Our movies sure do mirror our times. Even if you just visit the cineplex every five years or so, you’ll notice that our entertainment is every bit as cyclical as our government and how we feel about it. Sure there will always be indies, but by and large when you look at the trends there’s often a connection between what’s on screen and how we are defined moodwise – and genderwise. And right now, it’s the ladies who are actually taking on an unprecedented number of big, box-office affecting roles.
Films made during the First and Second World Wars tended to be rah-rah heroic stuff, with dramas depicting soldiers’ bravery and courage (and the gals back home who missed them). After World War II it became easy to scare people with a simple formula: during the 1950s Hollywood made a number of so called “Red Scare Movies” which were the studios’ way of taking on the threat and terror of Communism by depicting it as a shadowy monster. The Blob and The Thing are two famous examples of sci-fi movies that used monsters to play on our paranoia and jitters about the former USSR. In the 1960s and 70s everything changed, and movies reflected Americans’ ambivalence toward and mistrust of the government. In the 1980s, we decided to focus on ourselves and our troubled, disaffected youth (see under: Hughes, J.) But now we’re in quite another era – the superhero and graphic novel franchise era. They’ve always been around, but now either the studios have recognized that a) we’re currently in and out of war, OR they’ve noticed that b) audiences will always flock to watch a superhero take on global annihilation, and the box office will demonstrate this. (Now that I think about it, it’s probably “b”). Iron Man, Batman, The Fantastic Four, and The X-Men are just a few of the franchises that all did swimmingly, so now they’re moving on to the next big frontier: The Lady Superheroes.
Just last week we had a slew of casting announcements that will likely put the Fairer Sex into a major Ladies Who Kick Ass & Save Planets limelight. (Nor are they all on this side of the law – I suspect that Rooney Mara’s star turn as the morally ambiguous Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo will make a huge splash in theaters.) They are rebooting Tomb Raider – only now without Angelina Jolie so we’ll see how that works out (but you can bet there are lots of agents encouraging their hottest young starlets to hit the gym, tout suite). Now for the classics – we’ve been told that Anne Hathaway will be the new Catwoman in Christopher Nolan’s latest The Dark Knight Rises. On the (six-inch) heels of this announcement, Adrianne Palicki from Friday Night Lights and Legion has been cast in the brand new TV remake of Wonder Woman. Cary Elwes – from The Princess Bride and those Saw movies – will also be joining that cast, alongside Elizabeth Hurley who will be one of Wonder Woman’s arch enemies. Add this to the huge buzz already surrounding X-Men: First Class starring January Jones, and what do we have? Lots of gals doing battle on behalf of truth, justice and viewership.
It’s clear that the superhero is very, very hot right now, and my cynicism aside, maybe we are looking for a new breed of icons – and iconettes – to help us get through these not-so-heroic times.
1) Adrianne Palicki as Wonder Woman
2) Anne Hathaway as Catwoman
3) Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander