Given what seems to be some surprise that’s greeted the revelation that I am a total Star Wars Expanded Universe nut, I was drawn to another essay by a woman about why she loves a franchise that’s still, oddly, considered something that only men could get extremely attached to. Deborah Lipp’s video essay about growing up loving Bond girls is fantastic:
I wrote about this a little bit in a piece I have going up at Slate today about the women of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. But I think one of the things that’s interesting about female action characters is that we still end up with vexed relationships between those women, their strength, and their sexuality. For James Bond, seduction is part of his tool kit, but we’d never see him literally fuck a female enemy to death,, as was the case with his one-time adversary Xenia Sergeyevna Onatopp. So often, femme presentation and sexuality (which are presented as if they’re inherently linked) are part and parcel of what makes a woman lethal. Part of what makes Catwoman dangerous, for example, is those high, sharp heels–though Christopher Nolan did a nice job of playing with the idea that Selina Kyle manipulates the idea that femaleness makes her vulnerable and hysterical as a means of positioning herself strategically. It’s not just that you can shoot a gun or snap a neck, and in high heels and perfect red lipstick, too. It’s that those heels and that lipstick are precisely what make it possible for a woman to pick up that gun and possess that power.
For that reason it’s always interesting to see female action heroes who take on or put off extreme femininity, whether it’s Angelina Jolie deliberately shucking off her housewife uniform and pick up a big gun in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, or Starbuck putting on a dress and shocking the hell out of Lee Adama in Battlestar Galactica. If we could disentangle sexuality and femininity from the core of female action heroes’ power, stepping aside from the idea that those elements are the source of physical and intellectual influence, we might actually be able to think more clearly and creatively about sex and beauty as tools and assets–things that women have choices about and use strategically, just like Bond, and in some cases, the Bond girls.