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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Friday, June 19, 2015


In Part 1 I recapitulated some of my earlier musings about the division of male and female roles in biology and culture, and the expression of the "feminine will" in its literary form of the "Athena archetype." At the end of the essay I specified that the charisma of weapons did have a positive manifestation comparable to the manifestation seen in male heroic archetypes.

The negative charisma is not so pronounced. As I mentioned in THE DOUBLE EDGED SWORD OF VIOLENCE,  fictional male heroes are often constructed as being so tough that they can outfight enemies who have the advantage of being armed with a non-projectile weapon, such as a sword, whip, or knife. This manifestation certainly does not contradict the positive charisma of, say, two sword-experts dueling one another, as seen in films like 1935's CAPTAIN BLOOD; it's simply a different variation on the theme of proving superiority through violent conflict.

Without mustering any statistics as such, I would say that the variation of unarmed heroines choosing to fight, or being forced to fight, armed opponents (be they males or females) is not as pervasive as it is with male heroes. Certainly there are numerous examples where the same scenario takes place; in KILL BILL, Uma Thurman's heroine initially pits her sword against Gogo's spiked "yoyo-weapon,"  but Tarantino disarms the heroine rather quickly, forcing her to fall back upon her personal resources (notwithstanding some improvised weaponry). Still, on the whole I believe there's less of an emphasis upon using the "unarmed vs. armed" trope as a proof for martial toughness.

Still, if I am correct regarding this lesser emphasis of this scenario with respect to female characters, it may have come about because any "Athena archetype" who has mastered the arts of combat-- thus, as I said, swimming against the current with regard to biology and culture-- really does not have to *prove* toughness in quite the same way that males do.

The theme of the human body's superiority to weapons receives a different emphasis, as well.  A male who avoids being penetrated by a weapon only avoids injury and/or death. A female who performs the same action *may be* avoiding the indignity of a figurative rape as well. I've argued here that male characters certainly suffer humiliation through violence as well. Yet in the same essay I also stated that the trope is certainly better known with respect to female characters, whether they are heroines as such or not.

However, the other side of the coin is that the female capable of exerting "body violence" (as opposed to "weapon violence") usually gains an image of superior sexual attractiveness in addition to the fact of her innate toughness. This is by no means inevitable with regard to male heroes: Bruce Willis' toughness may enhance his sexy repute, while Arnold Schwarzenegger's toughness does little if any good for his image as a "sex machine."  In contrast, even a female actress who is not conventionally attractive, such as Melissa McCarthy in the 2015 film SPY, obtains greater sexual allure through her ability to kick butt and take names. In this particular film this transformation is referenced by the attitude-change of Jude Law's character once he's seen her fighting (admittedly, with a substantial amount of gun-play as well).

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