Would Tomb Raider-type movies work better with lesbian protagonists?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by Gaith, Oct 1, 2009.

  1. Gaith

    Gaith Vice Admiral Admiral

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    As an expert on the Tomb Raider films (as in, I've read their Wikipedia plot summaries), I think I've identified their problem, as well as those of other action movies with women protagonists.

    (Please note: I'm not talking about women co-protagonists, as in The Terminator, or members of a team, a la X-Men, but flat-out primary characters, as in Elektra or Bloodrayne.)

    Consider for a moment action movies with female protagonists. I can think of three good ones: Terminator 2 (if we consider Sarah Connor a flat-out protagonist, which is, frankly, iffy), Alien and Kill Bill (really only - Vol. 2, but I digress). But I can think of a number of bad ones: not just those mentioned above but Supergirl, Cutthroat Island, Aeon Flux, Ultraviolet, Resident Evil (all of them), Underworld (ditto), Charlie's Angels (ditto).

    So far as I know, all of the above bad female protagonist movies suffer from a dearth of emotional appeal. In none of the movies do you really give a darn about the heroine, or identify with her in her journey. And I also note that none of the three good ones give their heroines a romantic plot arc.

    Perhaps one reason that the heroines-with-romances action films tend not to connect with audiences is that such love plots are a lose-lose-lose proposition. Horny teen boys don't want to see Lara Croft make out with a guy who isn't them, and when action heroines are physically stronger than their male partners, emotional credibility problems generally ensue. (Example: Matthew Modine on his Cutthroat Island role.) Far more people, in short, enjoy seeing a hunk rescue a damsel in distress than seeing the damsel rescue the hunk.

    I'm not saying that's right or wrong, good or bad, it's just the reality of a high-risk market enterprise as I see it. Case in point: in Star Wars, before the sequels, did anyone really think Luke and Leia might end up together? No, because she's much stronger than she is. Leia and Han, though, maybe.

    So, what's the upshot? Are big-budget heroine-centered action movies doomed?

    Maybe not... if the heroine rescues a damsel of her own. The horny boys would be fine, I suspect, with Lara Croft flirting with and getting romantic with another beautiful woman. And if it were understood that the heroine were a lesbian, audiences would accept their being attracted to partners that are just as smart and good-hearted but not quite as badass as themselves. The films' backers make their money, audiences have a good time, the culture becomes a touch more accepting of diversity, everybody wins.

    Thoughts? :)
     
  2. Bad Bishop

    Bad Bishop Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Would Tomb Raider-type movies work better with lesbian protagonist

    Good question. Personally, I oppose viewing lesbians on film if the lesbians shown look like Rosie O'Donnell (or are otherwise fat, butch and ugly).

    On the other hand, a lesbian Tomb Raider with "lipstick lesbians" would definitely be more pleasing to the eye. But then it would have to overcome some marketing problems. First of all, it would be immediately perceived to be a "special interest" film and not for the mass audience. I can't imagine a major studio spending a lot of money on such a film. The lesbian angle (sorry) would overshadow the action-adventure element. Maybe a lesbian Tomb Raider is an idea better left to the porn companies.
     
  3. The Borgified Corpse

    The Borgified Corpse Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Would Tomb Raider-type movies work better with lesbian protagonist

    It's an idea I've wondered about myself. Certainly there are problems with action movies where the woman rescues the man. The male audience members are uninterested and the female audience members find the rescued man weak & unattractive. Having a sexy lesbian love interest would certainly be a... satisfying solution for certain audience members (myself included). I don't think the marketing problem would be appealing the film beyond the specialty lesbian market. The problem would be marketing the film in more conservative markets, and avoiding charges of indulging in puerile sexist titilation. (But then, the kinds of people who make those accusations don't typically see these kinds of action movies anyway.)

    I think the Tomb Raider movies came up with an effective, less controversial solution to the problem. The love interests, rather than being the victim to be saved, are the antagonists as well. You have a strong, powerful woman fighting against an equally strong, powerful man, who happens to be fighting on the wrong side. Sexual tension ensues.

    A few corrections about the Underworld franchise:
    First, Underworld was awesome!
    Second, Underworld: Evolution, while weaker than the 1st film, was still pretty cool.
    Third, Sonja was not the central protagonist in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. Lucian was. Therefore, it's a male-centric action film.

    I would say Sarah Connor was moreso the central protagonist in The Terminator than she was in Terminator 2 (where she fought for plot dominance with the T-800 & John Connor). However, in The Terminator, she's not an action heroine. She conforms more to the slasher movie protagonist; more Laurie Strode than Elektra Natchios here.
     
