Female Solidarity: The Rise and Rise of the New Woman in Popular Culture

Princess Leia

Image Credit: Robert Douglas and Flickr

“I will fight, for those who can not fight for themselves”

– Wonder Woman (2017)

Having finished watching Big Little Lies (2017) a couple of weeks ago, I have been waiting to find the time to sit down and let you know what I thought about it. It was recommended to me as: “as good as True Detective Season One,” which to me was one of the best series of this decade, so I went in with high expectations. I’m still unsure whether this mini series reached the heights of True Detective (it’s pretty difficult to compete with a character like Rust Cohle in my book), but it was certainly a contender. I would market the series as True Detective meets Twin Peaks. The relaxing, slow opening sequence, the sleepy town, the mysterious death in the first few seconds. Yet, it echoes True Detective through the use of ana/prolepsis, with police interviews interrupting the main narrative to constantly remind us that this is the past – one of these people has died.

Throughout, I was convinced one of the women was the victim. I am sure many people thought the same as we have been conditioned to view woman as victims and men as saviours in the movies. How many tv series, films, books use women as the victim of a horrible crime as the central focus of the plot? All the way along there were little clues that any of the protagonists could be killed: Celeste (Nicole Kidman) by her violent husband; Jane (Shailene Woodley) during a confrontation with her attacker; or, Madeline (Reece Witherspoon) by her daughter/husband/ex-husband/bit on the side/bit on the side’s wife. I won’t spoil the surprise for those of you that have yet to see the final episode, but I was surprised by both the victim and the perpetrator.

Having started this blog entry a month ago (I know, but if you saw my deadlines and marking you would understand) I wasn’t sure where to take it. Having watched an array of new tv series over the last few weeks I can’t help but notice the prevalence of strong and surprising female leads. Don’t get me wrong, strong independent protagonists are nothing new (Ripley in Alien, Leia in Star Wars etc), but there is something about the female solidarity depicted in Big Little Lies that is a breath of fresh air amidst the current political climate. This, alongside the unexpected success of Wonder Woman in the box office this month, surely calls into question the relevance of the hyper-masculine action hero films that have dominated for decades.

Then, this morning, I watched some of the trailers for the new releases announced at E3. Did anyone else notice how many of the new games had a female protagonist as the lead? And a female protagonist that hasn’t been oversexualized through cartoon body proportions and “barely there” armour. The gaming market is worth more than the film industry and developers are finally recognising the importance and the prevalence of female gamers. The teenage boy that never sees the light of day as he spends all the hours hidden away attaining the highest rank and finding the rarest weapon before any of his virtual friends catch-up, is a thing of the past. Having spent most of my life gaming and being forced to experience the virtual world through the eyes of alpha males and monstrous females, I can’t wait to play as a host of new women in upcoming releases such as Anthem, Destiny 2 and Star Wars Battlefront 2.



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