by Colin Biggs
When the average moviegoer is asked to name some of the greatest female characters, the first names that spring to mind are Ripley and Sarah Connor. Actresses were asked to do exciting things after the 1940s and 50s and films were littered with great female performances throughout the years that followed. Women like Ripley and Sarah were defined by their own motivations, anger, competitive edge, or beliefs. It was no longer a requirement for an actress to be in a romantic comedy for her to get a majority of the screen time.
Abruptly the clock struck midnight and those women returned to the waifish, arm-decorations that stood as the new standard for women in films. Women weren’t leading as many action films and dramas, instead they were relegated to the romantic comedies that they had tried so hard to escape from fifty years ago. Gone were the women who occupied films for reasons other than marrying a man. Gone were the women who kicked ass and took names. Gone were women who could lead films by themselves and became masters of their own journey. Ripley and Connor came and went from the pop culture world with no one to replace them.
Then in a sudden burst, heroines suddenly made their comeback with recent projects like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gravity, The Hunger Games and Zero Dark Thirty. Stories that didn’t focus on a woman’s inability to land a man, all of these projects featured central female characters who defy the established order, blaze their own trails and enforce rules of their own. And the influx of leads didn’t stop at art-house films and adaptations of novels, but found a footing in all sorts of genres leading to strong showings in the Best Actress category in recent years. Bloggers started asking where all this talent had been hiding, but the truth is this: there has never been a lack of good actresses, just a short supply of good roles.