Why Aren’t There More Female-Led Action Films?

An interesting piece popped up on Yahoo! Entertainment News and Gossip yesterday. Titled Female action pics need heroes of their own, it uses the signing of Robert Rodriguez to direct the new Barbarella as a springboard to discuss why there aren’t more action movies that star women.

The article identifies a number of reasons for this:

  • When an action movie led by a woman fails, studios back away from making more – unlike when an action movie led by a man fails and they crank out a few more.
  • Many female actors who do an action movie don’t do another one – unlike male actors who make a bunch even if one fails.
  • Screenwriters write action movie scripts differently if a woman is going to have the lead role, changing the plot and character development.

Grace and I have a running list of films we want to review for Heroine Content, but it’s pretty short compared to the list we could make of action films that focus on men. Part of that is definitely due to the “repeat” behavior of male actors. Add one Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, and you can add a dozen. Among female actors in American action films, I can think of a number of repeaters: Sigourney Weaver, Angelina Jolie, Kate Beckinsale, Lucy Liu, Michelle Rodriguez, Pam Grier, Uma Thurman, and Milla Jovovich. However, each of them has only about five films that could go on the list, definitely not as many as ten. Plus, many of the films that star men don’t have a woman in an action role as well. Most of the films that star women also have at least one man in an action role.

The article didn’t go into great depth, but I would imagine that studio skittishness and female actors not having multiple action films under their belts are related. Fewer opportunities equal fewer movies.

It was thought-provoking, though, especially the comparisons drawn between movies and television.

And the part where they only quoted men.

This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.