Super Bitches and Action Babes

The Female Hero in Popular Cinema, 1970–2006

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About the Book

With actress Pam Grier’s breakthrough in Coffy and Foxy Brown, women entered action, science fiction, war, westerns and martial arts films—genres that had previously been considered the domain of male protagonists. This ground-breaking cinema, however, was—and still is—viewed with ambivalence. While women were cast in new and exciting roles, they did not always arrive with their femininity intact, often functioning both as a sexualized spectacle and as a new female hero rather than female character. This volume contains an in-depth critical analysis and study of the female hero in popular film from 1970 to 2006. It examines five female archetypes: the dominatrix, the Amazon, the daughter, the mother and the rape-avenger. The entrance of the female hero into films written by, produced by and made for men is viewed through the lens of feminism and post-feminism arguments. Analyzed works include films with actors Michelle Yeoh and Meiko Kaji, the Alien films, the Lara Croft franchise, Charlie’s Angels, and television productions such as Xena: Warrior Princess and Alias.

About the Author(s)

Rikke Schubart is director of studies and associate professor of literature, media and cultural studies at the University of Southern Denmark.

Bibliographic Details

Rikke Schubart
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 368
Bibliographic Info: 67 photos, filmography, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2007
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2924-0
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8284-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      v
Preface      1
Introduction: Female Heroes in an Age of Ambivalence      5

PART ONE: THE RISE AGAINST MEN
1. “Godmother” of Them All: The Rise and Fall of Pam Grier      41
2. A Pure Dominatrix: Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS      65
3. Enough! Birth of the Rape-Avenger      83

PART TWO: FROM THE MARGINS
4. Meiko Kaji: Woman with a Vengeance      107
5. “Beautiful Vase Made of Iron and Steel”: Michelle Yeoh      123
6. Failed Female Hero? “Queen of Martial Arts” Cynthia Rothrock      144

PART THREE: INTO THE ACTION
7. Sigourney Weaver: The Alien Series and the Mother Archetype      169
8. Daddy’s Action Girl: Nikita and the Daughter Archetype      195
9. The Warrior and the Wardrobe: The Amazon Hero      219

PART FOUR: AGE OF AMBIVALENCE
10. Disturbing Creature: The Female Soldier in the War Film      249
11. The Action Star Persona of Milla Jovovich      270
12. High Trash Heroines: Lara, Beatrix, and Three Angels      290

Filmography      319
Chapter Notes      325
Bibliography      345
Index      353

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “All too seldom, in reading about film, I have the experience of picking up a book that proves to be a revelation. [This book] is precisely that—a groundbreaking work that not only sheds new light on a trend in films, but also provides a fresh theoretical framework in which to situate its argument. Indeed, it is the richness of the author’s perspectives, the elegant writing, and the willingness to challenge orthodoxy that makes this such a rewarding book [and] is a vital, important contribution to film studies. I picked up this volume along with a half-dozen others through a subject search at the Library of Congress, not familiar with the authors of any of them, and this one was simply head-and-shoulders above the others. I expect this book will have a wider audience, and more permanent place in film studies, than many a more touted volume…a sophisticated tool”—Journal of Film and Video
  • “entertaining”—Film Review