Top ass-kicking actresses on TV that I like lately

Lately, I’ve started to become dimly aware of something. A lot of TV shows I’m currently watching seem to have not only a decent gender balance in general, but also well-written female characters in leading roles. Perhaps this has been the case for a long time, but, somehow, I’ve just noticed it. Maybe these characters have always been present, but perhaps in the past just to serve the journey of the male characters? Sort of mild fridging, or pre-death fridging perhaps? But now, in the golden age of streaming TV with Netflix and Amazon Prime, and in the age of #metoo and #timesup, female characters seem to have more agency. Are we at some sort of turning point? I asked this in a recent post about action women in film, and I think the same applies to TV.

It’s kind of a refreshing and exciting place we find ourselves in, from a storytelling point of view. At the very least, as recipients of said stories.

So with that in mind, below are a selection of characters that have entered my TV watching world in various guises, from women that plot and scheme, through to those that straight up fight, to those that code and those that build. TV people take note, more of these characters please. Modern storyelling needs them, now more than ever.

Thandie Newton
As Maeve in Westworld

As one of the AI ‘hosts’ of Westworld, Maeve starts out as a madam in a brothel, but quickly becomes one of the show’s key characters, breaking her programming and fighting back against her creators. She evolves to the point where she controls other hosts and has them do her bidding in a mission to rescue her daughter.

Hannah New
As Eleanor Guthrie in Black Sails

Eleanor, following in the footsteps of her father, runs a black market operation out of Nassau, dealing with cut-throat pirates day in day out. And, in an environment where the only other female characters of note are prostitutes, she cuts her own path as a canny businesswoman, striking unsavoury deals with dangerous pirates to keep her enterprise going.

Kathryn Winnick
As Lagertha in Vikings

Married to a farmer with big ambition and King-in-waiting, Ragnar Lodbrok, Lagertha starts the show as a shield maiden, but makes her dismay clear when Ragnor leaves her behind during his first raids on England. She’s firmly part of the team on the next raid and remains a key figure throughout the show, growing in power to become the Earl of a nearby area, as well as a key figure in the viking raids on Paris. Whilst she’s a fierce warrior on the outside, she’s really an emotionally complex and thoroughly interesting character. Her fractious relationship with Ragnor is one of the most compelling and watchable things in the show.

Lindsey Morgan
As Raven Reyes in The 100

As the youngest zero-G mechanic to come through the ranks of humanity’s last survivors in space, Raven is clearly smart as hell, highly capable and about as tenacious as you can get. Not only does she launches herself in a tiny rocket to get to Earth, she builds homemade bombs to fight the ‘grounders’, and bests a homicidal AI through a combination of frantic coding, no sleep and a lot of coffee. And she does most of this after being shot in the spine and having to relearn how to walk.

Mackenzie Davis
As Cameron Howe in Halt and Catch Fire

Cameron enters the show early, being recruited by Lee Pace’s stuffed shirt ex-IBM sales guy to build a PC that’ll blow the big boys out the water. She acts as a good foil to the show’s buttoned-up, tightly wound male characters, in that she dresses like a geek, listens to punk rock and heavy metal whilst coding and does things very much her own way, to the chagrin of the men.

Maggie Siff
As Wendy Rhoades in Billions

Maggie is a psychiatrist tasked with ensuring the traders of Bobby Axelrod’s (Damien Lewis) hedge fund remain ruthless and committed when it comes to their work. She’s equally close to Bobby as well as his arch nemesis, Chuck, the District Attorney hellbent on destroying him – who also happens to be her husband. Oh, and on the side she’s a Dominatrix in the bedroom, giving Chuck a spanking when he gets out of line.

The rise of the action woman

Recently I was listening to a podcast with Alicia Vikander, one where she talked about her role as the new Lara Croft and how the character has been rebooted as a more realistic heroine for modern women.

She mentioned how it seems there’s momentum these days, indeed appetite, towards high quality, well put together, action-driven films that feature a female lead. She mentioned Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde and others, which got me thinking, is there momentum? Was there a specific moment that was the turning point?

Thinking back, Angelina Jolie has done the bulk of the heavy lifting since about 2000, with Charlize Theron playing her part too. But did they pave the way for the films we see now or has this been a longer time coming?

For me, I think the ’90s are a good place to start.
So below are the films and the various time periods that, for better or worse, I consider to have had a hand in where we are now. I’ve listed the actress, character, film, year, whether they were lead, co-lead or in a prominent supporting role, and the Rotten Tomatoes score, to give a rough indication of how the film was recieved by audiences.


