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Female action heroes and the spirit of Emma Peel

2-duo-overlap-frame-red-800x800Female action heroes are now the norm, it has been suggested (by none other than Felicity Jones of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story). Maybe or maybe not, but they’re certainly not new. Those of a certain age won’t forget the ass-kicking Emma Peel of The Avengers, and there have been many following in her leather-booted footsteps.

Indeed, this blog has highlighted some kick-ass women from independent film recently:

Francesca Louise White, who, as Red, uses her sword, fists, and feet to defeat the bad guys in the soon-to-be-released [I write this in December 2016] Slasher House II (of which, I’m an associate producer, btw), in which all the villains are men and the heroes – led by Red – are women.

Francesca Louise White as Red in Slasher House II

Francesca Louise White as Red in Slasher House II

Kate Marie Davies, who fights aliens in scifi web series Horizon and rural man-eaters in Escape from Cannibal Farm.

Dawn Noel, who plays Lt Roz Chavez in the forthcoming space epic Project Abaddon – Rise of the Destroyer and a cop in TV’s NCIS.

And there’s Ellen Patterson as Maya Hedges in a web series I’m involved with too, Cops and Monsters.

When Kate spoke to me, she quoted Lara Croft and Ellen Ripley (Alien) as her favourite film characters.

For Francesca it’s Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, as well as Sydney Bristow from Alias and Max Guevara from Dark Angel.

It got me wondering if these hard-hitting women were something new in TV and film. Recalling the screen heroines of my childhood and teens, I soon realised the answer was ‘no’.

In the 1960s there was, of course, Diana Rigg as Emma Peel – martial arts expert and righter of wrongs in The Avengers. Less memorable to me were her predecessor as Steed’s partner, Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman) and  successor Tara King (Linda Thorson).

Later, in the ’70s, Britain gave us Joanna Lumley as Purdey in The New Avengers and Louise Jameson as Leela in Doctor Who. In the US there was Angie Dickinson as Police Woman, Charlie’s Angels, Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, and Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers, The Bionic Woman.

I’m sure there are many I’ve forgotten too – these are just my top-of-the-head memories from the ’60s and ’70s (when I was very, very young, of course).

I suspect female action heroes are still not really the norm, but they’re also nothing new – the spirit of Emma Peel lives on.

If you’re involved in independent film, check out the publicity and communications services offered by Weltch Media.

A huge thank you to Art and Hue for permission to use some examples of their stylish pop art from their The Avengers and Joanna Lumley ranges. Unlike traditional posters, which are printed on thin paper with inks that fade, Art & Hue creates giclée art prints, printed on 310gsm fine art archival matte card, made from 100% cotton, using pigment inks which last several lifetimes. Do take a look.


4 thoughts on “Female action heroes and the spirit of Emma Peel

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  4. Yes, I came across this post by accident. Despite that and the passage of time since you wrote it, I thought I would comment on “Less memorable to me were her [Emma Peel’s (Diana Rigg, 1938-2020)] predecessor as Steed’s partner, Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman [, 1925-2020]) and successor Tara King (Linda Thorson [,1947 -]).” In the 1960s, I would have agreed with you. In the 2020s I am much more appreciative of Linda Thorson. As a Canadian-Norwegian, I suspect this involves an evolving cultural prejudice, in my opinions. In addition, I have increasingly appreciating Honey West (Anne Francis, 1930-2011) from the mid 1960s, and Ingrid Bolsø Berdal (1980 -), more recently.

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