By Chris Pavone

Columbia Pictures / Everett
Rufus Sewell (left) and Angelina Jolie in ‘The Tourist.’

Have you noticed how many women have been beating the crap out of people in movies recently? Lisbeth Salander, that tattooed girl herself, is of course the surly new archetype of ass-kicking woman. But last year there was also the teenage version of the affectless taker-of-names, in the highly enjoyable film Hanna. The assassin version was protagonist of the easily forgettable Columbiana, and the mercenary version in the equally forgettable Haywire, while The Tourist was the surprisingly entertaining Angelina Jolie version. Then there’s Kate Beckinsale in Underworld, the requisite vampire version (because these days you need a vampire version of absolutely everything), a darker heir to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And soon to arrive is the film adaptation of the wildly popular Hunger Games trilogy, promising to fulfill both the dystopian and the young-adult versions in one fell swoop.

This is also happening on television, most notably with Piper Perabo’s oddly compelling combination of ass-kicking and wisecracking and tight-skirt-wearing, on Covert Affairs, a more comedic, less preposterous (but alas less good) Alias.

What’s with all this female-perpetrated violence? Two and a half years ago, when I started writing a thriller called The Expats about a spy turned expat homemaker who relapses, I thought I was doing something marginally original. Sure, Angelina Jolie had been beating people up for years, but she was a statistical outlier in a field populated by her beau and his pals, while Rooney Mara was playing an ex-girlfriend. Now everywhere I turn there are stoic, buff women running around shooting guns, and elbowing people in their tracheas. (And by “people,” I mean men; these women are not, for the most part, beating each other up.)

Why? Is this Fourth Wave Feminism, wherein women are the new action heroes—the assassins, the spies, the hired guns, the defenders against the occult? (We even have an actual nonfiction First Lady who looks like she has a fearsome right hook, a far cry from the Rosalynn Carters and Nancy Reagans of my youth.) Is this a bona fide cultural shift, in the way we view gender roles? Or just a venal marketing shift, in the way moviemakers are angling to earn a buck? Or both?

 

Read full article here: http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2012/03/23/the-fourth-wave-of-feminism-femme-fatale/