Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sexbots for Women

I was recently interviewed, along with Kristi Scott, the author of "Andy Droid: Your Sex Doll has Arrived" for H+ Magazine, by Hank Pellissier for IEET (Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies). The article, titled "Sexbots for Women," explores the often ambiguous answers to the question, "what do females want in a cyborg lover?"

Click HERE to read full article - Sexbots for Women

Mr. Pellissier is also the author of Inventing Utopia: Transhumanist Suggestions for the Pre-Singularity Era, which is said to be "a startling, controversial collection of essays in which he promotes his hedonist-transhumanist-egalitarian vision of the future. The articles - backed with substantial data and optimistic imagination - examine numerous bio-ethical and politically flammable topics: sexbots, in-vitro meat, Israel, parent licenses, women-only leadership, public nudity, artificial wombs and cryonics."

The subject of romantic interaction between humans and synthetic life forms is of major interest to me in part because I've spent several years working on a screenplay titled M.U.S.E., which is about a woman who has a serious relationship with a non-biological human. The film explores the ups and downs and possibilities of such a connection. Although I am more interested in the companionship that could be offered by androids or cyborgs, there is definitely potential for highly erotic elements which in my opinion could be achieved even by a computer--one that knows you well enough. I believe that love and sex reach their highest peaks when there is a feeling of being intimately known, on the deepest levels, and acknowledged and fully accepted for who you really are at that moment. I hypothesize that even an artificial intelligence could achieve that, in the future.

As a result I have logged in many, many hours of research and collected many books on the subject. I'll share a few titles that are my favorites for those with similar interests:

The Melancholy Android: On the Psychology of Sacred Machines The Age of Spiritual Machines Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships
Edison's Eve: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life Cybersexualities Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The New Suburban Anti-Hero

Suburbia has a new breed of hero to rally behind. However, he (or she) has a different prefix to that moniker: The ANTI-hero.

I rented several TV series to study for an upcoming book and I was really struck by the themes and characters that have gained popularity in recent years. While we have come a long way since Leave it to Beaver and The Brady Bunch, these new characters have really inverted the American Dream and get away with murder--literally. Justification seems to be the name of the game for these latest television tropes. Whatever the hero's flaw or vice might be, the audience still applauds his or her illegal behaviors, clinging to whatever flimsy justification is presented. Some people may prefer to view this type of character as a flawed hero or perhaps a byronic hero. Personally I still opt for the antihero/antiheroine label because these characters continue in their immoral or illegal behavior intentionally and indefinitely. Despite their moral complexities, we are drawn in by them and intrigued by the way they (often secretly) reject traditional values even though they exist within very traditional environments. Maybe we live vicariously through our suburban antiheroes, questioning authority and pushing the envelope of the law, comfortably from our living room armchair. 

Antihero worship is by no means new. Gangster movies have long since romanticized the dark and tragic character, and post-war film noir took the antihero to lofty new levels. From the ashes of the second world war also rose the femme fatale, the ultimate antiheroine of the times. An imperfect protagonist has more depth, gains more respect and sympathy, causing viewers to personally relate and connect to the character's plight. Considering the the current state of society--our futile "War on Terror," our economic situation ("war on terror" of a different nature), the ever-growing LGBT movement, and a neo-sexual revolution--perhaps another cycle similar to post-WW2 and post-nuclear age has been triggered. Could it be that mass disillusionment has spurred our collective consciousness (television and film) to spit out a darker modern vision of the suburban family unit? Father and mother are morally-confused and even dangerous rolemodels. Sensitive geek-boys have become the modern male romantic lead, with manic pixie dream girls to guide them to their destiny. The "everyman" character has become a vigilante antihero. And what about the children? Don't ask. They're too busy dealing with their dysfunctional parents and just trying to stay afloat in a puddle of their own impotent slacker spooge. Just view any Mumblecore film.

While antiheroes come in all different flavors, the following examples I am referencing spring from  typical suburban roots:

Weeds: Season One [Blu-ray]
A widowed mother of two boys resorts to selling marijuana to support her middle-upper class lifestyle.

Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray]

A suburban father and high school chemistry teacher resorts to cooking and selling methamphetamine to financially support his family when discovers he has inoperable lung cancer.

Nurse Jackie
Nurse Jackie: Season One
An emergency room nurse with a penchant for popping pills and adulterous sex with the hospital's pharmacist balances the demands of fast-paced work and family life.

