why these women, who
from the very earliest days of the season, by all measures of logic
and decency, should have endorsed and campaigned for another heroic
female?

Mary Ruwart.

Why?

Comments

1. Al Perez - December 18, 2008

Since the New Deal if not earlier our education of women (as well as men) has extolled the virtues of socialism (usually under a false flag). Combine this with popular culture relegating women’s rights and empowerment to the status of “liberal issues” and it is not surprising that so many powerful women and actresses that play them on the silver or small screen are trapped in the left.
Many libertarians are conservatives and liberals who were burned by the demicans (in the US) and became llibertarians. Like the narator in “Two Hangmen” we’ve “seen the loopholes in the law and so ..turned to hope.”
Hopefully these young heroines will wise up soon. My very successful, usually conservative daughter supported Obama, an aberation I hope she doesn’t ehd up regretting too badly. I’m sure she’ll see the error of her ways and will be ready to support Mary Ruwart in 2012.

2. Eric Oppen - December 19, 2008

In Tinseltown, there’s a lot of social pressure to at least mouth the words of socialism. Quite a few of those people know perfectly well that their success is at least partly due to raw luck, and feel irrationally guilty about it.

How could you forget the girls in Red Dawn? They were just as ferocious and good fighters as the boys were, and took no crap from them, either.

In my own favorite sub-genre of mysteries, historical mysteries, there’s lots of male writers—Steven Saylor and John Maddox Roberts, writing about the same period (roughly) of Roman history but with very, very different results, as well as David Wishart, whose books are set in a slightly later period (reign of Tiberius as opposed to the fall of the Republic.) If you haven’t read any of these, you’re in for a treat unless you really hate Roman stuff.

3. Ken Holder - December 21, 2008

Hey, nobody told me this was working again!

Anyway, you should reconsider the TV Terminator series. I find
it excellent.

4. Al Perez - December 21, 2008

What the world needs is a series about a federal investigator (female of course) who keeps investigating and busting federal agents for violation of laws protecting citizens rights. Also of course the agents she is investigating keep getting killed resisting arrest. So sad, so convenient.
Maybe we can get Morena Baccarin to play the part. She definitely inspires me to thank God for the wonder and awe of his creation.

5. Administrator - December 21, 2008

…..What Al’s describing here has been anticipated, notably by Frank Herbert in his Jorge X. McKee stories about the BuSab, or Bureau of Sabotage. If I were writing these stories they would be about an agent of the Bill of Rights Enforcement Administration, but this is not the time and place for convenient “accidents”, it’s a time to reassert the rule of law.

….Besides, that way I’d get to show Alcatraz, refitted as a federal prison for miscreant elected and appointed officials.

6. al perez - December 22, 2008

OK, but only if you infest the place with fire ants,
Scratch that, Fire ants eat lice, ticks and fleas.
Infest the place with lice, ticks and fleas.

7. female writers science fiction | Digg hot tags - December 23, 2008

[...] Vote ALICE SHRUGGED [...]

8. Al Perez - December 23, 2008

Back to original topic, let us never forget Podkayne, ave both endings

She deserves a Movie or TV mini series, See if someone can get the Master’s work right.

Of course DVD has to h

9. Al Perez - December 23, 2008

Aaargh!!! Last sentence in previous is split between fourth and first line. So sorry!!

10. Kilted - December 26, 2008

“My name is Alice, and I remember . . . everything.”

A word in favor of Milla Jovovich. While she may think it “more
noble to kill somebody with a sword than with a gun,” in one of the DVD commentaries (perhaps for Resident Evil or one of the sequels) she positively enthused about the guns. Although she did say that, as a Serb, perhaps it was a Serbian thing.

As for the relative nobility of muscle-powered vice gas-powered weapons, I probably think it IS nobler to use a “cold” weapon. It’s just that the “hot” weapons work so much easier.

As Sean Connery said in Milius’ “The Wind and the Lion”: Men prefer to fight with swords, so they can see each other’s eyes! Sometimes, this is not possible. Then, they fight with rifles.

11. al perez - December 26, 2008

Guess It’s me coming from a long line of peasants but it’s why people kill each other rather than how that defines nobility. Mamasan using an AK-47 to protect her kids from from bandits is noble. The lord of West Bumfuck using his sword to execute peasants who can’t pay their taxes to intimidate the survivors into scrounging up a few extra pecks of barley and rye is not noble except in name.
Of course, pounding on eachother with hands, feet, and contact weapons is fun, but I’m a little long in the tooth for that kind of fun.
Funny though how the neosocialist gang buys into aristocratic mythology (the nobility of killing with the sword noise, for example.).

12. Administrator - December 27, 2008

….The Japanese let themselves get conned out of using firearms, in favor of the sword, then saw all of their swords confiscated by those who still had firearms. Our European ancestors — the “nobility”, highly annoyed by the way a longbow, a crossbow, or an arquebus could cancel out a lifetime of training with costly but obsolete weapons — have tried the same scam for centuries. They’re still at it today — exactly whose hired hand do you think Obama is? — but so far, they’ve failed.

….It’s our job to make sure they _keep_ failing.

13. SJ Doc - January 2, 2009


Don’t forget about the female characters (and actresses) in Joss Whedon’s memorable TV series (and feature movie), _Firefly_ (and _Serenity_), including not only the series’ regular ensamble cast members but also several of the guest stars.

Most notably “Saffron” (portrayed by Christina Hendricks).

14. al perez - January 3, 2009

Let us never forget Emma Peel! (the original that is)

15. Donald Qualls - January 3, 2009

Worth adding, just in case you haven’t seen them, that Milla Jovovich also kicks ass (literally and with a variety of firearms) in all three “Resident Evil” flicks; maybe more so even than in “Fifth Element.”

As a long time fan of Aeon Flux (dating from the original Heavy Metal magazine strip, several years before she appeared in “Liquid Television” on late-night MTV), I didn’t think much of Charlize as Aeon, but it’s very common for live-action movies to fail to live up to their comic strip origins. If the movie is viewed as a stand-alone work, I have no objection to either her performance or the way the character was presented.

Other female heroes to add to the list: Rachel Weisz as Angela Dodson, from “Constantine” (who is no stranger to firearms, as we learn in the very first scene in which she appears); Angela Basset in both Supernova and Strange Days (in the latter, she plays a “security chauffeur” who is very capable); and dare I mention Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa? There surely are others, but my DVD collection is limited and I haven’t seen a movie on the big screen in several years.

16. al perez - March 7, 2009

Glad to see you got rid of the spam notices. Wonder if posting crap like that on someone’s blog counts as a violation of the ZAP.

The problem I keep seeing is that there are freedom freedom issues, not left wing, right wing, feminist, capitalist, socialist deist, xian jewish or southpaw freedom issues. Too many people don’t seem to get this, and apparently these people make movies.

17. Ann Morgan - March 16, 2009

L. Neil, if you really want to get your book ‘between covers’ and make some money doing so, why don’t you look into lulu.com? It is an on demand publisher, I think they accept just about any sort of book, and print up copies only as they are purchased online.

- Ann

18. LMWatBullRun - March 23, 2009

Dear Mr. Smith:

Re: Publishers

I’d suggest Baen Books. They publish Michael Williamson, John Ringo and other ‘anti-social’ types; I’d be a bit surprised if they wouldn’t be interested in your work.

If that does not avail, self-publish. Jim Rawles has done this with material much less interesting than yours and seems well on his way to compelling ‘main-stream’ acceptance. I’ll commit to buy 50 copies at cost plus 25% on spec and I will sell them myself at gun shows and other similar events at double what I paid. Especially if they’re billed as ‘prepublication advance copies!’ I’d bet there are quite a few readers who could do the same. I don’t know what the minimum printer order is but I’d bet if you got solid orders for 5000 copies you, you could get pretty good prices per copy…

On a personal note, thanks for all your work to date. You are one of my favourite authors, and your work means a great deal to me.

19. Becky Jane Cochran - March 24, 2009

One movie you may like (if you don’t mind anime/cartoons) is Princess Mononoke. I liked this one because the 2 main characters fighting each other seemed good but stubborn, rather than your usual good vs. evil. Both were also fighting women. (The one pushing for peace in this one is male.) One of them has liberated women & outcasts of society by arming them with flintlock guns (which the samurai can’t overcome, much as they try), as well as a little steampunk technology. She, along with her fighting women, came off as libertarian in many scenes.

Btw, SMG who played Buffy isn’t afraid of guns. For more, google “buffy doesn’t blame guns”. (She also got listed as a “Republican Babe” somewhere, but I’m not sure why or how. My guess is she’s apolitical with libertarian leanings, based on things she’s said–which, btw, she’s also one of the few well known entertainers to say very little about what she thinks politically.)

Oh, yes, I’d also suggest the Resident Evil movies (if you like that actress), as well as trying Baen books. Baen has done quite a few that where guns aren’t demonized and have odd political slants to them, so I’d think they’d go with your stuff (at least as long as it’s fantasy or scifi).

