Monday, June 16

Why do we still have no balance?

Let’s be honest about one thing: the missing interest of women in action movies or AAA computer games can be explained in various ways. Less interest in technology (and thus no computer capable of playing AAA titles or interest in them), less interest in explosions and fights (and thus no interest in paying to see an action movie), perhaps more interest in ‘feminine’ topics like love and drama. Or, perhaps, the shocking number or male characters in both.

There’s only a few female protagonists in AAA computer games. And those, let’s be honest, are successful despite being female rather than being successful because they’re female.
Lara Croft is a definite ‘despite’ character. She has been called a man in disguise by more than one person over time. She is an interesting character and I think the current reboot did her more good than bad, but she still remains an exception from the rule.
Other characters are most often reduced to being women. Women with big tits, to be more precise. Women with big tits that you can ‘play’ with, to be most precise. You might find the occasional interesting character in an RPG (often as a side character) or an adventure game (many adventures these days, however, border on casual games more than on AAA titles).

And in movies? There’s one female Avenger in the first movie, there might be two in the second. One out of six or two out of eight is far from being much. A long time ago, there was Tank Girl. A long time ago there was Ellen Ripley. Horror movies (especially survival horror movies) are more likely to show a female survivor these days, but that is another genre entirely (and Ellen Ripley may fall into that one).
Apart from that, the role of a woman in most action movies still is the ‘damsel in distress,’ the one who needs saving. It has been in the 1950s, it has been in the 1960s, it has been in the 1970s - but we’re not living 60, 50, or 40 years ago. If the woman is not the one in trouble, most of the time you will find her being a helpmate, such as a computer specialist, a dispatcher, or something similar. A role that could be male just as easily. Those women most of the time are no ‘lookers’ and often seem rather androgynous.
The question I have been wondering about when it comes to that is ‘Why?’ Why are there next to no female action heroes? Characters like Black Widow, Buffy, or River from “Serenity”/”Firefly” show it’s possible. You can have kick-ass characters that are female. Yet, Black Widow will never have her own movie (because, or so one theory goes, she doesn’t wear a mask). Buffy’s best times are over, and “Firefly” was taken off air after a little more than half a season (and the “Serenity” movies only happened because of the huge fan-base).

In the 1980s and 1990s, people at least tried. Female characters were made more diverse, especially in series/movies made for kids and teenagers. People wanted to show different female roles, not just the ‘I need to be rescued’ one. Since then, everything has gone back to before - or that is how it feels.
I’m aware the target market for comics, action movies, and AAA titles is male, in their teens and twenties, white, and living in an industrialized country. The target market for casual titles and Facebook games, on the other hand, is female, ranging from teens to pension age, usually also living in industrialized countries, but not necessarily white. That’s why you get female protagonists in a lot of casual games, you see.
But why are the companies limiting themselves? I know women who like playing AAA titles. I like playing them myself. I don’t find it terrible to play a male character, but sometimes I’d like to play a tough female adventurer that is not Lady Croft. I like reading comics, so what about a few more strong female leads (that are, please, not defined by big boobs and a costume that is ridiculously unfit for fighting)? Or what about a few more men dressing in ridiculously skimpy outfits? Who says male heroes have to wear a full-body costume? I’m sure Superman doesn’t need to cover his whole body, being bulletproof and all that. And how about an action movie with a female lead who has to save her male companion several times (and gets her wounds taken care of by him in return)?

It’s a ridiculous idea that the only thing women are interested in is romance. I’m not interested in romance at all and I know several other women who think like that. I like action movies, if they provide a story (and not just effects and explosions). I like horror movies. I like comics and AAA games. I’m sure a lot of other women do, too. We are a market to be tapped. Make something out of it, Hollywood, Gaming Industry, Comic Publishers.