Everyone knows that men do better at the box office. It might even be true. Of course, men typically get bigger budgets, and budget is the single biggest predictor of success. But what if part of the problem is that female characters aren’t being taken seriously enough?
Last year Jennifer Kesler suggested that female action heroes do very well indeed when they’re dressed modestly and for action, instead of, you know, slutted up.
Is this true? Let’s find out!
The following is a list of female action heroes from 1992 to the present. (If I missed any let me know!)
To get on this list, the character must be:
• The main character (so no Sarah Connor)
• Not in an ensemble cast (so no Charlie’s Angels or Sucker Punch)
• In a film released wide in North America since 1992, so that it’s been reviewed by Kids In Mind for content (so no Aliens)
• In a film released in English (so no La Femme Nikita)
• In a film that is primarily an action film (so no Miss Congeniality, and, surprisingly, no Kill Bill Vol. 2 either) – when in doubt check the genre list on IMDb: the first genre listed should be “action”
Alien 3 (1992) – Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver)
Point of No Return/The Assasin (1993) – Maggie Hayward-Claudia Anne Doran-Nina (Bridget Fonda)
Cutthroat Island (1995) – Morgan (Geena Davis)
Tank Girl (1995) – Tank Girl (Lori Petty)
Barb Wire (1996) – Barb Wire (Pamela Anderson)
Alien: Resurrection (1997) – Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver)
G.I. Jane (1997) – Jordan O’Neill (Demi Moore)
Lara Croft 1 (2001) – Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie)
Resident Evil 1 (2002) – Alice (Milla Jovovich)
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) – The Bride (Uma Thurman)
Lara Croft 2 (2003) – Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie)
Underworld (2003) – Selene (Kate Beckinsale)
Catwoman (2004) – Catwoman (Halle Berry)
Resident Evil 2 (2004) – Alice (Milla Jovovich)
Aeon Flux (2005) – Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron)
Domino (2005) – Domino Harvey (Keira Knightley)
Elektra (2005) – Elektra (Jennifer Garner)
Underworld Evolution (2006) – Selene (Kate Beckinsale)
Ultraviolet (2006) – Ultraviolet (Milla Jovovich)
Resident Evil 3 (2007) – Alice (Milla Jovovich)
Resident Evil 4 (2010) – Alice (Milla Jovovich)
Salt (2010) – Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie)
Hanna (2011) – Hanna (Saoirse Ronan)
Colombiana (2011) – Cataleya (Zoe Saldana)
The idea is that I will post this list, with representative pics of each, at www.filmcontentdatabase.com (a website I just set up using my Sex Doesn’t Sell database), and people can rate them on how professionally and practically they are dressed, then when there are enough votes that the scores are stable, I can post the mean scores, plus run them against box office, controlling for inflation, budget, and anything else that might matter, and we can see if how they are dressed makes any difference in how popular they are at the box office. I can also post links to other people’s analyses and discussions if they like.
I’ve got it set up to ask how *professionally* and *practically* they are dressed, but after gathering a bunch of pics off IMDb, I’m wondering whether it would be better to ask about *modesty* and *practicality* instead, since some of these women are a little too grubby to be professional. They would have looked office casual before getting down and dirty, but they sure don’t now.
So, my questions:
1. Did I miss anyone? Am I being too exclusive in the criteria? (You can search for films I’ve missed at Kids in Mind or at www.filmcontentdatabase.com in the list raw data section, if you’re keen.)
2. What should people be voting on? Professional and practical or modest and practical? Anything else?
3. Pics. I have very few pics from a few films, and lots from others (what was on IMDb). If you have pics of any of these characters you want included, you can send them to me at admin[at]filmcontentdatabase[dot]com.
4. Do people want a chance to see and comment on the pics before voting opens? I haven’t seen all these films, so I’m not always sure if the pics I have are representative. (It’s so much easier when they wear the same outfit for the entire film.)
I’m really hoping this could be a lot of fun, plus also ammunition for people in the industry. And if we wanted and it worked out, we could do one for male action heroes too (I’m pretty sure they should be keeping their shirts on), or for women in other genres.