There are relatively few movies dedicated to female combative athletes. Formerly, professional wrestling was the primary female combative "sport" which was presented as real. Examples: ...ALL THE MARBLES (1981), AMERICAN ANGELS. BAPTISM OF BLOOD (1989). Now, they give preferences to boxing; two movies should be mentioned for this theme: GIRLFIGHT (2000) and MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004) ) awarded by a few Oscars.
The first sport movies, in which female combatants were depicted, were film about pro wrestling - the popular USA pseudo-competitive show. "Professional wrestling" is a staged spectacle, which requires good physical abilities, acrobatic techniques and courage. Generally, creators of such movies attempted to reveal fierce struggle and rivalry on the ring (and beyond). Some time a female wrestler was a rarity and the only place she may be seen was the pro ring. In the movie RACKET GIRLS (PIN DOWN GIRLS, 1951) mentioned in the the Part III a group of women wrestlers actively trains and competes on the ring against a background of a crime plot. This film of poor quality (as many of such movies are) got far-famed just thanks to the fact that the wrestler girls participated in it - be they removed nothing would remain. The most known pro wrestling film, ALL THE MARBLES (1981) by Robert Aldrich produced at a time when female wrestling was popular only with a very limited audience, is a hilarious foray into the world of fringe sports. The performances of Laurene London (as well as ace-high actor Peter Falk allow the film's protagonists to come across as original and sincere heroes. Such movies just made ready for the downright "burst" of interest in women's combat happened in the late 1980s.
The film BELOW THE BELT (1980) should also be mentioned among these moves. A troupe of wrestlers, mostly dreary unattractive women, travels from small town to small town earning peanuts - a kind of journey film. In some regards, the film is realistic, but not when they feature matches presented as legit (wrestling slang for real). In the vast expanses of the American provinces, you feel freedom but at the same time, this is a dismal world, which the heroines want to escape.
Women's pro wrestling is especially popular in Mexico where in 1960s several movies were filmed with similar names: "Wrestlers against..." (LUCJADORAS CONTRA...): WRESTLING WOMEN AGAINST THE MAD DOCTOR (1963), WRESTLING WOMEN AGAINST THE AZTEC MUMMY (1964), в третьем - реслерша борется с роботом-убийцей (WRESTLING WOMEN AGAINST THE MURDEROUS ROBOT (1969).
The first widely known and awarded film depicting the world of women's boxing is GIRLFIGHT (2000) by Karyn Kusama. Despite the lack of experience in acting and boxing, Michelle Rodriguez was auditioned, along with another 350 girls. After various trials inside an actual boxing ring and five arduous months of training a Brooklyn gym, she was finally chosen to portray the role of Diana Guzman. As soon as the independent film began making the rounds at various film festivals, Michelle began gaining critical acclaim for her performance earning her awards and becoming really a "tough girl" of Hollywood. As Michelle grew accustomed in the role of a combatant, she played more combative roles; for instance, in BLOODRAYNE (2005) and in the first part of "Обители зла" (RESIDENT EVIL (2002) by Paul W.S. Anderson (accompanied by another combative lady, Milla Jovovich).
After "Girlfight", simplified versions of the movie appeared looking alike in both plots and names. In these movies, women's combat is the essential subject rather than a flavoring. All of them (except probably "Million dollar baby") are closed by the plot to Rocky - the heroines force their way to the champion pedestal - from unknown novices to challengers for champion belts. Tough opponents always exist (current champions or challengers) which are usually not totally negative but somehow defective. An interim defeat usually happens in the middle of the film, after which she overcomes herself and achieves a success -- the happy end and the victory. Sometimes attempts are made to show the aversion of women's boxing by those around, for example, in the movie HONEYBEE (2001). All the same, some film of this genre contain living characters and real problems and feelings, even though the plots are quite commonplace.
Let's consider the much-talked-of movie MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004) by Clint Eastwood. It's probably the first attempt to make a film about real women in combative sports in the genre of serious drama (Eastwood's soapbox) rather than a light entertaining movie. The result: Oscars and good box-office returns. As to the sport aspect of the movie, sports specialists split: while some of them think that athletically built Hilary Swank well depicts a female boxer (especially during the training in gym), others discover a lot of inaccuracy and mistakes. There are those who consider the "bouts" playing by Swank as having little to do with real boxing and reminding Rocky's unreal fights and even pro wrestling. In fact, all bouts consist of 2-3 second scenes, in which Swank industriously accomplishes a couple of moves; so, there is no impression that the bouts are real - lack of the experience is striking. Some of them are skeptical about prominent boxer Lucia Rijker's participation in the movie. For instance, Sumya Anani said: "She'll fight the 'Million Dollar Baby' from Missouri, but she won't fight the 'Island Girl' (Anani's nickname - FSCC) from Kansas" alluding to Rijker's not responding for her challenge in 2004 as well as to her rejection fighting against Lisa Holewyne and Christy Martin. In any event, women's boxing is developed by effort of real female boxers rather than Hollywood movies.
