Why Linda Hamilton and Jamie Lee Curtis Returning to the Franchises They Helped Build Is Important for Women in Hollywood
Action and horror films have a tendency for objectifying their female characters, treating them as disposable and replaceable.
The Hollywood trades brought huge news this morning: Linda Hamilton is returning to the Terminator franchise after 26 years. The headlines comes just a few days after it was announced that Jamie Lee Curtis would be reprising her iconic role of Laurie Strode in a 10th Halloween film after a 15-year absence from the franchise. It’s also worth mentioning that rumors have surfaced that none other than the infamous Sean Young has filmed secret scenes for Blade Runner 2049, after co-starring in the 1982 original.
It’s a promising trend for Hollywood, and action and horror films in particular. Both genres have a tendency for objectifying their female characters, treating them as disposable and replaceable. James Bond and Batman both seem to have a new love interest every film. Meanwhile, horror producers delight in finding a new batch of pretty young starlets to brutally kill off in every film.
Now, compare that to the longevity of male characters, particularly in action films. At 75, Harrison Ford has made a late career tour of revisiting his iconic roles. First Indiana Jones, then Han Solo, and now Blade Runner‘s Rick Deckard. Arnold Schwarzenegger made a few Terminator flicks without Hamilton (and, yes, he’ll be returning for this one as well), and a return as Conan The Barbarian has been talked about. 71-year old Sylvester Stallone is still appearing as Rocky Balboa. There’s rumors Bruce Willis may make another Die Hard movie five years after his last one. Liam Neeson, 65, had to specifically announce he’s retiring from action films lest Hollywood keep trying to cast him (and they likely would).
Compare that to the fact that an attempt to bring Sigourney Weaver’s iconic Ellen Ripley back to the Alien franchise after 20 years was reportedly iced by Hollywood in favor of the Michael Fassbender-led prequel series.
Never mind all the action franchises that just seemed to forget that their major female supporting characters existed. Holly Gennero only made it two film into the Die Hard franchise. Talia Shire’s Adrian was conveniently killed off before the Rocky franchise was put back into service. The only mainstays in the Mission Impossible world are Tom Cruise and Ving Rhames. In that light, it’s admirable that Mary Ellen Trainer and Julia Styles got to ride out the entire Lethal Weapon and Bourne series. Of course, a huge part of this problem is that these type of films historically feature so few major roles for women in the first place.
So, Hamilton, and Curtis (and possibly Young) returning is huge news, and that fact isn’t lost on Terminator‘s original director and reboot producer (and, notably, Hamilton’s ex-husband) James Cameron.
“As meaningful as she was to gender and action stars everywhere back then, it’s going to make a huge statement to have that seasoned warrior that she’s become return,” Cameron said while announcing the news at a private event according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“There are 50-year-old, 60-year-old guys out there killing bad guys, but there isn’t an example of that for women.”
Meanwhile, Curtis seems quite eager to return to the franchise that she helped build forty years ago.
Strong roles for women over forty still remains a source of shame for Hollywood, but things seem to be slowly getting better: American Horror Story has been a huge hit with millennials on television largely thanks to the work of legendary actresses, Charlize Theron continues to kick butt in action flick after action flick, and Taraji P. Henson has an assassin flick on the way.
Though, credit is due to Carrie Fisher, whose return to Star Wars alongside Ford and Mark Hamill is a major draw of the sequels. Princess Leia may have been the fantasy of a generation when she appeared in that gold bikini all those years ago, but she was always so much more. Indeed, fans still cared about the character and the actress behind her when she returned 32 years later. It’s another fitting piece of Fisher’s legacy and we hope we see more examples. Maybe Alien 5 with Weaver isn’t such a bad idea, maybe D.C’s new wide world of anything goes comic book films has room for an old feline friend played by Michelle Pfeiffer, and certainly no one would mind a Kill Bill 3.
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