THE 1990s

Yes we had Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in Alien at the tail end of the ’70s, but the ’80s were dripping in macho testosterone. So, for me, the ’90s is where this movement started to gain traction, with actresses like Linda Hamilton and Geena Davis leading the way, putting in decent performances in exciting, entertaining movies.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) 92%
Sarah Connor (supporting) – Linda Hamilton

The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) 68%
Samantha Caine (lead) – Geena Davis

G.I. Jane (1997) 55%
Jordan O’Neil (lead) – Demi Moore

The Matrix (1999) 87%
Trinity (supporting) – Carrie-Anne Moss

THE 2000s

The good work the ’90s women put in gets somewhat undone at the start of this decade, with a bunch of terrible films (Eon Flux the biggest offender) and, whilst it’s no fault of the various actresses involved, it took a one-two punch of Angelina Jolie (Mr and Mrs Smith) and Uma Thurman (Kill Bill) to set things right. So by the end of the decade we were getting better films – and characters – with greater frequency (Hanna, Salt).

Then, by 2012, we’d probably reached a turning point. Angelina Jolie (aged 35 in Salt) couldn’t fly the flag forever, so others had to step up. Enter women like Jennifer Lawrence (22 in Hunger Games) and Saoirse Ronan (17 in Hanna), actresses that appealed and inspired a younger generation and helped push things further forward.

Charlie’s Angels (2000) 68%
Natalie Cook (co-lead) – Cameron Diaz, Dylan Sanders (co-lead) – Drew Barrymore, Alex Munday (co-lead) – Lucy Lui

Tomb Raider (2001) 20%
Lara Croft (lead) – Angelina Jolie

Resident Evil (2002) 34%
Alice (lead) – Milla Jovovich

Eon Flux (2005) 9%
Eon Flux (lead) – Charlize Theron

Mr and Mrs Smith (2005) 59%
Jane Smith (co-lead) – Angelina Jolie

Kill Bill (2003) 85%
Beatrix Kiddo (lead) – Uma Thurman

Wanted (2008) 71%
Fox (supporting) – Angelina Jolie

Salt (2010) 62%
Evelyn Salt (lead) – Angelina Jolie

Iron Man 2 (2010) 73%
Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (supporting) – Scarlet Johansson

Hanna (2011) 71%
Hanna (lead) – Saoirse Ronan

Hunger Games (2012) 84%
Katniss Everdeen (lead) – Jennifer Lawrence

2015 ONWARDS

In 2012 Disney acquired Star Wars as a property and set about making plans to expand the franchise with new films and characters, ones that would appeal to a modern audience. The majority of moviegoers want to see female characters better represented on screen, so franchises like Star Wars really need to lead the way.

Additionally, along with Marvel’s MCU and a smattering of female superheroes, even DC studios got in on the act, with a female-led action movie in Wonder Woman (something Marvel could only really match with supporting characters in films like Black Panther). Momentum and quality, though, had really shifted. If the below selection are anything to go by.

Mad Max (2015) 97%
Furiosa (supporting) – Charlize Theron

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015) 93%
Isla Faust (supporting) – Rebecca Ferguson

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) 93%
Rey (co-lead) – Daisy Ridley

Rogue One: A Star Wars story (2016) 85%
Jyn Erso (lead) – Felicity Jones

Wonder Woman (2017) 92%
Diana Prince (lead) – Gal Gadot

Atomic Blonde (2017) 77%
Lorraine Broughton – Charlize Theron

Black Panther (2018) 97%
Shuri (supporting) – Letitia Wright and Okoye (supporting) – Danai Garira

The misogynist rapper

I got my money and my bitches and my guns, in the club.
Repping like a G.
Then I spark up a blunt.
But I don’t smoke.
So I choke up my lungs.
Then set off all the fire alarms.
Damn, I’m a mug.
But, I’m hella-strong never wrong baby.
Black fire you liar I’m never this lazy.
I give you a taste, we race to the finish.
I wrote this lyrics in under a minute.
Just so you know that I’m in it to win it.
Cos the highlight of my day.
Is when I wank and cry.
And praise Jesus for my penis.
And be thankful I’m high.
Cos when I act big.
And say I’m gangster, I lie.
Cos with pussy, think Virgin.
But no planes in the sky.
Because woman you see, they really do scare me.
Venomous feminists that are so hairy.
All body shapes, in sizes that vary.
So I act like the don.
Cos I’m taking their cherry.
But, what you think I’m compensatin’ for?
I only see these women as babes or whores.
Man, I’m setting back equality and closing doors.
Cos this is all a game and I’m just keeping score.
And the dumber I get.
Fans be lapping it up.
Simply as shit lyrics.
Like I take that pussy and hit it.
And they can’t get enough.
I had dreams, man.
To be a credible rapper.
Now I’m plagued every day by terrible laughter.
From others in the game who know I’m cancer to the scene.
They react with anger.
Cos I’m gangster (in my dreams).
Actually, I’m more a misogynist role model with no morals as I pander to these teens.
And if rap soon dies.
I’ll know I had a hand in its defeat.
Cos I’m a parasite watching others fight.
While there’s quicksand around my feet.
Maybe, just maybe, I’m just damned beyond belief?