Film about boxing (as well as sport movie in general) are usually notable for a kind of sketchiness (in the manner of "Bang, smack, crack - knockout!" ) so this relatively refreshing female line is used for livening up this genre. By the way, colorful Lucia Rijker has played a more sport roles; in particular, a trainer in VERONICA'S FIGHT MASTER (1995) and a roller player in RALLERBALL (2002).
Although such movies really accustom the public to courageous appearance of combative women, the situation with women's boxing as a show is similar to many other sports. Since women are much less than men interested in watching sports and real sports fans and connoisseurs prefer watching matches in 'major leagues' rather than in 'minor leagues', women's boxing will never be even close to men's boxing as far as popularity and revenue are concerned (as it happens with soccer and other sports).
In fact, "Million dollar baby" takes a lead in the list of the Top 50 sport movies by IMDb) whereas "Girlfight" is placed at the 40th position. If it is remembered that there are tons of sport movies, even the 40th position is pretty good. "Racket girls" and "Rollerball" are among the Bottom 10 sport movies - at the ninth and seventh places from the bottom respectively.
Besides feature films, many documentaries have been made about combative women. At the dawn of cinematograph, one of its creators, illustrious inventor Thomas Edison filmed a short film GORDON SISTERS BOXING (1901) in which two ladies wearing knee dresses boxed in a scenic garden. Although this bout was not too competitive, both boxers demonstrated quite good techniques, dexterity and agility. In fact, they exchanged with a few perceptible punches in the head. Probably, Edison selected this subject for experimenting with filming with an ulterior motive - he considered women's boxing as a dynamic, nice and unusual spectacle being worthy of the new art of cinema. Actually, this short movie is not just the first movie about women's boxing but also the first ever reliable testimony of female boxing match.
Lately, several documentaries were made about women in combative sports. The most of them emphasize women equality and emancipation (women should be equal to men in any area). For instance, Katya Bankowsky made the movie SHADOW BOXERS (1999) with Lucia Rijker as a central personage. A movie critic sarcastically writes: "As 'the weaker sex,' women must be sheltered from violence and physicality, just as they are to be kept out of the workplace, politics, and all things not directly related to being a housewife." Lucia Rijker was filmed in other documentaries: BORN TO FIGHT (2000), THUNDERBOX (2000) as well as THE L WORD. LACUNA (2005) about a group of Californian Lesbians (she plays herself, she plays a trainer).
As to women's pro wrestlers, there are even more "documentaries" - just two examples: WRESTLING WOMEN USA! (2001) with wrestlers from Mildred Burke to contemporaries and WRESTLING QUEEN (1975) about famous pro wrestler Vivian Vachon who later died via a car accident at age 40.
Actually, women's boxing occasionally appeared on the screens before "Girlfight"; for example, women's boxing bouts are filmed in the movie SHE GOOD FIGHTER (1995).
Besides boxing, women play a similar sport, less known but more popular among women - kickboxing. In the distinctive movie (SHADOW GLORIES (2001) former kickboxer Penn with his companion CJ Keyes (Sarah Rachel Isenberg)), establishes a sport school where teaches his students, especially the children, of learning how to fight so that they never have to. However, CJ needs to test her mettle, to make certain that no one, no man, will ever be able to beat her as her dad beat her mom. CJ begs Penn to teach her all that he knows about fighting so she can go professional and eventually break the gender barrier to become the best fighter imaginable. And that means fighting a man whose unbeaten record of brutality includes killing two men in the ring - Penn's blood lusting rival, heavyweight champion Killer Kuzinski. A man at the very crossroads of his life, Penn understands CJ all too well. He reluctantly agrees to grant CJ's wish in order to help her achieve her goals. The majority of the running time is spent preparing for the big fight. The impossible and unreal fight C.J. against the gargantuan "Killer" physically surpassing her by far would be considered mock unless rivers of blood and the deadly outcome... By the way, the move reminded a reviewer, "so much of something that would come from Maxim Gorky."
In the Part III of this review, oriental martial arts were mentioned as the basic technique used by female fighters in crime movies. In the movie ANGELFIST (1993) tough women's competitions in a form of martial arts (reminding karate) are shown, in which a Los Angeles policewoman (Сatya Sassoon) fiercely fights against an agent-werewolf.