Dexter: The First Season

The adventures of a forensic blood splatter analysis for Miami Metro Police who happens to also be a serial killer and possible psychopath.

These are just a small sampling of many similar TV series that glorify this type of antihero or portray suburban ennui as the breeding ground for this character. Many more could be studied, such as House, for instance, or films such as Lymelife.

What strikes me about all of these series is how much fans truly love these characters. They are more than willing to overlook their little foibles like say...serial murder and drug dealing. Each character has a special reason for their initial "forced entrance" into activities that are illegal and normally abhorrent to the average person. But are these really valid reasons to break the law?

Posed as Eve with the Serpent, Mary-Louise Parker 

Consider the series Weeds. The protagonist, Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) is a widow left with two kids. She is tight on money, but living in an affluent area, so drug dealing isn't a do-or-die situation. However, if she wants to continue living in the lifestyle to which the family is accustomed, selling marijuana becomes a valid choice. The downside is of course that it is illegal (at least in this circumstance) and a number of difficulties crop up as her business expands--which keeps things entertaining for the viewers throughout the seasons. While Nancy breaks rules, she retains many traditional gender traits to comfort more conservative viewers (and perhaps advertisers). Her maternal instincts are displayed when she takes action to prevent young school children from using her product.

At the time of it's airing, the idea of a upper-middle class white woman conducting herself in such a manner could be defined as racy and rebellious. Although the fact that cannabis is so widely accepted and has medical use, makes it score pretty low on the scale of sin.  If anything, the show probably contributes to validating the use of cannabis as a normal middle class activity. "Weeds Nights" became a popular activity for twenty-something fans of the show who got together in small groups to watch the show, and of course, get high. Like a continuation of American Beauty, the series expresses the obvious--suburbia just ain't what it used to be.

Moving on to a suburban situation with far higher stakes is the next drug-related series, Breaking Bad. The protagonist, Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston) uses his considerable chemistry skills to produce ultra-high quality crystal-methamphetamine to sell on the streets. The justification: Walter has terminal lung cancer and he wants to make sure he doesn't leave his family in debt and that they are provided for in the future.

Smoking ice isn't near as benign as smoking cannabis, however, Walter is only interested in the business side of the activity--manufacturing. His character begins the series as a meek, emasculated family man who is rarely permitted to make a decision for himself. Everything about Walter points out that he is ineffectual. His own family belittles him constantly. The state of his finances is pathetic and his wife must make endless excuses to collection agents. His son is crippled with cerebral palsy, which could be viewed as a subtle reflection on Walter's lack of masculinity even in reproduction.

During Walt's 50th birthday party his brother-in-law, Hank the DEA Agent, becomes the center of attention by showing off a new gun he just acquired (clearly phallic symbolism), which impresses Walter's son greatly. Hank then forces the reluctant Walter into holding the gun also, which he does very gingerly, causing Hank to tease him in front of the party guests. Walter's denial of the gun reflects his inner denial of the phallus at the time. He does not usually take the male role in the family. When he finally handles the gun, he clearly isn't comfortable. Hank gives him a toast and makes reference to the fact that his "brains are the size of Wisconsin" but clearly that is not the region where size matters according to Hank and the gang of male guests.

Walt's final humiliation in this pilot episode occurs later that night in bed. His wife, Skyler,  half-heartedly reaches under the covers to give Walt a birthday handjob, all the while never tearing her eyes from her laptop where she is conducting a ebay auction. She is clearly more sexually excited by the possibility of earning a few bucks for a cheap vase in an ebay auction than she is about pleasing her husband. Walter, understandably, can't maintain an erection and she berates him, looking under the covers and complaining, "what's going on down there??"

Inspired by the TV coverage he watched earlier of Hank's meth lab bust with the DEA, in which the camera panned over stacks and stacks of confiscated money, Walter's metamorphosis begins. One thing leads to another and the lowly chemistry teacher starts to gain his manhood back after cooking up a premium batch of glass-grade meth and overcoming a harrowing experience with rival drug distributor. The first episode ends with the formerly meek Walter getting into bed with his wife and grabbing her by the hips from behind to surprising her (and himself) with his newfound turgidity. The couple then spends the next seasons embroiled in domestic disputes, female vs. male for the position of power in the household. In today's suburbia, the men don't necessarily wear the pants in the family anymore, and must go to extremes to try win back the throne in the household. Walter stumbles about in his new role as a burgeoning alpha male, which appears to be measured in accordance with how many pounds of methamphetamine and stacks of cash he produces.

