Charlize Theron's 'Atomic Blonde' Character Is Unapologetically Herself

by Taylor Ferber
Universal Pictures

"Actions speak louder than words" seems to be Charlize Theron's recent method for sharing her opinion with the world, and her Atomic Blonde character Lorraine is a perfect example of that. In a new interview with Variety, the actor (who walked in the Women's March and took on action scenes for this film in which she would beat even the largest of men up) explained why it was so important to her to showcase a female character who's unapologetically who she is. Her badass spy character Lorraine embodies many traits often stereotypical to male characters, she's bisexual, and she doesn't make a big deal out of either thing. Like Theron, Lorraine doesn't need to explain why she is the way she is; her actions do the talking.

In the thriller, Lorraine is a spy on a solo, life-threatening mission in Berlin, depending on her own cut-throat savagery to make it out alive. Contrary to the expectation for the female lead to be the male lead's love interest, she doesn't fall for her handsome, on-screen action partner (played by James McAvoy). Rather, Lorraine has sex with another female spy (Sofia Boutella) without feeling the need to explicitly state that she's bisexual.

"I just loved it," Theron said about Lorraine's self-evident bisexuality. "For so many reasons: [like] my frustration of how that community is represented in cinema, or lack thereof." And, indeed, the 2017 GLAAD Studio Responsibility Index found that only 23 of the 125 films released by the four major studios in 2016 contained LGBTQ+ characters — and half of those films gave less than a minute of screen time to those characters. (This was an increase of almost one percent from 2016, however.) Of note is that only 13 percent of those characters were bisexual, though, again, this was an improvement from the 9 percent from the year before.

"[Lorraine's sexuality] made perfect sense. It just suited her," Theron continued. "It just felt there was a way through that relationship and the fact that it was a same-sex relationship to show a woman not having to fall in love, which is one of those female tropes."

Universal Pictures

In addition, the character defies stereotypical gender roles, embodying sexual traits that are usually seen as a positive thing only when men do it: she doesn't fall in love, and she has wild sex. "‘It’s a woman; she better fall in love — otherwise, she’s a whore,'" Theron said. "James Bond doesn’t have such hot you-know-what. I loved that we didn’t hide under the sheets."

The character's ambiguous, unattached nature (again, that mostly male stars like James Bond and many rom-com leads portray) is another thing Theron finds refreshing. The "hysterical woman" trope, in which women on screen are depicted as being overly emotional and pining over someone, is not something the actor wanted to display here. Instead, Lorraine keeps her cards close and seems to remain emotionally unavailable, like the majority of male roles on this list of the 50 Most Badass Characters of All Time (of which two women made the cut).

"You know nothing about this woman... It’s so rare that a female gets that in a movie," the 41-year-old said. "A lot of critics had issue with that; that’s such old-school thinking. You don’t need to be emotionally manipulated to feel something for someone."

Lorraine may be out-of-the box for Hollywood, but she's an accurate portrayal of many women in real life (except for maybe the whole spy thing). "We’ve had moments like this, where women really showcase themselves and kind of break glass ceilings," Theron explained. "And then we don’t sustain it.... I am always hoping that this is the movie that’s going to change it and keep it for us."

Sometimes not making a point of something actually makes the point. In this case, hopefully Atomic Blonde will prove women can be whoever or whatever they want to be, without the need to explain.