Women Warriors Are Winning Over Both Guys And Girls
- March 15th, 2012
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Maybe the upcoming film release of “The Hunger Games” has made us more sensitive to the trend, but we’re noticing several new properties based around tough women warriors who are out to save the world — and change perceptions of gender roles in the process. The concept is really nothing new — there’s Xena: Warrior Princess, Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wonder Woman, and more. Each has made its mark in pop culture, but none has been elevated to mass popularity, partly because they’ve struggled to win both male and female mainstream audiences.
It’s tough to create characters and stories that appeal to guys and girls, but it seems to be happening a lot lately. “The Hunger Games” may have a female heroine and a love triangle, but it’s also a story of politics and a fight for survival. It may have long paragraphs devoted to fashion, but it also has epic descriptions of battles. Girls might have been the first to latch on to the books, but we’ve noticed guys (young and old) reading The Hunger Games, and Lionsgate and Summit are counting on those same guys to boost the film’s box office take next weekend.
For as long as we can remember, for a property to gain wide approval of both boys and girls, it had to have a male lead characters. Girls will read and watch stories about a boy, but boys won’t read or watch stories about a girl. But all that’s changing as girls are encouraged to be downright badass and guys are allowed to be a little more sensitive — and these new gender norms are being reflected in books, TV, and film.
Nickelodeon and Disney are both introducing women warrior properties this year. Nick’s is “The Legend of Korra,” a spin off from the highly successful “Avatar: The Last Airbender” animated series. For the first time ever, the avatar is…a chick! She’s literally the most powerful character in the show, but she also occasionally shows a sensitive side, as did Aang in “Avatar.” It’s a relatively safe bet that male fans of “Avatar” will want to check out the new series. Based on the trailer, they might also stick around; the new series is infused with the same brilliant fight scenes and dramatic struggles that made the previous so popular.
Disney’s take on the tough girl relies more on traditional gender roles being subverted. Taking place in 10th Century Scotland, “Brave” features Pixar’s first female protagonist, Merida, and she’s not too happy with her lot in life — she’s required to wear constricting dresses and is expected to marry and let a man take care of her. Instead, she sets out to slay a mythical beast with her trusty bow and arrow. (Atta girl!) The film may have a harder time winning boys than the other properties mentioned above because it doesn’t shrug off stale gender norms, but instead leans on them as a means to propel the story. Weak and overly pretty male characters are laughed at, and Merida faces derision for her strong, outspoken personality. There isn’t much to appeal to guys in the trailers we’ve seen so far, and we’ve yet to meet a strong male character for guys to identify with outside of Merida’s aging father. However, a few more action scenes and the inevitable bold, dashing male lead might make this the next “Tangled,” which boys watched, even if they didn’t become its biggest fans.