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From Gattaca to The Witcher: Appreciating Stronger Female Characters 

Lately, in a lot of films, and particularly streaming shows, female main characters have become more dynamic and interesting. They are flawed but powerful. They grab your attention with their strength and vulnerability. 

I’ll admit, what made me want to watch shows like Altered Carbon or The Witcher was the male lead. Call me a sucker for liking what I see in Joel Kinnaman and Henry Cavill. 

I continued watching and looked forward to the future seasons, not because of them (well not solely, they are good in their roles). I became a fan of the shows because of the two female lead characters. 

Image from titanbooks.com

In Altered Carbon, the two female leads begin with the love of his life and his partner both of which are very powerful, very strong, very beautiful, and very cool. 

In The Witcher, the two lead female characters are quite different. One is sexy, ambitious, and cutthroat. The other is a young, innocent girl but dangerously powerful. The male lead soon learns he not only wants them in his life, but he also needs them. And dare I say it, so does the audience. We want to see Ciri and Yennefers plots just as much as we want to see Geralt kicking butt. 

Why is that? First, the actors are all doing a great job. As much as Joel (then Anthony Mackie) and Henry keep you interested not just by their looks but by their performances, the same goes with the female actors. It is important to note that the showrunner is also female. Having a woman in charge certainly helps to make sure all the roles, regardless of gender be compelling and complex.

Image from IMDb

In the past, oftentimes, a woman’s role was to be a sidekick or just a love interest. One-dimensional and pretty. I recently watched Gattaca. It’s a sci-fi classic and an original bromance story between Ethan Hawke and Jude Law. Then there’s also Uma Thurman who is a very capable actress, we know she can lead as we saw in her other works such as playing an assassin in Kill Bill or how she steals the screen in Pulp Fiction. But in this, she seems to be just there. I guess to make Ethan uncomfortable that his secret will be found but also something pretty to look at? I mean don’t get me wrong I’m glad she was in it mostly because Maya Hawke is talented and cool and that’s how her parents met. But after watching it and thinking about it, I realized Uma doesn’t need to be in that film. Everything was about the men in that story: the brother, the friend, and the main character are all-male leads that didn’t need a woman to ever push forward their storyline or the part of the film. But things are thankfully changing. 

Case in point of these two shows or the examples in one of my favorite film genres, spies. 

In the most recent 007 films, it is not just for a specific male spy, it is handed down to a female spy. While there’s been controversy after the announcement, it’s a fictional story about spies so does it matter if it’s a specific gender to do the spying? 

And then there is The 355 (read my review here). Delayed for a year of release due to the pandemic, it concentrates on female spies across the world who come together to fight a common enemy. They also have nice eye candy for the female spies, with husbands, colleagues, etc who are male. It’s the same formula for a fun spy film, just gender role reversal. 

All in all, these films and shows are making female characters a lot more interesting and compelling. I, for one, am here for it. Are you? 

3 comments

  1. Since the late-70s/early-80s sci-fi for Louise Jameson, Carrie Fisher, Jacqueline Pearce, Joanna Lumley, Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton, stronger female sci-fi characters have been on the rise and so I thankfully learned to respect them at a very young age. It’s even more important now that women, especially in sci-fi and certainly the Alien and Blade Runner films, can be given such amazingly complex roles. Thank you for your article.

    1. Great examples of previous decades, too! Thanks for sharing, glad you liked this article:)

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