When Will Hollywood Do Female Leads Right?
When the annals of time are written at the end of days, one of the things Hollywood will have to answer for is its surprising inability to construct reliable female leads in movies.
This week at Cheap Seats both “One for the Money” and “Haywire” will be showing, and as films go these two couldn’t be bigger opposites. One is marketed as an action thriller on par with the Bourne trilogy, directed Steven Soderbergh, and pulls a respectable 80 percent on Rotten Tomates. The other is a downgraded version of 2010’s “Bounty Hunter” with a New Jersey theme.
Proponents of Katherine Heigl may argue that comparing her role in “Money” with that of Gina Carano’s in “Haywire” is unfair based on marketing alone, and it is the material that makes a film worth watching. From this standpoint, the argument seems more dire. Both films have a female lead dealing with a male-dominated field, both leads face insurmountable odds, both deal with betrayal and both carry guns. Yet somehow “Haywire” manages not to make viewers cringe just by watching the trailer. The problem here might go much deeper psychologically, but on a cinematic level the answer seems to stem from the existence of romantic comedies.
If the feminine community wishes to break the glass ceiling that is lead female movie roles, they need to distance themselves from the romantic comedy genre. Think back to every rom-com you may have seen in the past, then visualize yourself admitting to a crowded room that you saw “Sweet Home Alabama.” People would, hopefully, be not so willing to do this. This is not to say that female actors cannot successfully accomplish comedy; look at the enormous success of “Bridesmaids.” The argument here is that romantic comedies and movies that follow similar plot devices, play upon outdated troupes that do more harm to female empowerment than good. Just look at “Failure to Launch.”
Carano’s film, and those like it, do the exact opposite. For example, “Salt” (2010) and Alien (1979) both were originally written to have a male lead, but changed to have female protagonists with out loosing a beat. What these movies accomplish, that movies like “This Means War” (2012) don’t, is that the female lead is presented as a serious, well-rounded character.
This argument is a two-way street. Sometimes movies go too far to make their female leads credible, and just as equally a romantic comedy may present a genuine lead. What it really boils down to is how Hollywood views the concept of female protagonists. Somehow its gotten into their heads that people would rather see a romantic comedy over a well-done thriller. Only time will tell if the masses can come to their senses and stop proving them right.
Bill Paxton is in “Haywire,” but don’t let that deter you too much from seeing the film over “One for the Money.” Heigl’s picture currently has a 2 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.