Movie Girls with a Gun blog is dedicated to understanding the conflicted yet attractive elements in popular cinema's representation of women. Dames with Derringers, Babes with Bazookas, and other Women toting Weapons, provide a perfect lens for inquiry into film enthusiasts' desire for these discordant depictions. We count ourselves among the biggest fans.
"All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl." - Jean-Luc Godard 1991

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

All You Need to Make a Movie is a Girl and a Raygun

Girls with Guns blog is back after a hiatus.  No better reason to come back than to start talking about a most delightful sub-sub-sub-genre of girls with guns than the imaginative imagery of steampunk girls with their fantastic and improbable guns.  It is our contention that any genre that has girls in it will eventually have a girl with a gun.  But what about Jane Austen, you ask?  Jane Austen wrote about young ladies --- see how that works?

For those who have not encountered steampunk yet, it is a lively off-shoot of science fiction in which an alternate timeline follows the Victorian technology of steam power to its fullest development.  Think Jules Vern, or the great 60s TV show "Wild Wild West," and you've got the picture. 

Steampunk cuties will be dressed up as neat  goggled steam flight aviatrixes, or cyborgs in 19th Century bustles and petticoats.  Whatever their guns shoot, the operant metal color will be copper.  This is a time that never was, and choice girls with guns who will never be, except doing cosplay at a steampunk convention, maybe.  Or if you are really lucky, lacing up a steampunk corset in your boudoir.

Check out this video for some great examples...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Rootin', Tootin'....Shootin'? Cowgirls with Guns

What's more iconic than a Hollywood cowgirl?  Is she a myth, or does she have some basis in fact?  For a time, since about the 1920s, the idea was floated that cowgirls, like the unicorn, may never have existed.  This rumor was traced back to an anonymously written piece in a midwestern newspaper claiming that real women in the American west wouldn't have been caught dead forsaking their petticoats to ride around roping heifers.  Since then, historians, documentarians, and ethnographers have worked to correct that misperception.

Dale Evans (with gun) & Roy Rogers
According to Teresa Jordan (Cowgirls: Women of the American West ), the definition of cowgirl is, "women who work outside, on ranches, or in the rodeo on a regular basis."  Cowgirls are not typically ranch wives who work primarily in the home.  Jordan says they can also be from the long tradition of mother-daughter ranching teams, or wives who ranch as equal partners to their husbands.

Another student of cowgirl history, Mary Lou LeCompte (Cowgirls of the Rodeo: Pioneer Professional Athletes), also gives a strong argument for rodeo riding cowgirls being the first female pro athletes widely accepted by the public.  Rodeo cowgirls also intersect the Hollywood representation of cowgirls in the movies, because they were hired by producers to do any riding or stunts for female actors in Westerns.

All of this, of course, is very interesting.  But the main issue for our Girls with a Gun blog is did any of these cowgirls pack heat?  Turns out, not many of them did, which is why handling a gun was not central to the above definition of cowgirl.  This comes as a little bit of a surprise, because none of us imagines the iconic cowboy without his six-shooter.

This is not to say that there are not a few outstanding examples of real Wild West girls with guns.  Everyone interested in cowgirls knows about the singular career of Annie Oakley as a trick-shot markswoman in Buffalo Bill Cody's traveling wild west shows of the 1860s.  Outlaw women of the same period like "Bandit Queen" Belle Starr, while strictly speaking were not cowgirls, were also known for shootin' things up.  Belle was in the top criminal class of the time by virtue of hanging out with uber hoodlums like Jesse James and the Younger brothers.

Show biz was a home for both real and make-believe performing cowgirls.  Hollywood films eventually superseded earlier representations of cowgirls found in wild west shows, wide circulation tabloid newspapers like "The Police Gazette," and "penny-dreadful" cheap novelizations.  Most of the cowgirls in film were either singers, like Dale Evans, or trick riders like Reno Browne and Nell O’Day.  Dale Evans, strangely enough, made a killing licensing her name along with partner Roy Rogers to toy gun manufacturers in the 1940s and 50s.

But in a mirror of real life, cowgirls with guns were mostly of the desperado variety.  Donna Matrazzo, producer of the documentary "Reel Cowgirls,"  tells us that cowgirls occupied the "in betweens" of our changing consciousnesses about the social rolls of women.  Matazzo says, "Cowgirl characters might be soft and feminine in one scene ... yet audacious, quick-witted and bold in another."  Screen cowgirls would often be mediators in disputes between dueling men, even if they had to pull out a gun themselves to settle things.

