on kicking ass


I’ve been working for some time on an endeavor that I have dubbed “the kick-ass women project.” So far, the project has involved putting together various lists of movies and shows that have prominently featured women characters who, in my opinion, kick some ass.

However, I have yet to either define the term kick-ass or really describe what it is that I mean by the expression kick-ass woman. So here goes a try.

A kick-ass woman is a woman is more than ordinarily strong, courageous, and intelligent. Kick-ass women (or for that matter, kick-ass people in general) are those who face up to challenges that are beyond the ordinary, stand up for themselves and for others, and demonstrate their stength, courage and intelligence.

What do I mean by strength? Well, strength of character, primarily. Courage to stand up for her beliefs, for her rights, or even for her wants. Plus the brains to figure out what needs to be done.

Of course, I also enjoy the action genre, and added to these fundamental kick-ass qualities, I appreciate additional qualities. A kick-ass woman should ideally have some physical strength and the ability to hold her own in a fight. And I do have a penchant for women who can show off some martial arts skills, and literally kick some asses. Or other bits. In action or suspense movies, a kick-ass woman should also be able to outwit her opponents.

In some ways, a kick-ass woman character can also be defined by things she is not, things she does not do. For example, she doesn’t wait around for some man. To rescue her. Solve things for her. Notice her charms. Send her flowers. Marry her. She is not just the “love interest,” the prize, the trophy. She is not helpless. This is not to say that she can’t be a love interest, or accept some help, or be noticed for her charms. She can like getting flowers. She can even have romance, love, sex, marriage, whatever. More power to her. But these things are not the extent of her worth, her self worth, her role in whatever movie or show we’re watching.

I like to think of women as fundamentally strong, courageous and intelligent. This is the baseline. Sure, some women are stronger, others wimpier. Some brilliant, some not as bright. But generally, women have the potential to kick ass. It’s just that all too often in the media that is served up to us, whether it’s the more traditional male-dominated action and suspense movies, or the “chick movie” type romantic comedies, the women characters are overshadowed or underdeveloped. Watered down, or just gussied up.

Like many others, I want more movies and TV shows to feature women who demonstrate their strengths.

So, where am I going with this project? Well, I’ll probably put together a few more lists. It has come to my attention that I should put together lists of movies where the ass-kicking is more figurative than literal. While heavy on the action genre, my existing lists do include some such non-action movies, but there are certainly more out there.

I’ve also come across a number of other resources (books and websites) that discuss, rate or list kick-ass women movies and shows. I’ll get around to writing about them. At some point.

I also still have this plan of reviewing and actually scoring individual movies (or shows), based on the kick-assedness of the women characters.

I even have plans to write more about the expression kick-ass, and why I’ve chosen it over terms like sheroe or heroine.

5 thoughts on “on kicking ass

  1. :-) My experiment worked!

    Anyway, I mainly want to see a list called “Kick-ass women who don’t necessarily kick anyone’s ass” because I like the title.

    Is it possible that movie women who kick ass by being smart, logical, not-hysterical and/or not-whiny don’t come to mind as easily as physically strong/fighting women because the first type has become more commonplace? That’s probably too optimistic, isn’t it?

    I don’t know if you’ve seen the continued discussion on the blog you link to, but someone makes a good point (somewhere before the debate about whether “ball sack” is hyphenated..) that the type of movies that have “trophy” women also often have insultingly vapid male characters. But the larger point is probably that there are vastly more male lead characters of all types than there are female leads. When the lead character is female, at least in the movies, it still stands out. And when it does happen, I’m sure there were many discussions behind the scenes about marketability risks, sadly.

    As far as TV goes, I think a female lead is more accepted, but don’t even get me started about the bitchy female shrew/doofus male dynamic which is the core of nearly every “family” sitcom. Really unhealthy for both genders.

    If you haven’t seen the Joss speech my friend links to, you should. He really gets to the heart of the issue:

  2. Woohoo! Looking forward to more.

    It’s Joss Whedon week in the momosphere or something. I’ve got some catching up to do: I’ve been planning on watching the Buffy series forever. This clinched it.

  3. I was re-reading the discussion on my friend’s blog, and I thought I should add that she is a huge Joss-head, so the “bwahaha” directed at Serenity is a “bwahaha” of approval. It occurred to me that if you didn’t have the context, it might have come across differently. It’s really a “Woohoo!”

  4. bs-
    Many good points. And, as you know, I have followed up on your suggestion. Thanks also for the link to the Joss Whedon speech. That was amazing.

    Sage-
    Suggestions/contributions are always welcome.

    bs (again)-
    Thanks for the clarification. I had actually notice the “whedonesque” themage on her blog, so I did interpret the evil laugh as a triumphant one.

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