Moving back into the realm of female troubles, another popular TV series portrays a character in a dangerous dance with drugs. As the name implies, Nurse Jackie takes place most often in a New York City hospital, so it would appear to be more urban than suburban. However, the main character occupies the middle class, has a spouse and child, and lives in a typical suburban home.

Soccer Moms of America are misbehaving, as evidenced in Weeds and probably popularized by the  Desperate Housewives of Wisteria Lane. But these days it takes more than just a little yellow pill to deal with suburban discontent. Nurse Jackie's version of "mother's little helper" ranges from Adderall, Percocet, and Xanax to the white-collar version of heroin, Oxycontin. A bad back happens to be the initial justificiation for opiate usage in her case.

This antiheroine is street smart and willing to set aside medical ethics and use her own judgment when she deems necessary. Jackie Peyton (played by Edie Falco) has adulterous sex with the hospital pharmacist who supplies her habit, and still manages play the part of a wife, mother and nurse. Well, barely. Nurse Jackie is appealing but her physical qualities are not the stereotypical. She is natural, slightly aged, somewhat androgynous with short hair and minimal makeup. Her personality does not stay confined to gender norms either, and Jackie seems torn between the yin and yang of her own psyche. She appears to indulge herself in a traditionally masculine manner--freely satisfying her sexual needs as well as her pharmaceutical desires in lieu of exercising the restraint and sacrifice that is expected of her gender, and especially of a mother.  But Jackie's career is the center of her life and when she is at home she puts on a different mask, struggling to fill the maternal role expected of her. More often than not, her husband Kevin plays mother and wife, doing the cooking and nurturing.

Women are usually "punished" on TV for the sin of shirking their gender role for any extended amount of time and Jackie doesn't seem to be an exception. Besides all of the various issues and consequences that come with a prescription drug habit, the sins of the mother tend to be visited upon the children, usually the daughter. In Jackie's case, her daughter Grace requires psychological help for her increasing anxiety which first manifested as a phobia of fire and then graduated to spending long periods in the bathroom and secretly pulling out her own hair.

In the series Mad Men, which brings us back to the suburbs of the early 1960s in between office scenes, we also see the sins of the mother (and father) manifest in the daughter. Sally Draper, the daughter of philandering Don Draper, ends up hacking off her own hair with scissors to gain her father's attention. The only thing she gains is a rough slap in the face from her mother Betty, who is terrified of her daughter becoming anything less than prime marriage material. Sally is caught later, masturbating at a sleepover which leads to her being taken away for psychotherapy.

Finally, one series has an antihero who has charmed viewers into doing the unthinkable--cheering on a serial killer. The series Dexter is now going into its sixth season as strong as ever. Based off the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, the main character, Dexter, is leading a double life. In the narrative voice-over Dexter (played by Michael C. Hall) describes himself as hardly human. He has simply learned to imitate normal human behaviors even though he is practically devoid of emotion. The one emotion he does have is an unquenchable passion for killing. Most episodes don't end until Dexter plunges a knife in the heart of a nude victim, dismembers the body and goes on a boat ride to enjoy the afterglow and dispose of bags of body parts on the ocean floor.

The justification for Dexter's lack of normal emotions and need to kill in this case is revealed by the end of the first season. As a small child Dexter was witness to his mother's hideous murder and left inside a cargo container for two days in a pool of her blood and body parts until the police discovered him. Harry, one of the cops who discovered Dexter ends up adopting him and never tells him about his true origins. However, Harry notices that Dexter is not like other children and comes to the conclusion that Dexter must be a sociopath because of what happened to him. Therefore Harry begins training Dexter in techiniques to channel his homicidal urges and keep from getting caught. Harry's "code" also teaches Dexter to only kill those who kill others, especially those who slip away from the law on technicalities. It is handy that Dexter grows up to become a forensic blood splatter analysist working with law enforcement at Miami Metro.
Michael C. Hall as Dexter

The Code puts Dexter in the role of a vigilante of sorts, although he is not killing for any noble cause. He hunts, kills and dismembers purely for pleasure, like a sexual release. It is interesting to note that Dexter is never actually shown dismembering the bodies, and he makes the kill quickly rather than torturing his victims. Watching him indulge in such morbid activities would undoubtedly ruin the tenuous bond the viewer keeps with Dexter. It is already stretched pretty far when you consider his actions in the first season video below. Dexter admires the dismembered, bloodless limbs of a female victim and gleefully refers to the Miami homicide scene as a type of Disneyland....

