Someones trying to give my woman a foot massage -- and I'm not happy about it.Ok, a little background -- the Sci-Fi Channel is going to release a new version of Flash Gordon, this time as a "dramedy" with minor tweaks to the characters back stories and the action set on Earth instead of the planet Mongo like the way the series has been since it's origination in the 1930's.
Nevermind the fact that the series itself looks kinda silly, or the fact that despite the occasional bright spots (Battlestar Galactica, re-broadcasting the updated Dr. Who), the Sci-Fi channel's penchant for producing crappy remakes of older shows and movie is enough to make Michael Bay seem like Federico Fellini -- but have you seen the chick they've signed on to play Princess Aura?But that's not the real issue here.
Now I'm sure Anna Van Hooft is a fine actress or whatever, and I'm not gonna bust on anyone taking a gig -- but what blind-eyed fuckwit of a casting director even thought this skinny eyed wench was in any way shape or form a suitable way to follow in the footsteps of Ornella Muti's performance in the 1980 feature film?
Now before you all start rolling your eyes and groaning, hear me out. Yes, I've had a crush on Ornella since I was eight years old -- and yes, I'm a total honk for the Dino DeLaurentis version despite the fact that it may be one of the silliest things ever put to film, but this is an out and out insult.
I mean seriously -- This is the snake and apple to be pitted against Dale Arden's eve? This is the modern version of the metaphorical embodiment of the fear that a temptress like Nazi spy Mata Hari put into the minds of 1930's-era America? This is supposed to be the sultry princess who tempts our hero's honor even though he knows that her intentions are nothing but evil?
And it's not just the nappy curls on the top of her head or the way this red dress makes her body look like an electric toothbrush -- it's because the girl simply doesn't have the eyes for it. This is supposed to be Princess freaking Aura -- the girl everyone in Ming's empire would do anything for. The woman who could change the fate of a galaxy with just one seductive look.I wouldn't follow this chick into a strip club if she were wearing a dress made of one dollar bills.
The story of her character is apparently not so much that she's a femme fatale who uses her sexuality and wiles for her own gain in the same way that her father uses fear and violence to accomplish his goals -- but more that Princess Aura is the forgotten child who's seeking the approval and attention of her heartless father (which trust me, always makes for great TV).Check the picture again -- what message is that look actually sending to you?
What do you mean you're all out of cilantro? Go out on a date with you? What-evarrrr! Coldplay is the future of modern music because it makes you think! Daddy, I want an Oompa Loompa. I want you to get me an Oompa Loompa right away!
His name is Ming the Merciless -- Not Ming the "Of courseSee, there's this horrible trend that's going on in movies and TV these days where screenwriters and directors have decided that only way to write a character who is supposed to be a strong-willed, intelligent, independent woman is to portray her as a complete bitch.
I'll buy you a Porsche pumpkin, how many do you want?"
I'm all for scripts featuring female characters that aren't just eye candy -- women who don't need a man to save them, think for them, or tell them how to feel. As much as I loved the way it always happened in horror movies, is there anything more played out than the girl who twists her ankle while running away from the monster, or barely escapes the clutches of the alien but loses all but a bikini's worth of her original outfit in the process?
At the same time, I really don't think the best way to combat this pattern of objectification is to fill the universe with chicks who all act like the mom from Malcolm in the Middle. Not fainting at the first sign of danger or immediately swooning when the hero shows up doesn't seem to be enough anymore -- now you've got to be some sort of ball-buster in at least one or two establishing scenes so everyone knows just how tough you are.
Whatever happened to female characters who weren't crazy psychos or jiggly bimbos, but just simply had their shit together? How about Ripley from Aliens, or Princess Leia, or any host of other characters who seemed to act like real people instead of hamming up the screen with cascades of sharp one-liners to men who offer smarmy pick-up lines, or scenes where they beat up bad guys bare-handed before the hero can get there to save them?
I know I sound like some sort of uber-geek here talking about women in sci-fi, but it's something you see everywhere. Think about Monday nights on CBS where The King of Queens had a bitchy wife, Everybody Loves Raymond featured a bitchy wife and a overbearing mom, followed by Two and a Half Men, with the bitchy ex-wife, the bitchy mom, and an overbearing housekeeper.
There are ways to create female characters who can think for themselves without making them out to be harpies. It's not impossible for a woman on a television or movie screen to be feminine and headstrong at the same time.
But lately it seems like that's all you see.Either the female characters are reliable brains who secretly love the main character but don't have the guts to say something about it, or they're karate-kick wielding masters of their own universe who turn down advances from men all the time as a way to show they don't just lie down for anyone (no matter how many times they've saved the world together).
Give me the classic screen vixens, the women who commanded respect from the characters they played through the way they portrayed them. Think about Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's -- a woman whose character was essentially a hooker, but was brought to life in a way that balanced vulnerability with independence through just as many mistakes as there were victories. You want sexy and powerful? How about Jane Fonda's Barbarella -- who fought off armies with a ray gun, slept with every male character she met, and then proceeded to break the villain’s orgasm machine because it couldn't keep up with her.
Unfortunately all this protesting on my part won’t stop the Sci-Fi channel from showing the new Flash Gordon, and it probably won’t stop the eventual throng of fanboys from fawning and writing tomes of slash fiction about the new Princess Aura -– but I suppose that’s how things work sometimes.
After all, back in the 80’s there was probably another guy just like me who (without the widespread advent of the Internet) wrote a really angry letter to someone that said:
Flash Gordon without Priscilla Lawson?
-– What the hell’s wrong with you!?