Avoiding a Mary-Jane Watson

Spider-Man is my favourite superhero, but I hated the trilogy mostly because of one person. Mary. Jane. Watson. Watch her in any of the three movies. Watch carefully. Notice how -

1) She gets randomly kidnapped by the villain several times
2) She screams the whole freaking time
3) She does nothing to escape whatsoever


Yeah. I hated it. 

Female characters/love interests can be cool. They can be witty and powerful and smart and have, you know, personalities. (*cough* Gwen Stacy *cough*) They don't have to be kidnapped all the time the hero has something to do. They don't have to be cardboard cutouts, or be bullied all the time, or generally need the hero's help 100% of the time. 

Gwen Stacy is just amazing. 

I'm not sure why we're still having this discussion. Weak female characters have definitely been weeded out in YA, and while there's still a problem it's less of one. (Thank you, Katniss.) I am, however, noticing that it's still a major problem in movies, particularity action movies. (Examples of which I will discuss later. (And I'm mainly talking about movies made the past ten or so years.))

It has bothered me so much that I've come up with a rule that I think (because I'm awesome and so is my rule, but that might be biased) all writers/screenwriters/directors/whatever should take into consideration. If you can switch your love interest with a houseplant, then something's wrong.

For example, the other day I was watching The Mummy. Pretty good movie. People died horrible deaths, an ancient evil was unleashed on the world, treasure, Egypt, guns, explosions, etc. I was, however, saying this the whole time - 

"Oh no, the Hero is flirting with the Pretty Girl."
"Look! The Pretty Girl is in danger!"
"Oh, look. The Hero has rescued the Pretty Girl."
"Oh, she's in danger again."
"Rescued! Again! By the Hero! Who saw that coming?"
"Aaaand now the Pretty Girl has been kidnapped by the bad guy."
"Oh, look! The Hero has rescued the Pretty Girl!"
"Wow, who saw it coming that the Pretty Girl and the Hero would get together in the end?"

To be honest, I think that everyone who was watching it with me wanted to kill me by the end of it, but you get the idea. (I was also saying things along the lines of "Why is everyone in this movie so stupid?" and "Bring the cat with you, you morons!" but that's besides the point.)

You get the idea, though. If the love interest was replaced by a houseplant with legs that the hero really, really loved, not much would change. Granted, in The Mummy the houseplant would have to learn how to read Egyptian, but beyond that? She didn't do a whole lot for the story beyond making the protagonists have to go kill the villain. 

This kind of thing is in movies everywhere. In Seventh Son, the love interest shows up because she's working for the bad guys and spying on the good guys. They instantly fall in love, and for most of the movie she just shows up to be pretty and to make the hero rethink his choices. Granted, she does two important things for the plot and beats up a few bad guys, but if we're being honest here if you took out the sub-plot that she altered (I'm being vague to avoid spoilers) not much would change. The Three Musketeers (2011) seriously could have traded in the love interest with a houseplant (she didn't even need legs, I think the bad guys carried her around everywhere) and Mission Impossible 3? Well, he really, really loved his houseplant. 

And don't even get me started on Jupiter Ascending

I'm sick of seeing women fit into one of two roles in stories; the ninja warrior queen with no emotions or the love interest. Heaven forbid these characters to have a personality. I'm tired of female characters existing for the sake of getting kidnapped and making the climax happen (I'm looking at you, Pepper Potts (and Speed, Taken, Jack Reacher, Ant-ManSpider-Man, Batman, etc. etc.)

Female characters need to be written just as that. Characters. Not plot devices. 

Dear screenwriters, for the sake of the world and for the sake of the story (or even my blood pressure), cut out the Mary-Janes. Please. 


  1. Oh goodness, I so wanted to love Jupiter Ascending, but I did not like what they did with Jupiter--I feel like they should have called it Jupiter Descending because she kept falling off things. *gags* I like the houseplant rule--and the benefit to switching Mary Jane's out with houseplants is that houseplants can't scream all the time, which would be a nice change. And I think a lot of writers forget to vary their strong female leads--there are so many different types of strength and just character in general. I definitely dislike the Mary Janes, but I think I would love to read a story about a weak female character who could never be there for anyone and who realized that, and like, that would be the point of the story, her needing to recognize how whimpy and dependent she is and how she needs to grow a spine and all that (because there are girls like that). I feel like that would be interesting--but I really don't like it when the females are weak because there's really nothing for them to do in the plot except to get kidnapped--then they're just props and not people. Anyway, great post, and thanks for sharing!

    1. Oh my goodness, yes, I was cringing throughout the entire movie. I hated how her family kept calling her smart then she repeatedly demonstrated her stupidity throughout the entire movie. Hahaha, yeah, a houseplant is a lot quieter than Mary-Jane. Yes that would be so cool!!! We so need a story like that.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. I completely agree. While there are other reasons why I won't watch the original Spider-Man trilogy (*cough* Tobey Maguire), Mary-Jane Watson is probably what is so repelling to me. While I'm not too big on the whole movie analyzation thing (we do it enough in English class), I'm glad you could publicly admit your favourite superhero doesn't have the greatest movie trilogy, and I have to agree with this point you're making. However, I did notice you added Batman to a "whimpy women" list (let's just call it that for now). Let me just point out that in Batman Begins, we see Rachael pull out her taser (and actually use it) as well as a gun to defend herself. Also in The Dark Knight she steps up to the Joker to defend a man. The Dark Knight Trilogy can not be touched! Unless of course, you were talking about any of the old Batman movies. In that case, rant away :).
    Anyway, great post and keep me posted (hahahaha what a good pun...) for more. :)

    1. YES TOBY MAGUIRE KILLS ME!!! And the eyeliner whenever he became Venom... *gags* And yes, Rachel is a strong female character with a career, bravery, sense of morality and personality (which rarely happens in action movies) but she gets kidnapped (and poisoned in the first movie) to make the climax happen (sort of) which is why she made the list. AND NO THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY ISN'T PERFECT EVEN IF IT'S AWESOME. NO MOVIE IS PERFECT!!!

      Lovely pun :) Thanks for commenting!

  3. Batman All The Way22 August 2015 at 14:06

    The Dark Knight Trilogy is perfect. Like, you can't even argue with it unless you've seen all the movies. Oh, wait, have you seen all the movies? That might explain it...

  4. YES! I especially agree with your statement: "I'm sick of seeing women fit into one of two roles in stories; the ninja warrior queen with no emotions or the love interest."

    Say no to houseplant characters! (Btw, very good analogy!)

    1. Yes, I hate it how people call emotionless ninja warrior queens "strong" because they can beat people up. Granted, it's great, but there's more a person than the ability to beat others up. And if a character isn't said ninja, she's usually the love interest. WHY HOLLYWOOD?!?!? Thanks for the comment!

  5. I agree with you, although I will say that very often I see a third role: the ninja warrior queen with no emotions who becomes the love interest. Have you ever watched a James Bond movie? *nods* I have seen them all. I do think it's frustrating and sad that women aren't developed as much as they should be, especially in film, but even in YA and adult books, we have a long way to go. :(

    1. Gah, yes, it's like Hollywood is trying to give me a heart attack. Yes!!! Women are characters, not plot devices. And we still do need to work on YA/adult novels but movies seem to have it way worse for some reason. Maybe it's the eyecandy visual thing? Or maybe the target audiences are more men for action movies and teenage girls for novels? I don't know. I just know I don't like it. Thanks for commenting!


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