So the question on the table for today is: Are asskicking women in action films an affront to “godly, awesome, beautiful, feminine women” and, well, now that you come to mention it, our heavenly Father too?
According to Christian cultural critic Nathan Alberson, the answer is “yes.”
That’s the short version of his answer, in any case. The long version is a rambling 3000-word diatribe that Alberson casts as “AN OPEN LETTER TO REY FROM STAR WARS.” Originally posted in March on Warhorn, a site I’ve never heard of before, his post is now being passed around by irritated feminists, many of whom aren’t quite sure whether his argument is real or an elaborate parody.
Having poked around Warhorn a bit, I’m pretty sure that Alberson is sincere. He genuinely thinks that characters like Rey in Star Wars are an affront not only to his own masculinity but to God, for whom Alberson seems to think he’s a spokesman.
Alberson starts out his “open letter” by addressing not only Rey but an assortment of other heroines in science fiction and fantasy films, including, among others,
Princess Leia. And Wonder Woman. And Sarah Connor and Trinity and Imperator Furiosa … and Katniss Everdeen and River Tam … And Feminist Elf-Kate from The Hobbit. … And the godmother of them all, Ellen Ripley.
The problem with these fictional women? They’re strong. And women in the real world are weak. Because God made them that way. So kickass women in action movies (and the women who play them) not only “look ridiculous,” they’re also
behaving … in ways that do not befit your sex or glorify God. … Your friends and family and fans may not laugh at you. But the angels do and history will.
I’ve seen this same argument made by antifeminists I don’t know how many times — though generally without all that stuff about God and the laughing angels. Women in the real world are, on average, weaker than men, all these guys say. So it’s unrealistic to think that any female heroine could beat up a man.
Here’s my open letter to Alberson:
Dear Mr. Alberson,
Have you ever actually seen an action movie?
I mean, dude, seriously, you’re mad that Trinity from the Matrix can jump high and beat up dudes?
The Matrix movies are about a dystopian future in which humans “live” in a computer-generated virtual world while their bodies in the real world are used to generate electricity. And the part of the movie that seems the most unrealistic to you is that Trinity, while she’s in the video-game-like matrix, can jump high and beat up dudes?
You do remember that by the end of the movie Neo can slow down time, repel bullets with his mind, and, you know, FLY?
In the original Star Wars, Darth Vader strangles a dude with his mind, by using a mysterious force called, you know, The Force. But the unbelievable thing to you is that Princess Leia knows how to use a blaster?
It’s true that in the real world women can’t do all the amazing things that fictional women in science fiction and action films do. But, as I pointed out the last time I wrote about this goofy argument, neither can men.
Seriously, have you seen any movie with Jason Statham in it? Sure, Statham could kick my ass, and probably yours, in the real world. But he can’t actually do all the unbelievable things his characters do on film.
I mean, the first Crank movie, as unrealistic in its violence (and its physics) as a Roadrunner cartoon, ends with Statham’s character, Chev Chelios, dispatching his arch nemesis, then calmly calling his girlfriend and leaving her a message — all while plummeting to earth from a helicopter without a parachute. SPOILER ALERT: he lives.
And here’s a sort of greatest hits compilation from all his films:
I eagerly await Alberson’s Open Letter to Chev From Crank.
And then he’ll need to write open letters to James Bond, Jason Bourne, Rambo and John McClane. And practically every character Arnold Schwarzenegger has ever played.
But of course, Alberson isn’t just worried that kickass women in action films are unrealistic. He also think they send the wrong messages to women — and to men.
[T]he cumulative effect of watching movie after movie wherein fine ladies … suddenly crunch the bones of a dozen bad guys at a time is that some silly people get the idea there’s no real difference between men and women’s bodies … .
Really? I don’t think that’s the message being sent by, oh, Tomb Raider.
Or any of the innumerable action films in which the heroine wears skin-tight, often fetishistic outfits that sexualize her in a way that most male action stars aren’t.
I mean, sure, Bruce Willis wore that cute orange tank top in The Fifth Element, but Milla Jovavich wore, you know, this:
Hell, in the Underworld movies, Kate Beckinsale wears a corset while fighting the werewolf menace.
But apparently all these women look pretty manly to Alberson.
Movies and TV were a big part of how I learned who women were. And they lied to me. They told me that women were glorified boys who tagged along on adventures, took care of themselves, and wouldn’t let you have sex with them until sometime late in act 2 when, for no particular reason, they would.
These are terrible things to learn about women.
These movies, he thinks, should have been teaching him that women were frail flowers who need to be protected by men like him.
What I need is something to fight for, someone to fight for, someone to protect. If you rob me of that, you rob me of my dignity as a man.
Because men are supposed to be the white knights who rescue women (mostly from men who aren’t white knights).
As men, we were born with bodies and minds crafted for war. We are the warriors, the peacekeepers, the protectors—the bloodshedders, when the time is right. Every man is a father, whether of his own children, or the people that work for him, or the folks he leads at church. As such, he must be ready to uphold what is virtuous and punish what is evil.
And so Alberson has decided that his white knight quest for the moment is to take on the “wicked men” who make action movies with kickass heroines. He feels he needs to stand up for “all the girls and women out there who want to be godly, awesome, beautiful, feminine women,” who “feel beaten up” every time they see a fictional heroine beat someone up.
If only, he laments, the fathers and/or husbands of the actresses who’ve played action heroines had “loved them enough to tell them they weren’t allowed to do what they did.”
Alberson is pretty big on the whole “men telling women what to do” thing, urging his male readers to
Protect your wives and mothers and daughters and sisters. Honor them. Make them feel special. … When you see them trying to be like the ladies in those movies, tell them no. Tell them that isn’t what you want.
Indeed, Alberson seems to think that women trying to be like kickass female action stars is one of the leading causes of divorce.
Men lie to themselves and women about the sort of women they want. Women are gullible and believe the lie and become the women they think men want. Then men reject them because men never wanted those sorts of women in the first place.
And men do reject them. Look at the divorce statistics, look at the TV shows and books and articles by women desperately wondering why it’s so hard to hold on to a man. That’s a bigger problem than the purview of this letter, but you fictional female warriors are part of it.
I’m pretty sure no man has ever divorced his wife because she reminded him too much of Milla Jovavich in The Fifth Element. Or Sigorney Weaver in Aliens. Or Charlize Theron in anything. Well, anything except Monster.
Alberson’s argument really needs to have a stake driven through its heart. Buffy, can you do the honors?