Girl Fight! The New Portrayal of Action Heroines

lara_croft_06I spent a very large part of my childhood lamenting the absence of reasonable female action heroines. Things began to change in the 90s, but not very quickly. It was only with the appearance of Lara Croft that I was finally content with the portrayal of a true action woman. I’m happy with the current state of things, but there are still those who complain that the female heroines are not “equal” in that they are expected to be sexy or “booby,” (yes, that’s a word someone used) or that they do not get to do enough action or that they only get to fight with other women (even though fighting with other women is no small feat, I assure you!)

As recently as the early 2000’s, Stephanie Mencimer wrote:

Women are still only allowed to be violent within certain parameters largely proscribed by what men are willing to tolerate. To be sure, what men will tolerate has certainly changed a good deal. But in the old action films, at the end, the male hero always walks away from a burning building looking dirty, bleeding sweaty yet vindicated…

None of today’s action chicks come near that level of messiness.

Finally, with the arrival of the sci-fi show “The 100”, I beg to differ. In case you haven’t seen the show, it’s about a post-apocalyptic world in which humans have been living on a space station waiting for the earth to become habitable again. What they don’t realize is there are survivors still living on Earth who are led by female warriors all of whom look like teenage fashion models. These “grounders” view the returning people from the space station, the “sky people” as invaders.

In the episode “Many Happy Returns” (season 2 episode 4) the main character, Clarke has an all-out brawl with Anya, the tribal leader of the grounders, an encounter that Johnny Cash might have described as “a-kicking and a -gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer.” It was as dirty and disgusting as a fight can ever get, and both women ended up with faces that resembled the palette of an abstract expressionist. Did I mention that before they commenced fighting they slathered their faces with mud?

I guess this proves that men can “tolerate” women being messy and violent. In fact, I have learned from a credible source that some men find this sexy. But, to play the devil’s advocate, does this really mean anything? Is this truly a measure of how far the women’s movement can come? Maybe instead of female characters trying to “catch up” to the men’s level of messiness, it should be the other way around, ie. the male characters should fight more neatly, politely, and gracefully?

The action genres (and to some degree fantasy and sci-fi) demand more and more gory violence, so of course the tendency is to make our female characters more violent as well.

I believe that all of these changes and more are coming. There will be “non-booby” heroines, there will be super-violent heroines, and there will be many more female heroines in general. For me, the most important change is already happening.

What do you think? Would you like to see female characters less violent, more violent, or just less “booby”?


Dryad Characters: Anastacio

As for me, I don’t feel at home in the human world, but I am here since I must fulfil my duty.

– Anastacio

Somewhat like this but more green and leafy!

Somewhat like this but more green and leafy!

Picture a Tarzan-like creature or perhaps Conan the Barbarian, but slightly greenish of skin and very green and round of eye. Proud and sometimes arrogant, but very wise and protective of those he loves, Anastacio is skilled in dryad skills such as magic, climbing, dancing, and vine-throwing.


Why are you so proud?

Because I’m Anastacio!

Who is your best friend?

Venicio, the priest of the Great Tree. He’s very interesting to talk to.

You have much knowledge and wisdom. Have you ever been interested in the priesthood yourself?

Not really. For it would require arbitrating many quarrels and settling disputes among all these obnoxious dryads. I don’t have the patience for that.

You are very protective of outcast dryads such as Solena. Why is that?

Obviously, because they need my help. And if I don’t help them, who will?

But isn’t there just a small chance that you’re drawn to Solena because she is attractive?

What kind of a question is that?! I would help any dryad who needs my help, no matter their level of attractiveness.

Okay, let’s say we believe you… Why would you help any dryad — you just said they are quarrelsome and obnoxious?

I suppose I have a certain disdain for them as a group — they’re just so annoying when they get together — but I feel sympathy and understanding for each individual.

What makes you happy?

Roaming through the trees, watching the animals and birds going about their ways; talking with Solena about her human magazines and books.





Dryad Characters: Tyler

crocodile-cartoon-012What? So I’m a minority! Big deal! The assistant vice president is a dark elf, and nobody says nothing.

– Tyler

Tyler is a talking alligator from the swamps of Louisiana. He’s recently got a position on the executive team of the Timber Corporation. But is he an undercover operative for the Alligator Alliance?..

