On September 8, an interesting discovery about the ancient Vikings was published in ISI Journal Citation Reports. Dr. Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson and her fellow researchers found the remains of a female Viking buried in a well-furnished warrior tomb(Bj 581) during the Viking Age in the town of Birka, Sweden. Artefacts in the tomb suggests she was a high ranking warrior, confirming that female warriors existed and could attain statuses of honour in the past. However, unlike the intrepidness and courage they showed in the past, female warriors today appear rather weak.
Female Warriors or Warrior Princesses?
Is there a difference between female warrior and warrior princess? Some people associate the phrase female warrior with the image of the Amazons from Greek mythology. Others associate the phrase warrior princess with the image of a woman in combat who is extremely powerful, stunningly beautiful, and sexy. Unlike female warrior images, warrior princess images can be found in all forms of media, especially the gaming industry. For instance, one more commonly known warrior princess is Chun-Li in the Street Fighter series. She provides users big thrill battles, but also capitalizes on sensationalism. In case of action movies, female stars tend to be typical warrior princesses. Take for example the Bond Girl in the James Bond film series. She is always the epitome of action, love, and femme fatale. The Bond Girl is always a talented actor with incredible abilities. Also, Black Widow, the famous superhero on the team Avengers is another good example. She represents the image of all female superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Besides being a highly skilled and trained spy, she is also the key love interest in MCU films. Her characters have had relationship with such male superheroes as Iron Man, Captain America, Hawkeye, and the Hulk.
At first glance, a warrior princess appears inviting, strong, and attractive, sporting extraordinary fighting abilities. Then, why are they always presented in glamourous, sexually inviting wear? The easiest way to distinguish a ‘female warrior’ from a ‘warrior princess’ is to change the character’s sex. It is likely a warrior princess, if you find yourself thinking that the character has unnecessary sex appeal or passivity.
Icing on the Cake
As mentioned earlier, a warrior princess is a female warrior who is fully objectified in patriarchal values. Djuna, renowned film critic, commenting on the movie Pan (Joe Wright, 2015) wrote: "In this movie, 'Tiger Lily' has superficial personality, tedious and has little presence despite Rooney Mara's beauty. Why? It's because Wright shaped this character as a stereotype without a soul―warrior princess."1) Djuna described the use of a warrior princess to an alibi for gender discrimination. The warrior princess' power cleverly masked the passivity of the character. A warrior princess is always portrayed on the screen as a sidekick for male characters. Even though the female character possesses the strength and ability to resolve the situation, she is often a mere aid to the male characters, which generally causes the male character to fall into peril due to his love for her. In other words, the warrior princess is the male character’s accessory. Black Widow (Marvel Comics), Gamora (Guardians of the Galaxy), Catwoman (DC Comics), Bond Girl (James Bond series), and Roxy Morton (Kingsman: The Secret Service) all exhibit these traits. It is not enough for the character to stand alone with their combat power; their abilities are mere icing on the cake. Without their battle ability, there is little difference without other stereotypical female characters.
Whenever a woman is portrayed as being stronger than a man, she is referred to in one of two ways: the first is as having no femininity; in other words, lack of traditional values and womanly characteristics like a sensual body, refined diction, and charming fashion. As a result, losing one’s femininity means the female is seen to be manly, not ladylike. Sometimes, by extension, a woman is marked as a man even though she doesn’t exhibit manlike equalities. In this case, a powerful fierce female character is explained with having been descended from gods, aliens, or an extraordinary race. Her power will be explained like this: “Actually, she was a goddess….” In other words, few female warriors are humans. For instance, Wonder Woman, a legendary female superhero, is not human but the daughter of gods. Zatanna Zatara and Madame Xanadu in DC comics are also scripted as being from outside the human realm (Homo Magi). These exemplary characters show that there does not appear to be any middle ground between being a warrior princess and being marked as a “male”.
A discussion of female warriors and warrior princesses would not be complete without including actor Charlize Theron. In two recent movies, she goes to extreme to present an interesting female warrior image in 'Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)' and 'Atomic Blonde (2017)'. Imperator Furiosa in 'Mad Max: Fury Road' and Lorraine Broughton in 'Atomic Blonde' both do away with the typical female princess idea and present a clear vision of what it means to be a female warrior.
'Mad Max: Fury Road’ is the fourth installment in George Miller’s 'Mad Max' series. The movie is set in the 22nd century after the world has become devastated by nuclear war. Max Rockatansky, after escaping from War boys, meets Imperator Furiosa and other female runaways in the dessert. As the story progresses, the group cross the dessert to escape from Immortan Joe, proclaimed ruler of war survivors, in search of the "Green Place”. Unlike just other movies, despite missing her left arm, Furiosa is a determined person. Traditional warrior princesses fell victims to sacrifice, love, and/or motherly instincts. For example, Kim Okbin, main actor in the movie 'The Villainess', said, "Though it (The Villainess) is a woman-centered movie, I found it hard to accept the fact that Sookhee became unnerved by motherly love.”2) Whereas Furiosa fights for her friends and never stops or is distracted from keeping her eye on the ball. Theron said, "I don’t think George envisioned Furiosa as a feminist, which is what makes the story even more powerful (...) George has this innate understanding that women are just as complex and interesting as men."3) Creating a female character with consideration about ‘human beings’ is the key to make a true female warriors.
In ‘Atomic Blonde’ the female character explodes with sex appeal. The storyline is obvious: Lorraine Broughton, an undercover MI6 field agent, goes to Berlin to carry out a secret mission for her country. Because of the film’s suggestive nudity and lesbian love scenes with French agent-Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella), the movie carries an R rating. Scenes like the close-up of Lorraine's garter belt are definitely eye-catching. However, Lorraine quickly abolishes the warrior princess image and transforms into a true female warrior that does a lot of damage to numerous men in the film. One 7-minute long took a cake amazingly. Lorraine falls down a flight of stairs, punches several men in the face, and then uses various resources and her gun to top the scene. Under the brilliant light of neon signs stands the only person fully determined to reach her goal and survive. As a result, Lorraine embodies the two great aspects: being strong and being independent, in a single scene. She truly shows how a woman can play both the role of a femme fatal and a strong sovereign leader.
“I AM NO MAN!”
Have you seen the movie 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King'? During the battle on Pelennor Fields, the Witch-king of Angmar, an evil immortal creature, sneers: "You fool. No man can kill me." Éowyn the Shieldmaiden cries back with "I am no man!" With sword in hand, Éowyn strikes the Witch-king and the evil creature falls to its demise. The powerful scene is quite cathartic, for Éowyn’s cry is the cry of uncountable female warriors who fight for their own purposes. The solution is simple: the world needs more autonomous female warriors.
1) Djuna, “Joe Wright's Misunderstanding about Female Warriors”, The Hankyoreh, October 13, 2015
2) Lee Seungmi, "Kim Okbin Consulted Films Like 'Lucy' and 'Hanna' to Create the "Killing Machine Female Character"”, Sports Chosun, May 31, 2017
3) Kaiser, "Charlize Theron: George Miller ‘Didn’t Have a Feminist Agenda’ with Mad Max", Celebitchy, May 19, 2015