Emily Blunt has been making the TIFF press rounds, talking about her new movie Sicaro, and in doing so, has been dropping tiny gender-based truthbombs all over Toronto. She gave a fantastic interview to Indiewire (which you should definitely read in full) where she talks at length about the weird implications of the “strong female role,” and how strength as a descriptor for women doesn’t usually mean strength of character, but strength of her fist in someone’s face.
I have a complicated and mixed reaction being anointed action heroine, because I also feel that it’s not quite right to associate toughness with wielding a gun in two pictures, which has sort of happened now, that’s sort of the reaction. I don’t think Josh [Brolin] and Benicio [Del Toro] are being told, “wow, you play such a strong role.” The definition of strength to me is something that I’m interested in hearing, why people seem to think that gun-wielding and punching a guy is super-strong. I guess because we just don’t see it in films, I think that’s why there’s the reaction to it.
Blunt also took the opportunity to crush the hopes of anyone who was hoping she might be attached to the upcoming Captain Marvel movie by saying straight up she hasn’t heard anything about it. But she does think it’s interesting and indicative of larger trends that people keep bringing up her name. Because her name, along with a few other women, are the names that always come up for these roles. And if you’ve ever wondered why the action heroine shortlist always seems so familiar, it’s because it is.
I think it’s because the list is very short, because we don’t see women in these kind of roles. So I think as soon as you do a role like that, like Charlize did or I did, or Rebecca’s done — there’s like four of us or something. And Jen Lawrence. So I feel like us four, we get talked about — and Angie, Angelina. So it’s a list of like, four women who are going to be considered for those kind of roles. So I think that’s why the rumors happen, because they’re like, “who else? Surely not another girl can wield a gun,” you know what I mean? “A woman doing push-ups? There’s only one who can do that.”
So do we think it’s any coincidence that Rachel McAdams was confirmed today as being cast in the Doctor Strange movie? We don’t know what her role will be yet, but it wouldn’t be surprising to hear she’s been added to the list of Women Who Can Be Marketable As Actiony now that she’s played with knives and stuff on True Detective. She may not have done major stunts, but she at least proved she could grow her roots out, put on some tight jeans, and be seen as both tough AND impossibly beautiful— the perfect intersection of the female action Venn diagram. It’s definitely a weird catch-22 that major studios don’t think a woman can be believably sold as an action star until she already IS one. Add to that the fact that by the rules these studios have set up, the woman in question has to be youngish, gorgeous, usually white, and already a big enough box office draw, and it’s no surprise that there are only five women on that list.