A few months back, a radio show contacted BUST to ask if one of our staffers would be interested in going on air to discuss misogyny in the James Bond series. A loud cricket noise echoed throughout the office—nobody had watched more than one or two of the flicks. That is, nobody but me. See, I’ve watched nearly every James Bond movie ever made, aside from some of the ones during the Roger Moore years (thumbs-down, no thank you). I’ve also seen every Jason Bourne film, most of the ones in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s oeuvre, will talk your ear off about Jason Statham, and went to see Gladiator on opening weekend alone, despite the fact that I have no Russell Crowe feelings. Hi, my name is Molly, and I love action movies.
I love the roundhouse kicks, the punching, the hanging-from-a-rope-ladder-attached-to-a-moving-helicopter. But I’m certainly not blind to the misogynist undertones, or straight-up overtones, in nearly every action flick. In these films, ladies exist primarily to shriek and alert the bad guy to her hiding spot (like a real dumdum), dangle from the side of a mountain while shrieking, or shriek as a German terrorist holds a gun to her head while yelling, “I’ll do it! I’ll kill this broad!” Sure, there are a few quality action movies in which women aren’t bikini-clad human props—some of my faves are Hanna, Alien, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Kill Bill—but these represent a small tip of the entertainment iceberg. And to quote Jeannie Darcy, don’t even get me started on the boner-inducing action movies with a female “heroine” who handily fights crime in a thong and a cropped T-shirt.
(The Hanna trailer, included here due to its awesomeness)
I know the whole “I’m a woman who loves action movies” concept sounds fishy, like I’m embracing this traditionally masculine genre to align myself with dudes. But I’ve spent most of my life intentionally surrounding myself with women: going to an almost-all-girls’ college and having an astoundingly female-heavy friend pool. I mean, I work at BUST Magazine, for chrissakes. And I will gladly watch the shit out of any movie involving Meryl Streep or Diane Keaton doing pretty much anything. But if left up to my own devices, I’ll scan Netflix for movies with some hot, hot kick-punching action. My boyfriend certainly isn’t the one encouraging my fascination. “Really, Face Off?” he asked with concern as he came home one night and saw me watching this ludicrous masterpiece.
Yes, action movies are brainless, but they present a version of the world in which the bad guys get what they deserve, and the good guy gives a wink before peeling out in his Ferrari and heading off into the Miami sunset. The hero always knows the right stranglehold for each occasion, and there’s always a trap door that leads to the perfect spot in the industrial boiler room. I just find them so fun. There’s a scene in The Transporter in which a guy looks out his front door’s peephole only to see Jason Statham’s feet flying toward him, kicking the door down. When I watched the trailer and saw that clip for the first time, I started bouncing up and down in my chair, almost involuntarily clapping.
(The aforementioned moment happens at 1:19)
Misogyny and condescension toward women abound in action movies, and while I’m ultra critical of most of the other media I consume, I’m somehow willing to overlook the worst moments of action movies. (Sad but true.) Maybe my whole fascination with them amounts to less of a ding against my feminist beliefs than against my intellect level. Regardless, I’m heartened to see films like The Hunger Games and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—both of which feature fully developed, powerful female protagonists—finding success at the box office. Is their popularity a sign that viewers are becoming more open to the idea of women kicking ass, and kicking doors down? Or is it a sign that our culture’s fixation with violence is broadening its scope, for better or worse? I’m not sure, and I certainly can’t explain my own preferences. (Why do I hate olives and love 70s soft rock? I have no answers.) While I attempt to sort this out, I’ll be parked on my sofa, watching Bruce Willis dismantle a bomb. Not because I have to, but because I want to.