Return of the “Angry Woman”: Authenticating Female Physical Action in Contemporary Cinema

  • Lisa Purse


A woman lies on her back in lush grass, eyes half-closed, panting gently — hair slightly mussed, but make-up perfect. This assemblage of signifiers speaks more of conventional cinematic representations of female sexual abandon than other kinds of physical activity. And yet this is a shot from the end of a busy action sequence in Aeon Flux (2005), in which the woman in question — after a running shoot-out in which she incapacitates scores of enemy guards — has just blown up a zeppelin, then been swept hundreds of metres through the air suspended from the exploding structure, finally throwing herself at the ground as the zeppelin ditches into a wall in front of her. The woman is Aeon (Charlize Theron), the heroine of the title, and this is the final action sequence of the film. Despite this, Aeon does not display any biological traces of her recent dramatic and extended physical exertion, such as a flushed face, perspiration, heavily laboured breathing, or the facial scrapes and dirt she might be expected to have picked up in the circumstances. The physical work of action has been elided, and leaves no traces on the body of the actor.


Active Woman Sexual Object Gender Behaviour Containment Strategy Female Protagonist 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Lisa Purse 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa Purse

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