Where are today’s Ripleys and Marge Gundersons?

Son of a gunderson

RogerEbert.com had a nice writeup of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists’s countdown of the top 55 female film characters of all time.

I would’ve put His Girl Friday’s Hildy in the top 10 (she’s number 16). But even though I’m not the biggest film aficionado, I already knew who was going to be no. 2 and 1: Ripley and Marge Gunderson.

Both are singularly unique female characters for their time, and this is sadly the case decades later. And the AWFJ has them ranked in the right order, in my opinion, and not just because of how great Fargo is and how bad the latter Aliens movies were.

Both characters are unique for their depth, independence, and, well, for just being the rare female lead actors in non-romantic films. But what Marge Gunderson has over Ripley is that being a woman is inextricable from her character. She’s pregnant, for one thing. Whereas other than the undercurrent of motherhood denied of Aliens, Ripley is not much different from your everyman action hero of the 80s. In fact, she was originally written to be a man. That she is such a memorable and rare character speaks to the kind of roles written for men versus women. In fact, Hildy from His Girl Friday is a part originally written for a man.

How many parts played by men were originally written for a woman? I can’t think of any well-known supporting roles, nevermind lead characters.

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