The Death of The Damsel In Distress
The Death of the Damsel In Distress: How Women in Hollywood No Longer Have to Play Stereotypical Roles
But wait! Did this leave the classic romantic comedy in jeopardy? No, it actually made for better movies. How To Lose A Guy in 10 days turned the tables and made the man look like the fool. In the end they got together obviously but that's only after they both let their guard down and stopped playing games. In Hitch Will Smith and Eva Mendes didn't have a great first date. All the advice given out and he couldn't seal the deal on the first go around! Leaving her with the power to deem if he was worthy for a second date. In the Hunger Games Katniss essentially saves herself. No, literally, I mean she had a bow and arrow for god's sake! More importantly than that she had the intangibles not highlighted in previous lead female characters. She was a leader, fierce competitor, and family provider. That allowed for her to be more likable with her qualities that could be universally felt. Kristen Stewart in the updated version of Snow White dawns armor and wields that sword with the best of them. So you're telling me women can't save themselves? Well, Hollywood is finally catching up with the times and changing that. Getting back into the realm of Romantic Comedies with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis hit Friends With Benefits exemplifies this completely. Opting to be "emotionally unavailable" two people decide to have a dynamic not on the basis of a relationship but just sex. In one scene Jamie's(Mile Kunis character) Mom says
"Well, you're Prince Charming isn't coming to rescue you in a horse and carriage. That's not who you want. I mean, you're looking...you're looking for a man to be your partner. You could take on the world with. My Prince Charming? You."
And their lies the archetype for the new damsel. Still in distress but no longer helpless on the train tracks. Looking for a partner to "take on the world with."
I would argue this change of pace in Hollywood in the last 25 years made for better movies. The tug and pull between men and women in who saves who makes for interesting dynamics. Two men fighting over one woman as the main plot point in 2012's action romantic comedy This Means War made it more watchable. Legitimizing that there are men out there who would want to settle down*cough* (Shameless plug, making myself sound good). Scarlet Johansson playfully duping those opposing agents at the beginning of The Avengers was great. Followed up by single handily beating them all down. How badass was that? She wasn't a distraction or a sexual plaything she was an integral and respected member of a team full of alpha males. There are a lot more examples of modern day movies that exemplify that woman or neither romantically helpless or totally helpless with out men. So where does that leave the males compelled in the movies to save that woman? Do they disappear? Defunct in movie history? No, they adapt. They don't save that woman, they wait for those women to save themselves, as they sit by and enjoy the ride. So here is to the death of the damsel in distress. She no longer waits for someone to pull her off the tracks she ends up pulling herself off of her own power. She untangles her self from the ropes only seconds from escaping certain death.
By Evan L. Jackson