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Zoe Saldana Refuses To Play A "Victim" Or Just Another Girlfriend Role

by Cynthia Reid
July 25, 2011 6:14 AM
14 Comments
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I refuse to play the girlfriend, mother, daughter or victim. I am proud to think that after Avatar, my next part wasn’t just as the girlfriend of Mr. What's-his-name in a blockbuster.”

That's what actress Zoe Saldana recently explained to L'Express regarding her career choices as she promotes her latest film.


I don't work so hard to end up the girlfriend of the lead part. As a woman, I find it really humiliating. And there isn't anything victorious in it. Success, to me, means playing a part that a man could have done,” she said.

She further states that she's always identified with strong, superhero types which is why she was attracted to her latest character as Cataleya in Colombiana.

When I was a child, I never used to pretend to be a princess, I was a ninja, Sarah Connor or Wonder Woman. I would imagine I was an action lady. When we were celebrating Halloween, I wanted to dress up as Batman," she said. "I used to watch Terminator every Wednesday afternoon. I love science fiction… I 'd love to put myself in jeopardy. Which is surprising for a little girl. Being an actress allows me to do it even more.”

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14 Comments

  • Masha Dowell | July 26, 2011 10:47 AMReply

    I son't agree with Zoe here. But I like that she knows what she desires. Kudos to her. We all have choices... just like she does.

  • the pompatus of cinema | July 26, 2011 9:29 AMReply

    It's a shame so many modern actresses find playing women "humiliating." As long as manhood is the feminist yardstick for value or dignity, they will always be oppressed, I'm afraid.

  • the pompatus of cinema | July 26, 2011 9:28 AMReply

    It's a shame so many modern actresses find playing women "humiliating." As long as manhood is the feminist yardstick for value or dignity, they will always be oppressed, I'm afraid.

  • natalie | July 26, 2011 5:22 AMReply

    well i guess nobody here including Zoe herself has seen her movie Burning Palms. I liked it but i guess she's too good for it. and it came out after Avatar so i guess this is just mouthing to hype her movie!

  • Tamara | July 26, 2011 3:25 AMReply

    I like that she’s going for the roles beyond being a soothsayer, you know? But that’s certainly not to say that traditionally “feminine” roles have no value.

    Certainly.

    And I like Zoe's spunk and "fierceness", too, but I think that within any role there exists the capacity for complexity; for a great performance. But I get it, she's in general referring to the very non-specific roles that many black actresses are relegated to. Comes down to the writing, what's available and what's presented to which actress...

  • Danielle | July 26, 2011 3:10 AMReply

    I get what you mean, Misha, but I understand what Zoe is saying when she's talking about "the girlfriend" roles. A lot of times, the girlfriends of the lead male characters in mainstream movies aren't equal and aren't given rich inner lives. They're cyphers or dream girls for the male protagonists to project whatever they want to on them. It's not all the time but it's often enough that it bothers me and I can see why Zoe Saldana is saying what she's saying. I'm thinking particularly of the Judd Apatow movies and a lot of indie dramas where the women's roles are pretty one-dimensional while the male characters are the ones we're supposed to identify with.

    I like that she's going for the roles beyond being a soothsayer, you know? But that's certainly not to say that traditionally "feminine" roles have no value.

  • Kia | July 26, 2011 2:07 AMReply

    I think Zoe is brave to say this b/c the majority of roles for woman aren't set up like the ones in Columbiana. Although I'd love to see a woman character be a bad-ass organically as part their inate personality and not forced, trained or turned into one b/c of some tragedy or worse is an evil b with no rhyme or reason.

  • BluTopaz | July 26, 2011 1:38 AMReply

    It sounds great in theory to say well feminine roles can have substance, etc. But she specifcally noted "girlfriend/victim roles", and how many of those are substantial in comparison with male characters? It's often the guys out having fun with the wifey sitting at home waiting to be acknowledged. I'm not really a fan of Zoe, her acting is dry to me but I like her chutzpah in saying exactly what she wants and it seems to be working for her.

    o/t she also stated in another interview that our communities are raising "a bunch of little criminals, what happened?" and I'm in full agreement of that as well.

  • Clnmike | July 25, 2011 10:31 AMReply

    What she wants and what she gets are two different things.

  • Vanessa | July 25, 2011 10:29 AMReply

    I agree with you Misha. As if you couldn't play a wonderful, substantial, dynamic role as a girlfriend. It depends of the context of the role. I mean it's great you're playing an action hero in Colombiana, but I personally don't care for action figures male or female.

    I want to see great character portrayals on screen, whether they're girlfriends, mothers, daughters of victims.

    Yah I loved Wonder Woman, Batman and He-Man growing up but that's not reality. I find these remarks so self indulgent.

    Zoe, not every actress definition of success in Hollywood means running around in spandex booty shorts with an AKA. Sorry!

  • Tara | July 25, 2011 9:34 AMReply

    Misha, I couldn't have said it better myself!

  • misha | July 25, 2011 9:20 AMReply

    Hmm...as a feminist/womanist, I get where she is coming from but...

    "Success, to me, means playing a part that a man could have done,”

    I find this statement to be a bit troubling. Of course I champion equality for women and love to see women in kick-ass roles. Still, I think Zoe is espousing a rather narrow-minded view of what success means for actresses and women in general. Are we to deduce that "traditionally/distictly feminine" roles don't hold as much value as those associated with maleness so actresses (women) should always strive to attain the latter? Gosh, I hope not. I am of the belief that women don't *have* to compete with men to be viewed as equal/successful...it's being able to CHOOSE that determines equality/success.

  • Neziah | July 25, 2011 7:11 AMReply

    That's great!

  • eshowoman | July 25, 2011 6:49 AMReply

    Hooray for Zoe!

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