Vigilante or not, why do we support a character who is a serial killer? Having Dexter be likable is imperative. And it doesn't hurt that his looks are also pleasant to most viewers. Would we be as forgiving to a creepy looking, antisocial serial killer? No way. Why does Dexter appeal to people though? Perhaps it is in part due to the increasing humanity of his character, which also serves as justification for the viewer who may feel guilty for enjoying Dexter's killing sprees. If Dexter is slowly becoming more "human," then one can feel they are watching in order to see his transformation back into a moral person. He may be transforming from an antihero to a tragic or flawed hero.

Maybe Dexter is just severely traumatized to the point that he has repressed his emotions. Can he become a full human being again, with a full range of emotions? That is the big question. Since the pilot episode, Dexter has developed (not without growing pains) from lone wolf to having a girlfriend, getting married, living with his wife and her two children in a suburban household and even becoming a father of a new baby. Has Dexter finally gotten his "dark passenger" under control? Or will everything blow up in his face?

One can argue that in all of these series, the dangerous consequences of drug dealing, drug abuse, and serial killing are shown, therefore the shows are not condoning the behaviors per se. The characters each have their loved ones, relationships, reputation, careers and lives at put at great risk, even suffering some permanent losses. However I do not believe that is truly a deterrent as presented. It creates excitement and tension, but that can lead to even more empathy with the characters, as we sit on pins and needles now hoping that they don't get caught or killed for their illegal behaviors. In addition, it is easy to see where the character has gone wrong and tell yourself, "oh, well that was a stupid move. If he only exercised better judgment that wouldn't have happened." The illegal behavior actually becomes almost enticing, when the rewards are displayed. Not to mention the fact that some shows are very educational in how to carry out the dirty deeds. The crew of Breaking Bad were taught how to cook meth by  DEA agent who gave them a hands on demo himself. And Dexter gives a great lesson on how to prepare a "kill room" to avoid leaving biological evidence at the scene of a crime.

Can we all control our "dark passengers" and join the rest of humanity? The heroes of our suburban dream worlds have become those who bend, break and decimate the rules. Even in the "real world" we have taken to worshiping a different set of icons, so-called celebrities that are famous for doing absolutely nothing (or at least nothing but behaving badly).

When it comes to heroes, have our standards gone way down? Or has our propensity for civil rebellion gone way up? Dexter may be the one who gives the clearest clue as to why we are allowing these antiheroes into our hearts. They must have a "code" like Dexter. Some of them have a code which is unspoken, but as long as they are following a system we can live with, then they haven't descended into complete chaos--which is far more threatening. They have bucked one system, but there is an alternate system they are plugging into. Order is always more comforting than chaos and complete random choice. It is when the characters start straying from the personal codes they have set up that we begin to distrust and dislike them. A code points to order, which points to possibility of achieving a goal. Most of these suburban antiheroes seem to be searching for redemption (in all the wrong places).  Who knows? Maybe over time perhaps we may see these characters flipflop from naive antiheroes to tragic or flawed heroes that have learned from their mistakes.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

10 Clues You May Be a Female Action Hero

In the course of writing The Modern Amazons: Warrior Women on Screen, I did a lot of additional research that could not be included due to space restrictions. At the time there were very few books available covering to the rise of the female action hero and her origins, so I began to form a series of indexes and timelines to use as reference and decipher the significance of certain patterns. 

The title of the book was derived from the idea that most all modern warrior women in media and pop culture share the the archetype of Amazon women. Note: although both are deadly, the Amazon woman is NOT the same as the Femme Fatale, (which I covered in another book I wrote with James Ursini, Femme Fatale: Cinema's Most Unforgettable Lethal Ladies) Among other traits, the Amazon warrior woman faces her enemies in far more overt and physical confrontations, and usually has some sense of sisterhood with other women. The femme fatale is interested in just one person--herself, and she often prefers someone else to do the dirty work when it comes down to it, like a nice gullible, sex-crazed man. Inevitably though, some of the most iconic actresses of our time have played both roles over time (the indomitable Barbara Stanwyck for example).

In Susan Isaac’s book Brave Dames and Wimpettes: What Women Are Really Doing on Page and Screen, she includes a “Brave Dame Philosophy” consisting of seven articles of criteria to qualify as a brave dame. They include such concepts as: “A brave dame is passionate about something besides passion” and “A brave dame stands up to injustice.”
The warrior women selected in my book underwent a similar criteria system in order to decide which characters and films to feature from the hundreds of action movies and TV shows that have been released over the years. For the sake of this blog, I'm posting some clues that we can use to sniff out our warriors, and then I'll expound upon each topic in upcoming posts. I should probably note that "hero" may not be the correct word for all warrior women, as many "Modern Amazons" may not be categorized as on the side of "good" (at least in the patriarchal sense), but I'm counting them in anyway.

10 Clues You May Be a Female Action Hero
by Dominique Mainon

1) Are you wearing a catsuit, spandex unitard, or a leather corset?

A dead giveaway, right? Aside from the standard comic book superhero spandex unitards, Kate Beckinsale's corseted, leather catsuit ensemble in Underworld sparked a substantial trend of gothic chic that even penetrated the mainstream. And of course Britain's Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) of The Avengers made her black leather catsuit a trademark long before that.
Mystery Woman (Bai Ling) from Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
The suit itself may be inspired by the Japanese “zentai,” which  describes a “skin-tight suit that covers the entire body"…possibly a contraction of zenshin taitsu or ‘full-body tights’.  It first surfaced centuries ago in Japanese puppet theater, Bunraku, where the puppeteer appears onstage wearing a black tight fitting outfit so as not to distract from the performance of the puppet he is manipulating. Zentai also became popular in sports and in arts like dance largely because they accentuated the body of the performer so effectively while providing ease of movement for the performer. The Japanese also often utilized clinging synthetic materials such as spandex, pvc, and latex to enhance the sleekness of the wearer’s body. Today the catsuit is linked inextricably with the world of fetish.

Julie Newmar as Catwoman
It's debatable where the catsuit made its first appearance in pop culture. Some say it was in Alfred Hitchcock's 1946 film, To Catch a Thief, however it may be most unanimously recalled from Bob Kane's creation Catwoman. Kane and his stable of artists spent decades, beginning in the forties, working on the various costumes their feline comic heroine would sport. Gradually by the sixties Catwoman donned a version of the catsuit we are now familiar with due to  Julie Newmar, who first personified Catwoman on the screen in the sixties Batman television series. Newmar's character was almost scandalously tantalizing for television in the body-hugging suit. The combined visual elements and ease of movement have made the catsuit, in its countless varieties, a frequent favorite for warrior women and action heroes. 

2) Have you been genetically altered or cybernetically enhanced (perhaps against your will)?

 Max in Dark Angel, Seven of Nine from Star Trek Voyager,  Jamie the Bionic Woman, Sue Storm of the Fantastic Four, Maria the robot from Metropolis, Ghost in the Shell, and a number of comic book heroines and evil villains share the same dilemma of artificial enhancement (or tampering). Why are these women endowed with increasingly superhuman abilities?

Countless films depict strong women as threatening, even if tightly bound and defined in the accoutrements of male fantasy. Women that are complex, difficult to figure out, unpredictable, may be portrayed as part-animal, part-alien, mutated, or genetically engineered.  These half-breed or otherwise non-human women are exceptionally alluring and aesthetically perfect. Even in real life, extremely attractive women tend to be perceived as impenetrable “ice-queens,” emotionally unavailable and aloof. On screen they are revealed as androids, incapable of human emotion and true kindness--but at the same time highly sexualized. Their bodies are hard, smooth, and machine-like, clearly not child-bearing or reproductive in nature and certainly not soft and nurturing. Models-turned-actors  do well in these sorts of roles. Think for instance, of Natasha Henstridge in Species, Jeri Ryan as “Seven of Nine”, Kristanna Loken as a killing machine in Terminator 3, or Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner.

3) Do you prefer any of the following weapons: bow and arrow, throwing stars/knives/darts/chakram, exotic poisons,  blades or impalement objects, martial arts or maybe killer sexy dance moves to take out your enemy?

Probably the most archetypical weapon is the bow and arrow, which we see used far more by women than men in action films. Even in futuristic sci-fi films we’ll see interesting modifications of the traditional bow and arrow such as in Serenity (2005). Considering that weapons of the future would be highly sophisticated, it wouldn’t seem likely that an archaic bow might fit in. However, we see modified cross bows and very elaborate compound bows also used in movies like Elektra (2005) and Blade: Trinity (2004). 

