In recent years, there has been an influx in the amount of female lead action movies hitting mainstream theaters. However, some of the most recent examples of such films, like Terminator: Dark Fate and Charlie’s Angels 2019, were considered box office flops for their mediocre opening weekend numbers. The Daily Wire, a right wing news publication, features an ongoing series called “Go Woke, Go Broke.” Their view as to why these recent female action movies have done poorly is boiled down to the fact that they are pandering to the recent trend of girl-power in liberal Hollywood, and try to shove feminist ideas down audiences’s throats. I know, try to keep your eyes from rolling all the way to the back of your head. Now on the other end of the spectrum, Elizabeth Banks, director of Charlie’s Angels 2019, came out in an interview where she claimed that, “If this movie doesn’t make money it reinforces a stereotype in Hollywood that men don’t go see women do action movies.” Both of these perspectives take a narrow minded approach as to why female lead action films have bombed recently, and lack any real solutions as to how this problem can be fixed.
I think what really chaps my rear-end concerning the Daily Wire pieces is how it’s not a substantive critique of film to begin with. In both of their pieces concerning Terminator: Dark Fate and Charlie’s Angels 2019, there is very little to absolutely zero critique when it comes to the filmmaking merits of each movie. There’s nothing concerning factors such as the film’s script, acting, cinematography, originality, etc. Rather, both articles simply give a breakdown of the movies’ weak financial performances and claims it’s all due to “ultra-woke feminism.” On the flip side, Elizabeth Bank’s claim that her movie failed because men are sexists who don’t like female lead action movies, is just plain wrong. In recent years, female lead action movies such as Mad Max: Fury Road, Wonder Woman, and Atomic Blonde found much success, both critically and financially. There’s also been female action movies in the past , though not nearly as many, such as Kill Bill 1&2 and Aliens, that are now seen as classics. The reason these movies did well, is because they were quality films to begin with.
The Real Issue:
When it comes to movies like Terminator: Dark Fate, Ghostbuster 2016, and Charlie’s Angels 2019, they all have one thing in common. They were all lazy spinoffs/sequels/reboots of pre-existing franchises that people have long given any crap about. That’s not to say that films like the original Terminator or Ghostbusters weren’t highly influential, they were, but these newer attempts of revitalizing those franchises failed horribly because they failed they lacked any sort of artistic purpose, and simply wanted to bank on nostalgia. This is why a film like Mad Max: Furry Road, a sequel to a long dead franchise, worked so well with Charlize Theron as the main protagonist, because it was made with a purpose, as evident by the fact that the director the original Mad Max trilogy had been trying to make this film for over a decade. When movies are made with a vision, with passion from all contributing sides, and with the want to tell a story, it will connect with people on some level, and create success. Now, a movie like Mad Max: Fury Road, starring a strong female lead and carrying clear feminist themes in it’s narrative, is now considered one the best action films of the last decade. This is exactly why whoever is behind the camera is just as, if not, more important than the people in front of it.
In order to get more films that star women, there has to be more women directors. It’s no secret that Hollywood is a male dominated industry, so much so that in recent years, it’s been very evident just how much power males can wield over women in this industry. Getting stories that star women is important, but it’s also equally important that those stories are told from their own perspective. This starts by supporting the current wave of both mainstream and up and coming indie women directors such as Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman 1984), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird, Little Women), Kitty Green (The Assistant), and Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire). If we support the female directors of today, its helps to support and inspire the future of female directors tomorrow.