Hello, everyone! Today I have a very special surprise for you: my very first guest post, by speculative fiction author and blogger, Christina “DZA” Marie. She can be found here, blogging about books, writing, and diversity and representation in the different kinds of media we consume.
Without further ado, I’ll let Christina take it from here!
First I want to thank Jessica for letting me post on her blog. Awesome writing buddies are awesome.
We found each other on Facebook while fangirling over one of our mutual fandoms. We both realized it’s tough trying to find empowering role models for your daughter, or finding a movie where you can root for the woman lead instead of rolling your eyes. This is especially tricky if you’re into speculative fiction: superheroes, fantasy, science fiction…It gets even harder if you want a good movie, one that isn’t over-the-top sappy, one where the director and producers actually tried.
Luckily there are geeks like me who watch a lot of movies who can help you narrow it down, and since I like everything from Disney to gore-filled horror movies there’s something here for all ages and tastes. The following movies are my top ten in regard to quality and amazing girl power. Go forth and conquer your television!
Can we just take a minute to appreciate the beauty of a Disney/Pixar film that centers on a girl and has absolutely no romance? These happen once every blue moon, and have started to become more frequent: Zootopia, Inside Out, Finding Dory… Brave was the first. And it did a remarkable job of addressing gender roles and turning them on their head. And it’s hilarious. And you will cry, because it’s Pixar.
Also a platonic Disney film, Zootopia goes a step further than Brave and addresses several different layers of prejudice and privilege. Prey animals are the majority and therefore have more political power than predators. But predators are usually larger animals, and larger animals have access to better jobs and are taken more seriously than smaller animals. Rabbits and other small animals are heavily discouraged from jobs such as law enforcement. Foxes are hated by everyone.
It’s also a great buddy-cop movie. Judy and Nick are the best.
Can we just acknowledge the fact that Angelina Jolie’s favorite Disney character growing up was Maleficent? It explains a lot.
Disney gets props for having a grey character as the focus rather than a traditional hero. It’s made even better by the fact that it’s a woman who’s so morally ambiguous. Normally girls and women in movies are on one end of extremes, either all good and pure (and boring) or twisted and evil.
But more than that, they managed to make one of the most important scenes in the movie a metaphor for rape. In a kids’ movie. And they handled it beautifully. Maleficent doesn’t let her trauma destroy her. She owns it and refuses to let it stop her. Although the best part was how the curse was broken by “true love’s kiss” without involving the bumbling prince.
Monsters vs. Aliens
Classic monster reboots are always fun, but Dreamworks’ Monsters vs. Aliens is probably my favorite. Susan is hit by an alien meteor on the day of her wedding, grows to the size of a skyscraper, and becomes Ginormica. She and a team of other monsters have to fight aliens who want said meteor back.
Susan’s story is an oldy but a goodie: she has to go from scared, meek girl to a confident, capable woman. While that in and of itself is a great message to send to young girls, I love the way they handled her love life. Normally, when a female protagonist realizes the guy she’s dating is a total jerk, the movie ends with her replacing him with a much nicer, cuter guy. Susan doesn’t replace her ex. She breaks up with him and goes to Paris with her new friends to save the world again. But the message isn’t “Confident women can’t get a man.” It’s “Confident women won’t tolerate scumbags.” We know that Susan’s probably going to fall in love again but that’s not the focus of her story, and she’s not going to think about that right now when she has more important things to worry about. Like aliens.
Based on Neil Gaiman’s children’s book, Coraline is a creepy kids’ movie about a girl who discovers a doorway to a mirror universe in her new home. It has better versions of everything in the crappy apartment her family has moved into: an “Other” Mother, “Other” Father, “Other” neighbors, delicious food, a beautiful garden, etc. But it’s a trap, and Coraline has to rescue herself, her friends, and her parents from the Other Mother.
I could rave about the beautiful cinematography, haunting soundtrack, and genius of Gaiman for days. But I’ll keep it simple: Coraline as a character is a bit of a brat, but she’s a lovable brat. The story is incredible, the Other Mother is terrifying, and it’s a terrific family film.
