Debut author Fussfeld Cohen examines the rise of the female action hero in the digital age in this work of film criticism.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, video games and Hollywood movies began offering viewers something that they had not often seen before: female action heroes who behaved a lot like their male counterparts. (Think: Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, and Kill Bill.) Fussfeld Cohen argues that the primary reason for this trend was the newly available digital technology that allowed female characters to suddenly perform outside the physical constraints of the actresses portraying them. “By avoiding material limitations,” writes Fussfeld Cohen in the book’s preface, “the digital woman embodies a postgender reflection and articulates a new potential for a cultural change in a cybersociety that embraces digital technologies as a central means of expression.” By tracing the evolution of female heroes from the 1970s exploitation era (Foxy Brown, Charlie’s Angels) to contemporary depictions in works like The Hunger Games, Westworld, and Mass Effect, Fussfeld Cohen explores the various ways that female action protagonists have eroded, undermined, and upheld traditional understandings of womanhood. What’s more, Fussfeld Cohen uses these female characters as a lens to analyze the ways that digital technology has affected Western culture and the narratives we consume. The book is an outgrowth of Fussfeld Cohen’s doctoral research, and it reads as such, reflecting the specialized language of academic theory: “While forced to use hegemonic languages, the new diasporic cinema is regarded as creating hybrid combinations of images that express the disjunction between the visual and the verbal.” General readers might be turned off before they make it out of the introduction, but those who stick with it will find that Fussfeld Cohen has constructed a comprehensive study of this particular archetype. More interestingly, she has shown that the digital revolution has changed popular entertainment in more ways than simply allowing for more convincing green screen environments and better video game graphics. It has altered the way we consider gender, beauty, and the human body (for better and for worse). Suffice it to say, readers will go into their next summer blockbuster with a new perspective.
A challenging but illuminating critique of female action heroes.