Hero Complex writer Rebecca Keegan looks at the new challenges and opportunities for teen heroines in cinema in a comprehensive piece just published in the Los Angeles Times, “Teen girls in film showcase true grit.” Here’s an excerpt that will be of particular interest to Hero Complex readers.
Traditionally, one of the barriers to teen female protagonists driving anything but romances has been the conventional wisdom in Hollywood that such characters alienate male audiences. That didn’t seem to be a problem for the Coens’ “True Grit,” however. Though the PG-13 film is built squarely around Hailee Steinfeld’s performance, its marketing emphasized its male stars, and “True Grit” has brought in more than $86 million at the box office so far on the shoulders of mostly male moviegoers.
Ideally for filmmakers, these heroines don’t turn off men and entice women and girls to genres they might ordinarily skip. At least that’s what Zack Snyder would like to accomplish with the upcoming movie “Sucker Punch,” a feminine twist on the prison-break film in which an 18-year-old character named Baby Doll (played by 22-year-old Emily Browning) fights her way out of a mental institution using her mind, her fellow patients and some samurai swords.
“We have female characters in this situation that’s mostly the terrain of men,” says Snyder, whose film is due in theaters in March. “It’s a challenge economically to find who is the audience for the movie. Our hope is that the movie is transcendent, that it becomes something no one’s seen before and exists outside the models [studios] use to track potential economic gains.”
Young women have wielded authority in genre movies in the past — Princess Leia, after all, was mighty handy with a blaster. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” an early ’90s film, inspired a much more influential 1997-2003 TV series in which Sarah Michelle Gellar battled the torments of both the undead and high school. At first marketed to teen girls, it became a crossover hit with boys.
“Getting beat up by Buffy was not a problem for guys,” notes Patricia White, professor of film and media studies at Swarthmore College. Warner Bros. will revisit the iconic character in a Buffy film slated for release in 2012.
More of these “Rambolinas” are on the way to cineplexes: In April, in the titular role of “Hanna,” a 14-year-old assassin-in-training played by Saoirse Ronan journeys across Europe on her first, dangerous mission. In “The Hunger Games,” a potential franchise about to begin casting, Katniss Everdeen, the 16-year-old huntress from the bestselling series of dystopian novels, volunteers to fight to the death in a government-staged arena game to save her younger sister’s life. And [“Winter’s Bone” director Debra] Granik and her producing partner, Anne Rosellini, are working on a film treatment for one of fiction’s original tomboys, Pippi Longstocking.
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– Rebecca Keegan
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