We here at Audiences Everywhere love nothing more than a healthy debate, so we’ve decided to take our passion for discussion one step further. For our newest regular feature, we are going to let one male and one female writer blindly tackle the same hot button topic. We’ll publish both answers together, which will mark the first time either writer gets to see the other’s anwer. Then you, the reader, are encouraged to chime in with who presents the best case, and add your two cents on our topic.
First up: Back in December when Star Wars: The Force Awakens exploded into theaters, not-so-subtle sexists from the women haters club emerged to slap Rey with the pointed and spiteful label of Mary Sue. Then a couple of weeks ago, the Star Wars franchise came under fire again when the new Rogue One trailer was released and the franchise revealed yet another powerhouse female protagonist in the form of Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones. All of the speculation and dissection of the female action hero trope and what qualities this character should and shouldn’t possess sparks the question, “Who is the modern female action hero and what does label even mean?”
Men are both vulnerable and invulnerable to drastically different effects in the action genre. Imagine a male hero from scratch. Chances are, you can find a movie containing that archetype. But when it comes to women who kick ass and take names… well that’s a little more of an uphill struggle there. People don’t seem to believe women can kick ass as easily as men. Obviously, they’re wrong.
For proof, enter Mad Max: Fury Road a pure shot of adrenaline and non-stop action mayhem led by Charlize Theron as Furiosa. Yes, Tom Hardy also stars as the titular Mad Max who is not a happy person. But it’s Charlize Theron’s Furiosa who imbues all the ideals of women strength. She shows her brawn by standing with Max Rockatansky punch-for-punch in a fist fight. She utilizes her brain by planning a massive escape from a desert death cult. She shares her heart in leading the wives to safety.
Those are just a few examples of her showcasing her capabilities, but the truth is she shows all of them all of the time throughout the film. It’s not just that she can toss a warboy from the side of a truck, it’s why she does it. Essentially a matriarchal warrior, Furiosa’s mission statement is simple: get home. She seeks a place she can call home, so she can protect the people she cares for. That mentality isn’t limited to the people who join her on her extreme road trip, it’s extended to everyone in the desolate wasteland once known as planet earth.
Furiosa is human. She screams, she bleeds, and she cries. But she never stops fighting. She is allowed to be just as powerful and fallible as her male counterparts. That’s a hero. That’s Furiosa. – Diego Crespo
Buffy the Vampire Slayer ended its series run in 2003, and although film and television have produced some seriously kickass women in the last few years, no female character has embodied the depth or the strength comparable to Buffy Summers, the chosen one. The Slayer inspired legions of women while battling the undead for seven glorious seasons and continues to do so years after the conclusion of the show. It isn’t just her skill with Mr. Pointy that earns Buffy that defines her as the female action hero, but rather the opposite. She refuses to be defined by her fate, constantly striving to maintain her connection to the world while simultaneously carrying the weight of it.
So what makes Buffy so special? It’s not her super strength or exceptionally speedy reflexes, although those never hurt in a fight. Buffy proves early in the series that she’s a hero even without her powers, saving both herself and her mother using only her ingenuity when her strength is depleted as a test administered on her 18th birthday.
She’s also selfless, sacrificing herself time and again, to save not only innocents, but all human lives. Refusing to take a human life is a moral code Buffy adamantly stands by, refusing to watch anyone take justice into their own hands when it comes to people, whether they deserve a second chance or not. Even when she’s shot by the man to executes another member of the Scooby gang and Willow goes on a vengeful killing spree, Buffy tries to stop her best friend from killing Warren.
Although I have no problem with the concept of a Mary Sue, The Slayer’s ultimate strength also stems from her own weaknesses. Buffy is flawed. She screws up, pretty often. But vulnerability, human connection, and the willingness to make mistakes are what makes Buffy a hero we can all stand behind, because underneath those witty puns and that killer roundhouse kick, she’s just like us. Buffy has slept with the wrong guy, trusted the wrong teacher, hurt her friends, lied to her mother, and what could be more important than reminding women that those things make only make her more powerful. Buffy Summers is just like us, which makes every woman the chosen one. – Beth Reynolds
Featured Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures