Thursday, May 27, 2010

Women of Esoterica: The Next Wave

When you think of men chasing the unknown, you think of Indiana Jones. And why not? Dr. Jones was pure embodiment of the adventurous scholar/swashbuckler. That's how men in Esoterica are perceived. So much so that today current Paranormal Researchers use Indiana Jones as an iconic image to follow, even going to far as to don hats that resemble Indiana's infamous Fedora.

But what about the women of Esoterica? There was a time no one could conjure one particular image of a tough as nails female scholar, capable of finding lost treasures and maybe even defeating a horde of Zombies. Most typical of todays media is the sight of the female scholar as some sort of sidekick.

That is, if you aren't really paying attention.

The new image is not of the quiet damsel in distress. She isn't the scholar who does all the work and gets none of the glory. The current view of the Scholarly Female Paranormalist in the media may have began with Ms. Lara Croft. Originally an action-adventure game character (Eidos Interactive/Square Enix), better known as TOMB RAIDER. Lara was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She was the daughter of a prominent Scholar and because of this was given very best education. But above all, she was tough.

A female Archaeologist with the chutzpah to go toe-to-toe with Indiana Jones was unheard of before this fanboy fantasy came to media attention. She solidified her place in  the pantheon of action figures once Angelina Jolie donned the little shorts, serpentine french braid and infamous dual pistols.

Then came Anita Blake.

Anita Blake, the heroine of 19 books by Laurell K. Hamilton, is an Animator by trade. She re-animates the dead in a world where Werewolves, Vampires and the like actually exist. She is a monster hunter extraordinaire, killing vampires who feed on humans. Oddly enough (but perhaps rightly so) she is a devout Christian, which adds to much of the conflict she incurs day to day as she tries to protect the world.

Trained in combat, with skills ranging from Judo to her scholarly knowledge in the paranormal makes Anita Blake the all around triumvirate of a heroine. She currently stars in her own comic book series, published by Marvel.

Despite Anita Blake's all too fictional abilities, she is no different than Lara Croft in the sense that being capable of fighting monsters whilst solving mysteries seems to be their modus operandi. In reality, the Women of Esoterica (although I wouldn't doubt that some of us are skilled in martial arts and have encyclopaedic knowledge of all things Esoteric) do not spend our nights fighting evil cryptids. Althought, honestly, if it ever came down to that, we probably would be the first line of defense. (What with our knowledge and all.)

With the popularity of Anita Blake you would think Entertainment would be geared more to conjuring other versions/clones of such a character. Instead, we have something new (or if you are a fan of old school swashbuckling, old) to look forward to.

Luc Besson, the man who has given us plenty of tough, indomitable female characters in such films as THE FIFTH ELEMENT, JOAN OF ARC and NIKITA has turned his attention back in time for the Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec. In a parallel universe where steampunk is the supreme tech and occult crimes run rampant, Adele is an aspiring novelist cum investigative journalist whose skills come to the fore when a Pterodactyl is on the loose, hampering her quest to convince a mad scientist to heal her comatose sister.

Adele uses her charm to get her by while maintaining a palpable air of strength and dependability that is all too lacking in some of todays heroines. Don't get me wrong; we've come a long way, but when a heroine can't save lives and fall in love and do her job without having to remind us in not so subtle, and sometimes overtly cheesy ways (like getting pregnant by her partner) that she's female, well...that's when we start to lose again.

I am sure there are many more Women of Esoterica in the media and in Entertainment, whether they be on the big screen, small screen, in comic books or in the latest novel, that I haven't mentioned. Some are not as prominent, where as some are probably in our face every day but just don't make their knack for delving into the unknown common knowledge.

I like to think Temperance Brennan of BONES is one such character. Solving crimes alongside Agent Booth, that verge more on the bizarre and the macabre. With her keen intellect and obscure knowledge of human anatomy, and her love of Archaeology and all things ancient, she is the perfect personification of the formidable Woman of Esoterica.

And that's the thing. You can't exactly put Esoteric Researchers, especially women, in a box. It's refreshing to see kick ass versions portrayed in Entertainment because why should the men have all the fun with the Errol Flynn-esque heroes and their science? Girls can do adventure too.

Maybe, just as Indiana Jones inspired generations of young men to study Archaeology (and engage in scholarly pursuits that hint toward the solving of the worlds greatest mysteries), the women I have listed will inspire young women to do the same. Or maybe, inspire them to at least pick up a book or two on the Esoteric and then take it from there.


Regan Lee said...

Welcome Tina, and thanks for the great article! I've posted a link on Pulp Jello.

Deirdre said...

Awesome article