Jessica Chastain has important things to say about how we sexualize female action stars

Even though it’s Matt Damon who’s all over The Martian posters (which makes sense, I mean, dude IS the one stuck on Mars in the movie), it’s Jessica Chastain who plays Commander Lewis, the captain of the Mars crew that accidentally leaves Damon stranded AKA the boss lady. It’s awesome to see Chastain, who was basically earthbound in Interstellar, getting to kick space-butt for The Martian. As a bonafide action heroine, it turns out that Chastain has some major feelings about how women are portrayed in blockbusters.

In an interview with Radio Times, Chastain recently explained why she believes costuming is key to making a female character work in an action flick.

“If you look at films like Elektra and Aeonflux, the problem that studios have is that they try to make kickass women very sexualized,” Chastain pointed out. “They have to be in some catsuit.”

Chastain has a good reason why she prefers her lady action heroes to be less, um, catsuit-y.

“But if you look at the most incredible female roles, like Ripley in Alien, she is a very sexy woman but she’s not wearing a lot of make-up. She’s in a T-shirt and jeans. What’s sexy about her is how capable she is. Same with Jennifer Lawrence in Hunger Games – she’s not wearing a catsuit, either.”

Chastain has a vivid memory of one particular heroine who showed her at a formative age that capability will beat out catsuits in a sexy competition any day of the week.

“Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 was incredible. I remember the opening shot of her in that tank top doing those pull-ups, and I remember being a little girl watching her and thinking, ‘This is amazing. I want to be her.’”

Chastain believes that times have changed, and that studios must now give audiences what they want, strength of character, as opposed to skimpiness of costumes.

“Studios have misjudged it in the past, and thought audiences weren’t interested in seeing a woman in an action role who’s a capable, intelligent woman and isn’t only leaning on her sex.”

So how did Chastain decide to play her latest kick-ass role? She has a simple but brilliant litmus test she uses on potential starring vehicles.

“If the female character isn’t as interesting as the male character, I’m not interested,” Chastain explained.

Hear, hear.


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(Image via 20th Century Fox.)

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