The Rise and Takeover of Action Heroes Back to Blog

Today, I’m excited to have my Brava mentee, Dale Mayer, as my guest.  I was thrilled to be paired with Dale in the Brava Writing With The Stars Contest. She’s advanced to the final four now (go Dale!).  You can read the round four entries on the RT Site–voting is going on now.  Congrats, Dale, and thanks for blogging today!


Hi everyone! Dale Mayer here and I’m so happy to be back visiting with you all today. thanks so much Cynthia for the invitation. She’s been the best mentor (I’ve been lucky enough to have her as my mentor in the Brava Writing with the stars contest) I could possibly have!  I’m still in the contest and we’re down to just four finalists with one round left to go and I know it’s because of the help she gave me.  Now on to my blog about kick-ass heroines – a character I love to write!

The progression of sexualized and helpless female roles to the kickass curvy females of today is nothing short of miraculous.  It seems that since the last forty years women have slowly infiltrated the role to today’s continuous slew of kickass female roles.  I love it, don’t get me wrong.

The female heroes used to be defined by men.  Then women broke the mould.  Becoming much stronger in and more powerful in the real world, they also wanted to see their counterpart in the movie / book scene.  Who today would want the weak simpering Barbie of yesterday as their role model?

I hadn’t considered the role reversal to this extent until I read this blog.  It made me stop and think. I love strong female characters – in movies and in books.  And once I started researching about the differences between male and female action heroes I couldn’t stop.  There are huge differences! Male action heroes have a tendency to use brute force and heavy handed moves to make their desired end result happen.  According to this article, an investigation that the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation has carried out, only 19% of female characters in films used physical force while the male did in 53% of the times.

The articles and research I studied all agreed that female action heroes use their mind to get what they wanted first – they only resorted to physical violence when everything else has failed.  So women tend to use their brain first.  Gotta love it.  Women action heroes also show their feelings in movies and in books.  Compassion is also another trait shown by women and not just to their friends but also to their enemies.  It’s part of the female psyche and it works in these mediums to show that part of their nature.  Not so much for the males.

Women are allowed to and do cry in movies – even action superwomen.  They don’t cry like a weeping damsel in distress during the main fight scenes, instead they show tears up or cry and rage at injustices.  These actions actually help to round out the character and instead of feeling like the character wimped out on us as we might if a man had been doing the crying, we applaud her for being true to herself, and we pull for her even more.

Women have held high positions in the past but more a reverent type of powerful level than on a physical level.  Let’s be real our DNA is different.  We aren’t as strong or as big as our male counterparts.  But women of today are being trained better and we are seeing more and more women stepping into powerful roles.  In our books and movies, we are almost inundated with them.  The potential list is unbelievable.  I’ve always been a big fan of Ripley in the Alien series, Alice in the Resident Evil series or how about Selene from Underworld and then there’s the Laura Croft movies.

All of these women used their wits, their skills and their fighting skills when in a corner.  They also took care of those that needed them.  Ripley protected the child Newt in the second movie.  Alice cared for Angie. A distinctly female trait.  Have you ever seen an action heroine drag a child around the world saving others?  No.  Not likely because that wouldn’t be true to form for women.  Look at the cartoon move the Incredible.  Before Mrs. Incredible has a family, she gives up on being a superhero.  She doesn’t willingly drag her kids into the action – they hide away and get into all their own.

If you haven’t seen Salt yet – do.  I loved it.  Angelina plays another strong kick-ass female role that offers twists and surprises along the way.  However, Salt is smart, in control, and has no problem getting down and dirty to get what she wants.  Apparently the original character was supposed to be male until Angelina Jolie showed an interest in the role.  The character was also supposed to have a child.  However, that was changed as Jolie couldn’t see a woman having a child in that position.  The audience still has certain expectations that must be met!

In whatever we write, it’s important to have the audience relate.  If we need them to suspend belief in one area then we have to make it easy for them by making the actions believable and true to the character.

