Summer is in full swing, and the typical host of blockbusting action films is coming down the pike. We can look forward to Dawn Of The Planet of The Apes (though I’ve truly had enough of this franchise), Hercules, and Guardians of the Galaxy, among others. But what I’m most excited for is Luc Besson’s sci-fi action thriller, Lucy.
Scarlett Johansson plays the film’s title character—an unwilling drug mule who develops superhuman powers after the drugs implanted in her body leak into her system. In typical Besson fashion, the plot asks viewers to suspend disbelief, relying on the wildly unscientific theory that we only use 10 percent of our brains, but it’ll be a fun watch.
Lucy looks a bit like a sci-fi Bourne Identity, with Johansson as our hero. It’s certainly not the first action movie with a female lead (it isn’t even the only one of the summer, with Edge of Tomorrow giving Emily Blunt an opportunity to school Tom Cruise) and I don’t imagine it will be the last. But it’s still an anomaly in a genre where men are the near-automatic choice for the dauntingly hard-core protagonist.
I’m hyped for Lucy. I like Besson’s work, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m happy to see a woman playing the ass-kicking hero.
Often, analysis on the presence of female characters in pop-culture boils down to a rather empty command that “we need more of X group in X type of movie/show/whatever.” The sentiment is valid, but the vocalization becomes meaningless unless you explain why it’s important.
I watched all seven seasons of Buffy The Vampire Slayer when I was in college. It was an extremely pivotal point in my life; I was beginning to understand that the night was dark and full of terrors, and that this world was not made for myself, or my female friends, coworkers, roommates and peers.
I remember feeling this intense, ecstatic relief watching this teenage girl kick ass episode after episode—not having to be worried that she would be assaulted or raped, always knowing that when she went out alone when the sun went down, she would be victorious.
Buffy was cathartic in that way. It was like watching any action movie or TV show, except there was someone who could be me laying down the punches (despite my lack of upper body strength and experience in fighting anyone ever). It was a temporary respite from the constant vigilance for personal safety that most women can identify with.
The call for “strong female characters” has become a bit of a tired refrain, and some are asking writers to reach beyond that catchall term and sketch more authentic women. Women with more than just physical strength. Women with flaws, women with an emotional range. Women who are interesting and human.
I understand that. I do. But on a more basic level, I want the satisfaction of watching a female Jason Bourne. I don’t need her to be deep and comprehensive. I just want to watch her learn Chinese and crush the skulls of drug-lords with her knees and astound Morgan Freeman for two hours.
There’s a stereotype that says women don’t like watching actions movies. It may stem from the fact that we rarely see ourselves, or someone we could aspire to be, in them. Films like Lucy have the potential to erode that disconnect. That’s a worthwhile summer flick.