When it comes to disaster movies, action movies, apocalypse movies, or basically any film that involved imperiled protagonists, women carry a very special burden. That’s because while their male counterparts have to fortify safehouses, locate ammunition, fight off looters, and speak in ominous tones about the dangers that lie ahead, women have to do all that, plus find time to do their hair, makeup, and everything else to look really attractive to those ominous-voiced men.
Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls is covering this disparity, with Dara Lane’s “Deleted Scenes Of Women In Disaster Movies Written By Men.” The video short documents the real challenge facing women surviving in the apocalypse: how to regularly shave all body hair with nothing but a rusty razor in a shallow runoff.
Maybe male screenwriters are projecting themselves into the story and would prefer to be teamed up with an attractive, carefully-manicured woman in high-heel leather boots. It could be the producers who really like how the film is going, but think that box-office success depends on making sure that the female lead has perfectly smooth armpits, despite spending the last four weeks in a burned-out urban hellscape, fleeing irradiated vampire armies. Or maybe the trend is due to the studio head who was briefed on some early footage and only had three words: “Ditch the bra.”
Female characters do seem to be gaining greater agency on screen in disaster movies. They aren’t as uniformly helpless and dependent on men as they once were. But even as women are learning how to load and fire 16-gauge shotguns to dispatch mohawked gangs of nihilist street punks, we’re still a long way from seeing them climb over a chain-link fence to reveal bushy armpit hair, a lack of foundation, slightly messed-up hair, or even just surviving on their own without a strong male lead to form an inexplicable romantic attachment.