  4. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Would Tomb Raider-type movies work better with lesbian protagonist

    I always thought it'd be interesting if a sexy female action star was romantically involved with someone who physically was her total opposite--a slightly overweight everyman. A number of U.S. television sitcoms (like Still Standing, for example) have actually done this in recent years with an average slob married to an attractive wife...
     
  5. The Mirrorball Man

    The Mirrorball Man Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Would Tomb Raider-type movies work better with lesbian protagonist

    This is a stupid question: everything is better with lesbian protagonists.
     
  6. SalvorHardin

    SalvorHardin Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Would Tomb Raider-type movies work better with lesbian protagonist

    +1
     
  7. Out Of My Vulcan Mind

    Out Of My Vulcan Mind Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Would Tomb Raider-type movies work better with lesbian protagonist

    In addition to Alien, there's also Aliens, which is a great action film with a female protagonist, and that has a quasi-romance between Ripley and Hicks. So maybe another solution is to have the female lead have a male love interest who's a likable badass who can hold his own.
     
  8. Ceridwen

    Ceridwen Commodore Commodore

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    Re: Would Tomb Raider-type movies work better with lesbian protagonist

    The problem is not that most action movies with female protagonists are bad. The problem is that most action movies (full stop) are bad, but when the ones with female protagonists fail, we blame it on the fact that they featured women in the lead.

    There are also far, far fewer action films with female leads, so when they do end up sucking (as is the case with most action films) it's that much more noticeable. You get an entire blockbuster season filled with action films, and about every other year (every year, when you're on a good streak) you get one with a woman in the lead, and that's only been for the past fifteen - twenty years or so.
     
  9. Australis

    Australis Writer Admiral

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    Re: Would Tomb Raider-type movies work better with lesbian protagonist

    No, lesbian prtagomists wouldn't help.
     
  10. barnaclelapse

    barnaclelapse Commodore Commodore

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    Re: Would Tomb Raider-type movies work better with lesbian protagonist

    It could certainly work if it was intended for the character and not just tacked on as a cheap exploitation trick. Sadly, it's very hard to create a character with those leanings, put them in a mainstream setting and not rely on those kinds of tricks.
     
  11. iguana_tonante

    iguana_tonante Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Would Tomb Raider-type movies work better with lesbian protagonist

    I don't really agree with the premise: the movies you mentioned are not bad due to the fact they are action movie with a female protagonist, but they are bad movie. Case in point, Underworld was very good, Kill Bill was awesome, and I enjoyed Ultraviolet and Charlie's Angels in a silly, campy kind of way.

    Maybe doing an action movie with a female protagonist is more difficult, but it can be done, and done well.

    As for hot lesbian protagonist: well, as other have said, the more, the merrier.
     
  12. Hyperspace05

    Hyperspace05 Commodore Commodore

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    Re: Would Tomb Raider-type movies work better with lesbian protagonist

    I just don't get the lesbian appeal from a man's perspective... What is so appealing about that? If she is lesbian, she's hardly interested in you, right? :D :lol:
     
  13. The Mirrorball Man

    The Mirrorball Man Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Would Tomb Raider-type movies work better with lesbian protagonist

    Apparently, from a psychological perspective, what makes lipstick lesbians appealing to males is that it's a fantasy in which a woman has an unquenchable thirst for sex and sensuality, so unquenchable in fact, that she'd be willing to sleep with another woman. Note that in most fantasies involving lesbians, the women involved get seduced by other women, fall head over heels for their best friends, in other words they just can't resist their carnal desire.

    In other words: what men like about the usual lesbian scenario is that it features women who have a typically male sexuality: they're always willing and they don't get too complicated about it. The lesbian fantasy is a subset of the "what if women liked sex in the same way as men" fantasy.

    Plus it's pleasing to the eye.
     
  14. Gaith

    Gaith Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Would Tomb Raider-type movies work better with lesbian protagonist

    ^^ Not only that, but in the fantasy realm, as Dan Savage argues, men believe that lesbians can titillate but never fully satisfy each other, and that it's therefore only logical for them to invite a man (i.e., them) along.

    (Also @ The Borgified Corpse) That's a legitimate concern, but one could also argue that most action movies are just as cheaply exploitative of heterosexuality, especially male heterosexuality. Without bringing political grievances into consideration, for the sake of this SF&F discussion, would an arguably-exploitative lesbian action movie be so harmful?

    @ Out Of My Vulcan Mind: Haven't seen any of the Aliens; I've been waiting to catch them on a big screen somewhere. But "quasi romance" seems to fit into my core premise. :techman:

    @ C.E. Evans: Sitcoms do that all the time, and it's often disingenuous. And I doubt that audiences would be all that impressed with an action heroine who gets weak-kneed for a "slightly overweight everyman".