Go Mary Ruwart!

PS: While not a movie with a female heroine (btw, I never got in trouble for using that word), The Army of Darkness (a comedy disguised as a horror flick) had a few scenes with guns you’d probably enjoy. Not only where King Arthur’s Excalibur quickly meets defeat by a shotgun, but where Ash (the sardonic hero who is obviously fighting to retain what little sanity he has left after being thrown back in time and having to deal with undead and demonic/Cthulhuoid forces) is attacked by a clone of himself possessed by evil forces. The clone attacks him, taunting him that he’s just a little goodie two shoes, until Good Ash again employs his shotgun with a, “Good, bad, I’m the guy with the gun.” :-D

20. Stephen - March 28, 2009

If you are going to watch the Sarah Connor Chronicles you may want to do it quick (or download the episodes from Pirate Bay). Fox recently moved in into the first half of the kiss of death time slot (Fri night 8:00 to 9:00). Dollhouse — Josh Whedon’s recent attempt to recapture some of the Buffy magic — got the second half. Dollhouse might survive the time slot and low rating but SCC is just too expensive to continue unless it picks up viewership.

Ratings have actually improved since the move. Possibly because it is no longer opposite Monday Night Football.

It an interesting commentary on the American Tee Vidiot that Dancing with the Stars can be number one while SCC languishes around #70.

21. LindaC - April 1, 2009

I agree with your list & like all of the female heroes that you’ve mentioned. (And yes, I prefer the term “female heroes” over “heroines”.) I would also “vote” for the addition of Princess Leia/Carrie Fisher & Zoe/Gina Torres in Fiefly/Serenity to your list. (I do not really care for either of the characters played by Summer Glau & Morena Baccarin.)

My own personal all-time favorite female characters are Ripley/Sigourney Weaver in the Alien movies & Zoe/Gina Torres in Firefly/Serenity. Selene/Kate Beckinsale of Underworld is pretty strong & competent also. (Can’t wait to see Underworld 3 when it comes out on DVD.)

Another female character you might consider is Captain Janeway/Kate Mulgrew. She also used guns/weapons on occasion.;-) She was also the first female captain (or “real” leader) portrayed on TV.

A few more you might consider:
– Padme/Amidala from Star Wars Ep. 1, 2, 3
– Major Carter from Stargate SG1 & Teyla from Stargate Atlantis. Both carries & used weapons. Teyla was especially good at hand-to-hand combat.
– The character of Veronica on The Lost World series and the black female warrior & friend of the Beastmaster in the series Beastmaster [can't recall the character's name :-( ]. Both series were filmed in New Zealand, I think. They were both strong female characters & effective fighters.
– The character of Starbuck on the recent Battlestar Galactica series. She was a fighter pilot & also got into a few fist-fights with male crew members IIRC.
– The female leads on the Farscape & Witchblade series, as well as the anime series Blood+.
– Storm, Rogue & Jean Grey from the X-Men – they didn’t use guns, but fought with their own unique “weapons”/powers. There are also a few similar mutant-like fmale heroes on the series Heroes.

As for anime characters, you might consider watching the Cowboy Bebop series – considered one of the all-time best anime series. It is currently running on the Cartoon Network at 2 a.m. MST Sundays (late Sat. night). The female character on the ship – Faye – uses firearms with great abandon. She’s very self-centered & a bit unlikable, but is definitely not afraid to use weapons of any kind.

Had you noticed that almost all strong/competent female characters (especially those able to fight +/or defend) appear in science fiction/fantasy series? (Most anime series are merely animated science fiction/fantasy.) There are occasional “strong” female police officers or FBI/CIA/HS agents in some non-science fiction shows, but I almost always find them unlikeable. Could be because of the organizations they work for….

22. LindaC - April 1, 2009

PS – I can’t believe I forgot to mention Elisa Maza from the Gargoyles animated series – one of the best animated female characters ever!

23. LindaC - April 12, 2009

Anf Erin from Frscape!!!

24. LindaC - April 12, 2009

Some days my typing doesn’t keep pace with my brain… ;-(
That should have been —
And Erin from Farscape (the sci-fi series).

25. Lloyd - May 7, 2009

And police Sgt. Murphy from “Dresden Files”.

On the constitutional and legal issues, I think that Justice Souter departure has pulled the curtain a bit farther away from President Obama: “A Supreme Court Justice …. ought to have empathy for the disadvantaged…” paraphrase as I puked when I heard the original