Where are the Lesbian Action Heroes?


The Huntsman: Winter’s War comes out next month, and the casting is a queer woman’s dream: Emily Blunt as the Ice Queen. Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen. Jessica Chastain as the Warrior. Chastain, with her bladed lower arm guards, looks particularly fierce in her movie poster, and I thought wistfully as I looked at it, “If only they made her a swashbuckling lesbian!”


It was a subversive, melancholy idea because clearly her character is meant for Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman, as we learn from watching them strip in the movie preview. Besides, as everyone knows, major studios don’t do swashbuckling lesbians, and definitely not in movies they hope will become blockbusters. But why shouldn’t a swashbuckling lesbian be in a blockbuster movie? Why do studios assume viewers will automatically reject a Princess Charming?

The path to a lesbian action hero is both easy and at the same time requires a tectonic shift in how Hollywood treats queer female characters. Therefore, the steps to get there are twofold. Step one, Hollywood needs to include lesbians as main characters in mainstream movies more consistently. Since the early 2000s, there have been queer female leads in a handful of A-list dramas as well as B-list indies. These numbers may be a world better than the 1990s and before, but they are nevertheless paltry. To have lesbian action heroes, we first need more queer female characters.

Step two, Hollywood must start including queer female leads in genres other than drama (with an occasional comedy or horror movie thrown in). There are many film genres: action, adventure, animation, comedy, crime, drama, family, fantasy, history, horror, musicals, mysteries, romance, sci-fi, sports, thrillers, war, and westerns, to name a few. With so many genres, why have queer female leads been relegated to such a narrow subset of them? Where are the queer lady astronauts? Where are the lesbian soldiers? Why no lesbian detectives?

The closest the queer female community has come to having a queer main character in an action/adventure movie is with D.E.B.S. We can’t have a lesbian action hero if the only movies with lesbian leads are movies like The Kids are All Right.


One reason studios probably have rejected the idea of a lesbian action hero is an assumption on the part of producers that the public (domestic and international) will reject a gay lead because of homophobia. However, the entertainment industry has been shown to hold antiquated views of US social attitudes. When Katy Perry’s record label Capital Records released the song “I Kissed a Girl” in 2008, for example, it worried about marketing the song, particularly in the Bible Belt. Capital Records was wrong. The hit sold 8 million copies, was five times platinum in the US, and topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for seven consecutive weeks. Perry even sang it during her halftime show at Super Bowl XLIX in 2015. The American public is more accepting than we give it credit for, at times.  

So why not give lesbian action heroes a try? Who’s to say that a female Transporter wouldn’t draw just as large a crowd as a male? Why shouldn’t a Jane Bond bed as many women as James? So long as Hollywood commits to writing minority characters with three-dimensionality and depth, now is an excellent time to introduce some women who kick butt and love other women. To help Hollywood out, I’ve included some movie ideas. Add your own in the comments section!

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The Tomb Raider brand reboots away from the video game series in new plotline starring Troian Bellisario as protagonist Jane Grey. Jane is a young British archeologist on the trail of the Cintamani Stone, a philosopher’s stone-type relic alleged to have belonged to the Buddha and to grant wishes and now lost somewhere in Southeast Asia. The stone is almost within her grasp when it is snatched away by a shadowy group called The Order, which hopes to use the Cintamani Stone to achieve world domination. To retrieve the relic, Jane enlists the help of an expatriate, former Israeli sniper named Yael, whose motives are unclear but with whom her chemistry is undeniable. 

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Roz Williams, played by Zoe Kravitz, is a small time cat burglar. Selena Velasquez is a high society woman with an appetite for collecting the possessions of others. Selena hires Roz to steal $5 million worth of diamonds and precious jewels from a New York socialite and then lay low while the dust settles. Things go awry mid-heist when Roz discovers the mark is an ex-girlfriend—and the possession Selena wants is not the diamonds, but Roz herself.

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Li Na is an American of Chinese descent teaching English in Hong Kong. To make extra pocket money, she begins gambling on the side but quickly loses control of the situation when she takes a loan from Shui Fong, a Triad gang. Now she must avoid being pulled into the gang war between the 14K Triad and Shui Fong while finding a way to pay back $15,000 in three days—without becoming distracted by the sensuous Wang Yan, played by Kristin Kreuk, the leader of the 14K who seems to always be just around the corner and has her own plans for Li.

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Circa AD 60, Queen Boudica of the Iceni tribe led a bloody uprising against the occupying Romans that almost led the Romans to abandon Britain. This epic, historic tale waves together Boudica’s strength of character and determination with the cunning and skill of her (imagined) general Andraste, who may be losing touch with reality as she is haunted by flashbacks of her murdered female lover. Boudica is played by Kate Winslet while Andraste is played by Emily Blunt.     


A tightly paced historical drama about the days after the Challenger disaster as NASA scrambles to determine why the shuttle exploded, killing all aboard while millions of Americans watched on TV. Key to the Rogers Commission is astronaut Sally Ride, who rode the shuttle into space two years before and who helps crack the investigation by suggesting that the explosion might have been caused by an O-Ring malfunction. Sally also leaks key information to the press that NASA management knew ahead of the launch there was a potential problem with the mission. In the background, Sally’s marriage to fellow astronaut Steven Hawley is dissolving as she begins a relationship with lifelong friend Tam O’Shaughnessy


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