October 31, 2007 | Comments ()

By Agent Bedhead | Guides | October 31, 2007 |


This was supposed to be a Halloween Horror Heroine guide, but it’s been crafted into a fusion that includes kick-ass chicks of the sci-fi and comic genres for a few reasons: 1) These genres are incestuous; many films, like Terminator (a film that actually scared the metallic liquid out of me upon its first viewing), are hybrids of horror, action, and sci-fi genres and sub-genres; 2) chicks in horror movies are generally portrayed as weak-willed, simpering damsels who can’t do much but unwittingly impale themselves; and 3) in rare cases where females are allowed to kick some horror keister, their characters are largely one-dimensional Tn’A jigglers. Consequently, most lead female characters in horror flicks don’t qualify for the “Ass-Kicking” heroine title, so heroines have been borrowed from the action/sci-fi realm. You got a problem with it? Feel free to voice your choices in the comments below.

buffy4sm.jpgBuffy Summers, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

“People to see, demons to kill.” This seemingly diminutive blonde was anything but passive when faced with her destiny as a warrior against the forces of evil. Buffy Summers just wanted to be an ordinary teenage girl; alas, she was destined to be the Slayer, plucked away from her ordinary life and placed into extraordinary circumstances. Buffy was bestowed with the supernatural ability and strength to defend against the evil that rises up from beneath her sleepy town. Despite the inconveniences to her social life, Buffy’s role as secret warrior against hell’s creatures was bolstered by her bravery and resourcefulness in obliterating vampires into puffs of dust. Buffy acknowledged that evil does and will always exist, regardless of one’s particular religious beliefs, and that it must be confronted and its current manifestations defeated — it must be guarded against with vigilance because, “There’s always more.” While Buffy couldn’t avoid her role as a Slayer, she did make some admirable choices on exactly how to fulfill her role. She fights evil over and over again, and although she might have complained about her lack of professional autonomy, she quickly came to terms with her status as the chosen one. Even when Buffy tired of following the edicts of the Watcher’s Council, she persevered as a renegade Slayer. Buffy’s professionalism, individualism, and almost gratuitous use of violence seemed to suggest a masculine character, and even her name belied convenient stereotype. Indeed, this kick-ass heroine always did the right thing, no matter how it affected her plans for the high school prom.

sarahconnor5.jpgSarah Connor, The Terminator, T2: Judgment Day.

“Come on. Do I look like the mother of the future?” When we first met Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), she was an ordinary person — a waitress who jokingly flirted with her roommate’s boyfriend, who was stood up by her date, and who decided to head out alone one evening. By the end of the evening, she learned that she was the mother of John Connor, leader of the resistance against a future war against the machines. Naturally, she obtained this information from Kyle Reese, a soldier who volunteered to travel back and time to help save her from the Terminator’s mission. In the first Terminator, Sarah transformed from potential victim to budding warrior, and — thanks to the ironical time-travelling mechanisms of Skynet — conceived the leader of the future. In Terminator II: Judgment Day, we revisit Sarah Connor as an angry, institutionalized woman who, due to her seemingly delusional rants about the impending machines, had been kept away from her son. In preparation for the coming war, Sarah passed her cell-bound years by training herself into a rock-hard mercenary soldier, and in doing so, she almost lost her femininity by becoming a killing machine. At the last moment, however, she was unable to kill Skynet’s creator, Miles Dyson, when she spotted a picture of his family. This so-called failure saved her humanity and reminded us of the old Sarah Connor, who learned to pull the trigger when it really mattered and let the bad guys off themselves.

aliens3sm.jpgEllen Ripley, Aliens.