    Sexual tension, sure. But while audiences enjoy seeing sexual tension, they only really become invested in heroes when they get emotionally involved.

    And no, folks, Underworld was not a good movie. Moving on... :bolian:
     
  15. Re: Would Tomb Raider-type movies work better with lesbian protagonist

    The problem (if you want to call it a problem) is that women like men who are confident/assertive/aggressive, etc etc. So if the woman, as the LEAD, is the "saver", the "hero", as someone else said, the guy doesn't appeal much to the women viewers.

    And if you flip the dynamics, then the women lead isn't strong enough to hold the "lead role" in an action movie.

    Other sorts of movies, romantic comedies, dramas, etc, don't suffer from this, because having a woman fawn over a guy more confident/assertive than her doesn't 'defang' her as a lead, because its not an action movie. In fact, it creates a more realistic character.
     
  16. Gaith

    Gaith Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Would Tomb Raider-type movies work better with lesbian protagonist

    Female heroines don't have to fawn disproportionately over guys to be credible; they can match them in social status, intelligence and spirit, and, if the male's spirit is significantly stronger, they can even outmatch them in status (see Titanic). It's when they become stronger than men, in those areas and physical strength especially, that the relationships become troubled. And since action movies are all about strength, it becomes difficult to have a heroine who's not stronger than their male partner.
     
  17. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Would Tomb Raider-type movies work better with lesbian protagonist

    I actually think it would work as long as long as it was limited to one action film series (and not to the way overdone extent it was done in sitcoms). At this point, it'd definitely be a refreshing change of pace from the perfect Ken & Barbie types that otherwise proliferate movies these days...
     
  18. captcalhoun

    captcalhoun Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Would Tomb Raider-type movies work better with lesbian protagonist

    the problem is not with female leads.

    it's with poor scripts.

    and, FYI, i liked the first LC:TR movie and thought the second was passable.

    so, since i've actually SEEN the Lara Croft movies, i know what i am talking about and you don't.
     
  19. BenRoethig

    BenRoethig Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: Would Tomb Raider-type movies work better with lesbian protagonist

    Its something we can't explain either. We're just instinctively drawn to it like catnip.
     
  20. Nick Ryder

    Nick Ryder Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: Would Tomb Raider-type movies work better with lesbian protagonist

    Well I think part of the problem with some of the female action heroes is that either they are so badass and gungho, that invariably any man they end up with ends up being "pussy-fied" and it just makes us guys look inept and like a bunch of dorks. OR they end up said badass heroine needing an assist from another badass dude, but then they both end up getting de-fanged because both of them can't really do something on their own, or it just ends up being a film about oneupping each other. Mr and Mrs Smith was kinda like that, a prettier version of Spy Vs Spy. They were both equally capable. Equally badass, and once they got over the one upping they kinda worked as a team, but both still kicked ass.

    So its a fine rope. Either the woman or the man looks weaker. "But I still love/like ya" kinda way. Its not really even a matter of two women working together/falling for each other. I mean take Xena:Warrior Princess. It had a rather Lesbian subtext for most of its 6 years. Especially those last 2-3 seasons. Xena was still the badass, but Gabrielle could kick some major ass too, although it was frustrating that they still had her getting her saved by Xena, like Xena was just that much better.

    So adding a "lesbian" to the mix doesn't necessarily make an action movie better or even worse for that matter, its just the way the characters are written and how they interact. I think action movies with more than one character work better when they're more of a "team" not just a "hero with a few sidekicks". No one is more or less badass, but each is badass in their own way. Like say fem hero 1 is a kick ass martial artist. Male hero is a kick ass marksman, fem hero 2 is a able to do something else. male hero 2 is able to do something else... each is kick ass in their own way and no one really overshadows the other. Kind of the one thing I liked about the Charlie's Angels movies, all three girls were equally kick ass and it seemed like all of Charlie's Angels had very similar training and could fight Demi Moore's former Angel nearly to a standstill simply because they all were sort of on the same playing field. Even though Cameron Diaz's character was sort of the unofficial "lead", Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore were still able to lead too. So that kind of dynamic worked for me.

    Always drives me nuts when I see like the main hero guy saved by some new warrior chick and he's kinda de-fanged. Or vice versa.

    As for the hot badass babe going for an average guy... well... hey most of the viewing audience are average guys that drool over the hot badass babe. I mean are we so vain that an attractive woman (or man for that matter) wouldn't be interested in someone who's more normal? So she's a kick ass killing machine, but he's a intelligent, witty, helpful, loyal partner. So what if he's got a beer gut. She just does more physically. LOL I'm sure kicking ass burns a lot of calories!