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Charlies Angels: Full Throttle: Empowering Women One Drop Kick at a Time

Starring three such beautiful and tantalizing women, it is difficult to imagine the Angels of Charlies Angels: Full Throttle to be anything but sexual creatures (Nichol 2003). The movie centers around the lives of three women Charles Townsend hires and funds the resources for in solving crimes he assigns. Charlies Angels: Full Throttle, has been denigrated by critics and viewers due to its disempowerment of women by considering them weak due to their interdependence, portraying them as sexual objects, and regarding them as unintelligent women who depend on Charlies guidance. Many movie critics such as Robert Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, who wrote that Charlies Angels: Full Throttle was a movie without a brain in its three pretty little heads, or the opinion of James Verniere of the Boston Herald as 111 minutes of eye candy believe the girls sexual appeal as the only reason to watch the movie. English professors, like Jonathan Smith of the University of Michigan, may take the perspective that true, traditional heroes in mythology are characterized to be isolated from society as a wanderer or in exile of some kind, which excludes the team of Angels (Smith.) However, a closer look at Charlies Angels: Full Throttle reveals that these women are strengthened by their teamwork, knowingly use their sexuality to accomplish their goals, and use their intelligence to analyze the evidence they recover without assistance. Rather than denigrate women, their success could even be deemed as empowering. Traditional action heroes, particularly of the male variety, typically work alone, develop their rugged masculine strength from their independence and lack of outside

support and resources. While traditional heroes of the past have been made tough via their individualism and their ability to confront obstacles by themselves, Charlies Angels: Full Throttle resists these ideals and depicts three women working as a team, with the additional assistance of Bosley and Charlie (Ross 231). Critical perspectives consider the Angels weak and incapable of defeating opponents alone, yet they are empowered by their friendship and teamwork because by coming together they unite all their talents into one lethal fighting force. As with most undercover stakeouts, they have individual roles to play tasks to that force them to separate. For example, during the beach stakeout for the surfing murderer, Natalie tries pursue him on the beach while Alex and Dylan wait at the hot dog stand. Natalies independent work shows the Angels capable of operating individually and highlights their ability to assign themselves tasks. Yet despite their separation, Natalie is fully supported by the molar-mic communication and their watchful gaze (through binoculars) should she require their assistance. This occurs when the Angels realize they are making little progress with him, and plant themselves under his car, prepared to steal information about him whilst Natalie distracts him. Not only does this demonstrate their abilities of working together, it also accentuates their trust and knowledge in one another. In particular, this friendship and trust aids them when they must work as a team controlling three different entities, such as dirt bikes. When Natalie is knocked off her bike, Dylan controls her speed so that Natalie will land on the back of Dylans. Sharon Ross says these women grow as heroes because of their female friends demonstrating how the Angels close friendships do not take away from their individual power, but show how they may be combined to empower themselves as a collective force (Ross 231). Even in the opening

credits, Charlie reminds us that these are three very different little girls who grew up to be three very different women because he knowingly selected girls from diverse backgrounds, realizing the potential each of them can provide to the group as a team member. Historically, the only means for many women in Europe and in some cases Asia (the Empress Dowager of China and certain Italian courtesans being an example) to gain power was through the use of their sexuality, often because that is all they had to barter with. In the modern context of Charlies Angels: Full Throttle, three strong minded and intelligent women utilizing a similar method to influence men would use their femininity and desirability to their advantage. According to Jeffrey Brown, these women exert power over men in the film first through their control of the mens looks and secondly through their ultimate victory over the men who seek to terrorize them which can be viewed as a modern take on girl power and the heroines abilities to manipulate the mens attention (Brown 66). Not only can they compete with the men physically, but their sexuality out powers them. The three women in Charlies Angels: Full Throttle recognize how others view them and thus use their sexuality and the stereotypical views of their opponents to gain the advantage. For example, they use their sexuality as a distraction to obtain the keys they need by posing as risqu dancers on stage. It is the audience of men that misconstrue their intentions and believe them to be harmless based on their costumes, choreography, and the circumstances of which they meet. The Angels employ sex fetishes popularly desired by men such as the dominatrix or revealing clothing to distract them. In this particular sequence, Natalie initially draws attention to herself by being whipped naked by Alex.