ПBesides pro wrestling, boxing and martial arts, there is one more popular (actually, merely all-women) quasi-combative sport - "Roller Derby" that is not rare subject in movies. Its rules are quite complex; to make it simple - two teams of roller girls run circle-wise around the rink tumbling each other. Heated roller girls, blowup, high speed, ardor, collisions, drops, scrambles and fighting (banned by the rules but happening sometimes) -- all these are even more exciting and cinematic than boxing or wrestling. Besides, the roller girls are viragos who are tough not only on the ring with all consequences. By the way, the cinematic roller girls fight much oftener than real ones and the way how they fight makes those fights close to pro wrestling. The following movies about rollers may be noted: ROLLER DERBY GIRL (1949), UNHOLY ROLLERS (1972) and TV serial ROLLERJAM (1999). Especially, KANSAS CITY BOMBER (1972) must be marked out with beautiful Raquel Welch, who trained for five hours a day during three months in order to be equal on the roller rink with real experiences rollers playing sidetracks in the movie.
The movies in which professional female combatants participated must be mentioned again (for instance, those with Karen Sheperd, Cynthia Rothrock, Dana Hee and many more). Usually, real combative athletes are used in movies just for demonstrating martial art techniques as such. In other words, the most of played fights do not have much to do with the plot of the movie (and are even far-fetched. )
We also must mention another form of cinema/TV products - video commercials which creators always look for fresh plots. Women's combat attracted attention of soft drink advertisers. In fact, when watching fighting damsels your throat is parched. But don't worry; chilling cans with a bracer will be available for you... Three showy and sex appealing gladiatresses (singers Britney Spears, Pink and Beyonce Knowles accompanied by Enrique Iglesias) in bikinis with pasteboard swords come out into the ring preparing for the "internecine battle". This grandstand play in front of heated spectators eager for fight and growing faint from thirst gets them worked up. All the sudden, a water fall of Pepsi cans expels from an unknown bins. Even the ecstatic emperor drops out from his VIP box-seat. By the way, there is another pepsi commersial with male glagiators.
Two other girls have squabbled and start fighting and demonstrating good acrobatic skills - first on land, then in a fountain and then in a tub with mud bewitching male witnesses happened around. In such a situation a cheap American beer Miller appears in the nick of time - actually, men busy watching this great show don't pay too much attention to what they drink In another (more peaceful) version of the Miller light commercial, a girl pushes another one into a pool and then a pillow fight occurs.
This Miller beer advertisement caused a surge of anger. Many considered it insulting and eventually brewers recalled it. In order to understand the opponents of showing catfights let's learn a few typical opinions about the mater.
- The Miller beer ad probably does appeal to a large percentage of the American male population, which speaks volumes to their level of intelligence and respect for women.
- The Miller beer ad is completely unacceptable. This ad strives to make humorous that which isn't humorous at all to the millions of girls and women who are sexually assaulted every year in this country. It is wrong to encourage men to view the female half of the population as brainless and a source of sexual entertainment.
- "Miller Light" ad tells girls that aggression and physical violence are acceptable.
- The bodies of the women in the commercial are "Barbie doll" bodies that perpetuate the stereotype of what girls and women should look like.
- I am 34, married, father of a daughter... It is a reflection of how men in our society view women, as sex objects, and how violence is not only condoned but found humorous.
- I hate it! Not only is it stupid, it propagates the dumb blonde stereotype and the jerky guy stereotype.
- I think the ad is offensive to women and men. I fail to see the connection between 2 women fighting and the decision to buy Miller. I will not be buying Miller again.
Nothing can be said against it except the statement that almost all TV commercials are based on low human instincts and are infamous by their outstanding stupidity. So, almost any commercial might be criticized alike.
Recently, a spectacular commercial of a cellular phone by Samsung by a Russian TV network: a group of young models having come for casting furiously fight for being filmed with a receiver for the commercial. In fact, the commercial was soon shortened and then removed. As a matter of fact, it was not the "offensive" reason - this too showy scene passes off the advertised subject, so the spectators might not catch what article is advertised (not to mention the model title).
It remained only to consider occasional and spontaneous fights. As it was said, in many movies of various genres and themes it comes to blows. While in the past men exclusively fought in film, nowadays women also readily beat each other (especially on the TV and in movies). Numerous movies with women's fights (catfights), which in the strict sense have nothing to do with the plot, may be included to this category. Moreover, sometimes even fighters themselves do not related to the film plot but included as a spicy flavor. However that doesn't automatically mean the movies or fighting scenes are bad. Отсюда, впрочем, вовсе не следует, что плохи сами фильмы или сцены женских поединков в них.
It's difficult to mark out certain fights in movies because there are infinitely many of them. Let's just mention one of the first catfight in cinemas in the silent film PERCH OF THE DEVIL (1927). Two rivals have a fight in a mine shaft played by then movie stars, Jane Winton and Mae Busch.