Why I’m Tired of the “Kick-Ass Hottie” Character

First time I ever saw what is called a “kick-ass-hottie” I was cheering. However, since then a lot has changed and frankly, each time I see that trope on screen I feel like screaming.

Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been a feminist for so many years to a point that today I’m called an “old fashion feminist”. Maybe, it’s because I’m just tired and pissed off. This post might sound like a rant, but it isn’t.

This post is about how to improve representation of strong female characters.

Unless you were living on another planet or under a rock for the past 6-7 years, you know there is a high demand for strong female characters today in movies. But here is the catch… 

What do they mean by  a STRONG female character?

Unfortunately, this concept of STRONG had led to the explosion of the “Kick-Ass-Hottie” character. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love action movies. I love watching a gorgeous looking woman kicking ass and putting down the “bad GUYS”.

But that doesn’t make her a STRONG character!

How is it that every “kick-ass-hottie” has the body of Venus de Milo on steroids. Usually wears either close to nothing or a second skin outfit that reveals everything. And worse of all –  kicking ass in full makeup or chasing someone down the street in high heels and catching them without one hair out of place?

The answer to that is – SHE’S NOT REAL! She’s just a fantasy projection of the typical male dream.

Here is why this character is so irritating and two-dimensional:

#1: Always gorgeous looking.

Think of the most famous “kick-ass-hotties”  and you’ll come up with the most gorgeous looking female actresses. (Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansson, Uma Thorman, Jennifer Lawrence and the list goes on). 

Now I know movies are a BUSINESS, which means money, which means they would show what they think the audience wants to see. Hollywood is still a “man’s world” school of thought, they think we only want to see gorgeous looking women. 

However, how is it that when it comes to great looking men kicking-ass, we get to see all the sweat, blood and gore. At the same time women end up smelling like roses at the end of the fight?

#2: They don’t say much.

The famous Bechdel test demands to have at least two women featured and they would be talking to each other on something other than a man. It’s an old criteria, but somehow many of these movies with “kick-ass-hotties’ ‘ still fail with it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, adding dialogue for the sake of dialogue is not a solution. In the end characters are what they DO, not what they say. But, it’s interesting how even in movies where the Protagonist is female, and a “bad-ass” secondary characters who are male, would have just about the same amount of dialogue. 

 Isn’t it strange that Lara Croft most of the time doesn’t really say anything? I mean, Angelina Jolie, who is as close as anybody came to being a female James Bond, has made a career in how much she can express in one word, which usually will be “Hmm” and raising an eyebrow. 

If a character exists only for the sake of how attractive she looks when she flips in the air while chopping someone’s head, we have not advanced much in female representation in movies.

#3: Are Fillers.

It’s nice to see that Hollywood got the point that women in movies can be more than a love interest, a wife or a girlfriend. But if she exists just to fill in the quota of adding women, then we’re back to square one. 

In many films they use the “kick-ass-hottie” to cover this issue by turning the henchman into a henchwoman (and nine times out of ten a sexy one). Maggie Q. character in Live Free or Die Hard comes to mind as an example of it. Frankly, in those cases, I’d prefer sticking to only guys then.

#4: They are nearly always close to perfect.

Think of “The Bride” in ‘Kill Bill’, or Lara Croft or Natasha the “Black Widow”, what do they all have in common?

They are all close to being PERFECT, they are all extraordinary. They are gorgeous, smart, witty and can whip anyone’s ass while driving her children to school.

Sorry, guys, I don’t buy this. If this is the only way female characters can be represented, I can’t relate to it.

What about us, “ordinary” women, who struggle just to get out of bed because we are so tired of trying to fit into this “perfect” idea?

No, this “kick-ass-hottie” is not my ideal.

Does it mean there is no place for this character? ABSOLUTELY not.

First, it’s kind of fun seeing breaking the idea of the “weaker sex”, but most importantly, all these reasons above can be corrected in the following way.

Here is how you can improve that character:

#1. Let us see her without the photoshopping – If it’s OK to see the likes of Chris Hemsworth with blood and sweat on him, then it’s OK to see some blood on women who fight.

Great example is Furiosa from Mad Max. 


#2. Give her a REASON to be in the story – Every character needs to have a role in the story.

They need to have a motive and a goal, not just because the protagonist needs them.


#3. Give her a voice – Let her express herself in lines that could be just as memorable as her actions. 


#4. Make her relatable – Maybe it’s my age speaking, but I’d really like to see some “kick-ass-hottie” who is a bit older.

Yes, older women can also be gorgeous and sexy (god forbid), they don’t all have to get the Mentor role or the “wise-woman”. They certainly have the experience to “kick-ass”.

Michele Yeon in The Witcher – Blood Origin is a fantastic example of it.



Bottom Line – Having a STRONG female character has nothing to do with kicking-ass. It has to do with having a CHARACTER, but that’s for another post.


Would LOVE to get your input and thoughts about this trope of “kick-ass-hottie”.

Share it in the comment box below.


