A study of the representation of women in the action film genre and the social messages and values constructed and conveyed. In this essay, I will be looking at the representation of women in the action film genre and studying the social messages that are constructed and conveyed by the medium. The two media texts I will be comparing from are ‘ Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ (1984) and ‘Tomb Raider’ (2001).
The female lead in ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ is Willie Scott who is played by Kate Capshaw and Harrison Ford plays the male lead, Indiana Jones. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ is a prequel to the first Indiana Jones movie, which was ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (1981) in the Indiana Jones series and was directed by the world famous director, Steven Spielberg. In ‘Tomb Raider’ Angelina Jolie plays the female lead, Lara Croft based on a video game. The video game, Tomb Raider was developed by Core Design and it was one of the first videogames whose protagonist is an attractive female with appealing features, including the ability to carry out smooth moves such as flying, firing guns, picking things up, grabbing onto ledges and pulling switches.
Another film which I will be comparing the two women in the action film genre is Marion Ravenwood played by Karen Allen in the ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ Mise-en-scene is an expression used in media to describe the design aspects of a production. This includes set, props, costume, lighting, actors, sound and costume. This helps the arrangement of the scene. Willie Scott’s representation of Mise-en – scene depicts her in a polar contrast to Lara Croft. At the start of the movie, she is clothed in a figure hugging, sequined red dress whilst performing.
... in the series is Raiders of the Lost Ark. Readers and viewers find Indiana Jones in the Peruvian jungle ... trying to rescue them. In The Temple of Doom, Indiana agrees to help an Indian tribe rescue their ... that has set new standards in both film and literature. Indiana Jones is a symbol of bravery, action, ... up the sequel to the first Indiana Jones adventure, Temple of Doom. Indy gets right down to the ...
This shows the audience about the glamorous lifestyle of Willie. During the movie, she is seen wearing Indiana’s baggy suits whenever she’s in the jungle. This conveys that she is trying to develop into the same adventurous character that Indiana and Short Round have throughout the movie. The bagginess of the clothes symbolises that despite her attempt at attaining a fearless character, it is as ineffective and as loose fitting as her costume upon her physique.
The soundtrack used to compliment Willie is often a reflection of her moods. When we are first introduced to Willie, she is singing a musical style song hat has cheery orchestral composition backed up by a multiplicity of wind instruments. The use of wind instruments carries an airy feel, which shows that Willie, at that point, was carefree, delicate and, like a typical woman, a daydreamer. This is proven by the dream sequence shown during the song. However, when in the jungle, low music is played to subtly indicate her bad mood as she tries to cope with wilderness. Willie is mainly shot in close ups, to emphasize on her attractive features and show her exaggerated reactions towards the jungle. Willie Scott is Hollywood’s representation of stereotypical women.
A trait that Willie maintains is the constant greed for money and diamonds. An example that supports this is in the club in Shanghai, whilst Indiana Jones and the villain, Lao Che are fighting, Willie is concerned with the pouch containing diamonds. She risks her mannerism and dress to determinedly crawl on the floor to obtain the diamonds. This can be directly linked with the conventional idea of women being superficial. This concept is carried on, when she enters Pankot palace and is flourished with glamorous dresses and wealth, and she tries to seal her future by enquiring about the Prince’s martial status.
Linking on to this point is Willie’s reluctance to leaving behind her glamorous lifestyle. An example would be the fact that she carries her sequined dress from the beginning throughout the film and jungle. She doesn’t abandon her heels and uses it to climb onto an elephant. This shows that women do not like to explore any other situation out of their comfort zone. Once they have had a taste and have become accustomed to the relatively “easy-life”, they are uncomfortable with accepting to live in conditions that differ. This is supported through the scene when Willie enters the village, she asks them for a phone.
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Even when she is on an elephant, she finds the smell putrid and tries to put perfume on it to soothe herself. Willie Scott is often seen as dependent on Indiana Jones and clutches his arm if she is threatened of afraid of anything. She constantly wails ‘INDIE’ and the fact that she chooses to go along with Indiana, instead of finding a way out shows that she is helpless. As this movie was supposed to be set in 1935, before World War 2, it is a perfect representation of women who in the traditional times would often be reliant on a male.
