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James Cameron on Women and Action Roles in Films

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by Melissa Silverstein
September 17, 2012 10:12 AM
4 Comments
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The Guardian headed over to Ireland to meet with James Cameron at the new Titanic Belfast museum and among the things he discussed was how Hollywood gets its action women wrong. 

We know that Cameron has created some great action female characters on screen all the while not having such a great relationship with women off screen.  But he has married and divorced some of the strongest women in Hollywood including Gale Anne Hurd and Kathryn Bigelow so I'm sure he learned a thing or two from them.

His characters are legendary - Ripley in Aliens, Sarah Connor in Terminator 2, Grace in Avatar.  The women in his movies are strong and their strength always seems organic and not a shock. 

Here's what he said about creating these women and what Hollywood does wrong:

I didn't even think it was that remarkable when I did it with Terminator – it's remarkable by its absence in other Hollywood movies

I do think Hollywood movies get it wrong when they show women in action roles – they basically make them men. Or else they make them into superheroes in shiny black suits, which is just not as interesting.

Here's to continually hoping that Hollywood can figure out how to make some female action characters behave and look like women and not only sex objects.

Wondering if Cameron could give lessons to the next generation.

James Cameron: 'Hollywood gets action women wrong' (The Guardian)

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4 Comments

  • abu saleh | July 3, 2013 9:52 AMReply

    I like Hollywood pickture

  • SUDIPTA DEY | September 22, 2012 11:31 AMReply

    I really like this kind of roles.....not only men ,women also can fight,also can protect her nation ..females not only a sex or emotional pole in creative industry....wanna see more this kind of movies...female action....Cameron rocks ....But one thing i dislike,compromising of female models and actress to get shows or roles....i can see it everywhere,in Bollywood & Hollywood ...i am an INDIAN citizen...really seek and tired to see that because m also from this field....not to do this thing to get roles in this industry.....SUDIPTA DEY

  • d | September 17, 2012 4:08 PMReply

    To Cameron’s claim, I'd vehemently disagree. He makes his female characters more mannish, as society would consider them, and that’s why I enjoy them. There was an EW article that talked about action heroines, and the author said Cameron turned Sarah into a man in T2. And on a certain level, you can say that. But it’s not because those traits aren’t in women – women are just not allowed to display them on the big screen. When Sarah ruthlessly decides to go after the scientist, because, logically speaking, that’s the best way to prevent the dark future, it makes perfect sense. But that type of cold emotional demeanor is not often portrayed in even female villains (ie. The Baroness in the first G.I. Joe, as an example). So its interesting to me that he would say that, because I can almost see in certain characters’ footprints of the creators trying to make them “female” protagonists, as opposed to just protagonists.


    For here specifically – Grace? Grace is the person that people will walk away remembering after seeing Avatar? Grace, who is basically a stock character? Grace stands out because 1) while stock, again, this is a role not often given to women to play, so it feels fresher, and 2) Sigourney plays it, and I like most of the stuff she's in, regardless. But how strange to highlight action heroes, legendary characters, and NOT talk about Neytiri. Neytiri - who is the warrior and trained the hero. Who not only rescued Jake twice, but was the one to deal the fatal blow to the main villain! That is a coveted prize not often bestowed to the anyone other than the main male lead, regardless of gender. Whose face was on more promo pics than Jake’s, let alone Grace’s. How does anyone walk away from that film NOT thinking it is she who will be remembered a decade from now? So that sentence troubled me, because Neytiri would be the only woman of color (figuratively, but literally as well since she played blue, lol) in that pantheon. And say what you will about female action heroes, the ones of color are virtually non-existent.


    @Marge – I wasn’t sure by what you meant – were you talking technically? Or was it more the idea that it's the actor that infuses the depth? I do think there are quite a few female actors who will noticeably change a character from how it was originally envisioned. Either way, you bring up a great point. I do think the T saga was James’s baby, but Ripley, if I recall correctly, was not only not his, but originally male; so Cameron just continued what Ridley Scott began, in the first film.

  • marge | September 17, 2012 3:36 PMReply

    I'm pretty sure that Ripley and Sarah Connor don't count as Cameron's characters.

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