A Guardians of the Galaxy Reflection Brought to You by the Number 6

by sketchyfeminist

There are five members of the central hero team of the recent Guardians of the Galaxy movie, but for me, the most important number of the film is the number six.

I recently saw Guardians of the Galaxy (in theaters for the second time), and I have to say, I’m impressed. Not because of the action scenes or the humor or the soundtrack or the CGI characters actually being engaging or–

Well, actually, OK, I’m impressed by all of those things.

But one of the many things that impresses me about everyone’s new favorite Marvel movie is that it has women in it.

Specifically, six women, who all have either names or titles, have lines, and are memorable enough for me to remember.

Now, a man’s still the main hero (though Gamora’s doing a LOT of the heavy lifting, plot-wise) and a man’s still the main villain (though I cannot get over the gorgeous character design for Nebula–that’s quite a look) but nonetheless: women. With personalities and everything. Six of them.

There are six female characters (Peter’s mother [Meredith Quill], Bereet, Gamora, Nebula, Carina and Nova Prime) with, like, entire lines. And even if two (Peter’s Mom, Nova Prime) are referred to by title instead of by name, at least they’re important to the story. And even if we only learn Bereet’s name because Star-Lord forgets it … heck, I’ll take it.

Because in Avengers, Black Widow and Maria Hill had lines, but not to each other (except maybe “Welcome to the Hellicarrier”), and Pepper talked to Tony and then later worried about Tony, and Jane Foster was bizarrely MIA in spite of being one of the world’s only two experts on the thing the movie was about. And that was pretty much all we got for female representation in our last big Marvel team-up movie.

So it was nice to see women in this movie. I’m not sure when last I saw an action movie with six female speaking parts in it. Now, six is not that big a number. But. Most of the action movies I’ve seen recently have been either Marvel or Star Trek, and I don’t think either franchise has released anything else in the last few years with that many speaking parts for women in it. Aside from movies that target women as a kind of “special interest” group, I think that very few movies, in general, have 6+ speaking parts for women in them. And, in case you were wondering, Guardians still has well over six speaking parts for dudes. By like, a lot.

Six may be a small number to be happy about, but still, I’m happy about it.

I’m happy about it even if this movie remembered the straight male gaze (which it guided toward the lower half or Gamora’s shapely body on more than one occasion) while kind of forgetting that some people like to objectify men, too (ooh, check out Star-Lord … in his long coat and mask). And before anyone points out that Drax is showing his hulking, muscle-bound chest pretty much the entire movie or that Groot has no clothes at all, let me just point out to you that they are not sexualized characters. Yes, my argument here is that Drax is no more sexualized than the guy composed entirely of vegetable matter CGI. This has a lot to do with camera angles, characterization, body language and the fact that there are no lingering shots of their butts.

We got that one scene of Star-Lord getting deloused in the prison, I guess, as part of the “Hooked on a Feeling” sequence. That was more funny than sexy, though. (And shot in a way that evoked very straightforward, face-off masculinity more than vulnerability.) Props to the producers, however, for resisting a Gamora prison shower scene, even when they could have tied it to the plot and such.

Four of the speaking-part ladies (the exceptions being Peter’s Mom and Nova Prime) were dressed in sexually-evocative ways, from Gamora’s catsuit to Nebula’s catsuit to Gamora’s other catsuit to Bereet’s shirt and undies (I think that’s what she was wearing) to Carina’s fetish dress with wrist cuffs to Gamora’s plunging mini-dress. Huh. Gamora has a lot of clothes for an assassin on the run.

Not that I hated said clothes. They were stylish; they looked cool. Carina’s outfit disturbed me with its “living-doll” vibe, but then again, it was supposed to. And there was probably some desire on the part of the filmmakers to prove to the audience that Gamora’s green goes all the way down. (In part because of the sexy factor and in part because an alien color-makeup feels more complete if it’s not just face and hands.)

And if I had the money for cosplay, and the time to go to events where cosplay happens, I would probably dress up as Nebula. That’s one villain who’s all style over substance, but I just don’t care, because the style is that good.

So, even if the studio kind of forgot that (straight, bi) women were looking (or remembered and just didn’t care), it still felt like they remembered that we were watching. This was a much more balanced (if still really skewed) ratio of male-to-female characters than I’ve come to expect from Marvel movies, and that was really nice. It was especially refreshing to see a woman in position of political power in Glenn Close’s Nova Prime.

I do have a nit to pick, as always: Why does Drax call Gamora a “green whore” at the end, when he’s making nice with everybody? They spent the whole movie explaining how Drax’s people were super-duper literal and didn’t get metaphor, and yet, as far as we know, Gamora has never exchanged sex for money. (At least, it didn’t come up in the movie.) Was Drax learning how to metaphorically slut-shame women part of his character development or something?

And as a side note: Isn’t Gamora just kind of the universe’s most adorable assassin? She’s clearly the most ethical of the Guardians, at least in terms of her behavior in the course of the movie. (The group’s assassin is its moral compass. Makes sense.) And when she came in with “We’re just like Kevin Bacon!”, she ensured that I would love her forever. After Star Trek: Into Darkeness, Avatar, and now this, it’s starting to look like Zoe Saldana specializes in playing the sexy female “heart” of big-budget, male-led action SF cinema.

Related Reading (mostly from a few months ago, but still worth a look if you missed it then):

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