Dir. Gina Prince-Bythewood on action films: Cool fights get turned into sexy cat fights

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The Old Guard, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, has been one of Netflix’s most popular movies this summer. It’s also been one of my favorites. The action scenes are gritty and kick-ass and the gay love story is absolutely moving. All of that was of course intentional. In an interview with NPR, Blythewood talked about action film tropes for women and why she was determined to keep in the kiss between characters Joe and Nicky.

On how women are often sexualized in action movies
I’m going to give a generalization. … Female characters are not the center of the story. They’re not integral to the plot or the climax. They are usually, if they do have superpowers, are sidekicks, or comic relief, or do not have full arcs or stories. And the fight scenes, the costume, it is about sexualizing the characters. …

Whenever there’s a cool fight between two women, it always has to turn into the sexy cat fight, as opposed to just these two women are warriors. Let them fight, let’s marvel at their athleticism. That’s what excites me. I know it’s because I am an athlete and grew up an athlete, and those were the women that I grew up with around me.

And also there tends to be a thought that … let’s just design the coolest fights, as opposed to being true to what a fight with a woman would look like. A woman does not have the strength to pick somebody up and throw them up against a wall like a man could, but there are different ways that a woman would fight and look cool.

On the audience’s reaction to the scene of the gay couple kissing
Before COVID shut everything down, we had two audience previews of the film. So I actually got to see it in the theater with 250 people per screening. And they target an audience of people they think will see the film for the previews. And I knew there would be nothing to get me to cut that scene. But we did not know what the audience reaction was going to be at all. And I remember sitting in the theater and as we’re getting closer to the scene, … and they kiss, and the audience erupted in applause, [at] both screenings.

It was such an amazing moment and surprising … But it honestly was tied to this moment when we were shooting. After we’d finished shooting the scene, two different guys from the crew came up to me and said how much they loved the scene and that when they were watching, they didn’t see two men, they just saw two people in love. I was like, wow, I think, maybe we did do our jobs here, because that’s what they felt and that’s what we wanted to feel. Love is love.

[From NPR]

I love action and fantasy films and always get irritated by how they portray women. They either have to be rescued or they cause the downfall of the male lead. Wonder Woman and now The Old Guard have flipped the script and are creating a blueprint for the action genre going forward. I also enjoyed the romantic relationship between Joe and Nicky. Their love for each other was palpable and not treated as taboo or something to gawk at.

I’d like to see more female characters introduced into a sequel, if there is one, and learn more about the backstory of Joe and Nicky’s romance. Gay relationships need to be normalized in movies. Like Bythewood said, “Love is love.”

Thanks Bluesky for the tip!

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11 Responses to “Dir. Gina Prince-Bythewood on action films: Cool fights get turned into sexy cat fights”

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  1. BlueSky says:

    I listened to this interview yesterday. I also did not know that GPB was adopted. I love the Joe/Nicky relationship and I’m glad it’s been well received.

    • Celebitchy says:

      We should have credited you with the tip! I will do that.

    • duchess of hazard says:

      Yeah her white mum gave her up for adoption because she couldn’t see it in herself to have a black child. Supposedly she wrote that dialogue in her movie Beyond The Lights, but in the movie the mum (played by Minnie Driver) kept her child.

  2. Mia4s says:

    I completely get what she’s saying about having two women fight, and she nailed it in this movie. The fight between Charlize and Kiki Layne on the plane is brutal and kind of funny, but not sexualized at all.

    Marvel and Star Wars, etc. need to be VERY careful going forward in looking for kudos for LGBTQ representation. Those tiny moments that are easily cut just look pathetic now in a post Joe and Nicky world. Take out the violence and nothing that goes on with Joe and Nicky rises above a PG rating. If studios can’t measure up, then don’t go looking for praise for doing the absolute least.

  3. Melissai says:

    Gina is truly an underrated director. Her movies are known for amazing character stories. And Old Guard is added to the list! I watched it with my 17 yo son, who’s not usually into any romance. But he said “ if something happens to Nicky or Joe – I’m turning off this movie.” Their story was beautifully directed and acted!

  4. Slowdown says:

    While I found the film utterly boring I LOVE the way the women were portrayed for themselves. It really shows.
    However, I wish the crew saw two men kissing and not “two people in love”. Enough of this erasure.

  5. Jess says:

    Love her and love this movie.

  6. Ariel says:

    I watched and enjoyed the film. A little less “fun” than i like my action movies. Lots of ennui, which makes sense for their situation.
    But reading this makes me want to re-watch.

  7. detritus says:

    More of this lady pls

  8. lucy2 says:

    I need to rewatch! I really enjoyed the film and am hopeful for a sequel.

    She’s an excellent director, and I hope we see a lot more from her too.

  9. LeiDub311 says:

    This movie was so boooooring.