LPLE #13: Strong Women in Movies and Television

Welcome to LPLE, "Let's Practice Listening in English!"

Jesse and Andrew talk about female heroes in action movies and television, and compare what they liked and disliked with the Black Widow character in the recent Avengers movie with the female heroes in Game of Thrones.

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TRANSCRIPT

Intro [Jesse]: Hi everyone. My name is Jesse Robbins, and welcome to LPLE from Dialogue FM. We're the podcast that lets you practice listening in English. We speak English slowly and clearly so that you can follow along and understand native English speakers more easily. I'm excited to help you improve your English listening skills, as well as help you learn new vocabulary, grammar, and idioms commonly heard and conversation among native English speakers. If you want to practice listening in English, then we invite you to join our conversation.

Jesse: Hi, Andrew.

Andrew: Hey, Jesse.

Jesse: Over the past couple of weeks, you and I have been watching a lot of TV and a few movies.

Andrew: Yes.

Jesse: One of the conversations we had about TV and movies is the role of the women characters.

Andrew: Ahhh, yes.

Jesse: Now, you and I have had some pretty impassioned discussions about this; very passionate conversations. We have our opinions about what makes an ideal heroine character.

Andrew: Right. You mean-... I think you and I have been trying to find a way to agree on what makes for a powerful female lead character in a story and in a TV show, the heroin, the woman who is the main character and the one we are rooting for to succeed.

Jesse: The female hero.

Andrew: Right.

Jesse: A lot of the shows and movies we have been watching have been from the Marvel Universe. So, for listeners who may be unfamiliar with this, Marvel is a comic book company they are the company who has created The Avengers, The X-Men...what else?

Andrew: Characters like Captain America, and Ironman, and Hulk, and Thor, and Spiderman.

Jesse: Right. And then, we've also been watching a few other individual shows outside of that particular company. So, one show that comes to mind is Game of Thrones, a very popular show. And, you've also been watching Orphan Black.

Andrew: That's right.

Jesse: And, if I'm not mistaken, the main character in that show is a female.

Andrews: Main characters, in fact.

Jesse: Main characters. One of the things I mentioned to you was my disappointment in how the female characters were portrayed in the recent Avengers movies.

Andrew: Okay, yes.

Jesse: Now, you also shared some similar disappointments with a couple of the characters, mainly the Black Widow, if I'm not mistaken.

Andrew: Correct. This is Scarlet Johansen playing the one female hero in The Avengers movies next to many other male characters. And, to be clear, you and I agree on a basic point, that is: We think there should be more strong female characters in many of these stories, and the conversation we're having is about what that looks like and what types of representations, what types of characters are best suited for these roles.

Jesse: Now, before we continue this conversation, let me just acknowledge the fact that you and I are two males in our early to mid-thirties...

Andrew: [chuckling] Right.

Jesse: ...Talking about what we think a strong female character looks like in a show.

Andrew: [laughing] Right. So you can just shut off the podcast now and stop listening, because we have no right to be having this conversation at all, but we're going to do it anyway...

Jesse: [laughing] For those who are still interested in practicing their English listening comprehension skill, please continue to listen on.

Andrew: [chuckling] Maybe the rage and insult that you feel from hearing us talk about this will motivate you to practice your English so you can tell us how we're wrong.

Jesse: Exactly! Yes. Good point! For the listening audience, if you have an opinion about this matter after listening to this, please share your opinion with us on the LPLE Facebook page. Know that we would love to hear your opinion about this.

If there's one thing that you and I agree on, as you just said, we would love to see more strong female characters represented on TV, in general.

Andrew: Yes.

Jesse: For the Black Widow character in the Avengers, if I remember correctly you weren't a fan of how she was portrayed.

Andrew: I like the character in the movies, but I don't like the way that she is underused in the main story lines of the movies. So, she is always present when the Avengers go and do something, but she is usually on the sidelines while someone like Captain America or Iron Man is doing all of the talking, and making a lot of the decisions, and fighting in most of the most complicated battles against enemies, and I wish that she had a more central role to play in the storylines.

Jesse: So, my opinion on the matter is I feel like she does have a central role to play in those movies; I'm not a fan of her delivery, of her acting. So, when you mentioned that she should have her own movie, I agree with you that the Black Widow should have her own movie, I'm just not a fan of that particular actress playing that character. So, let's take a look at Game of Thrones; I mentioned Game of Thrones. At our recent group dinner on Monday I came to you excited because I felt like I found a good comparison.

Andrew: Right.

Jesse: The women on the show Game of Thrones, they don't have too much screen time; although, in this season I think they're having much more. For the limited amount of screen time that they have, I'm a big fan of both their plot position in the show because it's very prominent--I appreciate just how strong they are as a particular-... as that figure in that show, but more importantly I'm a big fan of their acting.

Andrew: Right. And, I don't disagree. I think that the Game of Thrones characters are growing and developing very well, and they are being shown very well in the show; and, I agree, also, that the acting being done in most of those cases is very, very good. So, we agree on all of those points.

I think that if there is a disagreement, it is about whether or not that is the only way to present a strong female character or not. And, I think where you and I disagree on Black Widow--part of it may be a preference for the actress, which is just personal between you and me, and the other part might have a little bit to do with the character that she is playing and whether that character is bold, and loud, and in-your-face, or more of a subdued personality as a character that might be making her performance less interesting to watch.

Jesse: The Black Widow's character, by nature, is supposed to be somewhat subdued, right?

Andrew: Yes. She usually tries to stay out of conflicts until absolutely necessary. And, while she has her own opinions, she is not as invested necessarily in the outcomes of some of the disputes that happened in the movies that she's in. And, I think that, to my mind, contributes to why she is less forceful, and less forward, and less commanding like many of the Game of Thrones characters are.

Jesse: Do you think that if she had her own movie that that would change? I think by nature, because she is a spy, she can't really engage too much. I mean, it would sound like she would be the female version of Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity, to some extent, right?

Andrew: Right. I agree, and what I think would be different about a Black Widow movie that is standing alone is that instead of being a character in other people's stories--like she is in Captain America movies or Avengers movies--she would have a chance to be the main character in her own story, and she might have a much stronger opinion and an opportunity to be much more forceful in those stores.

Jesse: Well, to that extent, I really do hope that Marvel gives some consideration, like you suggested, to creating a Black Widow movie. I like Scarlett Johansson, I think, in general, she's a fantastic actress. I feel as though her role in this movie is challenged given the nature of her character. But, nevertheless, it does warrant some consideration for an individual spinoff Black Widow movie.

Andrew: I have heard rumors that they are planning to make one, and I can't wait to see it.

Outro [Jesse]: Thank you for listening to this episode of LPLE, Let's Practice Listening in English, from Dialog.FM. Subscribe to LPLE on iTunes to hear the latest episodes, or listen to past episodes on our website, Dialog.FM. That's d-i-a-l-o-g-dot-f-m. If you have questions or comments about English, or if you would like for us to use a word, grammar, or idiom in our conversation so you can learn how to use it correctly, we would love to hear from you on Twitter at @dialogdotfm or Facebook at facebook.com/dialogFM