Rant: Action flicks for girls

The market demographic that genres of films are aimed at is rather clearly defined. Men go to see Jason Statham kicking people in the head, and women go to see Isla Fisher find true love.

Women will of course tell you that chick-flicks are more about real characters and situations, so more serious and adult. This is of course garbage as most entries in the genre are less realistic than Russ Meyer films and seem mostly interested in showcasing shoes.

Not that manly action movies are any more worthy. The intelligentsia are expected to rise above their gender preoccupations and enjoy the chin stroking, whereas the masses like their divisions. Men want breasts, explosions and martial arts, while women want to see insecure, neurotic women screw up their lives and yet somehow end up with the man of their dreams, all in completely inaffordable outfits.

However, the times they are a somewhat different. The DS and the Wii have brought gaming to a wider audience and shows like Doctor Who aren't just the reserve of middle-aged men living in their parents' basements any longer. Look at Buffy, undeniably a show with plenty to grab the male attention, but also a soapier angle (no, I don't mean SMG in the shower) that has caused all manner of paranormal romance pieces to find an audience. We now have True Blood, Twilight, Charmed and Ghost Whisperer, all aimed at a female audience. If the traditionally-male realm of fantasy has embraced its feminine side, isn't it time action films followed suit? After all, Buffy had its fair share of horror and martial arts too.

Attempts have indeed been made, though not perhaps successful ones. Action films were once close to soft porn. Predictably, rather than shunning nudity, which is always a cash cow, films such as the Bond franchise have reversed the trend and filled the cast with scantily clad musclemen like Daniel Craig. This often leaves the film dangerously close to homoerotic, as in the case of the otherwise brilliant 300.

Elsewhere, some offerings have aped Cameron's feminist preaching in Aliens and brought us a female action hero. However, whilst Cameron's Ripley became such a feminist icon by rejecting the desires of a male audience in being profoundly unsexy, the female desire for approval created such monstrously-shallow male fantasies made flesh as Lara Croft and Selene from Underworld.

Perhaps the closest thing to an action film for girls has to be the Brangelina vehicle Mr and Mrs Smith. Spinning on a Hitchcock film of the same name, this piece cast the then adulterers as a married couple who are unaware of each others' double lives as secret super assassin spies. Cue numerous gun battles, but at no point does director Doug Liman, of Bourne-series fame, allow the camera to record the action as anything more than scenery to the central love-hate story. Each fight scene appears more like a romantic interlude that just happens to occur in a warzone and the focus is more on wry humour than on exploding knee joints.

The effect is successful, yet it struggled to find an audience and you feel it would have flopped were it not for the drawing power of the two stars and the following controversy.

On the reverse, should we experiment with chick-flicks for men? Well the recent Paul Rudd vehicle I Love You Man tried to do just that. Forever emblazoning the term "bromance" across the arse of society like a regrettable drunken tattoo. The idea is that a soon-to-be-married guy has no-one to fit the bill of best man, since he's so in touch with his feminine side that he only has female friends. So he embarks on a series of "man-dates" to find a male best friend. Cue male bonding of the kind that only people who have never experienced such a thing, ie - women, would find amusing.

So what's the conclusion? We know women can get into action flicks, if often due to a deep-seated, slightly-sapphic/dominatrix fantasy-motivated idolisation of stereotypical male-fantasy figures like Croft. We know some men have a soft spot for the odd chick-flick. We can also see that a genuinely well-made example of either genre can transend gender boundaries. However, when it comes down to it, the majority of men like looking at naked women and things blowing up, while the majority of women enjoy watching a stereotype, who is as incompetent as they fear they are, actually succeed in copping off with the bumbling, but dashing, rich hunk in the expensive tailored suit, and what the hell's wrong with that?

1 comment:

  1. I actually find yer typical action films boring and annoying, in equal measure. My adrenaline gets pumped, but this makes me feel edgy and a bit fighty. The 'big explosion-car chase-shag pretty girls-lather, rinse, repeat' formula is yawnsome. Stupid fluffywuffy romcoms about idiot Manhattan women infuriating make me fighty also.

    Personally, I'd watch more romcoms if they were like Mr and Mrs Smith. The part where Brad and Angie give each other a good shoeing was the best part of the film - not for any other reason than it was bladdy hilarious, mind.