2014 Was The Year of Kick-Ass Women In Film.
And generally since the 70s; more and more female characters are driving mainstream movie narratives beyond the noir genre, thoroughly smashing the filters of the Bechdel Test.
In a throughly equivocal order numbered only for convenience, find below proof that for women, being badass this year, was the only truly awesome way to portray and to become.
1) SAM WHITE in Dear White People played by Tessa Thompson
Sam White, this year, will be one of the most criminally under-acknowledged film characters from 2014; given the year’s appallingly reductionist police force across the Western World showing a rotten violation to basic human rights towards people of colour in what is considered to be the Land of the Free.
Smart, strong and a graduand; Sam White’s character represents empowerment through radio and cameras and finally, politically in one of the most sharply appropriate ‘College Films’ of the year.
2) LADY HEAVENLY in Sparks played by Ashley Bell
Indie graphic novel movie Sparks is the comic and probably the indie film you always wanted to write: what happens when the “Supers” play with their worst flaws and their egos? Kind of the black and funny mirror to Marvel this year; Sparks features the right-on but never uptight Lady Heavenly, whose 1940s sentiments aren’t too far away from real-life citizen journalists today. A powerful character who shows dignity in the face of crime against others and herself, she serves as the perfectly humble, lo-fi vigilante for indie films audiences in a world of saturating, ever-obvious neo-noir framing and expensive pyrotechnics.
3) MALEFICENT in Maleficent played by Angelina Jolie
Do not let the Disney Swish and goat horns of Baphomet fool you: Maleficent is a beautifully realised character and hero, actually, of the ultimate re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty’s evil fairy godmother, telling the story of a mother who is brutally raped – in a heartbreaking scene – by a man whose only drive is his own power.
Without spoilers, Jolie brings a heady mix of fully understood witcher; and icy vengeance and a very strong femininity to the role which is three dimensional enough to spark a pure love for the daughter stolen from her.
4) VERONICA MARS in Veronica Mars played by Kristen Bell
Street smart, self-reliant and beautiful, Veronica Mars was one in a luxurious glut of dark teenage dramas the early 2000s – with a woman who’s only driven by justice.
Firmly in pop-culture consciousness of most millenials, Veronica Mars represents a huge change in the writing of female TV leads – it’s OK to assume that a young woman is self-motivated and clever enough to take risks within her hometown Neptune, a storyworld which is a huge nod to all classic American TV detective tropes (think: small-town fraud, the double-twist family connection, corny high school humour).
Also, my partner loves both character and actress so much so I suspect they are both on his extended-Free List; so I really couldn’t *not* write about the producer/actor/feminist of awesome that is KB.
5) ANNA PETERSON in The Guest played by Maika Monroe
Anna’s a character who’s written to appeal to sexist expectations, only to subvert them in a darkly comical and completely enthralling way later. Again – critically this was underestimated, although the Dan Stevens self-referential fest might’ve p*ssed some people off, Maika’s performance was captivating.
The Guest has that same pastel-verus-brights eyeballing quality as Kill Bill and the Kick Ass films, which is refreshing for a movie firmly in the ‘mystery thriller’ genre where blacks, dark greens, crimsons and deep blues typically dominate the visual palette.
[As a tip for 2015, Maika Monroe is a fantastic young actor. Totally fab in The Bling Ring with a couple of films in the pipeline including the indie sci-fi movie Bokeh, she’s quickly becoming ‘that’ actress in indie films that seems to transform whatever script she’s given; being the fan-talk of various festivals in the same way Jennifer Lawrence was about seven years ago. Watch this space.]
To sum up: hells yeah. Let’s get more of this kick-assery back on TV, too.