PRINCESS WARRIOR MYTH
Over the weekend I watched a couple of movies, just for something a bit different. One of them was “Conan” with Arnold. I hadn’t seen that one in over twenty years so it was mostly new to me ( I remembered the human powered grain grinder and absolutely nothing else ). And it got me thinking about the attraction of the Warrior Princess. What made it so successful and why has it endured ( and why, Baby Jesus, why has it morphed into reality )? I can’t remember how successful Conan was in the theatres, but as you know the writers Milius and Stone went on to great things, as did Schwarzenegger. So perhaps even if it took years and a cult following to make all of them profitable, the descendants of this movie morphed into quite the money machine. Okay, Conan was a pretty decent sword and sorcery film. Arnold was the most wooden and robotic of all his movies, even showing a wider range of emotion as a Terminator. So I wouldn’t call his contribution all that important. The writers did a great job, given the limitations of the genre with the current technology ( today it would be all special effects, back then it was a very good story- again, for its genre, relatively speaking of what Hollywood turns out ). I might be pulling a foul smelling guess out of my ass, but I would wager that one important contributing factor in its success ( if not profitability, at least as a launch vehicle ) was its help mainstreaming the Warrior Princess myth.
Like all myths, it was accidentally created and survived because it attached itself to the popular imagination, but soon it morphed into a center for profit and power ( also, as other myths did ). While the basic appeal to the average audience of younger males was sex ( the average male thinks mostly about sex, the younger versions ONLY about sex. Throw in one boob shot and the movie has a 50/50 chance of breaking even ), of course there is also a wider appeal. There has to be, to become a myth. I think females appreciated the message of empowerment, while the older males probably used the message as a lubricant for Women’s Lib. Women were free already by the beginning of the 80’s, the war had already been fought and only the mopping up was needed. I think most males had already accepted the inevitable. But when a myth is being formed that soft sells a bitter pill that must be swallowed, the myth will catch on. I think the Princess Warrior story makes it okay to like ( or at least, dislike less ) combative women attempting to usurp men’s roles. In Conan, the Queen Of Thieves character, a yummy blond dish ( not a lot of boob in the movie. One full on frontal, the rest very discreetly hinted at. Blondie, mores the pity, was hinted at. I think. We are talking about a slightly grainy VHS tape and a seven inch TV screen ), obviously impressed by mute slabs of beef, vows to stand by her man in a fight, to the death. And bingo was his name, oh. I think right there was the clincher for the myth.
We aren’t buying into the woman warrior idea as much as reaffirming the traditional role of women as our faithful life- long mates. Women’s lib took a bit bite out that, and it had to be sorely missed even so soon after the bra burning started ( even if women demanded permission to emulate male roles, one of the first being sexual promiscuity, they never considered the consequences or even the reason the rules were as they were ). Women, in the Warrior Princess myth, were bonding with us in combat. Now, obviously, this makes sense as a myth, but of course reality tells us otherwise. The Russians never repeated the female military call up after The Great Patriotic War was won. There were more issues with it than benefits ( outside of dire necessity ). The Israelis did the same. Tried, then abandoned women in combat ( the Myth continues, just in the movie World War Z when an Israeli hottie or three protects the character from zombies. I don’t know if this is based on reality. Perhaps women are trained, but never used until invasion. I used to have an Israeli minion. I don’t know if I pissed him off too much with rude comments ).
I don’t know if women liked the bonding message, or just got all wet over the “bitches rule, we don’t need no stinking men” aspect of it. But they obviously like the myth just as much as we do, for whatever reason. It really got traction with Sara Connor in Terminator. Cameron ( another James, so you expect greatness ) is a kick ass director and knows how to portray the myth better than most. Raley and the Latino machinegunner in Aliens, Terminator, the one gal in the Blue Aliens movie. I don’t know where it all started. The paintings that sold all the Dungeons and Dragons games, perhaps. The comic Heavy Metal? But it seems Conan started, or at least was one of them that started, the myth in movies. It wouldn’t have happened at another time, most likely. Movies reflect the culture of the times. Sara came next, and nailed it with perfection, and everyone dogpiled on after that. And we never looked back. And I imagine, in the not to distant future, no one will realize why the myth got started or caught on ( and please note, I’m not saying this was a first or unique. I’m saying this is where it started in popular movies, and perhaps why ).
A great book was also read this weekend. “Redaction” by Linda Andrews. Not the best post-apocalypse. It suffered from the painless purging, and military worship ( and, doubtful logistics enabling the impossible ). Yet, this is the work of a top notch author and even if you only get entertained rather than schooled while reading this, it was well worth it. I’ll be getting both sequels.
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