I’m not opposed to the idea, as floated by director Steven Spielberg, of a woman taking on the fedora of Indiana Jones. This doesn’t sound like a gender-swapped reboot of the character after Harrison Ford takes the character out for one last spin, but a continuation of the universe with a woman at the helm. Sounds cool and I’m actually all for it.
Surely, though, there are at least a dozen screenwriters hanging around Hollywood who have scripts sitting in a folder for *new* female action heroes that aren’t tied in some way to a legacy male character. One or two of those have to be decent, right? Why can’t we get one of those?
This is the same problem I’ve had with the comics industry for several years. Both Marvel and DC have long histories of introducing female characters who are derivative of male characters. In some cases, they’re given their own agency and motivations, but too often “Like X, but a girl” is the beginning and end of their character development.
I want to be clear here that this is not me trolling female fans who love these characters. I’m 100% in favor of more characters who aren’t white guys. As someone who’s been a Hawkeye fan since the early 1980s I can say I love Kate Bishop and want more stories featuring her. And from what I read the character of Rori who was inspired by Iron Man to become her own armor-wearing hero was great. More of all this.
But how about more characters with no ties to those who have come before, ones that have their own backstories and motivations for doing what they’re doing?
The idea of a female character taking over for Indiana Jones when he rides off into the sunset (which he literally did at the end of The Last Crusade) is fine, but how about a swashbuckling adventurer with no connection to Henry Jones Jr. in a story set in 1890 San Diego, someone out for fortune and glory during the Gold Rush?
Derivative characters are fine, but they seem like a half-measure. Let’s stop rebooting the same handful of existing female action heroes that have been around for a while (a la Tomb Raider) or making new ones that come with the baggage of male predecessors already around their shoulders. Instead, let’s ask for more original characters that are free of what’s come before and are able to stand on their own.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.