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NYT’s Dargis & Scott Debate Violent Screen Femmes: Fueled by Rage or Fear of Female Power?

NYT's Dargis & Scott Debate Violent Screen Femmes: Fueled by Rage or Fear of Female Power?

In the NYT’s must-read article “Gosh, Sweetie, That’s a Big Gun” (published with this fab summer preview cover illo), Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott have a timely discussion about the recent surge of violent girls and women on the big screen. Excerpts are below:

MANOHLA DARGIS: It’s no longer enough to be a mean girl, to destroy the enemy with sneers and gossip: you now have to be a murderous one. That, at any rate, seems to be what movies like “Hanna,” “Sucker Punch,” “Super,” “Let Me In,” “Kick-Ass” and those flicks with that inked Swedish psycho-chick seem to be saying…I’m leery of how they fetishize hyper-violent women…

Part of me thinks the uptick in bloody mama and kinder-killer movies is about as progressive as that old advertising pitch for Virginia Slims cigarettes, meaning not very…The question is why are so many violent girls and women running through movies now, especially given that the American big screen hasn’t been very interested in women’s stories, violent or not, in recent decades, an occasional Thelma, Louise and Jodie Foster character notwithstanding. There are other exceptions, of course, usually romantic comedies that are so insipid and insulting I want to kill everyone on screen. Wait a minute — is it female rage fueling this trend? (Ha. Ha.)

SCOTT: Female rage is definitely on display in a lot of these movies, some of which depict women taking revenge against abusive men. The Salander trilogy sketches a grim tableau of a society defined by brutal masculine authority,…But it seems to me that what fuels these fantasies is also a deep anxiety — an unstable compound of confusion, fascination, panic and denial — about female sexuality, especially the sexual power and vulnerability of girls and young women.

DARGIS: Male anxiety about female sexual power can be depended on to make trouble, and not just in real life, as evident from “The Birth of a Nation” on, probably before. One difference is the tender age of these recent combatants. The bad seed isn’t new, but what seems different is that young women and girls can kill today without being necessarily and fatally pathologized.

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