Female action stars have always had it harder than the guys. A few win mass appeal and become icons of female aspiration—Wonder Woman first graced the cover of Ms. magazine in 1972—but most flounder for fans beyond adolescent male comic-book readers. It might seem that tightrope-walking between Amazonian strength and femme-fatale status does requires a golden lasso and invisible plane.
But the good news for Hollywood—and audiences—is that there is an enduring formula that works. Superheroines since the 1970s—from Wonder Woman to Princess Leia, Charlie's Angels to Lara Croft, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" to "Alias's" Sydney Bristow—have all followed a few simple rules to find success on the big and little screen. And every would-be action babe who has flopped has broken at least one of them. So what's the secret?
1. Do fight demons. Don't fight only inner demons.
2. Do play well with others. Don't shun human society.
3. Do exhibit self-control. Don't exhibit mental disorders.
4. Do wear trendy clothes. Don't wear fetish clothes.
5. Do embrace girl power. Don't cling to man hatred.
6. Do help hapless men. Don't try to kill your boyfriend.
7. Do toss off witty remarks. Don't look perpetually sullen.
Boy, that's the truth! I like Halle Berry, but couldn't stand Catwoman. I almost like Hermione Granger as much as Harry Potter (better, sometimes when Harry is whining). When I was a kid I loved Wonder Woman and Supergirl. Why is it so hard to portray women as anything other than sexy?
I don't mind sexy, but how about intelligent, strong and smart too? Without those added qualities, "You're not likely going to see a bunch of little girls arguing about who gets to play her."
Most of my heroes while I was growing up were men, I have to admit. In my imagination I became them when I played. Girls today have so many more options and that is great for them.
Superheroines and Superheroes are a psychological abstraction of the best that is within each individual man and woman. "Truth, Justice and the American Way" -- Superman's motto-- essentially sums it up nicely.
Real superheroes are dedicated to honesty and integrity; they are effective in obtaining justice and they are the American ideal of the lone figure who stands up to evil and defeats it decisively.
Now, more than ever, we need them--both male and female versions--to renew our dedication to those values.
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