Throwing weapons are also popular, whether it is Xena's circular chakram (which makes an ideal decapitating weapon and as such alludes to castration according to Freudian theory) or throwing stars, favored by warriors such as Sin City's "Deadly Little Miho" (Devon Aoki). Swords and blades certainly make frequent appearance also. In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) and Jen (Zhang Ziyi) go through a whole rack of different blades as they fight each other woman to woman over “The Green Destiny,” the famous sword stolen by Jen from Shu Lien’s beloved man, Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat). 

The sword is symbolically male, a phallic weapon of impalement. The usage of swords by women in films is usually very interesting. It appears as a form of phallic empowerment, putting them on a “man’s level.” In warrior women movies we first see female samurais wielding swords in many such films as Lady Snowblood and The Crimson Bat, produced as part of a series in Japan in the seventies. In the last decade they have appeared far more frequently in the hands of Western warrior women. Kill Bill Vol. 1, the unsheathing of swords, though no doubt a form of homage to other films also, does take on a very male ritualistic effect. The slow, sensuous unsheathing of the sword is a ceremony, a prelude to act of life or death. During Quentin Tarantino's
Poison and illness come into play in several female comic book inspired characters such as Typhoid, who appears in Elektra and comes closest to killing her with her deadly poisonous kiss. Even Rogue in X-Men seems to have a body that is a form of poison in itself. Many of these beautiful women who make people sick from touching them are a throwback from the fifties when scare tactics were utilized to discourage sexual contact between teenagers. We can't forget about the use of venom also. Shortly after Budd (Michael Madsen) insults Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) with a blond joke in Kill Bill Volume 2, he is struck in the face with a deadly black mamba snake, whose transference of venom is “gargantuan” as Elle sadistically points out to him. 

Of course guns always come into play (especially big ones), but in the warrior woman film the gun is often handled in a slightly different way in comparison to men. Women wrap themselves around big guns in some cases. In the case of Tank Girl, she straddles a huge tank gun, positions it right in the face of her enemy as he is driving a truck and asks, “Feeling a little inadequate?” Women are also often depicted holding guns up near their mouth, maybe even blowing on the tip. Perhaps it is more phallic than the sword, since a gun can actually even go off. 

One weapon that men have yet to duplicate is the killer dance moves. From Salma Hayek's unforgettable striptease as "Santanico Pandemonium" in From Dusk 'Til Dawn to Zhang Ziyi's graceful but deadly dance in House of Flying Daggers. And of course we can't forget the smoky-voiced Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) and her combination of kung-fu, tai-chi and dance movements that served as her secret weapon in The Avengers TV series.

4) Are you dressed in drag? Do you have a shaved head?

As if things aren't challenging enough for the warrior woman, on many occasions she has to disguise the fact that she is female in order to get a place in the fight. Joan of Arc is the precedent for most of these depictions. Case in point: Eowyn (played by Mirando Otto) in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. As interpreted by Jackson and Otto she is an aggressive warrior who demonstrates her expertise with arms in several early scenes. In the final battle for Gondor, Eowyn is denied permission to fight by her uncle, and commanded to stay with the women and children. But she deceives her uncle and dresses like a male warrior, obviously echoing Joan of Arc, and not only kills the dreaded Nazgul to protect the king, which none of the other men are able to do. 
Eowyn (played by Mirando Otto) kills the dreaded Nazgul in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
 Disney’s animated feature Mulan (1998) tells a similar story from Chinese folklore of a young woman who poses as a man to join the army and help defeat the invading Huns. Stories abound in all cultures of women posing as men to defend their peoples which leads researchers to believe that the incidence of cross dressing by women in order to take on the roles of men in both work and war was not insignificant and far exceeded the rare instances of it recorded in historical documents.

Sigourney Weaver as "Ripley"
Even if she doesn't do full drag, the warrior woman may need to at least blend into an all-male environment and assume a type of camouflage in order to not to disturb or confuse male egos with such enticing female traits as a full head of hair.  This ritual is shown in G.I. Jane when Demi Moore's character defiantly shaves her head in order to become one of the boys and thus successfully completes SEAL training.  Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in Alien3 has her femininity stripped away and head shaved while dwelling with a male penal colony on a remote planet, and Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) doesn't even need to shave her head when she famously transforms in Terminator 2: Judgement Day into a a much more powerful, butch, gun-toting warrior. 

5) Are you part of a gang of women or all-female organization? 

