October 23, 2006

The Action Heroine's Handbook


The Action Heroine's Handbook, by Jennifer Worick and Joe Borgenicht, is supposed to be funny. It's not meant to be taken too seriously. And maybe I just didn't have the right sense of humor when reading it.

But maybe it's a trite piece of sexist crap. That's another possibility.

The premise, basically, is to instruct women on how to be "action heroines" in five categories: Tough Chick Skills, Beauty Skills, Brain Skills, Brawn Skills, and Escape Skills. Each category gives advice for specific situations, drawing on famous action heroines for inspiration. For example, the Tough Chick Skills section draws on Demi Moore's G.I. Jane to advise would-be action heroines on how to "go toe to toe with the guys in your special unit." The Brain Skills section includes "how to survive as a mob wife," calling on Lorraine Bracco's role in Goodfellas for tips.

Those examples may give you a hint as to what is wrong with this book. Most of the advice given is not about being an actual kick-ass heroine, it's about being a sidekick of one type or another, about how to react to men. The whole book is very focused on appearance (beyond having an entire beauty section), and is far less about how to actually kick ass and far more about how to appear to be kicking ass.

Like I said, it's meant to be funny. However, I personally don't find advice such as "go with the boys to a strip club" (from the aforementioned "how to go toe to toe with the guys in your special unit" section) to be all that funny. Nor am I impressed by the first two offerings in the "Brawn" section, "How to Win a Catfight" and "How to Choke a Man with Your Bare Thighs." At least they mentioned Linda Hamilton's amazing T2 physique, though.

Basically, the humor and heroine content of this book is a lot less Tank Girl and a lot more Charlie's Angels. It doesn't, even in jest, advocate any real subversion of traditional roles. Given the authors' previous offerings (Worick's include How to Live with a Man... and Love It! The Gentle Art of Catching and Keeping Your Man), this isn't particularly surprising.


Thanks for reviewing it. When I saw "how to win a catfight" I feared for the worst. Why not just "how to win a fight"?



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