Film&Legend Research Project T Pomeroy


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A presentation that compares women heroes stories in modern films and ancient legends.

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Film&Legend Research Project T Pomeroy

  1. 1. Warrior Women A comparison of ancient legend and modern film Tanya M. Pomeroy SLIS 5440; May 2, 2004
  2. 2. Purpose: to explore the influences that true legends have on modern film portrayals of women warriors. Description: A cross-cultural comparison of common features in ancient legends and the archetypes of modern fiction.
  3. 3. Research: <ul><li>Background research performed through Google, Irving Library OPAC and the Internet Movie Database. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Terms used include; “woman warrior” “female warrior” and “shield maiden” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>All text sources are available at the Irving Public Library </li></ul><ul><li>Films are part of the author’s personal collection, or are currently released on video and in theaters </li></ul>
  4. 4. “True” Legends from Early Days <ul><li>Camilla--Italy </li></ul><ul><li>Fa Mulan--China </li></ul><ul><li>Joan--France </li></ul><ul><li>Aliquipiso--Onieda (Native American) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Robert” Sampson-- American Revolution </li></ul>
  5. 5. Ancient Rome: Camilla <ul><ul><li>Virgil. The Aeneid . translated by Robert Fitzgerald Vintage: New York, 1990. (Book XI, 686-689). </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The Volscian army had at least a division of female cavalry led by Camilla, who is a virgin dedicated to the goddess Diana. Camilla is raised in the arts of war from birth. She is also desired by many suitors, who she refuses. During the battle against Aeneas she is taunted for her gender and takes vengeance upon the men of Troy until a man betrays her and stabs her from afar with javelin, because none can stop her in close combat. The dying Camilla sends a message to her captain, Turnus, and gives her most trusted maiden a kiss (which may or may not have baring on her sexual preference.) </li></ul>
  6. 6. Asia: Fa Mulan <ul><ul><li>San Souci, Robert D. Fa Mulan . New York: Hyperion Books </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>for Children, 1998. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Mulan goes to war to save the life of her father, who is too old to report for his inscription into the emperor's army. The ancient poem is very plot based, but San Souci’s book contains researched details that are not contradictory to the original. </li></ul><ul><li>Mulan’s gender is known to her family, but not to her fellow soldiers. After joining the army, she is awarded commands and commendations for valor and victory before returning home to her family and resuming her normal life. </li></ul>Illustrations © Jean & Mou-Sien Tseng
  7. 7. France: Joan of Arc <ul><li>Butler, Alban. Butler’s Lives of Saints . New York: Harper Collins, 1991. </li></ul><ul><li>Joan was born to a common merchants home in village of Domerey during 14th century, when France was occupied by England. A devout child, raised in a devout Catholic family, Joan was an imaginative, pious, but illiterate girl, who had visions of the Eucharist, and the Saints, starting at the age of 10. Many of her visions told her that the Dauphin should regain his thrown, if she led an army against the English. At 17, she petitioned to see the prince, but was laughed at until she proved her self through a vision only revealed to Prince Charles. The Dauphin granted Joan authority over his armies and training at arms. She then won sieges at Orleans and almost won Paris. Joan was be captured and tried as a witch in a puppet-court arranged by corrupt English clergy. The charge of witch-craft was overturned by the Church 25 years after her murder and she was declared the Patron Saint of France. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Native American <ul><li>Canfield, W. W. “The Warrior Maiden.” in American Indian Myth and Legends . Eds. Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz. New York, Pantheon Books: 1984. </li></ul><ul><li>Is about Aliquipiso who saves her tribe by organizing an ambush against the enemy. She is granted a vision by the Great Spirit which tells her to lour the enemy forces to the foot of a cliff so that her tribe can drive rocks on to them. Aliquipiso shows great courage by using herself as the bait, by pretending to be a traitor. The tribal elders commend her for her wisdom and courage, and her story has lasted from the time before colonialism. </li></ul>