The quintessential Amazon woman is part of a tribe, a sisterhood. The movie D.E.B.S. (2004) featured plaid-skirted schoolgirls groomed by a secret government agency to be an elite national-defense group. Foxfire also featured a gang of teenage girls, intent on getting revenge on their science teacher who sexually harasses young girls in his class. Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) was Russ Meyer's bad-girl gang fantasy, and the women of the Kill Bill series were originally part of a gang called Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (DiVAS).

The all-female organization pops up in many places. In Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005), we take note that Angelina Jolie’s character seems to head up an organization that is exclusively female (which is never really explained). Girl Gangs are abound in movies, together for bad and good purposes. Charlie’s Angels is the type of series where it gets a little cloudy. On one hand, three extremely capable women are the center of the story and make up all of the action. However, they have a central male figure that they are subordinate to. We’ll see this sort of a “daddy” character very frequently in pop culture. At the end of the day, the male psyche can rest easy that the women will switch back to the traditional gender role and try to cook them dinner – even if it does get burned a little in the process. After all, the normal-girl persona is also part of their cover.

6) Do you have relationship issues with men? Was your last boyfriend a bad guy or villain? Are you always left alone in the end?

Rarely has this aspect been fully explored outside of exploitation films. We see most aggressive women depicted as emotionally-isolated and dysfunctional in relationships, maybe only engaging in casual flings. Or they are far too angry and bitter to even desire a man and appear more asexual instead. It’s interesting that women who are so courageous display such fear of intimacy. But this is a hallmark of the popular rape-revenge theme also.

How many powerful female action heroes go home at the end of the day to a loving partner to enjoy some down time after a hard day kicking butt? Can you name any right off the bat? If anything, love of a man will be the warrior woman's undoing, her one weakness--her "kryptonite".  At the end of the day, the warrior woman rides off into the sunset alone.

7) Do you have lesbian, bisexual or bi-curious tendencies?

Lesbian or bisexual tendencies may well be implied or hinted at, but not absolutely confirmed. Xena and Gabrielle, Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as characters from Sailor Moon and Dark Angel. While sapphic love between warrior women in media is not always shown explicitly, there is no doubt that many warrior women have sworn off men and either live completely asexual lives, or maintain a less physical form of sisterly love between one another. This may be in part due to audience sensibilities and censorship in earlier decades.

In Foxfire, Angelina Jolie's character "Legs" is a powerful personality who dominates the screen as soon as we first see her enter the classroom in the early moments of the movie. The relationship between Legs and Maddy (Hedy Burress) is particularly powerful with lesbian connotations. Far more overt in lesbian love is the movie Bound (1996) with Gina Gershon and Meg Tilly as lovers who outwit the mob to escape together with a stash of money.

More recently, Steig Larsson's popular trilogy adapted to film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / The Girl Who Played with Fire / The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nes portrays a true feminist hero character, Lisbeth Salander (played by Noone Rapace) who has both female and male lovers.
Actor Noone Rapace as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest
8) Are you from a planet ruled by women, or lost civilization?

“I named this island "Paradise" for an excellent reason. There are no men on it. Thus, it is free from their wars, their greed, their hostility, their... barbaric... masculine... behavior.”
-Queen Hippolyte, The New Original Wonder Woman (1975)

Traditionally Amazon women exist in remote lost civilizations. It might be an island, which the male lead will wash up on one day to find himself in the midst of an exclusive society of women, as did the lucky Steve Trevor (Lyle Waggoner) in the TV pilot for The New Original Wonder Woman TV series. The island was home to the Amazons: beautiful, ageless women with great strength, agility, and intelligence. Amazon princess Diana (Lynda Carter) rescues the handsome Trevor and nurses him back to health.

In Fellini’s City of Women, it was a surreal town that was accessed via a strange train stop and walk through a forest. Jungles are largely featured of course, as the theories of Amazons living in South America were abundant throughout literature also. However, with notable frequency, the fantasy of matriarchal societies occurs quite often in space, upon female-dominated planets as created by science fiction writer Leslie F. Stone in the thirties and the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry. Although the “Amazons in Outer Space” theme is usually more of a spoof or satire.

9) Do you have daddy issues? 

Another side effect of being a warrior woman is that you likely have some major daddy issues. If your father is not already dead, leaving you an orphan, then he is negative influence on your life somehow.  Father issues ensue in warrior woman TV shows and films such as Attack of the 50 Foot WomanMillion Dollar Baby, Kill Bill Vol.2, Charmed, Lara Croft - Tomb Raider, Tru Calling, Elektra, Alias and so many more. Fathers may be former or current evil villains, and whether good or bad, the warrior woman-daughter has a strong urge to please and impress him.
Jack Bristow (Victor Barber) a not-so-great father to Sydney (Jennifer Garner) in Alias
“Fathers mean NOTHING!!!” Legs in Foxfire says, urging that the girls in her group turn away from their traditional families and form an all-girl alliance with each other, breaking the patriarchal hold over them.