What about you?  What female action heroines do you like?  Males? Do you prefer to read (or write) about kick ass characters?  Or kick ass heroes?

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29 responses to “The Rise and Takeover of Action Heroes”

  1. Cynthia Eden says:

    Hi, Dale! Thanks for guest blogging with me. I love kick-ass characters, both male and female. Buffy has always been one of my favorite kick-ass paranormal heroines. Fun, but tough.

  2. Edie Ramer says:

    I hopped over and read the first blog you linked to. The one thing that gets me about kick ass women in TV and movies is that they are sexualized with their clothes and appearance. They even run around in high heels. That always takes away their credibility for me.

    Perhaps that’s why a few of my favorite TV heroines are Olivia in Law & Order, Temperance Brennan from Bones, and Captain Brenda Lee Johnson from The Closer. Brenda Lee does dress very feminine, but she uses her brains and leaves the brawn stuff to the guys in her unit. And she carries that huge purse around — with chocolate. My kind of kick ass woman.

    In the book I’ll be putting out next, my heroine is more likely to rush into action, while my hero is the calm thinker. But when it matters, he can kick major ass.

    • Dale Mayer says:

      Hi Edie!

      I think the clothing/figures etc is a male hangover lol. It’s also there for one very big reason, that I doubt we’ll get past anytime soon. Sex sells.

      I love Bones too. In Chase, Annie Frost is tough and take it to the edge type of female but she’s not a sexualized character. Makes it real.

      Good luck on your next book. It will be great! How can it not be after all your other books.


  3. Hi, Dale
    It’s very enlightening to see this research. Like Edie I love heroines like Brenda. Now Olivia, there’s a woman that can do both, out-brain and out-fight her opponents. I also like the female detective on Castle.

    • Dale Mayer says:

      Hi Marley!

      It’s it interesting to research topics like this. Such interesting angles come to like. Castle is a lot of fun, as much for the quick one liners as anything.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Viki says:

    Hi Dale –

    I love kick ass women. SALT was very good but she would have broken some bones jumping onto the truck. Several years back Dark Angel was one of my favorite TV shows because she fought so well. Thanks for the great post.

    • Dale Mayer says:

      I really enjoyed SALT and you’re right, she’d have broken bones in various scenes. Still so would any number of men in some of their action scenes. At least she took off her shoes to run instead of running in heels. Lol

      I remember Dark Angel! It was good. Different. I was sorry when it was cancelled.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  5. Dale Mayer says:

    Hi Cynthia, As always, it’s such a pleasure to be here! Wasn’t Buffy fun? And long running! Tough seems to be a requirement with heroines these days. Obviously they are popular when you look at the number of books and movies out there with kick ass leading ladies.


  6. Valerie says:

    This is a very intersting post with a theme I’ve never really thought about before. I love reading about kick-ass heroines.

    I also like reading about heroes and heroines who show their vuneralbilities…especially a tear, choking up or downright crying. Makes them more real.

    in Germany

    • Dale Mayer says:

      Hi Valerie!

      That’s so true about have the hero/heroine show emotions. It makes it easier to relate to them. It’s more common in female characters than males again, but I think that’s a main contributing factor to the rise of the female action figure. They are well rounded characters that could be any one of us.

      Thanks for stopping by!


  7. […] Hi everyone,  I’m delighted to be part of Cynthia Eden’s Deadly Valentine event.  I’m speaking on the Rise and Takeover of Action Heroines. […]

  8. Barb P says:

    Hi Dale! OMG, you have one of my favorite kiss ass heroines pictured. ELASTAGIRL! I absolutely love her character and I can also relate to her on many different levels ( kids, middle age spread etc ) yet she is still a major bad ass when she has to be. I love it. Thanks for stopping by today!

