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Emasculation and the Problem with the Contemporary 105-Pound Female Action Hero

By Dustin Rowles | Think Pieces | August 28, 2011 |

By Dustin Rowles | Think Pieces | August 28, 2011 |

There’s no small part of me that got a little annoyed at the number of people — viewers and critics — who insisted on making such a huge deal of Zoe Saldana’s weight in Colombiana. Sure, she weighs about 105 pounds and has arms not that dissimilar to Zelda in Pet Semetary.


But what annoys me are the large number of folks unwilling to suspend their disbelief for a waif-ish female action hero, but who are perfectly willing to do so for automobiles that turn into alien robots, superheroes who gain their power through power rings or 1940’s steroid machines, or even a pint-sized Matt Damon beating the shit out of a guy with a magazine. Really? Really? We can watch parachuting tanks engage in mid-air battle, but we draw the line at a lithesome woman beating the shit out of a average-sized Capo?

But there’s another part of me that gets it, that completely understood that criticism while watching Angelina Jolie and her meatless Ulnas take out dozens of brawny dudes in Salt. There is a real disconnect. Matt Damon may be pint-sized, Liam Neeson may be on the older side, and Hugh Jackman may not actually be capable of leaping into a moving helicopter, but, at the very least, these men — and most other action heroes — would at least be capable of finishing basic training in the military. Zoe Saldana and Angelina Jolie? Probably not. They probably wouldn’t even be admitted into the military under its minimum-weight restrictions.

But then it comes back to this: Why does Hollywood cast a woman like Zoe Saldana or Angelina Jolie as an action heroine? I think the answer is self-evident: Because a lot of the people attracted to action movies don’t want to see the kind of woman fit to be an action hero in these movies. Let’s face it: A lot of men simply don’t find the Linda Hamilton in Terminator types sexually attractive, and in the minds of Hollywood, sexual attractiveness seems to be a prerequisite. See also, Kate Beckinsale and Milla Jovovich. In fact, Michelle Rodriguez may be more suitable for these types of roles, but what do men say when they see Rodriguez? “She must be a lesbian.”

I’m not saying that this is the type of thinking that goes on with our more socially progressive readership — in fact, it’s probably not. But the majority male moviegoers are more conservative in their thinking, are intimidated by women with well-defined biceps, and are incapable of categorizing a more bulked-up woman into the confines of their narrow little minds without assuming she must want to be a man. The country has seen a lot of progress over the last 30 years, but there are plenty of moviegoers who are still unwilling to accept — and pay to see — a female shit-kicker unless she also looks more delicate and fragile. How else can we explain the uber-femininity of the majority of, say, the women on this list? And two of the women on that list perhaps capable of real-life ass kickings — Alice Braga and Michelle Rodriguez — aren’t exactly burning up the box-office.

So, I’m actually excited to see how Haywire fares at the box office this fall. Will movie-going audiences accept and pony up $10 to see former MMA fighter Gina Carano in Soderbergh’s action flick, and will they do so without resorting to a certain brand of name-calling defensiveness: “WTF? She looks like a dude. Is she some kind of tranny?” Because 1) that’s not cool you narrow-minded little shits, 2) she’s f*cking super hot and that doesn’t make me gay for thinking so (and if you’re the type to think so, who f*cking cares), and 3) she could kick your ass up and down the playing field, asshole.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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