On Female Villains and Not Staying Silent


This post is probably going to ramble and wander from topic to topic, you’ve been warned. It’s because the thoughts in my head don’t take a reasonable, straightforward path (like they should). It’s more of a sprawling, drunk pathway. Crooked and meandering. It isn’t sure where any of this is going.

For starters, I want to gush about the movie I saw last night. Husband and I saw 300: Rise of an Empire. I was struck, nay, flabbergasted. And not by the sweaty buff men in incredibly tiny shorts, as one might think. No, I was memorized by the villain. The savage and evil Artemesia, the general of the God King’s army. A female warrior played by Eva Green.

Her twisted onscreen presence was fascinating and repulsive, luring you in. A fully-fleshed, magnetic character. She plays men like fiddles, leads armies into battle and hacks off limbs with wild abandonment and a savage, blood-stained smile.

She was the best bad “guy” I’ve seen since the evil queen in Snow White and the Huntsman.

The thing that struck me the most, shocked me, actually, was that she MADE the movie. They gave her full screen time, MORE screen time than the God King. SHE was the villain in this one, not him. My mouth was hanging open in the ultimate showdown, because it was Artemesia who was facing off with the hero. She got the end scene, she got the “big battle”.  Not only that, but it became clear that she was the leader all along, the ultimate villain of the 300 movies. It was she who arranged to have Xerxes put on the throne in the first place.

Upon walking out of the theater (and after gushing about how amazing the movie was) I got to thinking about WHY I was so shocked in the first place. Why was I so startled that a female was one half of the movie’s showdown?

Because it happens so rarely.

Granted, the difference is YA movies that come from books like The Hunger Games and Divergent, but with movies like 300 and Pompeii, it’s usually a wash of testosterone. The women are love interests at best.

I didn’t think too much more of this until today, when the Word Nerds did a live chat about female characters in YA fiction. It was originally called “strong” female characters in YA fiction, but that word got us some backlash. There were a few people that said they were sick of talking about it. They weren’t interested in discussing the strength of women in fiction, because the topic has already been covered, it’s been done. It’s over. We don’t need to talk about it anymore.

Nope. Sorry.

When I walk out of a movie utterly shocked that there was a female playing THE bad guy in a movie like 300, I’m going to take it as a sign that this is an issue that still needs to be talked about.  I realize that we are talking about books here, YA books in fact, but I think that’s an even better reason to talk about it. Teens are reading what we  write. They watch movies, they tell the movie producers what they want with their money. Heck, they even grow up to BE movie producers.

And in case you’re thinking it was just ME that was shocked to watch Artemesia do her thing on screen, go do a quick google search. The internets are positively buzzing with shock. And the funny thing? The reactions are overwhelmingly positive.

A quote from an online article by Rob Ryan (link below):  “Hollywood almost never gives actresses a chance to be great villains, or at least total villains.”

Would I call Artemesia a good role model? Um, no. Would I call her a strong fictional woman? Absolutely.

We need more characters like her, with more screen time. And I’m a firm believer that we can start a trend with our writing.

300: Rise of an Empire Eva Green as Artemisia

Article about Artemesia: http://projections.blogs.gainesville.com/11141/how-a-woman-conquered-300-rise-of-an-empire/


4 responses to “On Female Villains and Not Staying Silent

  1. Thanks for sharing! I’m surprised that they actually had a decent female role at all in the new 300 movie. Doing a post on the new Maleficent movie, planning on linking back to this for the thoughts on female villains. Great inspiration!

  2. Pingback: Maleficent and Female Villains « The Quiet Pen·

  3. Hi, Erin…

    I’ve been floating through a few levels of culture. I heard about this movie; I may have even seen a trailer.

    Thing is, you commented this way and it reminded me of another level of culture I passed through recently: The Academy Awards and an English BLACK guy’s slave movie winning awards. (“Twelve years a slave”)

    I can’t say I feel anything ‘improving’ when I see this; my gut tells me maybe but hm…

    I feel like next month, we’ll be back to white male Academy award movies, baddies and the like.

    I wish I didn’t feel this way, but I do.

    You say YA fiction has a lot of kickass females? I noticed one the other day and again, it worried me. A kickass assassin.

    This reminds me of my interest in growing up to be James Bond.

    Do I see a problem here? Yes. I am not a guy. And I don’t really want to kill people.



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