Willie Scott represents woman through extremely obvious characteristics. These include, noisy (mainly consisting of complaints and high-pitched screams), attractive features and her hatred for the outdoor. The copious amount of screaming she does is valid and reflects true to life. An essay written by someone on Best Action Heroines writes “Just imagine that you get whisked out of your job one evening, put on a plane that crashes, forced to eat bugs, dragged through the Indian jungle, and then almost die a horrible death via a boiling hot lava pit.
I bet you’d do an awful lot of screaming too. ” This shows that Willie Scott was a character included for women to relate to. This gives the movie a sense of realism and the audience can imagine themselves in it. A popular argument is that Willie is a character also for comic relief. An example of this would be when she climbs on an elephant with heels and ends up riding backward. This is supported by Non-diegetic sound effects such as ‘thonk’ when she falls upon seeing animal parts served as food in Pankot Palace. Lara Croft is seen more as an unconventional woman, as the female lead.
In ‘Tomb Raider’, Lara plays a British aristocrat and is seen as a woman who likes to live on the edge and is presented as a coldhearted woman, extremely focused on fulfilling her aims. Lara’s presentation through mise-en-scene indicates her manliness to the audience. For example, she is usually seen wearing leather jackets, black sunglasses and tight fitting leather pants. In the beginning, she also sports a belt buckle with a skull on it. This choice of costume emphasizes her masculinity and shows the audience of her as an unstereotypical female in an action film and highlights the idea that she is an equal match to men.
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In ‘Tomb Raider’, the choice of music selected throughout the movie is mainly modern and techno, however during the fight scene in Lara’s house, she gracefully hoists herself upside down with ropes which is supported with a minute worth of classical music, mainly piano but is broken again with heavy techno music. This reminds the audience that although Lara is not a stereotypical girl, she does embody a few feminine qualities such as grace and strong, attractive looks. As there is a direct change in music to reate a false hope in the audience and the sudden shift brings the audience back to the unconventional woman she is as she starts fighting soon after the music breaks. The usage of techno music, instead of the generic orchestral music seen in most action movies, compliments the modernity of the film. As Lara Croft breaks the traditional image of women, the equality of both genders represented in this film is a new concept and the techno music subtly highlights this. Tomb Raider is mainly inclusive of Low Angle shots.
The usage of this this type of camera shot helped Lara look dominant and superior and to stress on her role as a female protagonist. This can be directly compared with Indiana Jones who in both, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ and Temple of Doom was shot in low angles. The fact that she does martial arts shows Lara Croft to be of a manly character by carrying and applying traits that are mostly used by men. When Lara’s butler tries to get her to put on a dress, she drops her towel to reveal herself, which portrays her a sexual character.
Lara Croft, however does not use her sexuality to seduce, otherwise she would be known as a Femme Fatale who uses her voluptuous behavior to seduce men. Lara on the other hand, doesn’t take theform of a Femme Fatale and uses her skills to beat men. I believe that the media wants to convey that women can be seen equal to men and although usually underestimated, they can do a lot more than men can as before they were known as intelligent and now they have the physical capabilities and both of them make a full package. Lara also is very emotional and we see that this is a great weakness of her, which is used against her.
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Lara is emotionally unstable because of her father’s death and tries to take a big risk in order to fulfill her desire of meeting him once more. We see this when Mr. Powell emotionally blackmails her. By this, we can see that Lara has a very emotional aspect in her, which is mostly seen as a womanly trait and is the only thing that is stopping her becoming totally masculine. Lara can be seen as a positive character by the fact that she’s self reliant and successful in what she does, however Willie is much more dependent on Indiana Jones for help. Marion Ravenwood is halfway through both characters.
She tends to be quite feisty. She displays this in the beginning, when we see Indy walking into her bar. Acknowledging that they had a past and that Indy left her, instead of remaining silent, she slaps him without hesitation. Another scene is when she’s trying to escape after she’s been kidnapped and this opens another idea that she does not give up. This suggests that women, however stereotypically gentle and calm, can be zestful. However courageous, Marion also has her female traits. For example, when she’s in the Well of Souls and there are dangerous creatures lurking at each angle, she screams and complains.
This different portrayal of Marion suggests that she as well as being tough, she can also be a female who’s frightened and needs a man, Indiana Jones, in this case to protect her. This is a trait that she shares with Willie Scott who whines and is frightened of bugs. She is also smart and uses whatever she can find, for example the frying pan, to protect herself and her man with. The frying pan, as well signifies her to be a traditional female heroine. Frying pan is an appliance used in the kitchen by women and by using that to protect herself. , we can see that she has her womanly traits and represents a stereotypical woman.
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This shows that however conventional she was, she also may have an adventurous side to her to match Indiana Jones The courageous feistiness could depict her to have traits of Lara Croft as Lara Croft fights with what she can find. Looking at Willie Scott and Lara Croft, we can see that there have been some major changes in the representation of women in the action film genre. In both films, the female character is portrayed in a different way. For example, ‘Temple of Doom’ which is a film that was set in the 1935 showed Willie in a side-supporting role who was dependent on the Male Lead and was a character added for comedic relief.
On the other hand, ‘Tomb Raider’ which is a much more modern movie, depicts Lara to be the main protagonist and is independent and even though has had a previous relationship, doesn’t necessarily need a man. Female leads were much more believable 25 years ago as they mostly stuck to the stereotype built for them; however, female leads now are not as believable as they showcase more male stereotypical characteristics As a common stereotype created for them, females were shown as smart but by using their brains 25 years ago – Marion, for example tried to get Belloq drunk so hat she could escape while he’d gone unconscious. Willie also follows a common stereotype of women who were much more passive. In modern times, however women are also shown to be using their physicality and brainpower – Lara Croft could be used as an example as she was known to figure out the correct area to place the triangle and defeated the creatures that came her way. This shows that movies would screenplay characters like Willie so that the audience could relate themselves and identify the character.
However, after Marion, an action film heroine such as Lara Croft is seen as much more aspirational. As times have changed so have women’s roles in society, and accordingly their representation in the media. The representation of women has improved as they have moved forward into a more equal society. Hollywood is a reflection of real life, and the point that the representation has improved because of society’s views, making it easier for the audience to relate in general, has proved this.
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Also, if an action film has a male lead; chances are that the majority of the audience would be male, as women are mostly not interested. But if an action film has a female lead, there’s more possibility of both gender audiences, as it would contain a bit of emotional drama that women would enjoy as well as women might enjoy seeing a strong, independent female character; however the female lead would have to be attractive, appealing to the male gaze. This shows that Hollywood imitates what has been going on in the natural world and showing how women have moved forward in time.
This also shows that Hollywood considers ways to make more money and appeal in different ways to the audience so they could make more profit with more audience. In conclusion, I believe that women in action films are overall positive role models if we’re only looking at Marion and Lara. Marion and Lara are both very different representations and to some extent, over exaggerated. Even though Marion was much more stereotypically shown as a woman and women are known to be weaker than men, they were not usually falling over or getting into trouble every second.
I believe that Lara, as well, breaking the stereotype, wouldn’t be a realistic character as although modern women are physically fit and can reach up to the same standards as men, they wouldn’t transform into a stereotypical man. Willie is more likely seen as an accurate but negative representation due to the fact that she was a disturbance to Indiana’s journey and almost killed him when she took time to convince herself to pull a lever, which was covered with bugs.
In my opinion, Willie is exaggerated for comic relief and therefore is seen as a positive in terms of traditional beliefs, however is ranked low on independency. The media is conveying that as time is progressing, women are able to fit into both genders and this representation, in my opinion is neither positive or negative and in some aspects, both because that would mean less discrimination and underestimation but men would have no place to be if women took over their job.