Do you get along with your co-workers?

Yes, I do. And if they start not getting along with me, I could always bite their heads off.

What made you leave the swamps of Louisiana and live among humans?

I was very bored with my swamp life. I wanted to do something more exciting, see the world. I taught myself to speak human, by the way.

Cool. And why did you choose the name Tyler?

My alligator name is unpronounceable to people, whereas Tyler sounds like a youthful and hip sort of name.

What do you think about the environmental practices of the Timber Corporation?

They ain’t got much in the way of environmental practices. And from what I hear, the vice president, who I strongly believe is a dark elf, is cooking up some scheme to travel back in time and cut down trees so as to avoid having to follow modern environmental laws. You didn’t hear it from me, though.

Why do you suspect the VP of being a dark elf?

My instincts usually alert me of a supernatural creature. If there’s one thing I learned from reality TV, it’s that it helps to know your enemies’ dark secrets.


I mean co-workers. Hee-hee.


Dryad Characters: Rodney Love


This guy only has the same haircut as Rodney Love. The real Rodney Love is much more handsome. He is also more “corporationy.”

I know you don’t see much of yourself in me, father, but I can be a high-stakes player too. – Rodney Love

Rodney Love is the heir to the great Timber Corporation. He’s generally an easygoing and smooth-talking guy who would rather be surfing than sitting through boring business meetings. However, Rodney wants to prove himself as a serious business-savvy corporation leader in order to impress his critical father.


What is it about surfing that appeals to you?

I grew up in a prep school on the east coast, in Boston, and found it pretty oppressive. I guess I chose surfing it for its laid-back west coast vibe.

How do you feel about your work for the Timber Corporation?

It’s mostly really boring, but it has its moments.

Why did you hire an alligator on your executive team?

Look, I don’t just hire minorities for the sake of hiring minorities. I really believe this alligator has what it takes to promote our business. When it comes to negotiations, he’s got that intimidation factor. And he’s not just “an alligator”: you can call him Tyler, or Mr. Alligator.

Who is your best friend?

I don’t have any friends. I only have admirers, buddies, or pals.

Why is that?

I’m not as stupid as I look: I can tell when people genuinely want to be my friends, and that’s never.

What are you most afraid of?

My father.

What did your father think of your most recent interview for Narcissism Carnival?

He thought it was an embarrassment to him, and that I came across as a hippie. I didn’t expect anything else. Since I didn’t say in my interview that I wanted to ruthlessly quash all competition and cut down every single tree on the planet, my dad would naturally assume I was a hippie.

How do you feel about Solena?

She’s an intriguing woman. I think there’s a mystery about her, and that makes her very attractive!


Dryad Characters: Solena

dryad character Solena

I’m a DRYAD!

– Solena

At the beginning of our tale, Solena is obsessed with the human world, enchanted with its superficial trappings and tinsel dreams.

Is she a foolish and superficial dryad? Not at all. She is simply attracted to the superficial side of our culture, having not been exposed to anything else.

However, as she journeys into the human world, Solena finds out that it’s not at all as glamorous as she thought…


What is it that makes you so fascinated with humans?

I think it’s the drama. Humans have such short lives, yet they go through them with much passion and they have so many adventures!

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Definitely! I’m quite the romantic.

You’ve always had a passion for reading, but now you’ve switched from gossip magazines to self help books, primarily by Teddy Goldman. Why is that?

Well, a fortune teller advised me to read Positive Attitude by Teddy Goldman, and I’ve never looked back. Teddy has had remarkable success as a martial artist and as an author, but he still comes across as a humble and down-to-earth person. I find his philosophy so amazingly spiritual and yet practical when applied in the real world.

What makes you happy?

Reading, masquerading as a human, having adventures.

How do you feel about other dryads?

I feel slightly bitter because they have ostracized me, and they constantly mock me. But I would really like to be their friend one day.

You are now on a mission to prevent the humans from destroying your forest. How do you feel?

I have lots of contradictory feelings. I could never pass up the opportunity to live as a human, so I gladly accepted the mission. But it’s very confusing. The prophecy says I will save the forest, but I’m not sure how or when.

Do you think your attraction to Rodney Love, heir to the Timber Corporation, could jeopardize the mission?

Um… I hope not.