17 thoughts on “Why I’m Tired of the “Kick-Ass Hottie” Character”

  1. Caroline van Leuven

    Great article, Vered. Women as much as men do care about content and want to provide the world with content. Not with an image just to ajust.

  2. Uh oh, did someone say Bechdel Test … 😉
    Also why are Captain Marvel, Scarlet Witch and Wonder Woman in the pics? They are not *just* kick-ass hotties by a long shot. Even Black Widow has evolved in a major way since her first big Avengers appearance in 2012.
    Have you time-travelled to 2009, Vered?

    1. Lucy V Hay – I agree that Captain Marvel, Scarlet Witch (especially) & Wonder Woman are MORE than just “kick-ass hotties” BUT they fit into my #1 reason of why I’m tired of them… For once give me one that looks like Furiosa

  3. Sure, Furiosa is unusual because she looks like hell from the offset.

    But tell me, how many MALE action movie characters look like hell from the offset of the movie? Maybe John Maclane in the first Die Hard at a push cuz he’s bare foot and in a vest – but even then he’s clean.
    Probably Wolverine in LOGAN as he’s dying but there were were multiple iterations where we are invited to see him as gorgeous and even naked before that.

    It’s very, very unusual to see a character of ANY gender that looks like hell throughout the entire story. We are invited to consider the likes of Wolverine, Thor, Iron Man et al as good-looking and sexually alluring and I think it’s disingenuous of standard femcrit commentary* to pretend we’re not.

    1. You make me sound as if I’m against having sexy guys and dolls…

      I like watching sexy characters just as any other healthy person.
      The fact is that they did turn Thor into a big blob in Endgame.
      John Wick is more bloody than good-looking nearly 90% of the movie.

      But when it comes to women they would do their flipflop in the air landing on their feet without a single hair out of place.
      They would be running on rooftops on bloody high heels that you can’t even walk on normally. That’s why I said let’s have more Furiosa or even Michelle Yeoh in The Witcher – Blood Origin

      1. Not at all, but I am getting ‘why don’t super heroines have ponytails’ vibes (a huge Twitter argument that erupted pre-Covid).

        John Wick is injured from the offset in PARABELLUM but in the first one he’s not badly off even after that first beating until after Willem Dafoe rescues him which is around plot point 2 (they don’t mark his face too badly because of THAT plastic bag scene).

        As for Thor being a ‘big blob’ that was actually a very nuanced representation of a fat/depressed character – which we hardly ever get, male OR female – and not about looking ‘like crap’. Scarlet Witch looks like hell in DOCTOR STRANGE when Wanda 838 is taken over by the way, plus we’re seeing more nuanced kick-ass hotties as standard, they’re even venturing into antihero territory (finally!).

        Fact is, the kick-ass hottie OR hero is a heteronormative FANTASY character in terms of looks — traditionally, women love a piece of rough, but men love a gorgeous cat suit. Also let’s not forget queer women too who lovelovelove the latter.

        1. I think in principle we’re talking about the same thing. They are a FANTASY character in terms of look.

          For once I want to see a FANTASY that I can relate to. There are more and more movie watchers in my age, we would love to dream of kicking-ass with someone who looks more like us meaning – doesn’t look gorgeous, because “gravity sucks” surprisingly strong and flexible even though they are wearing their crocks or birkenstock.

          I have to say that besides Michelle Yeong the other character that I saw that I was cheering for was the Stick Character in Daredevil series. I would love to see more like him, but female.
          Except Tom Cruise who still does his own stunt work at 60 most of them have doubles even in their 40’s so why not for women too…

          1. Yes we agree broadly, I am just touchy because femcrit (not you) too frequently descends into denigrating femme-presenting women and I have suffered from that all my life (‘wear make up? Have big boobs? Wear skirts? = lesser than’).

            This is why I wrote Adelita in THE COVEN – she is badass but an older, ‘normal’ woman. I am really enjoying the sudden trope that seems to be everywhere …

            The ‘Swearing Granny’ as seen on TV a lot like THREE PINES, THE ROOKIE or ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING and ofc my own novel, KILL FOR IT 😉

            Now older women characters are breaking taboos like this, it’s only a matter of time before they do other stuff in stories too.

          2. You know me… I LOVE your Adelita character and wish we’d see more of her.
            In the end, statistically, we are the majority in the world, that’s why we’re called Boomers…
            We should have more representation and one that shows the variety of it, not just the dementia and retired not knowing what to do with our life…

  4. By the way, the closest I’ve seen to Furiosa in a more recent movie is COPSHOP. Alexis Louder puts in an amazing performance as a young cop trying to keep hitmen out of her precinct and ends up going full John McClane and looks like utter hell by the end of it

  5. Absolutely, though there is one school of thought that says whilst Boomers might be the majority, they were the ones who IGNORED representation/diversity in the media during the 70s-90s, choosing to focus on youth instead and this is the result 🤷

    I would be interested to see some stats rather than anecdotal evidence to support or refute this.

