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Reviews por­trayed David Leitch’s “Atomic Blonde” as the “female James Bond” flick of the summer — a film in which audi­ences can cheer on Charlize Theron as she cuts down every bad guy in her way. Playing a British spy sent on a mission to East Berlin, Theron stepped into her role of Lor­raine Broughton and was expected to start a new fran­chise. 

Hot on the heels of “Wonder Woman’s” success, “Atomic Blonde” promised to be the film’s darker, cynical step­sister.  It was clear the branding of the film relied on having a strong female lead. For­merly known as “The Coldest City” — the title of the graphic novel on which it was based —the film’s title changed to “Atomic Blonde” to make the fem­inist angle more apparent to audi­ences.

While “Atomic Blonde” had the markings of any great film — an Oscar winning cast, a respected director, a large budget, and a bril­liant sound­track — it missed its mark. 
“Atomic Blonde” was sexy. It was dripping with deli­cious visuals and scored to a new wave per­fection. Mir­roring the noir style of the graphic novel, the film was steeped in moody colors, reflecting the chill of Cold-War era Berlin, and reminding the audience that the pro­tag­onist, Broughton, has ice in place of a heart. Watching the fight sequences was like watching a beau­tiful, brutal ballet dancer glide across the screen, packing punches at each turn and sliding effort­lessly into kill shots. But that’s all the film was — beau­tiful. It was all surface — no sub­stance. 

Rather than being the killer heroine audi­ences were promised, we received a weaponized Barbie who was dressed to kill. We see Theron sip vodka, remove sun­glasses, and smoke cig­a­rettes for two hours. Her char­acter has no back­story and no depth, but boy did she look great. 

Between the per­fectly coor­di­nated outfits, leather jackets, and high heels, I found myself paying more attention to what she was wearing than the plot of the film. Perhaps that was the direc­tor’s intention. 

“Atomic Blonde” was not a fem­inist film, it was a male fantasy brought to fruition. 

I’ll admit, it would be hard not to sex­u­alize Theron. She’s gor­geous, but it’s shameful the film was mar­keted as a fem­inist success. The film is full of needless slow pans over Charlize’s barely dressed body. She seduc­tively shares a cig­a­rette with a man she’s strad­dling and attempting to subdue. Broughton shoots people and slinks into a new scantily-clad dress just in time to hit the club — a club wherein she meets a French woman whom she quickly beds. Yes, in addition to failing fem­inism, “Atomic Blonde” under­mines LGBTQ rep­re­sen­tation by playing on the “girl-on-girl” fantasy. 

This isn’t the first time a “fem­inist” film failed fem­inism. Hol­lywood con­tin­ually tramples potential female role models, while cap­i­tal­izing on the fem­inist “brand.”  It’s a cycle of behavior that needs to end. Not only is this move unimag­i­native and boring­ — I’m certain audi­ences have seen enough scantily-clad gun­slingers to last them a lifetime — it’s toxic to society’s view of women. 

Though films fre­quently feature female leads, one would think that Hol­lywood would move past some of its insti­tu­tion­alized hang-ups. 

Women held 29 percent of the lead roles in the 100 highest-grossing films in 2016, according to a study by the Center for the Study of Women in Tele­vision and Film at San Diego State Uni­versity. Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman” was a smash success. Director Sofia Coppola just won Best Director at Cannes with “Beguiled.” 

Nev­er­theless, female directors con­stitute the smallest minority within the industry, accounting for only 7 percent of the films made in 2016, according to the San Diego State study. As a result, the vast majority of female leads are in the hands of male directors, and so far, their ability to create a strong female char­acter has proved trou­bling 

 Director Joss Whedon was orig­i­nally intended to write and direct “Wonder Woman.” His script, which leaked to the public after Jenkins’ version debuted, was so egre­giously sexist DC Comics dis­tanced itself from the mess. Whedon’s “Wonder Woman” reads about as well as a cheap erotic novel. His script is so clearly written from per­spective of a leerin
g male, it’s sick­ening. 

Whe­don’s Wonder Woman dances provoca­tively in a nightclub to gain the attention of an enemy while male onlookers ogle at her beauty. She’s abused, belittled, and scoffed at by men.  She’s called a “bitch,” a “whore,” a “feisty little filly.” Whedon’s Wonder Woman is hardly the strong, com­pas­sionate char­acter Patty Jenkins offered. Mind you, Whedon is still set todirect Warner Brothers “Bat Girl” and “Justice League.”

Female fans watched in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” as hero Black Widow was reduced to an uber-sexy, fer­tility-obsessed woman, who’s strung along by her male costar. They watched as DC’s Harley Quinn danced in a nightclub wearing a dog collar bearing the name of her lover. 

These char­acters could have been well-rounded, pow­erful women. Each was reduced to an object of the male gaze. In action films, the male gaze is the most pal­pable, and unless Hol­lywood becomes more open to the female per­spective and female directors within the genre, the cycle of weaponized Barbies will persist. 

Kayla Stetezel is a senior studying  Mar­keting Man­agement

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Kayla Stetzel
Kayla Stetzel has been reporting for the Collegian since 2013. She is resident of Ft. Wayne Indiana. She is a Marketing Management major with a focus in Law. When’s she’s not writing or studying case files, she’s keeping up to date with music industry news or volunteering with animals. She plans on attending law school with the intent of becoming an entertainment attorney. email: kstetzel@hillsdale.edu | twitter: @KaylaStetzel