The anti-feminist nightmare that is the sassy girl sidekick

OKAY, INTERNET. I have to complain about something that’s been bothering me about movies.


I like girl characters. I like action movies! I like girl characters IN my action movies. Unfortunately, many of the girl characters you see in action movies are of the dreaded SASSY GIRL SIDEKICK variety. I think the SGS is sort of the action version of the manic pixie dream girl.

Sassy Girl Sidekicks do things like slap the antagonist across the face and then spit at him without fear of reprisal. This is how we know they’re sassy, you guys. Obvs.

The problem I have with the SGS type of character is that they’re presented as being strong and tough, girl-power-minded chicks. But really that’s total bullshit and it’s all a barrel of anti-feminist weirdness, because when a woman slaps a man with a kind of smug “Hmmmm?!? WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT????” attitude, that’s really a person who believes herself to be protected from being smacked back by her femaleness… which is not girl-powery at all. Or if a girl is captured by pirates and spits at the lead pirate and then glares in pouty fashion, that’s also because she believes that her being-female protects her. This isn’t feminism, it’s dressed-up Victorian sexism about the women being so delicate and in need of protection, and it’s stupid.

Also, more terribly, it’s super dull.

A character who’s flouncing around pouting cutely and slapping people and not really being afraid, because she knows that men will always protect her=snorefest.

A character who’s captured by pirates and knows that she’s on her own and is so pissed off she still spits in the guy’s face even though she knows nobody will protect her and that little act of defiance could lead to her death=okay, I’m paying attention.

I find this to be a particular problem in period pieces set in eras wherein women didn’t even have the vote or the right to hold property in their own name… and yet, somehow, they are often written to be all HUZZAH I AM WEARING PANTALOONS AND STOWING AWAY ON SHIPS, NOW I AM HARANGUING THE HERO IN A WAY THAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE FLIRTATIOUS.

So I guess what I’m saying is: stop doing that. If you don’t mind. People who have to listen to me complain, like my husband, will thank you.

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3 Responses to The anti-feminist nightmare that is the sassy girl sidekick

  1. 12pt says:

    Very true. One of the many reasons why I love the movie True Romance. James Gandolfini kicks the living shit out of that chick and she’s still finds a way to be a sassy bitch. Such a great scene; and it really, really, makes you want that guy dead.

    It also depends on what kind of movie it is. It gets tough when you want a “strong defiant female” but you’re also making “Pirates of the Caribbean”. You can’t have your “awesome defiant female lead” spit in the pirates face, and then have the pirates gang rape her and toss her into the sea. Probable? Yes. Practical? No.

    When I first read this, I pictured John McClane’s daughter in Live Free or Die Hard. Pretty sure she does the whole sassy female thing when she gets captured. But then again… she is John McClane’s daughter… Also, that movie makes up for it with John brutally beating that “little Asian bitch that likes to kick people”.

    I do agree with you. The particular “sassy girl sidekick” character you are talking about does get very old and annoying, and writers should strive to make them more dynamic.

    • This brings up the exact question I was going to raise: How does one distinguish between the manic-pixie-sassy-sidekick who spits in people’s faces and the badass-awesome-defiant? Can we assume that if we make her badass and awesome at other times people will get the right idea?

  2. Lloyd says:

    There’s an even more annoying type of SGS — the kind that exists solely to be cute and make snarky comments in order to distract the audience from how much the movie they’re watching sucks. See Kat Dennings in THOR.

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