    • Dale Mayer says:

      Hi Barb, isn’t Elastagirl a knockout! We often forget the cartoon characters when we look at kick ass heroines but I love this one. You’re so right about the kids, family life, middle age spread, worries about the hubby etc. She’s a blast, stays true to character and proves she still has it when it counts!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  9. Jillian says:

    Very interesting and informative post. I have to say that I like a kick ass heroine. Love to read them, love to write them.

    Good luck with your competition- Cynthia is an awesome mentor.

  10. Dale Mayer says:

    Hi Jillian,

    Thanks for the comment! I love to read about a kick ass heroine and I love to see how different they are portrayed in the movies as the actresses take on the different roles.

    Thanks for the best wishes on the competition. I won the lottery by being paired with Cynthia. She’s been awesome!

  11. Diane Sadler says:

    I like both guys and gals as kick ass characters. And lots of action; lots of romance too.

  12. Dale Mayer says:

    Hi Diane,

    I enjoy both as well. In odd situations you can have both together such as in the movie, Mr. & Mrs. Smith. In the movie both characters are strong kick ass characters, down and dirty types and in this plot, it works well together.

    Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

  13. Ann says:

    Hello Cynthia & Dale
    Interesting post today I have seen Salt LOVED IT Also loved AJ in Mr& Mrs Smith, Buffy Alice Brennan Olivia
    all wonderful in their own rite.
    Good luck in the contest Dale.

  14. Dale Mayer says:

    Hi Ann,
    Thanks for stopping by! I really loved SALT and interestingly enough, she’s not a sexualized role either. I really enjoyed seeing Angelina Jolie in these different roles. Have you seen Wanted? That’s another kick ass female role but with a strong sense of what’s right and wrong.

    Thanks for the best wishes in the contest too. I hope I make it through to the next round!


  15. Stephanie M says:

    I love kick ass characters. It is always interesting to see how they balance the things they have to fight with a normal life with loved ones. I loved watching Dark Angel and Buffy. Now I enjoy watching Bones, Castle, The Mentalist, and Nikita.

  16. Pam P says:

    Hi Dale. I too like Olivia Benson, Brenda Lee Johnson, Nikita. One of my favorites, Emma Peel from the older Avengers series. Wonder Woman, always read the comics as a kid, then Linda Carter on TV, and now TV is bringing it back.

    • Dale Mayer says:

      Hi Pam,

      Wow, I’d forgotten about Avengers. I loved that show. And Linda Carter, who could forget her – Wonder Woman wore the skimpiest of outfits. Talk about created and designed by men!

      It seems like everything runs in cycles. If we wait long enough, it all comes back around.


  17. Dale Mayer says:

    Hi Stephanie,
    Life is all about balance. Watching it play out on the big screen is always fun to see how the characters handle the conflicts thrown at them.

    I love Bones, Castle and the Mentalist. Am a new convert Nikita. She’s such a kick ass character!

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  18. I enjoy both types, but if forced to pick I would pick a kick ass hero. However, I despise TSTL heroines, so the heroine must be intelligent, no matter what.

  19. Dale Mayer says:

    Hi Marlene.

    Those ‘Too Stupid To Live’ Heroines make me gag. Lol. I’m a blonde and crack blonde jokes constantly, but that doesn’t mean I’ll tolerate that cliche in my heroines. That’s another reason why I love the research saying that heroines use their brains first, then get physical.

    A kick ass hero is great! Makes the fantasy all that much better.

    Thanks for stopping by!


  20. GladysMP says:

    I still like brave, strong males in the stories I read. Women don’t have to be wimps; they can still be strong and be feminine.

  21. LSUReader says:

    I like to see physically strong females in books and movies. One of my current favorites is Gin Blanco, from Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassins series. I did see Salt, and I enjoyed it (the same way I enjoy Die Hard whenever it pops up on the TV!) I had heard that Tom Cruise was originally the intended lead, but he chose instead to do Knight and Day with Cameron Diaz.

  22. Leagh Christensen says:

    I love a women who is strong and puts a man in his place but I also like it when the man takes control. I don’t like it when the women is too strong and doesn’t let the man lead once in while.