CW: Femicide, horror, religious persecution
There aren’t many kinds of monster that are specifically gendered male. Yes, there are plenty of individual monsters that are male; you’ve got Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, King Kong, Godzilla*, the shark from Jaws, and many others, but as for specific species there aren’t that many. Perhaps you could argue that the Werewolf is often symbolic of latent male aggression, as the thematic suggestion often applied is that all men have beast in them. But that metaphor has been widened, especially recently, to include women, with films such as Cursed, Ginger Snaps and An American Werewolf in Paris.
If we’re talking monsters that are specifically gendered female, however, then there’s quite a few. You have Gorgons, Sirens, Banshees, Harpies and many more. The big one, of course, that has endured throughout myth and exploded into popular culture is the Witch.
CW: Sexual violence, femicide
The Mad Max film series is mostly excellent but undeniably weird. The first in the series, Mad Max, is a cheaply, yet inventively, made exploitation film starring baby faced Mel Gibson and featuring eye-popping vehicular stunts. Its sequel, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, is unremittingly badass at every opportunity, topping the previous film with features such as a back-flipping feral kid who murders fools with a boomerang. It defined the punk aesthetic post-apocalyptic imagery that is now commonplace in the genre and is accurately cited as reaching peak Maxitude (at least until this year). The third in the series is Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, which is, unfortunately, a disappointment. It’s haphazardly structured with an odd family friendly tone, only benefiting from the visual brilliance in its lavish sets and from starring Tina Turner. She is every bit as awesome as you would expect and arguably sets the precedent for great female characters in the series.
CW: Sexual violence, violence against women
Genres are malleable. They can transform or expand their scope and they can bleed into each other so much that solid definitions become troublesome. From that perspective, it is best not to define a genre as a specific thing but rather a set of always expanding elements that, when used on their own or in conjunction with other elements, can achieve a narrative aim.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a blockbuster action epic out this summer, and it’s the second this year from MARVEL Studios. MARVEL are the first to make films covering a truly cohesive, pre-planned, shared universe and although there have been intersecting crossovers in film history since at least the 1940’s (everyone should watch House of Frankenstein for good or ill), these were spur-of-the-moment ideas for easy marquee value. MARVEL, on the other hand, are planning theirs out with an almost The Riddler-esque glee and doing so to great effect. It’s actually genius; MARVEL can market their other films through easter eggs and references in each installment and audiences will love it. I know, because I’m a part of that audience. I remember back in 2008 when after the credits for Iron Man finished, there was a cameo with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. I. Absolutely. Lost. My. Shit. I shouted, “ITH THURY! NICK THURY!” while spraying saliva over everyone in the rows in front of me like it was Seaworld, before leaping forward and chewing on the seat in front like a rabid shark. What an excellent day that was. I remember it fondly.
The summer blockbuster season is nearly over and once again, something is few and far between. Where are our female leads?
This is an absurdly fair question. Blockbusters make supreme dents on our pop-cultural consciousness, and our pop culture is a reflection of the society and cultures we exist in. Women are half the world’s population, so it stands to reason that approximately half the big movies should be equipped with female leads. But they’re not.