A lot of things come to my mind when I think of James Cameron. Kickass director. Deep-sea explorer. But defender of female action heroines? Not at the top of my list.
Maybe it’s because of his notorious hair-trigger temper on set, or perhaps his string of infidelities and failed marriages--the two most high profile being to Katherine Bigelow and Linda Hamilton--but somewhere along the line I forgot that this was the man responsible for such legendary badass female characters as Ellen Ripley (from the Alien series) and Sarah Connor (Terminator). Such characters were interesting and emotionally rich: a far cry from the limited, two-dimensional stereotypes that women often play in action movies.
The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman focused on these strong characters when she interviewed Cameron last week. The two discussed a lot of film-related topics, but the most interesting (to me, at least) was his view on the lack of interesting female characters in Hollywood action movies.
“I didn't even think [a multi-dimensional female character] was that remarkable when I did it with Terminator – it's remarkable by its absence in other Hollywood movies…I do think Hollywood movies get it wrong when they show women in action roles – they basically make them men. Or else they make them into superheroes in shiny black suits, which is just not as interesting."
On writing strong female characters for action movies, he said:
“To me, it's just another challenge. It doesn't matter to me if it's an engineering challenge, a scientific challenge, a writing challenge – for a man to write a woman and make her interesting to women as well as men, it's a challenge. Maybe it's just a quest to understand women who are sometimes inscrutable.”
Given the scant amount of movies that pass the Bechdel test nowadays, it’s very comforting to read these words from one of the most influential people in Hollywood. Hopefully with more of his influence, and the work of awesome female film ladies everywhere, this trend will start to change.
Photos via people.com, themarysue.com; badass heroine illustrations via jskaphobe.bigcartel.com