Creating an account with gives you access to more features and services, like our weekly newsletter and other special features just for the film community.


Cameron's Queens of the Avatar

Most women seem not to be naturally predisposed to Avatar, but let us remind you just how awesome the women in James Cameron's movies are. Yes, the King of the World is a feminist, even in blue worlds of imagination.

Avatar, James Cameron, Sigourney Weaver
James Cameron, Sigourney Weaver

James Cameron
put Ripley in the powerloader suit and gave Sarah Connor her buff frame, then directed one of the biggest romances of all time. But when it comes to his new film, which you must know by now is Avatar, more than 70% of ticket buyers are male. And it's not like this is your average blow-'em-up action movie that practically demands you go braindead; Avatar is earning serious Oscar buzz, and yet even the women who are checking out competition like Nine and Crazy Heart and Up in the Air seem to be taking one look at the futuristic weaponry and epic battle scenes and saying, "No thanks, I'll rent Titanic instead."

But Cameron's talk about being a feminist and writing all his movies as chick flicks isn't just an attempt to get women into his movies (though that's part of it, too). Avatar features three of the best female characters Cameron has ever written: warriors and lovers and mother figures and all distinct characters, a far cry from the usual "handbag" role that women get to play in action movies (I'm looking at you, Michael Bay). In general, female moviegoers are more inclined to buy tickets for romantic comedies or musical extravagances like Mamma Mia!, but they all deserve a chance to see themselves up on the screen as they are in Avatar, taking charge and remaining fully developed characters at the same time.

Allow us to introduce you to the three superb ladies of Avatar, with a little help from some of Cameron's previous heroines to give you some context. Sure, ex-Marine Jake Sully is the main character of Avatar, but without the key women in the movie, he never would have made it anywhere.

Avatar: Giovanni Ribisi, Sigourney Weaver
Giovanni Ribisi, Sigourney Weaver

Dr. Grace Augustine, played by Sigourney Weaver

Her job:
Head of the AVTR Program on Pandora, where they combine the DNA of humans and the native Na'vi populations to create Avatars that can be inhabited by humans and used to explore the planet.
Her attitude: Too brilliant and too old for this shit.
Her skills: Extensive knowledge of the flora and fauna of Pandora; fluent in Na'vi; immaculate bullshit detector.
Cameron character she'd get along with best: Ellen Ripley, of course. As (also) played by Weaver, Ripley was always the toughest member of any team, and in the Alien films she was also valued for her intimate knowledge of alien species—though, granted, in a very different way.

Avatar: Michelle Rodriguez
Michelle Rodriguez

Trudy Chacon, played by Michelle Rodriguez

Her job:
Retired Marine pilot in charge of the giant helicopters that the American military outfit on Pandora uses to intimidate and attack the Na'vi.
Her attitude: Strictly business.
Her skills: Perfect marksmanship; insider knowledge of the military goons trying to keep the Na'vi down; willingness to switch teams when it becomes clear who the good guy is.
Cameron character she'd get along with best: Vasquez from Aliens is the obvious parallel, being the most notable Latina in any of Cameron's films, but I see a little bit of Rose from Titanic in Trudy. She's devoted to her one mindset until her eyes are opened to another part of the world, and her willingness to join the fight and protect those less powerful echoes Rose's dedication to stay on the ship, helping others, until the end.

Avatar: Zoe Saldana
Zoe Saldana, kind of

Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana

Her job:
Queen-to-be of the Na'vi clan, and assigned trainer for Jake Sully, who is taken in by her clan when he's stranded, in his avatar body, in the forest.
Her attitude: Passionate and proud, and deeply wary of the human invaders.
Her skills: Innate Na'vi connection with the earth; wicked with a bow and arrow; rousing speech-giving ability.
Cameron character she'd get along with best: Sarah Connor. When teamed up with a strange visitor, like Sarah was with Kyle Reese in The Terminator, Neytiri grudgingly takes care of this guy before inevitably falling in love with him. And when faced with something precious to protect—in Sarah's case, her son; in Neytiri's, her entire family—both are armed and ready for the challenge.

Gale Anne Hurd   Linda Hamilton   Kathryn Bigelow

In addition to Cameron's fictional fearsome females, it's worth noting the awe-inspiring power of his real-life loves. Second wife Gale Anne Hurd (above, left) produced Aliens and The Abyss during their marriage, while years after their Terminator partnership ended, Cameron married legendary badass Linda Hamilton (above, center). And while his marriage to director Kathryn Bigelow (above, right) may have been one of the shortest, it may turn out to be the most historically important: the two are poised to become the first pair of exes to compete for the Best Director Oscar, with Bigelow's The Hurt Locker cleaning up critics awards right and left. Avatar is likely to do well at the Oscars too, but if there's anything we've learned from the way Cameron treats women in his movies, we know he won't take Bigelow as anything less than worthy competition.

Avatar is in theaters now, and it's ALREADY at #25 on IMDb's list of all-time favorite movies.

Find tickets, and try to see it in 3D.

Watch the trailer:



What you need to know today