James Gunn took to Facebook yesterday to express his frustration with the lack of three dimensional female characters in film and stories in general. He promises the upcoming sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy will feature both male and female characters that will be interwoven in a way which will strengthen and optimize one another.
Women all over the world have been pushed to the sidelines in the interests of men, and their personhood is often forgotten or delegitimized. This is true in the realms of politics and education and religion. But it is also true in the realm of STORIES. That is my personal area of expertise, and that is where I believe women – and girls – deserve the fullness of character that men have often received (I almost said “always received” but then remembered much character writing sucks, regardless of sex).
Now I know, in these weird times, just for writing this, I will be accused of being an SJW or “having an agenda”. Who knows. You can categorize it however you want. But in truth I DO have an agenda, and that is telling FULL and TRUTHFUL stories, where ALL the characters are deeply realized. As a person I am a man; as a writer, I need to be everyone. Only in this way will our art and our entertainment adequately express life and inspire all of us.
I am sick of stories where there are a bunch of fully realized male characters and one female character, whose primary characteristic is simply being “the girl” or the personality-less object of some man’s affections. I’m not sick of this because I’m politically correct – those of you who know me know I am far from that – but because it’s boring, and it’s b.s. Likewise, I don’t think only making female characters “strong” is a fix either – you see her all the time these days, the perfect female warrior, who is a reaction to the stories of the past, but who is equally as boring and one-dimensional.
Great male characters, from Michael Corleone to Marty McFly to Han Solo to the Joker, are never perfect and never one-dimensional. They are sometimes heroic and sometimes villainous and often deeply flawed. But they always reflect the fullness of the world around us. I do not think that is true of the majority of female characters in films. I have done my best, as a male writer, with varying degrees of success, to bring female characters and female stories to the forefront.
I can’t wait for you all to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, with Gamora, Nebula, and Mantis in action, where we not only pass the Bechdel test, but run over it and back up over it again and again in an eighteen-wheeler truck, and where their stories and the men’s stories don’t come at the expense of each other, but are interwoven in a way to strengthen and optimize all of them.
For those unfamiliar, the Bechdel test asks a work of fiction whether it: 1) has at least two female characters 2) who talk to each other 3) about something other than a man. The first film certainly passed the Bechdel test and the new film boasts at least four major female characters including Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki).
I’m most excited to see Zoe Saldana have a bigger part this time around. While she was great in the first film, I felt she was relegated to nothing more than a damsel in distress in this summer’s Star Trek Beyond. It really was a disservice to not just the actress but the character of Uhura as well.
Women still have a long way to go in entertainment but it’s important to celebrate the progress that has been made.I want to take this opportunity to recognize the incredible and iconic female characters we have been fortunate enough to receive in film and television this past year in the form of Rey (Daisy Ridley, The Force Awakens) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things).
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hits theaters May 5, 2017.