What happens when four teenagers become powerful witches? Nothing good. One, Sarah, manages to remain a good guy who recognizes her mistakes and tries to fix them, but the other three turn rotten to the core. Sarah has to battle not only her ex-coven, but also her own inner demons (she’s a suicide survivor).
This is one of the oldest movies on this list (1996, right after I was born), but it’s a classic. There’s also supposed to be a sequel in the works, but there’s been no word of that for over a year. Fingers crossed, though!
Any Star Wars movie with Leia, including Rogue One
So, everything but Episodes I-III.
Leia is just awesome overall in the classic trilogy: smart, charismatic, and courageous. Although it’s disappointing that the script writers tried to reduce her to little more than a love interest after Episode IV. Think about it: Darth Vader is her dad, too, but her narrative is centered around getting Han Solo’s attention rather than trying to reconcile the revelation of her family, like Luke. Still, she’s an excellent character in a great franchise.
While not the best Star Wars film, Rogue One was a good movie. Given the topic of this post, I should probably praise Jyn and how cool it was to see her plan trigger the classic trilogy, but honestly the best parts of the movie were Darth Vader’s fight scene at the end; and K-2SO, the smartass robot.
The Force Awakens was awesome. Yes, it was very similar to A New Hope, but that’s the point. It was basically washing the bad taste of Jar-Jar and Episodes I-III out of our mouths by rewriting a classic story starring Rey and Finn. I have high hopes for The Last Jedi, even though I’m 99% sure that Luke Skywalker’s going to die.
Mad Max: Fury Road
If someone had told me the phrase “feminist action movie” could ever be uttered in a non-sarcastic manner, I would’ve laughed in their face. Then they rebooted Mad Max.
While it certainly has a race problem (come to think of it, most of these movies are pretty darn white…) it has excellent gender representation. I don’t know what I like about it more: Charlize Theron’s Furiosa or the motorcycle-riding grannies. Nux’s narrative arc is probably my favorite. The guy goes from brainwashed minion to total BAMF. It’s supposed to show how young men are conditioned to believe sexist rhetoric but are fully capable of redeeming themselves, but the only thing I could think of in the theater was Flamethrower guitar? Cool!
You’re going to think this is a Jaws rip-off. You would be correct. BUT, it’s a very good rip-off. The only major characters are the shark, a seagull, and Nancy the med student (played by the surprisingly talented Blake Lively). Nancy’s a surfer who gets chomped on by a shark and trapped on a rock island in the ocean. Unlike other blondes who star in horror films, she’s smart. After her leg gets nommed on by the shark, she stitches herself back together with her jewelry. Her jewelry!!! And then later, she swims through a field of jellyfish. Neither the med student or shark mess around in this film.
Created by the same horror geniuses behind Evil Dead (both versions), Don’t Breathe is about a trio of thieves who break into an old blind veteran’s house to steal the hundreds of thousands of dollars he has in cash. The problem is he is a sociopath with several skeletons in his closet, and starts killing the would-be thieves one by one.
The star is Rocky, the only woman in the trio. She has a young daughter and lives with her extremely unpleasant mother in a Detroit ghetto. So while she’s certainly no angel, you do root for her, especially when you realize just how evil the blind man is. She doesn’t have a degree like Nancy in The Shallows, but she is smart, relentless, and an overall fantastic heroine.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the show, too!)
The Hunger Games
Olive, the Other Reindeer
The Harry Potter Series
Evil Dead (2013 remake)
The Cabin in the Woods
The Princess and the Frog
Westworld (TV show)
Stranger Things (another TV show)
Here’s where you can find more from her on the web:
Christina is a great voice and advocate in the fiction community, so I highly recommend you check out her other work!
I hope to be bringing you more insights from other writers and creators this year, so if you’re ready for the ride and don’t want to miss a post, click the “Follow Me” button at the very bottom of this page or go like me on any social media outlet that floats your boat. 🙂
Until next time,