Note: this piece was written half to a beat and aimed squarely at certain modern rappers who think they’re God’s gift to women and treat – and rap about – them terribly. And to the nonsensical, simplistic style of rap they use that’s truly awful and has barely any skill or nuance to it. The words above are from the point of view of the character in terms of him mostly showboating, but letting cracks of what he’s really thinking show through at times.

Painted ghosts 

They drift in and out of my life each day.
Their faces adorned with stark, lurid colours.
Warpaint, as they go about their business.
Are they even real?
These automatons. These androids from outer space.
And whilst their expressions are seemingly blank and impassive, they are also revealing.
There’s a crack or two beneath their cool facade.
But what does it mean?
Are they just lost in thought or, almost imperceptibly, communicating with me?
Do they even see me?
Or am I just grey background? White noise?
Perhaps I’m the ghost and they’re the most tangible thing in this world.
Wearing their warpaint proudly, like armour.
For each day, to them, must surely be a battle against the grey ghosts of patriarchy.
The menfolk who leer and lust, all licentious and salacious with their gaze and their thoughts.
For I am one. I should know.
Maybe as men we should paint our faces, too.
For our own insecurities are buried, perhaps even more so.
Hidden behind layers of bravado and testosterone.
The knowing nod to a fellow male.
The slightest of hugs.
The tough guy handshake.
Beer. Curry.
For we are men.
And we’re out of our caves now.
Our spears have been replaced with smartphones and laptops.
We’re just a few clicks from killing that woolley mammoth. That saber-tooth tiger.
Or ordering some more crap on eBay.
(assuming we can stop watching porn for more than five minutes)
So maybe colour is what we need?
Brush strokes of empathy across our face. The eyeliner of compassion.
The mascara of understanding and acceptance.
God, this is starting to sound like the weirdest fantasy game ever.
But there’s hope in these ramblings.
There must be.
For these painted ghosts and forgotten men.
All trapped in the ether between realities.
Drifting through life with abandonment.

Top 5 actresses that look like cats

We’ve all thought it. Well, er, some of us. Look at her eyes, so feline, so alluring, she can’t be human surely? Definitely some sort of alien. Well, whatever these ladies are, I like them. Those exotic creatures with the feline features.

So, for no reason at all really, other than I felt like sharing, here are my top five cat-like actresses in film and TV at the moment:

Olivia Wilde
The Change-Up, Alpha Dog, In Time, Her, Cowboys & Aliens, Tron: Legacy, House

her-olivia-wilde

Amanda Seyfried
Alpha Dog, Chloe, Jennifer’s Body, Dear John, In Time, Lovelace

amanda-seyfried-chloe-and-julianne-moore

Natalie Dormer
Game Of Thrones, Rush, Hunger Games, The Tudors

Natalie-Dormer

Olivia Munn
Magic Mike, The Newsroom, Iron Man 2, X-Men: Apocalypse (out 2016)

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Mila Kunis
Friends With Benefits, Family Guy, Black Swan, Jupiter Ascending

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The lothario

Pacing the street I stop; crouch on my feet and watch my prey.
Feeling my heartbeat drop as I dodge the alley’s urban decay.
Then I grin.
My heart full of sin as my first victim comes into view.
Tottering on tiny shoes like a porcelain doll.
She’s a tasty morsel, of course I fix eyes on her as my ultimate goal.

Good Lord… she’s so helpless.
Stalking her’s no game of chess but a turkey shoot.
There’s no sport here. The point is moot, I must move on.
I slink down the alley my lust not sated, I’m just not done.

Then I spy another.
This one here, she’s a wildebeest.
Chatting to her friends half asleep, she’s a basic target.
This is too easy.
I hang back and weigh up my chances.
Whilst I’m king of the urban jungle and these streets are mine, at times I must know when to face defeat and when to draw the line.
But it’s fine.
Not every hunt should mean it’s killing time.
Half the time, all I’m looking for is a sign.
Something to break the cycle and shake things up.
Some real sport to test me, where I get to prove I’m the best breed.

But what’s the point of being top of the food chain if you’re constantly tormented like you’re having a bad day?
However, I refuse to be thwarted.
I’m lean, fighting fit and ready to hunt.
Bring on all foes you mothers I’ll face many at once!

And the night is young so let’s see where things lead.
The truth is… It’s hardly a good night’s work if on some level I don’t bleed.
But that’s the life of a proud old lion.
None of this ‘let bygones be bygones’, I’m taking you down.
We’ll fight round and round until one of us hits the ground.

Have to say though, I kinda like my battle scars.
I’ll rattle your cage with my aggressive ways and leave you broken and marred.
Right this minute though the time to talk is over, I’ve now fed.
Time this old lion bowed his head and went to bed.
Because I’m contented.
And right now I lack incentive.

Tomorrow though, that’s another story.
Back on the beat stalking the street in search of my next quarry.
So stay on a swivel if you don’t want it to be you.
If you don’t… a grisly fate will await you, you’ll end up as my food.