Girls with a Gun Blog had much fun reviewing Western genre films about cowgirls toting guns.  We recommend checking out "The Quick and the Dead" (1995) where Sharon Stone as a gunslinger faces off in a duel.  Also look up "Bad Girls" (1994) with Drew Barrymore and friends as  prostitutes turned gun-happy outlaws.  Last but not least, treat yourself to the unbelievably campy black and white "The Dalton Girls" (1957).  From it we have the absolutely hilarious and perfect clip of one of the Dalton gals serenading her gun!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ballistic Cheesecake: Tactical Girls with Guns

We realize that our perceptual vigilance regarding Girls with Guns is more active than most people's. But we're darned if we don't see these pistol-packing babes everywhere. They are in movies and magazines, video games, and comic books. One of our favorites is a Girls with Guns crossover into pinup calendars called TacGirls.

The origin of the pinup is either ancient or more recent history, depending on whom you consult. Her arrival on the scene is thought to be anytime between cave drawings as decorative art to racy postcards decorating early 20th century doughboys' barracks.

We will draw the line at the ability of the viewer to actually pin the image up, as opposed to hanging it as an art canvas or integrating it with architecture as a fresco. We also think the ephemeral aspect of the image is also integral to the definition of a true pin-up. Whether it's a Gibson Girl beauty clipped out of a magazine, or a Vargas girl on a 1940's calendar, the throw-away nature of the image is key.

The degree of smuttiness is also a factor. Pinups range from kinky bondage, such as Irving Klaw's photographic work with Betty Page, to the innocent gee-whizz cheesecake honeys of The Saturday Evening Post's Gil Elvgren.

Which brings us back to TacGirl's calendar. Those of you, like us, who love a girl with a gun, should check out this website (and/or their booth at the national gun shows) for some great contemporary Girls with Guns pinups. Admittedly, it is a bit of a toss-up as to whether it's the guns or the scantily clad models who provide the bigger thrill for TacGirls calendar's producers. But we get the feeling it's the girls who are the accessories in photos cataloguing an incredible, almost science fiction, array of high-tech rifles.

Besides TacGirls touting themselves as connoisseurs of fine firearms, providing a display not unlike high-performance car catalogues, they also claim not to show any more skin than the cover of the average women's fashion magazine. Keeping their artwork in such prim parameters, without use of direct sexuality, qualifies them as producers of "ballistic cheesecake."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Are Battle Babes also Girls with Guns?

At MovieFanCollectibles, when we contemplate the phenomenon of "Girls with Guns" in cinema, we wonder if a rose by any other name smells as sweet?  There seems to be a number of sub-sets to the action heroine, or anti-heroine, genre so we are confused about the similarities and differences between tropes that sound as if they are related to Girls with Guns, such as "Battle Babes," "Warrior Women," "Soldier Girls," or "Lady Cops."  

G.I. Jane (Demi Moore)
In this very important inquiry the latter two categories, thankfully, are straight forward.  These days, having a gun is pretty much definitional to being in the military or law enforcement.  So Lady Po-Pos and G.I. Janes are most definitely welcome to the Girls with a Gun party.  Others are going to take a little more time to pin down.  For now, let's consider "Battle Babes."

Battle Babes seem like they would be naturally synonymous with Girls with Guns.  But as is often the case with fan culture, things are more complicated than one might think.  It looks as though Battle Babes are mostly about visual representation outside of cinema.  These girls figure most prominently in the fantasy fiction of comics and graphic novels.  

In the west, Battle babes are sexy science fiction cyborgs or sword toting princesses who look like they wouldn't be at all surprised if a unicorn casually strolled into the frame.  Cyborg Battle Babes are most famously rendered by the artists Tariq Raheem or H.R. Giger.  Fighting princesses of never-was are the handiwork of artists like Robert Kraus.  Live action characters like Star Trek's Seven of Nine or Lord of the Rings' Arwen Evenstar are far from original.  They are there to tap into a pre-existing fan base.

Battle Babes are also very prominent in Japanese artwork of manga comic books and anime cartoons.  Where the western Battle Babes are campy scantily-clad fulsome fodder for male fan titillation, the Japanese versions are just a little too barely-legal looking, with a creepy emphasis on the little girls' flashing their tighty-whitey under panties.

Speaking of representation that is tipping over a little far into fetish and kink, another prominent version of Battle Babes are the porn star women who battle each other.  Here we have either girl-on-girl action, or they are side-by-side to see who is the biggest, fastest, whatever, at performing or completing some sort of sex act.  Closely related to the Battle Babe porn, but not as explicit, is the very popular Bikini Karate Babes video games, in which you and a friend make the hot cartoon avatars kick the stuffing out of each other.

