Charlie’s Angels and On-screen Female Friendships

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I have been obsessed with both Charlie’s Angels (2000) and it’s sequel Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003) since I was 8 years old. I’ve met a lot of people who haven’t understood my hype for them, so I thought I’d just go into why I love these two films so much, maybe too much… no, definitely the right amount.

Yes, these films are silly, the fight scenes are absurd, and their undercover characters are over-the-top. But I don’t see anything wrong with a movie not taking itself too seriously and just completely embracing the fun. Mostly, what I love is these three adorable, charming, bad-ass, female leads.

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I love that at the core of their crime-fighting coolness is this very strong and real female friendship. As someone who has been extremely shaped by strong female friends, it fills my heart to see these women professionally kick ass whilst still having fun and supporting each other. They always have each other’s backs, including in their personal lives and I think it was a great opportunity to use the Charlie’s Angels franchise to highlight the importance of female friendships. I love that during missions they make sure everyone’s okay, they crack jokes, they help each other flirt, and you can tell they genuinely enjoy each others company. One of my favourite scenes is when Dylan (Drew Barrymore) and Alex (Lucy Liu) are helping Natalie (Cameron Diaz) move into her new house and MC Hammer comes on and they all throw their boxes to the side and have a dance session, doing the classic Hammer pants dance and shouting things like “go Alex!” before collapsing on the sofa and bursting into giggles. It’s so cute and you can tell that the actresses were friends in real life and have much love between them. Unlike many other films with female leads, there is never a hint of rivalry/competition amongst them, only support and praise. Simply thinking about it makes me happy.

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A lot of people will, upon observation, argue that this film is sexist. There are three attractive women who are constantly put in sexy costumes and go undercover, which usually involves seducing men. I get it. This looks and sounds bad. However, I think the way the movie executes these things is to the complete opposite effect. These women are aware that they get sexualised and use that to their advantage and play the men. They know that in this sexist society, this works as a perfect way to distract people from what they’re actually investigating. They are constantly underestimated because of their appearance and they use it as an asset. If the world was totally equal and they could never use sexualisation to their advantage, they’d still be amazing at their jobs. We see them actually analyse and make things in a science lab; they are very talented fighters (often defying physics), very tactical and work extremely well together at solving their cases.

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The only thing I do find problematic is the fact that they work for this anonymous billionaire white man. However, I can forgive this because it’s not as if they just blindly follow his orders. He gives them the case, but they come up with all of their tactics and carry out the investigation without help. We see them have many breakthroughs and come up with answers that Charlie couldn’t. When the headquarters blows up and they have no gadgets or help available, they still solve and win the mission. They even save Charlie’s life from a missile. Overall, it would be better if they were just three independent women doing this, but I can still allow this version since he’s not particularly controlling.

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Furthermore, in both films we have bad-ass female villains as well, female villains that can fight and are smart. These, to me, are just the ultimate girl power movies. They have so much heart, but are also very funny and altogether winning. At the end of the second and final film, the three women have just defeated the villain (Demi Moore) and the final shot is them hugging each other and screaming “I LOVE OUR FAMILY!” And that just sums up everything I see and admire about these films.

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This got me thinking about how rarely I see strong female friendships that I am charmed by in films. TV is a different story because we have more time with the characters and therefore, friendships have more time to breathe. Often in films, there are friendships thrown together, where the women have to learn to love each other, but I want a believable and organic friendship that remains strong throughout. Other on-screen female friendships that I’ve been convinced and enamoured by are Meryl Streep, Julie Walters and Christine Baranski in Mamma Mia!; Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon in Thelma and Louise; Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton in First Wives Club. 

To summarise, I just want more ladies being awesome, whilst being friends because that’s the world that I hope to live in forever.

By: Freyja Pakarinen

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