“Get away from her, you bitch!” Like Sarah Connor, Ellen Ripley undergoes a personality transformation between films to help the storyline forge into sequels. In Alien, director Ridley Scott presented us with a tough yet feminine woman who, when not fighting for her life, basically hung out in her tank top and panties. In the first film, Ripley was tougher, braver and more resourceful than her shipmates. At this point, however, she was a mere ensemble player that somehow survived the first film by default. However, when she finally destroyed the alien who slaughtered her comrades, she never wept for those who fell; instead, she simply filed an incident report in the ship’s logs. In the second film, director James Cameron took over and, despite another ensemble cast, added several layers of complexity to Ripley’s character. In short, Cameron permitted Ripley to be a woman and still totally kick ass. When Ripley first awoke from her 50-year cryogenic sleep, she found herself troubled by nightmares and post-traumatic depression. She was vulnerable and didn’t deal so well with what happened to her in the first film. Despite Ripley’s desire to finally become a mother to her natural daughter, too many years had passed and her daughter was no longer alive. She channeled that maternal instinct by traveling with Marines to protect the human colonists of another planet from the aliens.

Here, Ripley showed her femininity in a different way than most action heroines do. Rather than taking the easier route by sexualizing Ripley, having her hop into bed with one of the male crew members, and pronouncing her a bona fide female action hero, Ripley drew her femininity from her maternal nature. After rescuing a child named Newt, the lone survivor, she became an adopted mother of sorts to the child. Through nightmares, tears, and depression, Ripley’s emotions drove her actions, and this made her fear, rage, and determination so much more believable than, say, the emotions of Schwarzenegger characters (not that Arnold didn’t kick ass, but not for a moment would we believe that Arnold is scared out of his mind while slaughtering the entirety of El Presidente’s private army in Commando). After most of the cocky Marines have fallen in combat, when Newt ends up in the clutches of the alien Queen, Ripley vanquishes the beast in hand-to-hand combat. It is a testament to Weaver’s portrayal of Ripley that while she kicks some alien Queen ass, we are perfectly aware how scared shitless she really is, and this grounds her character. At the end of Aliens, Ripley’s human qualities provide her with the determination to transcend herself as an iconic female superhuman.

minamurray1sm.jpgWilhelmina Murray, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

“Can London survive this?” Mina Murray-Harker is best known to film audiences as the damsel in distress in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In the novel, Mina outlasts Dracula and sticks with her uber-wimpy husband, Jonathan Harker, for reasons unimaginable. Fortunately, Alan Moore rewrote Mina’s story as part of the comic series, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which was later made into a horrid film of which we only mention in passing for its abrupt departure from the comic version. In the comic book, Mina didn’t need no stinkin’ vampire powers, and she didn’t need Jonathan either, so she divorced his sorry ass. Later, she was asked to recruit a group of men to serve London as special agents. Mina reflected the Victorian tenor that certain weapons are barbaric (e.g., Captain Nemo’s harpoon gun), and she didn’t kick-ass in the physical sense by employing guns, swords, or kung-fu moves. Still, she was quite respected by the group of agents that she led, and a certain amount of her razor-tongued, no-nonsense method of leadership could be attributed to the horrors that she suffered at the hands of Dracula. Hell, even Mr. Hyde respected Mina and totally laid the smackdown on the Invisible Man when he dared to lay an unkind hand on her. Under Mina’s leadership, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen saved London from destruction stemming from atrocities such as the illegal weapons trade and martian invasions. Also, unlike the film adaptation, Mina Murray doesn’t have to literally kick ass to, well, kick some serious ass.

cherry1sm.jpgCherry Darling Planet Terror.

“Go go, not cry cry.”The problem with goals is that they become the thing you talk about instead of the thing you do. Such was the attitude of Rose McGowan’s hyperbolic, hard-luck go-go dancer who quit the trade and set off into the night to become the world’s least funny stand-up comedian. When she reconnected with her estranged ex-boyfriend, El Wray (Freddy Rodríguez), their reconciliation is thrown off track when a zombie chews off one of Cherry’s legs. Her reaction: “Look at me! I was gonna be a stand-up comedian! Who’s gonna laugh now?” Driven by circumstance to defeat the zombie hordes, Cherry realized her unlikely destiny as humanity’s salvation. It didn’t hurt that El Wray crafted a machine gun prosthetic in place of her leg so she could fire off several rounds by merely aiming and kicking. This movie may not have been a box-office success, but the image of Cherry’s lethal-legged silhouette will endure.

Agent Bedhead (a.k.a. “Kimberly”) lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She can be found kicking the occasional ass over at agentbedhead.com.

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Guides | October 31, 2007 | Comments ()



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