Advertisement

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

  • Lisa Purse

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Works cited

  1. Aeon Flux. Dir. Karyn Kusama. MTV Films/Lakeshore Entertainment, 2005.Google Scholar
  2. The Brave One. Dir. Neil Jordan. Village Roadshow Pictures/Silver Pictures, 2007.Google Scholar
  3. Bruzzi, Stella. Undressing Cinema: Clothing and Identity in the Movies. London & New York: Routledge, 1997.Google Scholar
  4. Clover, Carol. Men, Women and Chainsaws. London: BFI Publishing, 1992.Google Scholar
  5. Cook, Pam. “‘Exploitation’ Films and Feminism”. Screen 17.2 (1976): 122–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Goldman, Robert, Deborah Heath, and Sharon L. Smith. “Commodity Feminism”. Critical Studies in Mass Communication 8 (1991): 333–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hard Candy. Dir. David Slade. Vulcan Productions, 2005.Google Scholar
  8. Hills, Elizabeth. “From ‘Figurative Males’ to Action Heroines: Further Thoughts on Active Women in the Cinema”. Screen 40.1 (1999): 38–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Monster. Dir. Patty Jenkins. Newmarket Gilms/Media 8. 2003.Google Scholar
  10. O’Day, Marc. “Beauty in Motion: Gender, Spectacle and Action Babe Cinema”. Action and Adventure Cinema. Ed. Yvonne Tasker. London & New York: Routledge, 2004. 201–18.Google Scholar
  11. Projansky, Sarah. Watching Rape: Film and Television in Postfeminist Culture. New York: New York University Press, 2001.Google Scholar
  12. Sturken, Marita. Thelma and Louise (BFI Modern Classics Series). London: BFI, 2000.Google Scholar
  13. Tasker, Yvonne. Working Girls: Gender and Sexuality in Popular Cinema. NewYork & London: Routledge, 1998.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. — “Introduction: Action and Adventure Cinema”. Action and Adventure Cinema. Ed. Yvonne Tasker. London & New York: Routledge, 2004. 1–13.Google Scholar
  15. Wood, Robin. “The American Nightmare: Horror in the 1970s”. Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan. Ed. Robin Wood. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986. 70–94.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Lisa Purse 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa Purse

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations