In 2006 Joss Whedon (certainly the mainstream man of the hour in light of Avengers‘ rip-roaring success) expressed his exasperation with the question “Why do you write all these strong female characters?” His pithy, Whedonesque answer of course was “Because you’re still asking me that question.”
Five years later in 2011, his words and frustration still rang true. The list of top ten box office hits includes only one film with a female lead – The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, and Bella’s status as a “strong female character” is questionable (more on Twilight in a minute…) and the audience for the film adaptations of Stephanie Meyer’s novels is female-dominant. Last year’s box office champ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows does have a strong female character in Hermione Granger, but the lead of that film is obviously the Potter himself, everyone else more or less orbits his journey. Meanwhile, Transformers 3, The Hangover Part II, Fast Five, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and on down the list are male-centric to say the least.
But 2012 may be the year of the empowered girl.
The ongoing box office (and to a degree, critical) success of The Hunger Games seems to support that idea. But it is not just Katniss leading the charge: smart and strong women are leading many films this year. Films that seem utterly poised to be blockbuster hits and critical darlings feature women in the lead.
In the past 30 years of western pop culture (we’ll get to Studio Ghibli in a moment too…) we have Wonder Woman, Lt. Ellen Ripley, Buffy Summers and Foxy Brown.
Perhaps in 2012 we will have new names to add to that list. Mallory Kane. Katniss Everdeen. Lisbeth Salander (admittedly Fincher’s polished update of The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo was at 2011′s in extremis, but we’re counting her in the vanguard). Snow White. Princess Merida. The fact is, this shouldn’t be notable. But it is, because we are still asking writers, the majority of which are men, why they write strong women characters. But there are now many more writers to ask (admittedly still predominantly male!). Allow the Row Three staff to offer a survey of this years fem-powered offerings, starting with the resurrection of the Alien franchise.