When we look at entertainment violence through the years, it's easy to see only the most frightening changes: increasing explicitness, intensity, moral ambiguity. But some of the biggest changes are also the most encouraging. One was the separation of fantasy violence from celebrations of historical or politically loaded real violence through movies like Star Wars. A shift perhaps just as profound has occurred more recently, in the relationship of women to power, sex, and aggression.
Traditionally, women in action stories played either the victim to be rescued (thus an object of male power and a prize to be won) or the victim who isn't rescued (an object again, usually to make evil seem more horrific and its destruction more urgently needed). When women took power for themselves, the effect was usually destructive, and the women served as femmes fatales. There were exceptions, from Wonder Woman to Princess Leia, but they appealed overwhelmingly to very little girls. Others, like Emma Peel of The Avengers, won cult followings mainly among late adolescents and adults. In generations past, as boys and girls passed through the ages of intense sexual differentiation, they usually showed a great loss of interest in, even a discomfort with, fantasies of powerful women.
During the 1980s that tendency reached an offensive apex in commercial entertainment. Action movies from Commando to Lethal