In spite of its mostly positive critical reception, Star Trek Into Darkness has been getting slammed by fans and general moviegoers for a number of reasons. It's not enough like a true Trek film. It's script is just not up to snuff with the best of its attributes. And it's a complete failure at the Bechdel test even with Uhura (Zoe Saldana) kicking butt in a few scenes. Actress Felica Day has made the most notable complaint on her website, asking why for instance there are no women in the Starfleet leaders circle since this is centuries in future, among other faults. "From a director who is so amazing, who created wonderful female characters in Alias and Felicity," she wrote, "I was super bummed by this."
There are good points all around, regarding setting, modern progress and yes Abrams' history. But it's something we're pretty used to, isn't it? Hollywood is a man's world and movies cater best to teenage boys and all that. The TV thing is interesting, mainly because Abrams isn't the only showrunner vet who was better with female characters on the small screen. Joss Whedon has had trouble carrying that trait over to films, too. At least in The Avengers, though, Black Widow wasn't depicted as tough yet also still a more leading male character's love interest. And where is her own or another female Avenger's own solo release?
While I haven't yet seen Fast & Furious 6, it seems like it could be a good counterpoint given that it features a few physically strong women characters among its ranks. And as much as these movies have all the defining markers of being a "guys' movie," if it does feature decent depictions of women in Gina Carano and Michelle Rodriguez -- and not just as girlfight eye candy for the male gaze, that makes for an interesting element for what's overall an improving series. As for the further future, what do we have to look forward to? X-Men is selling us on a naked blue Jennifer Lawrence, and the recent Oscar winner's other big franchise, The Hunger Games, just sounds too concentrated on her love life.
Hey, it's not like we've always been struggling in this department. The most obvious answer to today's poll is the Alien franchise, which began more than 30 years ago. The Terminator series could be brought up but really only for the second installment. So we could also just as well say the Hannibal Lecter, Karate Kid and Riddick franchises count. More recently we've seen some decent Bechdel passing, even if just barely, in the Harry Potter, James Bond, Mission: Impossible, Resident Evil, Underworld, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and, again, the Alien prequel-reboot with Prometheus. Yeah, the Alien property definitely wins, having other good women characters throughout and even focusing on a strong female human lead in the first Alien vs. Predator movie.
Beyond this, rumors keep circulating that aside from bringing back the main gang for Star Wars: Episode VII that the new sequel will actually center on a new young female character. Seeing as Abrams is directing that one, too, let's hope he takes note of the complaints about Star Trek Into Darkness. Also, given that he's clearly a humongous Star Wars fan, he ought to be plenty familiar with how well that franchise early on subverted the princess damsel-in-distress expectations by making Leia pretty strong, smart and independent.
Oh, and let's not limit ourselves to just action and sci-fi blockbuster franchises. There's always the horror genre. And, hey, how about the series hitting us with a sequel this weekend: Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight.
Which film franchise is the best for featuring strong female characters?
Here are some responses received so far via Twitter: