Things haven’t changed until recently, but Hollywood has been a terrible place to find female role models on the big screen. There are probably many reasons for this, but the main one is likely that the film industry is still dominated by men. As a result, many genres have their female roles relegated to that of a supporting status. Fortunately, the uptick in dominant, well-crafted female protagonists across all genres has been a welcome adjustment. Perhaps in response to this, archers have been featured more frequently in film, both on the small and big screens. Not all archers are female, but there were a few years that recently gave these archer heroines the spotlight. This week’s two films examine two strong female role models who just so happen to exhibit their independence through their skill with a bow and arrow.
Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours
Disney has always cornered the market on the “princess movie”. And while Brave (2012) wasn’t directly under the Disney label (because Pixar made it), it carries the weight of decades of the princess trope on its shoulders. It is interesting to see how the perception of women has changed throughout the years, mostly in how they are portrayed in these films. The early films, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1940), Cinderella (1950), and Sleeping Beauty (1959) all have women trying to complete their lives by finding a man to save them. During the Disney Renaissance of the 1990’s, including The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Pocahontas (1995), and Mulan (1998), we see a shift toward independence. When CGI became the medium of choice for animation, the evolution of women’s liberation had completed with Brave (2012).
From a young age, Merida Dunbroch (Kelly Macdonald) has been enhancing her skill in archery. This determination is likely due to an incident shortly after she received her bow and arrow as a gift which resulted in her father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), losing his left leg to a bear attack. Even though she has become an expert archer, her parents still feel the need to protect her by offering her hand in marriage to the winner of the Highland Games. By exploiting the rules of the Games, she competes in the archery competition and wins, thus retaining her right to choose her husband. This angers the other clans, but not nearly as much as her mother, Elinor (Emma Thompson). After running away into the woods, Merida accidentally curses her mother and must now mend their relationship to return the kingdom to the status quo.
The Hunger Games
Length: 142 minutes / 2.37 hours
It has taken some time, but the science fiction genre has made great strides in how it portrays women. Gone are the days of the scantily clad damsels held in the clutches of alien invaders. Now, we see that women can be as bad-ass as some of the men. Characters like Ripley from Alien (1979) and Sarah Connor from Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) show that sometimes men aren’t needed to save a woman in distress. Even though the Hunger Games series highlights the struggle between a relationship and survival, Katniss Everdeen always manages to fight to keep both. Her skill with a bow and arrow rivals that of superheroes like Hawkeye (from The Avengers (2012)), which just brings to light that archery was really in vogue during 2012. With the film series complete, Katniss’ inclusion in modern popular culture has been firmly fixed.
Living in District 12, the poorest of the districts of Panem, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) uses her skills as an archer to keep her family fed. Unfortunately, when her sister is called as one of the tributes for the annual Hunger Games, the only way Katniss can save her is to volunteer in her stead. With Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), the two head to the Capitol to be presented as two of 24 tributes. After the pageantry is finished, they find themselves in a literal fight for their lives as the Hunger Games commence. Many are killed and alliances are formed as the battle for survival rages on. Katniss manages to survive by using the skills she has gained from living in District 12, hunting and camping her way toward victory. When only Katniss and Peeta remain, the tough decision now stands between them to determine who will win and who will die.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 fletching females