Emmie Mears
SFF. Queer AF.

XX Marks The Spot?

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XX Marks The Spot?

Woman with sword, woman warrior, woman, strong, fighter, weapons

Licensed stock photo.

Sometimes I feel like I’m searching for a far off treasure with no map to speak of. Just a ragtag bit of parchment with a double X marked in decisive letters. I have no point of reference; every time I’m sure I’m getting close to it, it’s not over the horizon.

Last night Spouse and I saw Star Trek: Into Darkness. I really enjoyed the film — it was loud, crazy, full of mad stunts and Spock, whom I love. But there’s a but.


There were several times in the film where I started counting women. In the council chamber where the heads of Star Fleet sit to discuss the attack on the archive. All men. Mostly all white men.

In fact, if you look at the cast billing, have to look down eleven lines before you come to a woman who isn’t Uhura.

So let’s look at something called the Bechdel Test. The test is a baseline for how gender is portrayed in films. There are three parts to it. To pass the test, there have to be (1) at least two named female characters who (2) talk to each other about (3) something other than their relationships to men.

It’s an interesting test on many levels.

Star Trek passed one out of the three. There are two named female characters, Uhura and Carol Marcus. They don’t interact, and both of their characters are built around their relationships to men, Uhura with Spock and Carol Marcus with her father (and Kirk finding her sexually attractive).

Star Trek is supposed to be a more egalitarian universe. We’re supposed to believe that two hundred years in the future, women still play virtually no role in this near-utopian world? I got home from the theater to find that Felicia Day (of Buffy/The Guild/Dragon Age/every other geek thing I groove on, incidentally) wrote out very similar questions and opinions.

Sitting in the theater before the film began, something came back to me yet again.

I’ve been seeing the Man of Steel trailer for what feels like a year. It’s probably been a year. Each time I hear that beautiful music (the music is stunning), I feel this yearning. I sit there and wish that there was something that epic for ME. Each time I feel like the big XX on that bit of parchment is farther than ever.

There have been nine Superman movies.

There have been eight Batman movies.

There have been four Spiderman movies.

There have been three Iron Man movies.

There’s a Hulk movie with a sequel planned.

The sequel to Thor is coming out this year.

Green Lantern. Wolverine. Fantastic Four. Daredevil. Avengers. X-Men.

Thirty-eight (counting sequels).

Thirty-eight male-fronted, male-dominated superhero films.


Catwoman. Elektra.

Do you SEE that?

Where are the women? Where’s Wonder Woman? Where’s Storm? Where’s an After Earth-like survival familial bonding film with female leads? Don’t get me wrong, I adore Will Smith. But where are the women?

Woman, sword, kung fu, martial arts, strength

Licensed stock photo.

Last night I couldn’t sleep.

I laid there in bed thinking about the first time I saw the Buffy the Vampire Slayer film. How as a child I clung to it, this beacon of hope that the XX on that map actually exists.

I thought about the last decade since Buffy went off the air.

Today is the tenth anniversary of the airing of Chosen, the finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

It’s been ten years. Ironically, I’m writing this post today. I just looked it up, because I remembered that it was 2003 when the show ended.

In ten years, what has changed? Has anything changed? I still go to the movies and hope music will stir my soul, that images will flash across the screen and settle on the face of a woman being a hero.

I’ve still never seen it.

I couldn’t sleep. It kept me up until four in the morning. Sometime in those dark hours where the birds are the only ones to wake and sing, some spark took to flame in my soul. This is why I founded Searching for SuperWomen. This is why I wrote a superhero novel, something risky enough that it’s hard to sell. This is why I’ll write more. Because I’m going to take up this yoke. I’m going to find that XX if it takes the rest of my life.

Come with me.

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Author | Emmie Comments | 3 Date | May 20, 2013


Lyra Selene

Wonderful post. I haven’t seen the new Star Trek movie yet but I remember watching the trailer and seeing one female, and registering that all she did was scream while all the male characters jumped off buildings and fought evil. One female. Screaming. That pretty much sums up the role of women in most action movies these days.

Incidentally, have you watched The Legend of the Seeker TV series from a few years back? I love how strong the female characters are written on that show, and I can’t wait for more women in both the fantasy and science fiction genre to embody that kind of powerful and courageous role.

May 20, 2013 | 12:28 pm


    I haven’t seen that show, but people have recommended it several times! I’ll have to look into it.

    But yes — one female screaming about sums up a lot of the female roles in these genres. It’s time that changed.

    May 20, 2013 | 12:40 pm

Andi-Roo (@theworld4realz)

I liked the shows Firefly and Farscape (both sci-fi) precisely because of the strong female characters. And *OH* how I miss Buffy! I will have to reconsider how my characters interact as I work through my first draft. In every piece I’ve ever written, the protagonist is a female (since that is what I best relate to, begin a woman myself, haha), but none of them is PARTICULARLY or SPECIFICALLY or DYNAMICALLY a woman. They are all individuals with whom gender is irrelevant. While that may be where we want to head, you raise a good point in that WE AREN’T THERE YET. Reading this makes me want to take up your call to arms; almost as though, having been enlightened, it is now my responsibility to make my characters sex-FULL as opposed to sex-LESS. It shouldn’t matter — boy or girl, who cares? — but the fact of the matter is, it DOES matter. It just does. And If I’m not part of the solution, then I’m part of the problem. Headed out to rework my draft now. Thanks for the inspiring battle cry!

June 15, 2013 | 6:33 pm

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