  9. 9. America: “Robert” Samson <ul><li>Polley, Jane. “Robert Sampson” in American Folklore and Legend . Pleasantville: Reader’s Digest Association, 1978. (p. 110) </li></ul><ul><li>Deborah Samson came to America as an illiterate indentured servant at 8 years old. During her servitude she taught her self to read. After gaining freedom at 18, Deborah became educated enough to teach school and also became very passionate about the rebel cause of the revolution. She used her teaching money to make a suit of male clothing and enrolled in the American Army under her brother’s name, Robert. She took part in many battles and dangerous assignments until her gender was discovered by a doctor treating her battle injuries. Deborah was honorably discharged from the military and later granted the land and pension of a normal soldier. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Modern Film <ul><li>Return of the King </li></ul><ul><li>G.I. Jane </li></ul><ul><li>Xena: Warrior Princess </li></ul><ul><li>Crouching Tiger / Hidden Dragon </li></ul><ul><li>Kill Bill </li></ul>
  11. 11. Modern Greek? <ul><li>Schulian, John and Robert G. Tabert et al. &quot;Xena: Warrior </li></ul><ul><li>Princess&quot; Television-Series (143 episodes.) DVD. Anchor </li></ul><ul><li>Bay Entertainment, 1995. </li></ul><ul><li>Through the imagination of her script writers Xena has traveled through every edge of the known Iron Age world, practiced numerous faiths and implicitly had lovers of both genders. Xena first goes on path of blood-vengeance and pillaging to avenge the death of her family. After watching too many people die, she becomes a kind-hearted, but still lethal vigilante aided by by her sidekick and best-friend the storyteller Gabrielle. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Modern China <ul><li>Lee, Ang. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon . 1 DVD (120 min.) </li></ul><ul><li>digital recording. Columbia/Tristar Studios, 2000. </li></ul><ul><li>Yo-shi and Yu Shu Lien are two opposing women warriors in 19th century China. Yo-shi is a young warrior and noble who has been misled by a treacherous witch. She steals the mystical sword of hero Li Mu Bai, and is then pursued by his ally, seasoned woman warrior, Yu Shu Lien. Both women are highly skilled in martial arts and weapons work as well as being highly feminine. While Yo-shi has a secret lover, Yu Shu Lien and Li Mu Bai resist their desires for one another for the sake of honor. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Tolkein’s Shield-Maiden <ul><li>Jackson, Peter. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King . In Theaters (215 min.) digital recording. New Line Entertainment, 2003. </li></ul><ul><li>Eowyn of Rohan is a shield-maid patterned after characters from Celt and Nordic legends. Arms and battle tactics have been part of her training and authority is granted through her noble birth as she is the niece of the king Theoden. Eowyn takes both the role of encourager, leader and warrior during the film and is also desperately, unrequitedly infatuated with Aragorn. She sneaks into the Battle of Gondor and succeeds in killing the Nazgul King precisely because of her womanhood, because he cannot be killed by a man. In Tolkein’s original texts she is said to be equal in arms to her brother, who is the captain of the armies. </li></ul>
  14. 14. American Woman <ul><li>Scott, Ridley. G.I. Jane . 1 DVD (120 min.) digital recording Hollywood Pictures Co., Burbank, 1997. </li></ul><ul><li>Jordan O’Neil is a satellite technician and low-ranking second leuteniant in the Navy, who has skills and aspirations that go to waste behind a desk. A politically savy Senator attempts to use Jordan as a political pawn by appointing her to SEALs and SEREs training, the two toughest training combat training in the U.S. military. The senator expects Jordan to fail, but still be a useful feminist statement. The Senator accuses Jordan of being a lesbian in a failed attempt to discredit her. Jordan is tortured by her fellow officers at first, but becomes a trusted leader of her squad and gains promotion to Sargent after a successful combat mission. </li></ul>
  15. 15. East meets West <ul><li>Tarantino, Quentin. Kill Bill: Volume 2 . In Theaters (174 min.) digital recording, Miramax Entertainment, 2004. </li></ul><ul><li>Beatrix Kiddo is at first an unnamed survivor of a massacre. As her character develops it is clear that she is the most deadly female assassin in the world and virtually invincible. She has been trained in the art of killing masters in Japan, China and the U.S. and is now using her skill to gain vengeance on her treacherous ex-comrades who have tried to murder her and her unborn child. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Thematic Analysis <ul><li>These stories all concern the struggle, wisdom and courage of female heroines who gain renown in armed combat. The key theme that defines the women warrior stories in this collection is that the heroine is a comrade in arms who at least leads battles if she does not land a killing strike. All of the stories in the collection fit this definition perfectly, except, for the most famous, Joan of Arc. Joan did lay plans and lead charges, but according to legend she never killed another person. All of the other legends and films involve women who had a direct part to play in the deaths of enemies usually by the skill of their own hands in battle. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Sub-themes: A contrast <ul><li>Sub-themes common to most Warrior Women stories include: the virtues of wisdom and courage, and Family Bonds. The elements of vengeance, and romantic love seem to be inventions of modern tales. </li></ul><ul><li>Ancient legends, including these warrior-maiden stories provide moral themes such as courage and wisdom used for the betterment and liberation of the heroine’s people and or family. Family bonds, such as the love for a brother or father, which necessitates combat in defense of the home is one of the main plot driving themes of many virago legends. Mulan takes the place of her father in the imperial army, and Deborah Samson fights under her brother’s name. Camilla, Joan of Arc and Aliquipiso fight for the ‘familial’ attachment of national bonds. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Egocentric Film <ul><li> The themes driving modern films are more ego and character centered. Because modern storytelling and even modern culture is more concerned with character development and personal motives the themes of modern women warriors tales have followed suit. Modern film appears more concerned with courage and wisdom as a tool for self-liberation and self gain. The one exception to this is Eowyn from Return of the King , whose story contains both filial piety toward her uncle and the selfish ambition for glory. Her character is modeled after the legendary Nordic shield-maids, but the portrayal of Eowyn in Jackson’s film is also influenced by modern trends. In all the films in this set including Return of the King, the heroine fights for personal honor and or vengeance. The governing theme of the Kill Bill is a discussion and enactment of justice gained through blood-vengeance. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Romance <ul><li>Another difference between ancient legends modern film is the additional theme of romantic love. In the five legends of this collection romantic love, suitors, lovers and husbands are not mentioned. The exception to this is Camilla, who mentions suitors only to show that they are rejected in favor of glory in combat. In contrast there is an element of romantic love and the conflict caused by it present and prevalent in all of the modern films. Xena, Yo-shi and Yu Shu in Crouching Tiger , Eowyn of LOTR and Jordan O’Neil in GI Jane B. Kiddo from Kill Bill all have romantic attachments and the conflicting needs of romance and combat are a governing theme of the heroines’ story-lines. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Thematic Conclusions <ul><li>The major theme of armed combat and prowess in battle is present in both the legends and the films in this collection. The sub-themes of courage, wisdom and love bonds are also common to the legends and the film. Legend and modern tales differ in the final morals delivered by the tale of the heroine. The most surprising conclusion of this thematic analysis is the complete absence of Romantic love from true legends as compared to what could be deemed an obsession with romance in modern film. </li></ul><ul><li>Is this difference because women warriors of legend realistically have no time for love? Ancient Hebrew legend tells of the prophetess Deborah, Judge of Israel and (Jgds 4:3) the wife of Lappidoth who lead the people to victory against the Cannanites. </li></ul><ul><li>Do modern heroines have lovers because of the modern desire to “have it all?” Perhaps, perhaps not. There are many present-day women soldiers who are married with children. These questions require a deeper analysis of the individual heroines in the stories of this collection. </li></ul><ul><li>On to Character Analysis... </li></ul>
  21. 21. Character Analysis <ul><li>The characters of these legends and films have many character </li></ul><ul><li>traits in common. Of course the heroines are female. Other commonalties </li></ul><ul><li>include age, situation in life, personality-type and motives. </li></ul>
  22. 22. Age <ul><li>All of the characters in these ten stories are relatively young. The oldest in the group are Yu Shu Lien from Crouching Tiger , Xena and Beatrix Kiddo from Kill Bill who are in their mid-thirties. Xena has also reincarnated a few times as a plot device for television storytelling. All the other heroines range between 16 and 25 years old. This youth is a necessity of the health, agility, strength and rashness that seem to accompany women warrior characters. </li></ul>
