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» 'The Girls of Steel': Strong Adolescent Female Protagonists on Film

by Amy Outland, published on January 14, 2011 - 06:50 PM EST

It’s refreshing to see empowered, intelligent female characters on film and television screens. And as the New Year begins, this trend is continuing with adolescent heroines at the helm.

Los Angeles Times reporter Rebecca Keegan explores the appeal of this trend to film audiences in her article The Girls of Steel.

So what’s behind this new-found, yet welcome resurgence of girl power in film and television? According to Keegan, strong adolescent female protagonists--or girls of steel as she calls them--are the result of “female directors and producers" "wielding increasing creative influence, and the culture is moving from a sexed-up, dumbed-down model of female adolescence to one marked by smarts, strength, and scrap.”

This cultural trend is quite encouraging, indeed, particularly for the young girls who are growing up with these empowered young film heroines as role models. Need examples?

Keegan’s most prominent one seems to be Mattie Ross (played by Hailee Steinfield) in the Coen brothers remake of the John Wayne classic True-Grit, but she also mentions the ladies of Zack Snyder’s (The Watchmen and 300) forthcoming film Sucker Punch, Saoirse Ronan’s (Atonement) performance in Hanna, and Jennifer Lawrence’s role in Winter’s Bone.

Keegan makes the point that “female adolescents are frequently depicted on-screen as vapid (Mean Girls), angst-ridden, (Twilight), pregnant, (Juno), or merely decorative” and her critique of Ellen Page’s performance aside, Keegan is correct.

But some may argue that films like Juno are a step in the right direction culturally, because Ellen Page’s character owns up to her mistake and makes the most responsible decision, given her situation, rather than trying to glorify teenage pregnancy like the MTV reality series Teen Mom does.

These girls of steel appeal to film and television audiences, because “people are finding these heroines charismatic, unexpected, and fresh… a young female protagonist doesn’t need to have a boyfriend, get pregnant, cut herself or be naked to attract an audience.”

If the performances that are highlighted in Keegan’s article are any indication, we haven’t seen the last of these girls of steel. Not by a long shot.

Source: entertainment.gather.com

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