The Guardians of the Galaxy may be a mostly male crew, but James Gunn wants you to know he won’t ignore women in their next outing. The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 director has promised his film will “not only pass the Bechdel test, but run over it and back up over it again and again in an eighteen-wheeler truck.”
In honor of the Day of the Girl on October 11, Gunn posted a long Facebook message outlining his thoughts on female characters in general, female characters in his own movies, and female characters in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2specifically. You can read the full essay over at his page, but we’ve excerpted some of the pertinent bits below.
First, Gunn calls for better and more varied female characters — because women and girls deserve it, but also because better female characters make for better storytelling.
Women all over the world have been pushed to the sidelines in the interests of men, and their personhood is often forgotten or delegitimized. This is true in the realms of politics and education and religion. But it is also true in the realm of STORIES. That is my personal area of expertise, and that is where I believe women – and girls – deserve the fullness of character that men have often received (I almost said “always received” but then remembered much character writing sucks, regardless of sex).
[…] I am sick of stories where there are a bunch of fully realized male characters and one female character, whose primary characteristic is simply being “the girl” or the personality-less object of some man’s affections. I’m not sick of this because I’m politically correct – those of you who know me know I am far from that – but because it’s boring, and it’s b.s. Likewise, I don’t think only making female characters “strong” is a fix either – you see her all the time these days, the perfect female warrior, who is a reaction to the stories of the past, but who is equally as boring and one-dimensional.
Gunn then goes on to talk about his own efforts to spotlight female characters, including his plans for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
I have done my best, as a male writer, with varying degrees of success, to bring female characters and female stories to the forefront. Whether they’re protagonists like Ana in Dawn of the Dead or Starla in Slither, comedy relief like Deadly Girl, Nightbird, and Power Chick in The Specials, or the insane, scene-stealing roles usually reserved for men, like Libby in SUPER. And I can’t wait for you all to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, with Gamora, Nebula, and Mantis in action, where we not only pass the Bechdel test, but run over it and back up over it again and again in an eighteen-wheeler truck, and where their stories and the men’s stories don’t come at the expense of each other, but are interwoven in a way to strengthen and optimize all of them.
For those who need a refresher, the Bechdel test asks whether a work of fiction 1) has at least two female characters 2) who talk to each other 3) about something other than a man. It’s not a perfect measure of how a work treats women (I don’t think any that can be determined by any single “rule,” and the Bechdel test doesn’t account for, say, a film like Gravity that focuses almost entirely on a single female character), but it’s a good place to start when considering broader trends of inequality in fiction.
While the first Guardians of the Galaxy passed the Bechdel test, it still attracted criticism for some of its other missteps, like the scene in which the extremely literal Drax calls Gamora a whore — not a total dealbreaker for fans who enjoyed the movie otherwise, perhaps, but still a line that rubbed some folks the wrong way. But Gunn seems to have taken those criticisms in stride, so hopefully we can expect even better from Vol. 2.
For starters, we already know the sequel will have lots of female characters to look forward to. In addition to Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan), who are both returning from the first film, Vol. 2 will introduce Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki). That’s a pretty exciting lineup so it’s great to hear Gunn is committed to making the most of all these awesome characters.
The movie also stars Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, Dave Bautista as Drax, Vin Diesel as the voice of Groot, Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket, Michael Rooker as Yondu, and Kurt Russell as Ego the Living Planet. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 lands in theaters May 5, 2017.
Banner Photo Credit: Marvel Studios