ashitaka, buddha, characters, claudia, fantasy, female protagonist, female role, feminism, interview with the vampire, irene adler, jesus, lady eboshi, lyra, mary, movies, princess mononoke, role models, san, science fiction, sherlock holmes, simza, story elements, the golden compass
No post yesterday….I’m going to say it was in protest of SOPA.
Yep. Totally in protest of SOPA.
So, continuing my feminist rant…
It’s best to read that post before reading this one, otherwise you’ll most likely be completely lost.
Let’s go back to Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows for a moment.
Game of Shadows has three active female characters in the whole movie.
Let’s take apart their motivations and actions (not personality).
Simza: Gypsy woman who joins and helps Sherlock and Watson by sharing information, giving them passage to enemy territory and getting them out of danger, all for the sake of finding and saving her brother. She was only in London in order to find her brother. Once she was part of the anarchist movement, but left it when it got dangerous. Her only motivation at this point is finding and rescuing her brother, and I doubt she is interested in stopping a war or stopping Moriarty (though to be fair, she has no reason to care…that’s where I think the writers could change it and give her something more, expanding her role).
Mary: Well, though at the end she seemed very happy to be part of taking Moriarty down, her primary motivations is to hear from and see her new husband. She’s a tough cookie and protects herself and her husband when danger arises, but other than that, she has no other goals or desires. If it weren’t for her husband, she wouldn’t even be in this mess.
Irene Adler: She’s very special to me, and not because she shares the same name as my mother, but because she had the potential to be the female version of Sherlock Holmes. In fact, the reason she’s in the movies at all is that in the stories she is one of the extremely few and probably the only woman to ever outwit Sherlock Holmes. She is also the only woman Holmes acknowledged and showed interest in, which is a big deal since Holmes practically hated women (he saw them as a distraction).
In the first movie, Adler was awesome because still, she could outsmart Holmes, like when she drugged him, and this put her on the same level as him.
BUT they ruined it by making her not only a Love Interest but by also cheapening her character by making her a bit selfish and a criminal. She was only interested in money, her job with Moriarty ….and okay interested in Holmes as well. Her role revolved around these two men and money and that was it.
In the second movie, well those who watched the movie know what happened with her.
And while it was great for the plot and for Holmes’ character development, for Adler and her role in the story it was…well limited and not at all living up to her true potential.
Often you will find female characters in these types of movies where their motivation lies strictly with money and survival. This is a trick. It makes it seem like they are strong, independent women, but that’s not equality. Why is it that for a woman to be seen as strong and smart, she has to lower her moral standards? This is not equality. I call it a trick because it fakes it. It looks as if they are strong and equal to men, but not really because they had to sacrifice something in order to get there and that’s not how it works or rather, not how it should work.
So, how should it work? What is it that I’m looking for?
Well, to be very clear, this has little to do with the characters itself and her personality, and more about her behavior, motivations and role in the plot.
What she does, why she does it and how it influences the plot.
Take for example….
Claudia from Interview of the Vampire: Kills Lestat in order to be free, completely changing her life, Louis’ life and the plot from then onwards. She didn’t do it for Louis. She did it for her own desire to be free and get closer to know the truth about her kind and also the fact Lestat pretty much ruined her life. This she shared with Louis. They were equals, wanting the same thing (though with different ideas on how to get it). But her role is not the Hateful Bitch, because once Lestat was gone, her story didn’t finish. She didn’t dedicate her life for vengeance. He was just a temporary obstacle.
Lyra from The Golden Compass: She almost enters the realm of the Selfish Bitch (kind of hard to call her a bitch when she’s so young, so don’t take the title too literally), but she’s a kid. She lies to get what she wants, but she still has strong moral character. She also has a strong desire for adventure. She wants to find the truth of everything that is happening and wants to rescue her friends. She is interested in the secrets of the compass, and to right wrongs. She also wants to find her father, but it’s not her sole motivation for everything she does. Being the main character, this might seem like obvious behavior, but her character is still very rare, which is why I love her so much.
In my opinion, the movies where female characters shine the most brilliantly and play roles truly equal to men are those with both female protagonists and female antagonists.
One of the best examples is Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke.
There are many characters in this movie. The best part is that for every male character, there was almost always a female counterpart. This could definitely be one of those rare movies where the female and male roles are equally distributed 50/50.
And this is also proof that just because a character is secondary doesn’t mean they have to fall into standard roles.
Without giving the entire movie away, Princess Mononoke is about a boy, Ashitaka, who finds himself caught between two worlds: the natural world and the industrial world.
He is also caught between two women (not romantically), who represent each world.
The movie has several named female characters with important roles, but I want to talk about the most important ones, San and Lady Eboshi.
San: A young girl, raised by a wolf-god mother (another very awesome female character with a very important role) and her pups, San wants to protect her forest and all the animals from the humans who are tearing it down. She fights for herself, her home and her family. Even after she falls in love, she doesn’t fall into any role and doesn’t change her values just because of him. In fact, she even attacks him after he rescues her sworn enemy.
Lady Eboshi: Leader and (I believe) founder of Iron Town, a city built on the edge of the forest known for its iron. The city is practically run by women Eboshi took from the streets as prostitutes and gave them real jobs, a real future. She also took in lepers and takes care of them. Despite her coldhearted way of killing the forest gods and cutting down the trees, her motivations are strictly practical. She’s not evil, but is simply defending her way of life just as San is defending hers.
Ashitaka is caught up between these two women who want to kill each other, but he doesn’t hate either. In fact, he understands them both and even though he falls for San, he still protects Eboshi, even when she nearly kills them all.
In other words, all three of them are equal, not one dependent solely on the actions of the other.
Watch the movie to see what I mean. It’s amazing.
Basically, it all comes down to equality.
That’s what I want.
This whole rant sparked inside of me years ago and it always comes back to the surface of my mind the same way.
I’m sitting in the movie theater, watching a kickass movie. One time, it was Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. And I remember, after watching it for the third time, thinking:
“Why is it that I want to be more like Jack Sparrow than I wanted to be Elizabeth?”
This has happened to me again and again. My role models were all men.
(Oh Yes, I went there).
So this is the point of these posts.
I want more characters like them that are female.
A character like Sherlock Holmes, but female.
A character like Jack Sparrow, but female.
A character like Morpheus or Neo from The Matrix, but female.
A character like Jesus or Buddha, but female.
(YES I WENT THERE)
This would be TRUE equality.
Just because you give the girl a black belt in kicking ass, give her a large gun or make her sneaky, that doesn’t mean she’s equal to the guy right beside her who’s saving the goddamn world!
*drops mike, walks off stage*
What about you? Agree? Disagree? Anything else to add?
Also, if anyone has any great recommendations of books, movies or graphic novels where female characters truly shine, please let me know in the comments. Lately, I’ve been running dry.
*Also, please forgive the religious cameos. I know they might have been or were real people and this post is about fantasy/scifi fiction, but please don’t take offense. Not having a religious or spiritual female icon to look up is just as frustrating as everything else I mentioned and that’s why I included them. If you were insulted by their mention, I’m very sorry.