I remember the first time I saw a trailer for “Haywire.” I’d walked into the theater a little late and missed the early scenes when they showed Gina Carano’s face. Instead, I saw clips from a very good fight sequence. Not in the “ooh, that looks pretty” sense but in the “wow, that looks pretty realistic” sense.
You see, I’m one of those jerks who wants movies to obey the laws of their respective universes. In the case of most action movies, I’m a big fan of realism, since unless we’re talking about a “Chronicles of Riddick”- style sci-fi/fantasy movie, they’re supposed to be set in the world we live in, or close to it. So when I saw that this realistic fight sequence was the result of casting a legitimate Muay Thai and MMA competitor, I was quite pleased. And part of me wants it to be successful, even though I know that means that Carano’s MMA career will be effectively be over if she continues to make movies. This also relates back to my desire for realism: ass-kicking women should look like ass-kickers.
Gina Carano is listed as 5’8″ and her walk-around weight has been quoted as anywhere from 155lbs to a rumored 191lbs. Taking the average of those weights, we get 183lbs; not bad, considering the average weight for a white woman in the US is 163.7lbs while the average height is 5’4″. Contrast this with runway models, who’s stats tend to run a willowy 5’10″, 115lbs. Hollywood does a little better, but still gives us a 5’3″, 115lbs Scarlett Johannson, a 5’6″, 105lbs Megan Fox, and a six-foot, 130lbs Elle Macpherson.
“So what’s your point?” Yeah, I hear ya. MMA articles are supposed to be filled with testosterone, and I’m clearly delving into a Gender Studies area here. My point is that along with more realistic fighting, partially a product of the MMA boom, we should also get more realistic women filling action roles. Or at least a better understanding of the physique it takes to fill those roles.
\Let’s face it, Hollywood is filled with tiny little women. There’s a lot of pressure to fit the image of an “ideal” beauty, and these days the movie industry is taking its ques from the fashion industry. When was the last time you saw a 5’4″, 160lbs actress in the movies or on TV? This isn’t just about being down with the thickness, however. Part of it has to do with pride. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Summer Glau as River Tam (“Serenity”), Zoe Saldana as Cataleya Restrepo (“Colombiana”), Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers (“Buffy, The Vampire Slayer”), Jennifer Garner as Elektra (“Daredevil”, “Elektra”), and others. Never mind that individually, I like all of these women; Summer Glau’s impossibly high cheekbones alone have captured by heart. But as a man, more so as a martial arts practitioner, I find it insulting that Hollywood is selling us on the idea that these women could go toe-to-toe grown men in a fist fight. If they were using weapons, sure, but they’re often shown just throwing down. God bless her, but Jennifer Garner’s arms are no bigger than Pixie Stix, and I’m pretty sure Zoe Saldana’s tiny figure doubles as a pipe cleaner. Yet we, as an audience, are expected to believe these women are action stars when their frames are clearly eggshell-fragile. Enter Gina Carano.
Carano is built like a fighter. I ought to know. I my years of training martial arts, I’ve sparred and rolled with people of all shapes and sizes. I have no trouble admitting that I can think of no female competitor at 145lbs who wouldn’t whoop my ass. I don’t mean that we’d have a competitive fight where they would be the expected winners, I mean Carano would knock me into next Tuesday, Ronda Rousey would slam me down and rip my arm off before I knew what was happening, and Cris Santos would just go into Chute Boxe Killbot mode. These are believable action stars. They have been training for combat since they were young, and it shows. Meanwhile, I have to believe that Sarah Michelle Gellar would hurt her hand if she tried to body-punch me. With Carano entering the picture, Hollywood can have a credible female action star. Barring that, Hollywood should at least recognize that a female capable of fighting males on their level is probably going to be over 130lbs. Take Linda Hamilton in “Terminator 2″ or Michelle Rodriguez from “Girlfight” as past examples. They were built for battle but still had feminine qualities.
There is, of course, a double standard in Hollywood. The MMA-centric film “Warrior” would be laughable if Zach Galifianakis and Jonah Hill were the leads, in part because their bodies aren’t built for fighting. Compare this with the malnourished-looking women Hollywood typically choses to fill these roles; they look hardly strong enough to hold up a pair of 14oz boxing gloves for sparring, much less the assortment of firearms and melee weapons they’re usually expected to expertly wield, and it’s equally absurd. However, the movie industry expects us to take them seriously in these roles. It’s sad that unfit men can be stars in Hollywood, while women who could actually be physical are relegated to the role of “that butch chick who dies while the dainty heroine saves the day and gets the man.”
It’s my hope that the rising popularity of womens MMA will make athletic frames more acceptable as not only realistic, but beautiful in their own right. This is the 21st Century, after all. Women have long since entered the work force and walked onto the athletic field. They serve honorably in our militaries and face danger on our police forces. And I can guarantee that those doing the most physical tasks are built more like Liz Carmouche than Kate Moss.