Charlize Theron: The ‘Atomic Blonde’ Star Smashing Gender Stereotypes


If you need a reason to watch David Leitch’s latest offering, then the fact Atomic Blonde stars Charlize Theron is more than ample justification for investing 115 precious minutes of your life. Here’s why…

Charlize Theron won an Academy Award for her performance as the serial killer Aileen Wurnos in the 2003 crime drama film, Monster, and since then she’s also played an evil ice queen in the Snow White and the Huntsman films (respectively released in 2012 and 2016). She triumphed as the fearless, one-handed soldier Imperator Furiosa in the film Mad Max: Fury Road alongside Tom Hardy in 2015, and now she stars as the eponymous Atomic Blonde in the David Leitch directed spy flick. The characters that Theron tends to play in movies aren’t always the easiest to like, but there’s something about Charlize Theron that means we can’t help but root for her – no matter which side she is actually on.

For one thing, she inspires us to not suffer fools gladly. Theron is not afraid to challenge the idea that female actors are obligated to always be polite and surrender private information to the press no matter what they are asking. The award-winning actor is notorious for walking out of interviews where the interviewer has asked gendered questions about dieting for role. As a result of the fact that Theron has challenged the way the press treat female actors, she has been called all manner of names: she’s a bitch, a diva, an ice queen. But really, she’s just a woman who knows her own value.

Theron’s no-nonsense attitude to the press is only one way in which she challenges the way women in Hollywood get treated. As a feminist, she also leads by example for other actresses, encouraging them to ask for the same pay as their male counterparts for movies. Theron demanded that she be paid the same as her male co-star, Chris Hemsworth, for her work on the Snow White and the Huntsman prequel,The Huntsman.

Theron is clearly no stranger to winning fights like these in spite of the odds. She continues to come out on top in Atomic Blonde no matter how many punches and kicks get thrown at her. From her platinum locks to her knee high boots, her character is enviously stylish throughout the film. As you’re watching her dispatch of enemies in rapid, exhilarating fight scenes, at the same time you can’t help but find yourself wondering how she got around the luggage restrictions at the airport, or where she got her coat from. That’s part of the beauty of this film; Broughton doesn’t have to be masculine to prove her worth as a spy in a painfully male-dominated profession. Throughout the movie, Broughton is a strong, fearless woman who knows what she wants and knows exactly how to go about getting it, too. Ultimately, her character is a lot like Charlize Theron, in real life as well.

It’s clear from the combat scenes in Atomic Blonde how hard Theron is prepared to work at her craft. The way the film is shot makes it very clear that it is Theron and not a stunt double throwing and taking the punches. Although men and women are biologically different, a fact which must be taken into account by anyone choregraphing a male-female fight scene, the bust-up scenes in Atomic Blonde convincingly demonstrate how women can use their physiological differences to their advantage. This movie makes it very clear that Theron is physically powerful and disciplined, as well as a powerful influencer who isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo in Hollywood. Theron repeatedly shows us what women are capable of achieving, physically as well as socially.

Not only are the characters she plays not afraid to get their hands dirty, but Theron often plays a hands-on role in the production of the films she stars in – and Atomic Blonde is no exception. Charlize has her own production company, Denver and Delilah, who produced the 2015 mystery thriller, Dark Places, based on the Gillian Flynn novel by the same name, and who also helped bring the Netflix series, Girlboss, to life. As a show about a girl who becomes the head of her own fashion empire, it’s easy to see why Theron was attracted to the task of turning Sophia Amoruso’s best-selling book into a show. When they were pitching Girlboss to one network, Theron was outraged to be told that there were some concerns with the temperament of the show’s protagonist – the board were worried an audience would think the character was a bitch. Refusing to pander to the guys in the board room, Theron took the show to Netflix instead, in an act of defiance which rebelled against the notion that female characters have to be ‘likeable’ all of the time.

It seems that we’re back to the question of why we can’t help but like Charlize Theron, in spite of the rough-around-the-edges characters she often gravitates towards. The characters Theron chooses to champion aren’t perfect, but then again, who is? Well, Theron herself comes damn close, that’s for sure; she’s strong-willed, a feminist, has an impeccable wardrobe and can hold her own in a fight. She stands up for herself and other women, and she’s not afraid to call out people when she doesn’t agree with the way they treat her and her peers.

Theron’s latest movie Atomic Blonde is very well stylised; the 80s soundtrack and neon lighting throughout create a convincing setting, but ultimately the film is let down by the plot, which is full of worn out spy movie cliches which you can see coming from a mile away. That said, it’s worth the watch – if only for Theron’s badass blonde take on Bond.  

Words by Beth Kirkbride



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