    1. We didn’t have much to choose from but a short look at the top five American TV shows of 1970/71 reveals this:
      1970/71 –
      #1 Marcus Welby, M.D. (Robert Young was 63 years old who ),
      #2 The Flip Wilson Show (Black comedian, Flip, was 37 year old when he hosted this variety show.
      #3 Here’s Lucy, (Lucy was 59 when she played a single working mother with two teenagers.)
      #4 Ironside (Raymond Burr was 53 when he played a paraplegic consultant for the San Francisco police.
      #5 Gunsmoke (James Arnass was 47 when he played sheriff of Dodge City. His love interest played by Amanda Blake, was 41.)
      #1 All in the Family (Carroll O’Connor was 46 when he played bigoted conservative Archie Bunker, Jean Stapleton (Edith) was 47) The show explored political issues. Archie would be a Trumpist today).
      #2 The Flip Wilson Show
      #3 Marcus Welby, M.D.
      #4 Gunsmoke
      #5 ABC Movie of the Week
      #1 All in the Family
      #2 Sanford and Son (Black actor Redd Foxx was 48 when he played bigoted 65 year old junk dealer/father of liberal son Lamont, (played by Demond Wilson whose best friend is hispanic.
      #3 Hawaii Five-O (Jack Lord was 53 when he played the head of Hawaii State Police. Features a diverse cast.
      #4 Maude (Bea Aurthur was 51 when she played an outspoken, middle-aged, civil rights advocate.)
      #5 Bridget Loves Bernie (Explores an interfaith marriage between a Catholic woman and a Jewish man)
      The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie
      #1 All in the Family
      #2 The Waltons (Explores family and socio/economic issues during the depression and WW2. Male and female cast ranged in age from 71 to 12.)
      #3 Sanford and Son
      #4 M*A*S*H (This dramedy series questioned, mocked, and grappled with America’s role in the Cold War and the senselessness of war, sexuality and social issues.
      #5 Hawaii Five-O
      1 All in the Family
      2 Sanford and Son
      3 Chico and the Man (The first U.S. television series set in a Mexican-American neighborhood. Jack Albertson (68) plays the cantankerous owner of a run-down garage who reluctantly takes in an optimistic Mexican looking for a job.
      4 The Jeffersons (A nouveau riche black family move into a posh high rise. It explores socio-economic and racial tensions through comedy. Ten years on air.)
      5 M*A*S*H

      Those who are not boomers will not know how innovative these series (the most popular series of the time) were and how they encouraged progressive social values while pointing out the detrimental effects of racist and economic bigotry. They may seem tame now, but in their time, they were avante garde. And they featured diverse characters.
      Boomers wanted to uncover the ugliness of the existing economic and social structure, rid the world of racism.
      The 80’s economy (at the behest of oil cartels and other oligachs) nosedived and television offered far less controversial programs. In 1980/81 Dallas, The Dukes of Hazzard, and Love Boat were in the top five (along with a biting documentary series 60 Minutes. MASH was still there.
      By 1985 The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Murder, She Wrote, 60 Minutes and Cheers took the top spots.
      There was a lot less diversity – I tend to think this was more of a top brass, deliberate white-washing by the more-and-more powerful media conglomerates being run by more conservative few elite oligarchs. When offered them, boomers loved shows that explored political and social issues. I think we figured we had won the war and liberalism was now predominant. We could step back and concentrate on raising our children in a far safer world.
      Sadly, we were deluded. Behind the scenes, the elites were infiltrating progressive bureaucratic organizations, the education, healthcare and justice systems. And they increasingly tightened their control of the media – television and film.

      I would blame the Silent Generation oligarchs and their greedy corporate lackeys for any lack of representation/diversity in the media from the 1980s onward.
      They have consistently fought and consistently won their war against progressive values. They’ve used pap and propaganda to boost their profits and reversed progressive policies in order to maintain the socio/economic status quo upon which their power depends.

      1. Thanks Wendy for such an intensive look at this question. I’m not sure I agree to your conclusion, but I certainly agree that somewhere the Boomers thought they “won the war” and can focus on raising their kids… I wouldn’t call it a conspiracy but just lack of awarness.

  6. Check out the 2015 film, “Never Let Go.”

    She is exactly the kind of female protagonist you are looking for – smart, strong, determined, flawed and fearless. There isn’t one scene where she is kicking ass with high heels on.

    The protagonist gets very dirty, sweaty and bloody – in fact, I thought perhaps this aspect was slightly overdone. I would have stolen some clean clothes and tried to disguise myself with more than a scarf in a country where women can cover themselves from head to toe, wear brown contacts and investigate incognito.

    There were awesome stunts and car chases and plot twists that almost fooled me (and I am rarely if ever fooled by even the cleverest mystery writers.)

    It would be fun to write a film in which men wearing stilettos, short shorts and tank tops chase clues while in the thick of the action, women in suits and ties or full riot gear, catch killers.

    1. THanks Wendy, I would definitely check this out. I agree it would be fun to write a movie where men would have to run wearing stilettos. On Tenerife there is a day during the Carnival (which is the biggest one after Rio) where men run a marathon on high heels!!! And it’s not an event only for gays or transvestite… It’s a lot of fun!!!

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