Zack Snyder's Man of Steel Is the Feminist Action Movie of the Year

What Women Really Think
June 14 2013 12:54 PM

Forget Superman. Zack Snyder's Man of Steel Is the Feminist Action Movie of the Year.

man of steel
Not a good girl

Photo by Clay Enos

Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, the Superman reboot that arrives in theaters on Friday, is quite possibly the most feminist action movie of the year. Striking for its absence of naked ladies, it also features a badass Amy Adams performance as Lois Lane and women all over newsrooms and the military, not just in the bedroom. There’s even a ridiculously enjoyable feminist supervillian in this battle between Superman (Henry Cavill) on behalf of humanity and General Zod (Michael Shannon), a Kryptonian criminal who wants to rid Earth of its inhabitants to resurrect his destroyed planet. Zod’s right-hand man is actually a woman: Kryptonian baddie Faora (Antje Traue).

Of course we’ve had female villains before, but Faora is evil for reasons that have nothing to do with her gender. She wasn't sexually betrayed by the hero, like scientist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) in Iron Man 3. She doesn't use her feminine wiles to seduce men or kill them during sex, like Batman and Robin's Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) or GoldenEye’s Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen). Instead, she's a straight-up believer in the genetic superiority of people from Krypton and tells Clark Kent things like, "You're weak, son of El. Unsure of yourself. The fact that you possess a sense of morality and we do not gives us an evolutionary advantage." While kicking his ass.


Snyder and his longtime stunt coordinator Damon Caro, along with fight choreographer Ryan Watson—both of whom worked with Snyder on his female-centric action movie Sucker Punch—have given Faora a quick, jabbing fight technique, making her fast to compensate for the fact that, unlike the hunks of beef she's fighting against and alongside, she isn't physically imposing. While she dresses like the other men in General Zod's forces, Faora's armor has curves rather than working to disguise her gender—fashion in a functional form. And she's just as resilient as the guys, machine-gun fire ricocheting impotently off her chest as a highly entertaining rebuke to the idea that you can't have a female supervillain because you can't have a man beat her up.

I'm all for strong female characters like Lois, who drink bourbon, hang with the boys, and smooch the hero at the end. But Man of Steel is a reminder that tough female action characters don’t have to be good. With a whole generation of female actresses aging out of romantic comedies and into other kinds of movies, and another coming up behind them who've credentialed themselves as action stars before they even hit 20, maybe we can accept that we've got enough role models and enjoy letting some of these girls and women go bad.



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

The Best Thing About the People’s Climate March in NYC

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

John Oliver Debunks the Miss America Pageant’s Claim That It Gives Out $45 Million in Scholarships

Trending News Channel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Over There
Sept. 22 2014 1:29 PM “That’s Called Jim Crow” Philip Gourevitch on America’s hypocritical interventions in Africa.
Sept. 22 2014 1:37 PM Subprime Loans Are Back! And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.
Lexicon Valley
Sept. 22 2014 1:22 PM Is Arabic Really Just One Language? 
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM Escaping the Extreme Christian Fundamentalism of "Quiverfull"
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
Sept. 22 2014 2:12 PM Crusader, Sans Cape The superhero trappings of Gotham are just a clever disguise.
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 12:14 PM Family Court Rules That You Can Serve Someone With Legal Papers Over Facebook
  Health & Science
Sept. 22 2014 12:15 PM The Changing Face of Climate Change Will the leaders of the People’s Climate March now lead the movement?
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.