'Kidnap' Is A Major Step For Women

By Kaitlin Reilly

There's nothing particularly new about a movie or TV series that starts with a child's kidnapping — just look at the Taken trilogy, the 2016 ABC drama The Family, or even Netflix's critically-acclaimed Stranger Things. In that sense, Halle Berry's new film Kidnap should sound as if it was playing to a pretty classic trope we've seen in films for years — and, had I not seen the trailer, perhaps I would have assumed it was. However, while Berry's new film has the familiar plot device of a parent searching for their missing child, the way in which the Kidnap trailer portrays Berry's character is refreshing. The Kidnap trailer basically introduces Berry's character as a badass protagonist who will stop at nothing to get her kid back, but also — unlike the male characters who often take up a similar role to hers in male-dominated action films — one that's capable of showing a myriad of emotions as she does it. Of course, women in film have often been portrayed as fearless with no issue achieving whatever feat they're trying to achieve, but often times they're often displayed as a bit hardened too. However, women don't have to be cold in films if they're going get the job done. This is important.

It's no secret that women often get film and TV roles that are simply less interesting than their male counterparts. Research by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found that females comprised a mere 12 percent of protagonists in the top-grossing films of 2014. It's not the only issue: women on film are often given roles directly associated with the men in their lives, labeled "the mother" or "the wife" rather than something more significant to their character. Berry's character in Kidnap is certainly defined by her motherhood — after all, the role is a mother going on a dangerous, action-packed quest to find her son — but no matter what drives her, this is her journey. What Kidnap does well is allow her to have the action-packed journey and still be an emotional human being.

The problem with many female characters in movies and on TV is not that they don't exist, but that they aren't always written as well or as complex as the men they share a screen with. Berry's character in Kidnap appears to be different. Though it's not possible to judge her from anything other than the trailer, Berry's character seems able to be a good, dedicated, loving mother who takes her son to the park. She's then also able to snap into action and fight like hell to get her son back, without ever turning into a cold, emotionless human. Berry is allowed to cry, scream, and show real affection while still being a badass action-thriller heroine. Being a badass and having feelings aren't mutually exclusive. Heroines are allowed to cry.

Kidnap isn't the only recent work to remind us that heroes and heroines don't have to be tough as nails in order to get the job done. Winona Ryder's character in Stranger Things has also lost her son, and though she outwardly displays her devastation over his disappearance, it doesn't stop her from going head-to-head with an extra-dimensional monster in order to save her son from the Upside Down. She's allowed to be human and still capable of saving the day.

Women onscreen don't have to be cold in order to "get the job done" — and the Kidnap trailer suggests this trend is catching on.

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