  23. 23. Personality <ul><li>As far as personality, heroines of warrior women legends and </li></ul><ul><li>film are stereotypically intelligent, rash, brave, vibrant and independent. </li></ul><ul><li>This can be assumed because the women teach themselves skills that are </li></ul><ul><li>usually in opposition to the gender norms of their culture--for example </li></ul><ul><li>Deborah Samson learning to read, or Mulan practicing sword play, or Joan </li></ul><ul><li>assuming the authority to speak to the Dauphin. These personality features </li></ul><ul><li>are easier to perceive but harder to cite in film characters who are </li></ul><ul><li>portrayed as intelligent and willful through imagery and dialogue. For </li></ul><ul><li>example Jordan O’neil is continuously shown “showing up” her </li></ul><ul><li>commanders in predicting the locations of troops and enemies, Eowyn is </li></ul><ul><li>given charge of the retreat to Helms Deep, Beatrix Kiddo speaks 3 </li></ul><ul><li>languages and finally Yo-shi is shown writing in Chinese calligraphy. </li></ul>
  24. 24. Modern Romantic Love <ul><li>The thematic analysis of these ten stories concluded that legendary heroines are not concerned with romantic love, while modern films are driven by a sub-theme of romance. However, a character analysis will show that all warrior women are effectively single, as in they are not married. Modern heroines, like their legendary counterparts are independent from the support and control of a husband and children. Jordan leaves for CRT training resolute, because she has fought with her lover. Eowyn fights at Gondor because Aragorn refuses her. Beatrix seeks vengeance because Bill is no longer her lover. Yo-shi has ended her affair with her Mongol lover--though she misses him. Xena holds no permanent attachment to men and her friend Gabrielle looses her husband within three episodes. Xena’s only pregnancy was a plot device necessitated by the actress’ real life pregnancy. The heroines can risk their lives because they effectively have no one to go home to. </li></ul>
  25. 25. The motives of heroines in these ten stories have common elements but differ with each character. As discussed in thematic analysis, there are basically personal and communal motives for the heroine entering into combat. Though the moral themes of ancient legends are communal benefit from personal virtues, the actual motives of the heroines are of course personal in nature. For most of the characters the communal motive is defense of family, while the personal motive is proving her prowess in battle. Camilla flies into a rage and almost defeats the enemy when a male soldier insults her womanly strength. Yo-shi is angered that the Woudan monastery wont train her because she is a girl. Eowyn fights partially because her brother tells her the battle is not a woman’s place. Jordan keeps pushing herself because others tell her a woman cannot. Bill cannot believe that Beatrix can defeat him, because their master did not like to teach women. From these examples it is apparent that challenging gender bias is one of the motives of most of the characters in these ten stories--even if that motive is second to love and defense of homeland. Motives
  26. 26. One of the questions of character analysis is what do the characters of these ten stories have in common with real-life. First, the characters of the first five stories, perhaps with the exception of Camilla, are real-life women who have become legends. Mulan, Joan D’Arc and Deborah Samson, were real people who fought for their people and proved themselves as great warriors. Thankfully, the need to take up arms is not prevalent in the United States and other First-World Nations, but there are many countries embroiled in wars where women have risen in combat to defend themselves and their loved ones. Are they real?
  27. 27. Character Conclusions <ul><li>The instance of the woman warrior is much less common in real life now than as often as it is portrayed in film. The extreme nature of the woman warrior, portrayed as nearly invincible in G.I. Jane and Kill Bill is nowhere near realistic, but then neither is the male hero of modern story very practical. The major common link between reality and modern heroines is that many modern women are conflicted between family and self-advancement, as well as struggling with gender bias, much like the characters in these five films. </li></ul><ul><li>It is an inspiration to realize that the women of the legends are real and continued inspiration to see a film in which a woman triumphs over herself and her enemies. The victory of the woman warrior both in true legends and modern films helps the audience realize that they may someday find victories of their own, by following the examples of courage and perseverance shown in these characters. </li></ul>
  28. 28. Plot Analysis The Plot features common to most Warrior Women stories include; the use or lack of a disguise, discovery of gender and a special ability or calling of the heroine All of these features will be explored in the order given.
