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Open Salon's resident movie nerd and box office geek.

Scott Mendelson

Scott Mendelson
Woodland Hills, California, United States
April 02
A ten-year Salon reader, Mendelson also has a film and politics blog/column at Mendelon's Memos: located at: He is also a free lance voice over artist and occasionally contributes film reviews for

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Editor’s Pick
APRIL 21, 2010 8:20PM

Angelina Jolie's Salt, and the action movie double-standard.

Rate: 12 Flag

The cover story of this year's Entertainment Weekly summer movie preview concerns the behind the scenes scoop of the new espionage thriller Salt, directed by Phillip Noyce and starring Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.  Much of the 1.5 page article is a group 'pat on the back' for the seemingly amazing progressiveness symbolized by the fact that Angelina Jolie ended up playing an action hero originally written for a male star like Tom Cruise (he bailed when the script began to too closely resemble a Mission: Impossible picture).  Fair enough, such a thing really shouldn't be a big deal in 2010 and the fact that they are falling over themselves in self-congratulation is the very opposite of progressive.  But the real kicker occurs at the top of page 38.  A direct quote:

"In the original script, there was a huge sequence where Edwin Salt (the original male protagonist) saves his wife, who's in danger," says Noyce.  "And what we found in the new script, it seemed to castrate his character a little.  So we had to change the nature of that relationship."  In the end, Salt's husband, played by German actor August Diehl (Inglourious Basterds), was made tough enough that he didn't need saving, thank you much.

So, hidden in an article centering around just how the making of Salt is oh-so empowering for female action heroes is this tidbit.  To put it in plainer terms, the filmmakers believe that  it was perfectly OK for the spouse to be rescued from mortal danger if said love-interest was a girl, but not if the romantic partner was a man.  So it's great if the action hero is a girl, as long as they don't have to opportunity to one-up any male counterparts and/or reverse the oldest cliche in the action-film handbook.  Saying that girls can be portrayed as helpless damsels in distress but boys can't/shouldn't be is the very opposite of the sort of 'progress' that Noyce and Jolie claim to be making.

Scott Mendelson


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there are some things about gender that dont change even after the feminist revolution, and they're wired deep into our brains, and its still news to a lot of ppl..... and remember, hollywood is not about doing the right thing, its about doing what sells.... people forget that.... maybe youd like to write an article complaining about how few lead roles there are for women.... sexism in hollywood, or basic commercialism & something much deeper in human nature? I vote for the latter
Ask and ye shall receive, VZN:
I don't know what vzn is talking about. I got what you were saying.
I read the same article and thought the same thing you did. Thank you for posting this.
In Hollywood, you qualify as a "feminist" if you never fail to lower the toilet seat.
What a telling review. I am no longer a Jolie fan as I once was, but I will probably see this. Rated.
dude, & commenters, I totally sympathize, but you're just scratching the surface & in partial denial of reality. how about a list of the movies that spent a LOT of money on expensive, elite female leads only to see them BOMB VERY HARSHLY. a good example-- halle berry in CATWOMAN. the list is very, very long, and stinging. hollywood may not be fair, but it is actually quite rational. its humans who arent rational =(
Good article. Does anyone else find that foreign films are sometimes better about that stuff?
One of my favorites: Amelie.
I think I agree with you for the most part, especially given the context of that article. At the same time, some of the other commentators here do have a point - movies with a strong female lead just don't tend to sell as well. Hollywood is a business that does what's necessary to make more money, so they're going to give the people what they want.