Even the film audience is captivated by the camera showing a close-up of Natalie clad in a bikini shaking her buttocks under a spotlight while kneeling in a large bowl of water. By attracting the eye of all the male viewers, Natalie lets Dylan and Alex successfully move about the floor waiting for the right moment to take the keys and paper from the guard. This not only demonstrates their intentional use of sexuality to their advantage, but also the benefits of working together as a team to complete a task. The bodies [of Charlies Angels: Full Throttle] are presented as dangerous not just because they can fight or shoot but because they are alluring, emphasizing a unique double threat male action heroes have never exhibited (Brown 65). Due to this additional advantage, the heroines could be considered more powerful than traditional male heroes due to their sexual appeal and their ability to use it. Rather than disempowering women through their actions, the Angels invite the sexual gaze of onlookers, but never allow the onlookers to cross boundary of touching them. Some perspectives may believe that although the Angels clearly possess beauty, their skills and intelligence are limited because they rely on Charlie and Bosley to provide information and resources they need in order to succeed. From this point of view, Charlies Angels: Full Throttle disempowers women through their dependency on men and male mentors, thus never truly becoming independent and successful heroines using their own intelligence. However, although Charlie provides the Angels with case information, they deliberate and develop their plan of attack and disguise without the assistance of Charlie or Bosley. In fact, immediately after Bosley is first inducted, he excitedly asks the Angels what task hell be assigned with first, accepting their role as the leaders. Their response to him to read some body language reveals limited information to Bosley, keeping him in

the dark as well as demonstrating the existence of an already devised plan on how they intend to pass security at the murder site. All of this was completed without consulting Charlie. Fully costumed in their disguises, the heroines use their acting skills, which allow them to manipulate situations to their advantage to deceive the officer on duty and gain entrance to the crime scene to look for evidence (Coon). However, the information they use to analyze the cause of death and determine the murderers profile is from their own detective work. For example, although Charlie funded the ultraviolet footprint revealer, Dylan discovers and analyzes the footprints to determine the murderer has a scar on his leg. In addition to their acting skills, the Angels have an array of physical abilities under their belt as well to adapt to their surroundings. Once the Angels follow the surfing murderer to the Coal Bowl dirt bike races, they utilize their dirt bike racing skills to go after him. Thus, even though Charlie pays for the dirt bikes, the Angels must acquire and master the skills of riding and performing stunts beforehand, preparing the heroines to use them should the occasion arise. Although it is true that the Angels successful undercover and detective work hinges on Charlies provision of gadgets that range from dirt bikes to costumes, the heroines use the tools to enhance their detective work. They are not dependent on Charlies help to understand the case or to solve the crime. Some may believe that although many of the elements seen in Charlies Angels: Full Throttle are fantastical, which is supported by the use of wiring and green screens, the movie cannot empower women without having real women to idolize. However, female empowerment does not exist solely by imitating realistic women. Female viewers are

capable of latching onto the strength at the core of characters rather than just focusing on their outer beauty and anyone who wishes to be inspired by the film can consider the characters to be superwomen who are capable of accomplishing feats they believe their gender as a whole can achieve (Brown 72). With their sexuality, friendship, and intelligence working with them, the heroines can be considered successful role models that can empower women. This can be achieved despite the critical reviews that analyze them in a narrow, limiting, and stereotypical light and claim the film worthy of cinema viewing only due to its score of beautiful women. While this interpretation holds validity, particularly since many critics agree with this perspective, there are alternative ways of viewing the Angels influence. However, the widespread distribution of critics opinions also, perhaps unknowingly, perpetuates various stereotypes about women, including but not limited to, dependency, beauty, emotional instability and physical ability. By continuing to circulate these beliefs about women, the growth of the gender becomes constrained. These ideas are not limited to female action movies or even the entertainment industry, but noticeable even in everyday life as a worker with less pay or a housewife who depends on her husbands support. It is hoped that although society is still far from gender equality, empowered women such as the Angels can inspire women to break the boundaries and stereotypes these opinions maintain in their future.

Works Cited

Brown, Jeffrey. Gender, Sexuality, and Toughness: The Bad Girls of Action Film and Comic Books. Action Chicks: New Images of Tough Women in Popular Culture. Ed. Sherrie Inness. Houndmills: Palgrave, 2004. 47-72.

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. Dir. Joseph Nichol. Perf. Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu. Dvd. Columbia Tristar, 2003.

Coon, David Roger. Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: The selling of Charlies Angels and Alias. 33.1 (2005): 2. Journal of Popular Film and Television.

InfoTrac. U of Washington Lib., Seattle. 26 Feb. 2006 <http://infotrac.galegroup.com>.

Ebert, Roger. Charlies Angels: Full Throttle. Chicago-Sun Times 28 June 2003. 8 Mar. 2006 <http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20030627/REVIEWS /306270302/1023>

Ross, Sharon. Tough Enough: Female Friendship and Heroism in Xena and Buffy. Action Chicks: New Images of Tough Women in Popular Culture. Ed. Sherrie Inness. Houndmills: Palgrave, 2004. 231-255.

Smith, Jonathan. "Characteristics of the Byronic Hero." English 434: Nineteenth Century English Novel. U. of Michigan. 10 Mar. 2006 <http://www.umd.umich.edu/casl/hum/eng/classes/434/charweb/CHARACTE.htm >.

Verniere, James. "Girls Just Want to Have Fun: But CharlieS Angels Audience Might Ask: Why?" Boston Herald 27 June 2003. 7 Mar. 2006 <http://theedge.bostonherald.com/movieReviews/view.bg? articleid=86054&format=&page=2>.