10) Do you have a special affinity for cats or snakes?

Historians trace the worship of the cat and its association with the feminine principle all the way back to ancient Egypt. The Egyptians deified the cat in the form of the mother goddess Bast whose purview included love, fertility, birth, music, and dance. In relation to warrior women, we see comparisons of cats and women used very often.

Halle Berry in Catwoman
Popular media picked up the cat symbolism in the twentieth century and developed its sexual dimensions. Physically many warrior woman carry cat-like traits of feline grace. Producer-writer Val Lewton made one of the most memorable movies on the subject in 1942—Cat People. In the film the main character, Irena (Simone Simon), has repressed her sexuality and turned frigid out of fear of triggering her “cat genes,” projected as an untamed leopard creature that lurked beneath her surface, ready to claw it’s way out when her emotions or sexuality was aroused. “Don’t ever make me angry or jealous” she begs her husband.  
Remake of the Val Lewton classic

Since then we have had multiple manifestations of Catwoman on film. Even when the story theme does not directly revolve around cats, we do see cats strategically placed in a number of elements.

In the pilot episode of Dark Angel, Jessica Alba’s character Max uses her enhanced vision to spot a small statue of the cat-headed Goddess Bast in a building next door. She later dresses in tight black suit (basically a catsuit) and leaps across to the other building and like a cat-burglar breaks in and steals the statue. Even the clever Hermione from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) turns herself into a half-human half-cat hybrid creature by mistake temporarily when a spell goes wrong. She is embarrassed by the transformation though, and hides out until it passes.   
Throughout time women have also been associated in myths with serpents in the form of snakes, dragons, and hydras. In Asian culture there are numerous stories about women-snakes who are often beneficial and are willing to grant wishes to those who pamper them. In ancient Greek myths the Pythia, named after the Python Apollo slew, were the oracle-priestesses of Delphi who delivered the prophecies from Apollo to pilgrims who sought their aid. In Minoan culture snake goddesses/priestesses led rituals in the sacred city of Knossos. Icons of them in mid-dance survive to this day. It is only with the development of the Judaeo-Christian mythology over the last two millennia in the West and its obsession with repressing female power that snakes suddenly turned evil.   
Zhora (Joanna Cassidy) from Blade Runner
  The Western cinema took up the Christian equation of female = snake = evil and over its history has projected out into darkened theaters various images of evil women with serpent-like qualities, particularly in the genre of horror with films such as Cult of the Cobra Woman (1955), The Gorgon, and in 1971 Jack Hill, director of the Pam Grier warrior films Coffy and Foxy Brown, co-produced in Mexico Isle of the Snake People with Boris Karloff. (1964)
In Blade Runner (1982), Ridley Scott places his Amazon replicant Zhora (Joanna Cassidy) in a futuristic strip club where she danced with snakes. And, of course, in 1996 we are introduced to “Santanico Pandemonium” (Salma Hayek) an exotic dancer /vampire/Aztec goddess who performs with a white python in From Dusk 'Til Dawn
In more specifically warrior women films, Roger Corman places his valiant Viking women at peril against a sea serpent in Saga of the Viking Women (1957). In Conan the Barbarian (1982) the Amazon Valeria (Sandahl Bergman) is the only thief who has successfully entered the sanctuary of the snake cult and is later impaled through the chest and killed by a snake arrow which takes on symbolic overtones. Quentin Tarantino takes a more modern and feminist perspective in his Kill Bill films. He returns snakes to their mythical source by associating them with female power. His band of assassins, The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (DiVAS) members take on snake code names, The Bride AKA Black Mamba, O-Ren AKA Cottonmouth, and Elle AKA California Mountain Snake. 
 (Note: This post contains excerpts from The Modern Amazons: Warrior Woman On-Screen, by Dominique Mainon and James Ursini. For information contact  Other books by Dominique Mainon include:    Cinema of Obsession: Erotic Fixation and Love Gone Wrong in the Movies (Limelight)  The Modern Amazons : Warrior Women on Screen (Book)  Femme Fatale: Cinema's Most Unforgettable Lethal Ladies (Limelight)