I was reading an article about the disappointing box office performance of Haywire, a movie that I can’t explain very well because I haven’t seen it. But, the previews looked cool as a secret agent-type is double-crossed by her organization, and she has to fight her way to the top. This is typical fare for the genre, but critics gave good reviews and felt that the movie would be a hit. Apparently it wasn’t, and the article looked into the reasons why. Most felt that it was due to the fact that it was the first movie for the female lead. Perhaps they are correct, but it immediately reminded me of a conversation with some guys I eat lunch with every week . When I said that Haywire looked cool, the general reply was that it was stupid because they put a woman in a man’s role. It wouldn’t be realistic. As if anything Sylvester Stallone did was realistic.
That conversation and article made me start thinking. Do men, who are the target audience for action movies, not want to see a woman in a strong lead role? Do they want them to be eye candy as the bullets fly? Surely not. Some of the best characters have been women who could kiss a man and kick his ass just as well. I decided to list some of my favorites, which I believe handle any situation with brains, brawn and beauty.
Pam Grier as Coffy -
Actually, I could pick any character played by the Queen of Blaxploitation. Friday Foster. Foxy Brown. Sheba, Baby. She was the baddest woman around. As Coffy, she is a nurse whose sister becomes addicted to heroin. For revenge, Grier goes undercover as a prostitute for King George. Along the way, she kills mobsters, drug dealers and pimps. However, she shows her true talents while fighting one of George’s women. When the woman grabs Coffy’s hair, she finds that it is filled with razor blades.
Wonder Woman as herself -
Robin, you're next.
I am not talking about the Linda Carter version. This is a tribute to the Wonder Woman from Superfriends. She’s like a patriotic dominatrix with the boots, the bustier, the metal arm bands and the rope. But, it’s not just any rope. It makes the person tied up with it tell the complete truth. Who couldn’t use a bondage instrument like that? Somehow, I got the feeling that Superman, Batman and all the rest were afraid of her. Robin (Holy Safe Word, Batman!) definitely was.
Angie Dickinson as Pepper Anderson -
Anyone named Pepper has to be hot and spicy.
I must admit that I barely remember Police Woman, but my dad always had a thing for Angie Dickinson. So, in honor of him, I am placing her on the list as Sgt. Suzanne “Pepper” Anderson. She has the looks, the gun and, obviously, the brains. However, Dickinson had all of this before she ever played a cop.
Jillian Michaels as, well, Jillian Michaels -
One way or another, I will make you cry.
If I met Jillian Michaels I wouldn’t know whether shake her hand or beg her not to put me on a treadmill. She gained fame by helping people get physically healthy but affecting their emotional health at the same time. Obviously, she is a driven woman who resculpted her body and believes everyone can do the same. Robin, I don’t know what the safe word with Jillian is, but I hope it’s not pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.
Deidre Hall and Judy Strangis as Electra Woman and Dyna Girl -
Look, It's Wonder Woman and that dumb jet that she thinks is invisible.
From the minds of Sid and Marty Krofft, the superhero pair fought the likes of Glitter Rock and the Empress of Evil while wearing brightly colored spandex. They operated from Electrabase and drove the Electracar. The whole point was to make fun of Batman and Robin, which wasn’t difficult in those days. All I know is that the little people in Dr. Shrinker and the people in The Land of the Lost could have definitely used the services of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.
Nichelle Nichols as Nyota Uhura -
Not red skirt! Red alert!
Most female characters on the original Star Trek were there to walk around in short skirts and go-go boots. Nichols could do that as well as any of them, but she also played a vital role as a member of the deck crew. Kirk could not have pulled off many of his famous bluffs without Uhura as his communications officer. She was also one half of television’s first interracial kiss, even though the writers tempered it by having an alien force it upon her and the captain.
Linda Gray as Sue Ellen Ewing -
Well J.R., it looks like you got exactly what you deserved.
Sue Ellen is not an action oriented character like the others, but she is tough nonetheless. Anyone who can stand toe-to-toe with J.R. Ewing may be the toughest person on the list. Gray brought grace and strength to a character who faced weekly travails caused by her ruthless husband. She didn’t shoot J.R., but it was probably because sister beat her to the trigger.
Sandahl Bergman as Valeria -
I'll be ok as long as they don't shoot any snake arrows.
Weilding a sword and her sexiness, Valeria fought alongside Conan the Barbarian and took his heart in the process. After being killed by a poisonous snake arrow, she continued to haunt Conan’s dreams and inspired him to decapitate James Earl Jones and destroy a cult that convinced people to wear robes, have orgies and jump to their deaths. Conan the Destroyer is a far worse movie than Conan the Barbarian, and the reason is obvious. Bergman wasn’t in it. Arnold may have become the star, but Sandahl was a better warrior.
Salma Hayek as Santanico Pandemonium -
She can strip while balancing feathers on her head and handling an obvious phalanx symbol.
From Dusk Till Dawn finds criminals played by George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino heading to a Mexico tavern to meet Cheech and discuss whatever happened to Chong. Instead of running into Cheech, the pair is mesmerized by the dancing of Santanico. And, what puts her on this list? She is a stripper that moonlights as the queen of the vampire colony that they have stumbled into. With Hayek putting a new definition on vamp, this is the coolest vampire movie ever.
Princess Ariel as herself -
Thundarr, you make my hands glow.
“Demon Dogs! I’ve screwed myself again!” How many times did Thundarr the Barbarian say that? It’s a good thing he had Princess Ariel around because her sorcery got him out of many a jam. Raven hair. Ruby lips. Sparks fly from her fingertips. She could have been a song by The Eagles. Instead, she spent her days being the smart member of a trio trying to make their way through a destroyed Earth. “Lords of Light! I must be an idiot for not hooking up with you!” Thundarr said that a lot too.
There you have it. My list of female characters who have brains, brawn and beauty. Any man who doesn’t like them is plain scared.