Industry News

Here’s Why Audiences Reject Some Female Action Heroes

Andrew Klavan angered the social justice mob for stating the obvious while reviewing the Netflix series “The Witcher.”

The show, starring Henry Cavill, showcases female warriors brandishing long swords in battle. Sure it’s fantasy, the conservative podcaster said, but woman aren’t as physically capable of handling swords in battle as men.

the witcher female warriors swords
Netflix’s ‘The Witcher’ shows female warriors wielding long swords in battle.

The response was both swift and unrelenting from the biased press.

Forbes.com rejected Klavan’s arguments, barely containing the author’s contempt for the podcaster’s conservative views. The author even cited “Lord of the Rings” for proof that women could fight with swords.

Other sites cherry picked incidents to back up their fury, including the skeletal remains of a female viking. Others mentioned female fencers to attack Klavan, even though “swords” and “foils” are two very different weapons.

Klavan’s point was obvious, even if his initial statements didn’t leave the necessary room for exceptions. Men are stronger than women, on average, and in sword battles that fact gives them a serious advantage.

In Hollywood’s quest to fix its sizable gender imbalances, both on and off screen, we’re seeing female characters in increasingly unrealistic scenarios. We can only suspend disbelief so much, Klavan argued, even in fantasy adventures like “The Witcher.”

It turns out he struck a nerve.

The female spy thriller “The Rhythm Section” opened this weekend, earning an anemic $2.8 million along the way. The film casts model-thin actress Blake Lively as an atypical spy forced into hand-to-hand combat with much larger men.

The far-left Deadline.com notes the film’s weak performance, adding extra details courtesy of RelishMix. That company analyzes the social media messaging around pop culture titles, including film releases, and shares common themes and complaints.

…according to RelishMix, which reports, “Discussion on social for this movie is leaning negative, as the overall sentiment reflects an audience that has seen the ‘bad-ass chick’ before, and there is little to nothing new here.”

“For reasonable action/adventure fans, they are asking two things that indicate their interest in Rhythm Section is mild to nil. First, why do we need another super-spy/assassin female lead film, as movies mentioned above have done it so well – and this movie offers what exactly in freshness? Second, how and why is it reasonable in a ‘real movie’ that a 100-pound woman can toss around 250-pound villains? Much the same sentiment was voiced for last fall’s Terminator installment, and suggests that this action is acceptable in a superhero film, but not this genre.”

Action movies depend on bending reality or, in the case of the “Fast & Furious” franchise, shredding the laws of physics.

This is different, particularly with a film as grounded in reality as “The Rhythm Section.”

Now, audiences routinely lap up female-led action films, from “The Hunger Games” franchise to Ripley’s “Alien” exploits. The upcoming “Black Widow,” starring Scarlett Johansson, is one of the year’s safest box office bets.

Marvel Studios' Black Widow - Official Teaser Trailer

Still, pitting lithe heroines against burly men, without the benefit of sorcery or super powers, is a bridge too far for some movie goers.

There’s nothing wrong with that, and storytellers can include female heroes in any number of ways, both fresh and exciting.

It’s clear Klavan spoke for many with his “Witcher” comments, even if the media powers that be refuse to accept that reality.

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One Comment

  1. I would echo all the points being made here, but one point is being missed. That point is that the LEGITIMATELY STRONG WOMEN are not being represented in Hollywood at all, making the hypocrisy even worse. Hollywood could make legitimate points about strong women back when truly strong women, like the American gladiator women, or even Chyna from WWE were in the prime of their fame. None of these truly strong women ever reached the heights of success other people did. The prime example this hypocrisy is the Wonder Woman movie. The Amazon warriors in the Background were portrayed by truly strong ladies. Among them was Brooke Ence, a champion crossfitter who can powerclean 225lbs, but who was the lead, skinny little Gal Gadot (nothing against Gal, I love her immensely) and then they show Gal’s relatively wimpy training routine for the role, which is nothing compared to Brooke’s. If Hollywood wants to portray strong women, then actually get some strong actresses! Hollywood cannot even get its own messaging right!

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