Size Matters: Where Are All the Women in Sci-Fi?

This weekend, Man of Steel, This is the End and The Bling Ring open in theaters, amongst other films. This morning, as I perused the interwebs for summer movie reviews, I was struck by a stark truth: There are not enough women in blockbuster sci-fi movies in 2013. I noticed this actually back in December 2012, whilst sitting at the midnight showing of The Hobbit. While I understand that the JRRT book, published  in 1937, had only mothers and wives as female characters, watching this epic film and realizing Galadriel was the only woman in the show was a bit unnerving and somewhat disappointing (not to mention she’s not in the actual text).

Galadriel, blurred and overshadowed by Gandalf.
Galadriel, blurred and overshadowed by Gandalf.
Uhura and Spock; equals or...?
Uhura and Spock; equals or…?
How to get a man, Disney princess style.
How to get a man, Disney princess style.
Katniss, the Hero
Katniss, the Hero

While the blasé, self-destructing female narcissist might seem like the type of hero the Twitter generation wants, I challenge this notion with a little series called “The Hunger Games”. The bestselling children’s book of 2012, the film skyrocketed book sales and vice versa. While some might see Katniss as selfish or unlikable, I would argue that she is loyal, caring to those she trusts and a fierce protector of the individual as well as the world around her. Her romantic relationships with Peeta and Gale are ambiguous and secondary to the challenges she faces physically, mentally and spiritually. The first film was a smashing success and the second in the series, Catching Fire, is set for release in November 2013.

This promises to be a grand production along the same vein as many great sci-fi film trilogies that are borne out of well-known and loved books. Readers of the text know the beauty regime of The Capitol as an intense plot point and a real issue for Katniss in terms of identity.  The 2013 advertising campaign for the film currently revolves around surreal character imagery as uncomfortable for the tributes as it looks to the audience. This, I am optimistically saying, is a plot device meant to move along the story as well as intrigue future viewers of the film.

Katniss Everdeen, the Girl on Fire
Katniss Everdeen, the Tribute

In the text, Katniss simultaneously becomes an archetype and breaks down that same archetype as soon as she reveals her true nature. It is a complex image of the post-modern female hero that I am happy to explore and struggle with. Katniss, with all her flaws and confusion and self-centered actions at least seems real and to care about an entity outside of herself. This observation on the state of feminism in science fiction is not a judgement call. It’s just that in 2013, the supposed age of “postfeminsm” (NOT A REAL THING!) I just want a few female leads that I and my sisters, my peers, my students and my daughter can look up to. I promise you, dear reader, I will still fangirl over Doctor Who, Sherlock, Dexter, Star Wars, Pacific Rim, Elysium, World War Z. But I will take my daughter to see Catching Fire.


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