In the early 1980’s a trend in new wave cinema brought women directors, writers and stars to the forefront of creating a different vision of women in film. I credit Susan Seidleman with my first notice of this in the film “Smithereens” (USA, 1982)…the character of Wren didn’t have a true direction but she wasn’t a housewife type and that fit so well with what happened to girls coming to age after the 1970s fight for women’s rights. The right to be….what? Whole new thought processes began and there were almost too many choices.
With the onset of the 1990’s the power of girls takes a strange, interesting and somewhat scary turn. Enter “Thelma and Louise” (USA, 1991), “Silence of the Lambs” (USA, 1991), and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (USA, 1992) all women driven action thriller adventures with decent box office returns. Thanks to Joss Whedon girls move from cute accessory to main character bad asses and succeed not only on the big screen but the small with “Buffy” (TV Series, 1997 – 2003). Thankfully Mr. Whedon grew along with his characters to create strong, thoughtful and independent women in leadership roles that didn’t diminish their femininity. Buffy, Willow, Cordelia and Fred (from his other show, Angel) all manage to be a variation of powerful women with complimentary and conflicting elements of real life females. There were definately many more male centrist films and television through the 1990s ..the 2000’s availability of female roles has grown and the type of roles has created something amazing. Although still too often the side note, women’s roles on screen have changed dramatically and television seems to be offering the real dynamic changes.
Welcome now to the 21st century – the balancing of magic, strength and womanhood meets mystery and science fiction.
Veronica Mars (TV Series 2004-2007) — Smart, sharp, sexy – Nancy Drew meets California snarky, dark and determined. Delightful to watch, Kirsten Bell takes teen girl sleuthing to a new level….she is a TV Detective more like a Mannix or a Jim Rockford, using her brains and modern tech rather than brawn to beat out the bad guys.
DOLLHOUSE (TV Series, 2009-10) — Somewhat a precursor to Orphan Black, the characters become what they need to in order to fulfill tasks assigned to them. Meanwhile, they must solve the real mystery of who and what they are supposed to be….
ORPHAN BLACK (TV Series, 2013-present, BBC America) — The science is scary good, the actors are likable and the pacing is riveting. Tatiana Maslany is a great mix of physical and emotionally captivating even while juggling 11+ characterizations. There are tiny moments when she seems exhaustively moving through a scene during close ups to maintain the right facial holds….but she has to be given credit in the extreme for not only being in every scene but creating movement and expressions that make the audience forget its all the same actress.
Happy Valley (TV Series, 2014-2016) — Taking a step back from being a detective to raise her grand son, Catherine Cawood is the middle aged powerhouse street cop that uses her brain, love and strength of character to battle all of life and crimes problems. Brilliantly played by Sarah Lancaster, (Last Tango in Halifax, Rose & Maloney).