COMIC-CON 2010: A new generation of heroines

July 24, 2010 | 3:58 a.m.
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The dawn of the geek girl and the empowered woman is not upon us; it’s actually been here for quite some time. And, evident in its programming, Comic-Con has known this for a while, with its many femme-centric panels (as we chronicled a bit earlier) like the “Girls Gone Genre” panel, the “Her Universe: Shining the Spotlight on Female Fans” panel, the Comics Arts Conference’s “Where Are the Action Chicks?” panel, and the annual “Girls Who Kick Ass: A New Generation of Heroines” panel put on by Entertainment Weekly.

A similar panel last year brought together Eliza Dushku, Elizabeth Mitchell, Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver. This year’s model, moderated by Nicole Sperling, brought out Mitchell, Anna Torv, Jena Malone, Ellen Wong and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

The message of being not only empowered women but empowered actresses seemed to echo throughout the panel. They get to do what their male counterparts do, and they even may switch standard roles.

“Olivia was off doing the tough stuff while the guys sat around and talked in the kitchen,” Torv said of her character on “Fringe.” Yes, reconciling the freedom of switching stereotypes on screen is freeing for many actresses, but some of the things their characters do are not activities they’d want to partake in in real life.

“I haven’t actually hit anyone. Guys do that. Did you ever really have to hit someone?” Torv asked, looking down the row of panelists. They all pretty much shook their heads “no.”

The actresses did find empowerment in different things, though, including their jobs.

“I like the challenge of interpreting what I’ve been given,” Torv said. Ellen Wong, who is in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” said that doing martial arts and physical activities on a set is also strengthening.

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“We get a sense of power from doing certain moves like running up a wall and flipping,” she said. But she was also quick to give a lot of credit to the stunt women who “put their lives on the line.” The audience gave that loud applause. Wong also spoke about skydiving right before coming to Comic-Con.

“I screamed and let it all out,” she said. “It definitely got me ready for Comic-Con!”

A questioner wondered aloud, specifically toward “Pride and Prejudice” actress Malone, whether the spirited voice of Jane Austen was still alive.

“She was breaking rules and standards [long ago], and that’s what we’re all doing here today,” Malone said.

Mitchell, who one attendee said was on her husband’s “allowed” list, commented on how she gets into character for her diverse roles.

“I am deadly dull.  I am a deadly dull person. I play chess with my husband,” Mitchell said. “But I have a fertile imagination.”

One of the final questions asked of the actresses: Has any of your physical training or the skills you may have attempted to acquire on screen been used in your real life?  There were almost unanimous, and relieved no’s.

And then there was Jena Malone: “High speed chases in high heels…. I’ve put that in my real life.”

– Jevon Phillips

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Photo: Actresses Elizabeth Mitchell, Anna Torv, Jena Malone, Ellen Wong, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead at Comic-Con 2010, and Mitchell and Torv on stage. Credit: John Shearer / Getty Images.

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