Women in fiction. Of course you can have a female action hero. Yes, she can carry a dynamic, thrilling plot. There’s no need to make a big deal of it.
Women in fiction: “Atomic Blonde”
A review of the forthcoming thriller Atomic Blonde describes it as “the biggest action role for a woman on screen to date”.
Sounds good to me.
Atomic Blonde (2017) – trailer
A piece in the International New York Times by Jessica Manafi, which appeared in the Austrian Standard on 22 May, argues that Lorraine Broughton, the MI6 spy who is the heroine of the movie played by Charlize Theron, is getting closer to equality by “grounding the action”. Thus, when Theron’s character fights (all men, in the trailer) she gets hit, and hurt, and bruised.
I’m not so sure how unique this is. What about Uma Thurman in Kill Bill or Theron’s own 2003 Monster – trailer below – for which she won the Best Actress Oscar?
Unlike the cartoon violence in Kill Bill, I thought the violence in Monster, much of it directed against Theron’s character, was realistic and relevant.
Monster (2003) – trailer
But there’s a serious point here. The idea that audiences can’t accept women action heroes is widespread. I encountered it myself when trying to sell my thriller Blood Summit a while ago.
Women in fiction: “Blood Summit”
Blood Summit has an action-oriented female hero, Helen Gale. Lots of literary professionals loved it, but it never quite got published. A key expert, seeking to be helpful, wrote to say:
“One key element I have to draw your attention to… is that there seems to be a problem with Helen in the central role. The way that she is portrayed makes her seem too much like a man in women’s clothing. Whatever the realities of the role of women are these days the demands of fiction are different, especially in this broad genre [i.e. thrillers]… …there would be little objection to having a woman in a major role but not where she would be the pov [point of view] character. Equally, the plot resolution should not in any fundamental way revolve around the relationship of such a woman with the male protagonist.”
What do you think? Must women be stereotypically feminine? Exactly how feminine would that be? Meanwhile, I am looking into publishing Blood Summit in the months ahead. Watch this space.
All my own books are packed with strong women. They include Ms N and Tatiana in my blackly comic Seven Hotel Stories Helen Gale, the hero of my hard-hitting Berlin thriller Blood Summit is as dynamic a woman as you could wish for. And in my sci-fi thriller Corona CrimeI’m rather proud of Sandy Banks – although she doesn’t appear until the action reaches New York City.