Our inquiring minds wanted to know what was up with Battle Babes.  After checking it out, we feel a little sorry we went there.  But for you, we did it anyway.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Are Girls with Guns also Femme Fatales?

Are Girls with Guns also Femme Fatales? We were recently wondering here at MovieFanCollectibles if the two perennial female screen favorites are the same thing? After all, we need to keep our archetypes as straight as our stocking seams, don't we? Our first impulse was to answer, "Yes, of course they are the same." We were surprised to find the answer is more like sometimes they are, but really not so much. Turns out there are a couple of significant differences between our beloved Girls with Guns and her cinematic aunties.

A very important difference between the two is that Girls with Guns do their own dirty work. They pick up the weapons and take care of business themselves. Alternatively, Femme Fatales use the promise of possible sexual rewards, along with a toolbox of other feminine wiles, to get masculine dupes to commit mayhem for them. A cheap cousin of the femme fatale is the vamp, who actually does put out, quid pro quo, by swapping sex for murder. Historic stereotypes for the Femme Fatale are the classic Jezebel figure and Cleopatra.

Sharon Stone in "Basic Instinct"
Probably the most important distinction between Girls with Guns and Femmes Fatales is that femmes are always bad girls. And they are bad girls who must have their come-uppances by the end of the reel. Girls with guns, on the other hand, are often a force for good, and/or an anti-heroine, with many opportunities to come back and fight another day. Femme Fatales must be punished so that the accepted social status quo they have challenged can be put back to rights.

Of course, once we understood that Femmes Fatales were different, we became very curious about where the trope came from. Our hats are off to Barbara Hales and her article "Woman as Sexual Criminal" for tracing down the DNA of these cinematic sirens.

Although sexy bad girls have been on the scene basically forever, the film noire version germinated from a hokey strain of European medical and social science research at the end of the 19th century. This would be the same mad scientist crew who brought us winning ideas like Phrenology. These "experts" busied themselves with the study of women who were moving away from bourgeois norms of home and motherhood in the political and economic upheavals of the late industrial revolution. "What do women want?" the professors asked. Well, they obviously want guns, silly!

Louise Brooks in "Pandora's Box"
Fast forward a little bit further to interwar Germany where these criminalized sexy bad girls are now depicted in the tabloid press as embodiments of social unease about uppity modern women who won't stay down on the farm. As Germany put on its brown shirts and prepared to Nazi-up, we see the celluloid personification of criminal women or Femme Fatales in the German street film genre. Shortly thereafter, what was for many the best Femme Fatale ever, American transplant Louise Brooks, appears in Georg Wilhelm Pabst's 1929 classic "Pandora's Box."

So, we have our answer. A Girl with a Gun is sufficient but not necessary to the definition of Femme Fatale. We get a huge kick out of both of 'em. Although there are some divergent opinions about what other names would top the "best of" lists, here in no particular order are the names of a few American beauties who most agree did a great job playing Hollywood-style Femme Fatales:    

Jane Greer in "Out of the Past"

Kathleen Turner in "Body Heat"

Barbara Stanwyck in "Double Indemnity"

Lana Turner in "The Postman Always Rings Twice"

Sharon Stone in "Basic Instinct"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Just the Facts, Ma'am"

At Movie Fan Collectibles we devote a lot of energy to figuring out why different types of movie memorabilia would be desirable to film enthusiasts and collectors like us. What grabs a person's attention and makes them take notice? What makes a press kit photo, movie still, or poster accrue meaning and value over time?

Nancy Allen & Jill Hennessy armed and ready
In our quest for seeking out the meaning beneath the surface of glossy black and white photo prints, brightly colored lithographed lobby cards, and sprocketed celluloid film strips, we have found some super tropes, if you will, that seem to rise above all the rest. These steadily recurring archetypes, which cut across film history and genre, provide a unique window into a particular type of cinematic depiction that insinuates itself deeply into our subconscious, and keeps us coming back to the theater for more.

For us, "Girls with Guns" (or light sabers, slingshots, plasma blasters, knives, etc.) is just this type of ever-present arch-character trope.  Tho they are camp and cartoonish, these dames packing heat seem to provide a perfect lens on the mostly wish-fulfillment-driven and very idealized representation of women in Hollywood film. Girls with Guns seem to be what most men want from a movie: the ultimate fantasy alignment of sex, violence, and fun.