Dear Lorna Cole,
I love you.
You heard me, I love you. If I had a locker, I would put your picture up on the inside of the door.
You’re not even in the poster for Lethal Weapon 3, but in my opinion you are the star of this film. I’m not the only one who feels this way. Everyone I knew who saw this in 1992 fell in love with you, because you are so damn cool. Did it help that Rene Russo, who plays you, is conventionally beautiful? Sure. We humans are a shallow lot, and we’ve been well-trained by our culture to respond to certain cues. But honestly, there was so much more to it than that. We fell in love with you because you just kick so much ass, literally and figuratively.
Let’s start with your job. Internal Affairs. Normally stereotyped in films as uptight, territorial, and an impediment to justice. Sure, you start out hostile to having Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Murtaugh (Danny Glover) involved in your case, but that’s because they have a bad reputation. Riggs gives you a hard time, and you respond in kind – coming out slightly ahead in the banter war instead of losing face to the superior man. Once Riggs and Murtaugh demonstrate they have something to offer, you work with them. You don’t reject them just to maintain your authority. You’re focused on the goal. Put dirty cops behind bars, save lives.
You’ve been called a female version of Riggs, or a man in a woman’s body. That line of thought assumes that no woman would actually be tough, assertive, adventurous, and into the Three Stooges. OK, that last bit does smack of the classic male fantasy, and it doesn’t really fit in with how you’re portrayed, but it doesn’t make you a man. Yes, you and Riggs have a lot in common. Wisecracks and a propensity for violence come to mind. But there’s nothing slapstick about you. You are, for lack of a better word, cool.
That’s why Riggs falls for you. It’s not because you’re dressed to seduce – frankly, some of your outfits are pretty awful, like that patchwork vest thing. His attraction does begins with the physical, but it turns into love when he discovers a kindred spirit whom he can respect. He respects you so much that he does his job, even when you’re in danger and his heart is being pulled in two different directions, because he knows you both have a mission that is more important than your individual lives.
Finally, how cool is it that Russo was 38 years old when she played you? She was actually born within 2 years of Mel Gibson, rather than being 20 years younger as per the usual Hollywood guideline for hookups.
The film you inhabit is not without problems. I do wish that the African-American characters in the film weren’t so stereotyped. We see a restaurant owner, several police, and a train driver who just seem like regular people, and we see Murtaugh’s family which is awesome. But then we have the female driver of the armored car who is played for laughs about the lascivious fat black woman, and “gang” teenagers who only serve as a plot device. We need more African-American characters in movies, but not like this. I give the filmmakers credit for not making Danny Glover and his family the only African-Americans in L.A., because how bizarre would that be, but a little more care would have been appreciated.
However, I give Lethal Weapon 3 four stars, because even in a “supporting” role, you are one of my all-time favorite action heroines. The scene where Riggs stands back and watches you whip the bad guys in the warehouse, with a look of delight and pride on his face, is one of my favorite movie love scenes ever. He just can’t get over how much you rock, and neither can I. Call me?
This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.