Unfridged: Female comic characters break out, break the rules and (hopefully) break the box office


*mild spoilers ahead for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2*

In a movie that features a  killer arrow controlled by whistling, an impossibly cute dancing tree branch AND Chris Pratt’s abs, would you believe it if I told you the best scene is two sisters working out their relationship issues? There’s a LOT going on in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (a little too much in my opinion), but in the midst of Kurt Russel getting his groove back and the most spectacular Viking funeral fireworks you’ve ever seen, there’s also the story of Gomora and Nebula – a story with humor, action and heart, a story that arcs from betrayal and hatred to empathy and understanding – and all without the “trying so hard” vibe that weighs down some of the movie’s other side plots. A week after seeing the film, the moments they shared are the ones that have stuck with me.

Zoe Saldana’s Gomora and Karen Gillan’s Nebula are just two examples of the richly expanding world of female comic characters being brought to our screens in the last few years. And even for someone like myself, who’s not really familiar with comics outside of their onscreen adaptations, it’s been a refreshing change from the way female characters were interpreted in the past. As a kid I remember loving Michelle Pfeiffer’s weird and creepy take on Catwoman, but also thinking that for the most part, she was there to slink around in a skintight leather suit. And beyond that, who else was there really? The damsels of course – the lovely ladies who needed rescuing or help catching the baddie or upside-down kissing from the guy in tights. Or even sadder, the ones who get violent death, ala fridging , as their fate, all so our hero can get to have lots of feels as he exacts his bloody revenge.

While I’d never blame sexist tropes entirely for my indifference to the comic world (two of my favorite genres – action movies and scifi – also have them in spades), I do think that lack of a badass heroine was part of what kept me away. I needed my Ripley, my Scully, my Sarah Conner getting ripped in preparation for the apocalypse. And then, in November of 2015, she arrived in my Netflix list in the form of one Jessica Jones. In so many ways, Jessica is the antithesis of everything that came before her – sarcastic, powerful and unapologetic, and when it comes to sex, there’s certainly no slinking around. Jessica Jones was my gateway into the Marvel universe, and since that show’s premiere, I’ve been surprised to find myself also enjoying Luke Cage and Daredevil.

And that’s what these excellent female characters, like Jessica, Gomora and Nebula, have the power to do – attract new fans, represent new points of view and hit refresh on some conceits that are getting…well, a bit dusty (bad/absent father figure? hmmm I wonder if you might grow up to want to avenge injustice….) With early Wonder Woman buzz pointing to potential critical and commercial success, I think it’s safe to hope that women in comics have left the fridge behind for good and are standing side by side with their male counterparts, on their way to save the world.

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