Hello from muggy San Diego! For one of my first activities here at Comic-Con, I attended a panel led by Entertainment Weekly titled "Wonder Women: Female Power Icons in Pop Culture" and featuring Sigourney Weaver, Eliza Dushku, Zoe Saldana and Elizabeth Mitchell in the hot seats.
The lively discussion began with appreciative cheers for each woman and a standing ovation for Sigourney Weaver, which, to be honest, made me feel a little choked up, right off the bat. In its entirety, the panel was nothing short of enlightening and inspiring — two things I didn't totally expect from this one.
Here are some highlights:
Television is light-years ahead of the film world when it comes to women's roles: All four women agreed that it's exceptionally cool that women can play more kickass roles now than ever before, though they all acknowledged that opportunities are greater on television than in movies. Sigourney Weaver: "Our society is changing much more quickly than Hollywood understands. . . . it's starting in television because television is a more exact reflection of what's going on in the world."
Eliza Dushku talked about working with Joss Whedon, Dollhouse's next season, and sexuality in storytelling: In answer to the question of whether there are more opportunities for women in sci-fi these days, Dushku stated that "it's really about who you work with and who the writers are and who your creators are," which is why she sought out Joss Whedon for her next role. "Ask and ye shall receive! I asked Joss to make me the most kickass, multi-dimensional character he'd ever written and he delivered." She explained that her character on Dollhouse, Echo, "has become a product of all of the personalities," but next season "absolutely will have Echo having a self-awareness." On the topic of sexualizing women in sci-fi: "I think sexuality is something that . . . can be manipulated and it can be disgustingly portrayed and it can be very beautiful and feminine and powerful. . . . Sex is part of our society and . . . it can be used in a smart and thought-provoking and realistic way. . . . it can be used as a tool."
For more intriguing bits and pieces from the panel,
Sigourney Weaver's awesomest quotes:
- After the moderator introduced her as the "single most successful female action franchise of all time" — "I know MTV named [Ripley] the second biggest 'badass' after Clint Eastwood but you know, I think she could take him." Roaring cheers ensued.
- In regard to the "challenge" of writing good female characters — "The challenge that some writers take on very well . . . they're not trying to write a woman action figure, they're creating a character that has a certain drive and . . . ferocity. . . . I never thought about being 'a woman,' I was just playing a person. . . . There's a hero in each of us."
- She added that "Hollywood goes a little crazy trying to figure out what you're supposed to wear" as a female action hero. "I'm just glad I got to wear clothes" in the Alien movies.
- On the "glass ceiling" — "I think the sky is open, I don't believe there's a ceiling and if there is one, we'll just kick. Our. Way. Out."
- When asked whether she hopes Hollywood will bring forth more roles for gay and lesbian action heroes and superheroes — "I think it's a mistake to look to Hollywood as a breaker-down of sociological [boundaries]." She encourages people to just make their own projects with their own kinds of characters because Hollywood is always many steps behind, and we can't look to Hollywood to be a leader.
Zoe Saldana talked about women's roles progressing through education: Saldana talked much about how far women have come in entertainment and that when it comes to progressing further, "Everything starts with education, and instead of fighting against a room full of men and try to convince them that I should wear pants . . . you have to learn how to fight these battles and it's all through education and putting them in our shoes." When an audience member asked why they have to cast Megan Fox as Wonder Woman instead of someone older and more regal, she replied, "I happen to have a huge crush on Megan Fox, I'm not hating on that possibility" but that "60-year-old men want to see tiny 25-year-old little girls and . . . those are the ones who cut checks."
Elizabeth Mitchell talked about her role on Lost and getting better roles after the age of 30: Mitchell was predictably coy when answering any question about her role as Juliet on Lost, a role that the EW moderator called "morally slippery," and "the most complicated female character that any woman has had to play on television." Mitchell explained that she likes playing "complicated women, they're enticing to me," and that she was told by Lost producers to say that Juliet's fate "just depends on whether Jack's plan works or not." When the issue of age came up, she emphatically stated that "I have played better roles now after the age of 30. . . . I was called sexy for the first time at the age of 38 and I was thrilled! . . . I think we're allowed to be sexier, I think we're allowed to be all of those things after the age of 30. That has, of course, been in television," she added, acknowledging once again that opportunities for women in TV are greater than those in movies.