  29. 29. Disguise or not? And gender revealed. <ul><li>A major factor in the plot sequence of the heroine’s story is </li></ul><ul><li>whether or not she has to disguise her gender. In the stories of Mulan and </li></ul><ul><li>Deborah Samson and Eowyn, the girls dress as men. They are constantly </li></ul><ul><li>fearful that their gender will be discovered and they will be outcast. The </li></ul><ul><li>question of disguise is very important in these three tales because the </li></ul><ul><li>discovery of the woman’s gender is a crucial point in the plot of the story. </li></ul><ul><li>For Mulan and Deborah, being revealed means going home, whereas for </li></ul><ul><li>Eowyn revealing her womanhood gives her the ability to vanquish the </li></ul><ul><li>enemy. </li></ul><ul><li>In contrast, the other stories the women fight as openly female </li></ul><ul><li>combatants but have to put up with almost constant gibes based on their </li></ul><ul><li>gender. The exception to this is Beatrix Kiddo, who is a new character </li></ul><ul><li>type invented by Tarantino--the unquestioned, invincible, female killer. </li></ul><ul><li>Jordan O’Neil of GI Jane is also a combination character in that she is </li></ul><ul><li>openly female but gains more acceptance among her comrades when she </li></ul><ul><li>becomes androgynous by shaving her head. </li></ul>
  30. 30. Special Abilities <ul><li>The characters in most of the stories, especially the films and more elaborate legends have special abilities or callings not given to other characters. In the case of Camilla, Aliquipiso and Joan, the women are favored by a divine calling. Camilla is dedicated to and protected by the goddess Diana. Aliquipiso receives a vision from the Great Spirit, and Joan also receives visions from God showing her how to defeat the English. </li></ul><ul><li>Other stories contain a learned or natural ability on which plot turns depend. In Crouching Tiger all three main characters have studied Woudan which allows them to fly. In Kill Bill and GI Jane , Beatrix knows a maneuver no one else can use and Jordan has an innate ability to predict locations. The most surprising plot turn is in Return of the King , when Eowyn’s femininity becomes her strength because a man cannot kill the Nazgul, but a maiden can. </li></ul>
  31. 31. What can a girl do? <ul><li>In every story the heroines gender plays an important role in the turns and conflicts of the plot whether or not their identity is known. In the cases of open identity one of the conflicts of the plot becomes the other characters doubting the woman’s ability to fight and survive. This is a major conflict in Camilla , Joan of Arc, GI Jane , Crouching Tiger and Kill Bill . In all of the films where the woman is known to be female the topic of her femininity being a weakness is discussed at least once. This questioning then inspires the heroine to try harder and fight harder and continue on her quest, whether that be getting to the Dauphin of France or finally killing Bill. </li></ul>
  32. 32. Summary and Reflection <ul><li>For this research, I took on the topic of “Strong Women” which was then adapted to a comparison between legend and film. The film component of this project was not difficult in any way, because I am such a fan of “tough women” stories that I own all the films mentioned and have viewed them many times. Finding legends was a bit more difficult, but most of the legends in the collection are well known and popular. Familiarity with these stories actually made objective analysis more difficult. </li></ul>
  33. 33. Reflection concluded <ul><li> The sociologic influence of legend is another important subject. For example when a female character has a child, or is reunited with her child, (for example in “Kill Bill”) the woman will stop fighting. In most stories with male protagonists the opposite is true. Becoming a father is usually the turning point within a story-arc that gives the character his motivation and provides the conflict that drives a film. How does this typing of gender roles effect our society? One could also research how women warriors legends are used in different cultures. Are the stories used as an inspiration for courage in women or as warning against breaking gender role taboos, or for a combination of purposes? </li></ul><ul><li>The main change I would make in the research process for this project would be to find stories that are not well known and films that are not so popular. I feel that there would be more surprises and differences in lesser known stories. Also, the project results would be more complete if I could find woman warrior stories from even more cultures such as Africa, Russia, Arabia and Islander peoples such as Polynesia. </li></ul>