Without a doubt Charlize Theron has profoundly changed the concept of women in the collective imagination. South African, a former model who became one of the most important and influential actresses of her time, thanks to a career that has allowed her to step into the shoes of different female characters, today she moves in a very precise direction: that of the Amazon woman.
Mind you: it's not the first, quite the contrary. Sigourney Weaver with his Lieutenant Ripley brought the concept of female protagonist to a level that until then only Princess Leia of Star Wars and some Bond Girls had grazed.
After her in the cinema it was the turn of Terminator's Sarah Connor, of Milla Jovovich's Alice, of Carrie Ann Moss's Trinity and of Uma Thurman's Beatrix, who gave us characters far removed from the "bridesmaids in danger" we were used to. But Charlize really changed everything. Forever.
The vulnerable girl
Her filmography presents a very interesting evolution when you think about it, since at the beginning she was called to interpret characters summarized in a fairly well-known definition: the damsel in danger.
In The Devil's Advocate (the film that launched her) she was the good weak wife, submissive, rural, little emancipated, who lived substantially under the control of her husband, that Keanu Reeves so taken by himself that he forgot about it.
He changed his hair color, his hair, his house, but he succumbed to the attacks of a devil who had in all respects the appearance of an asphyxiating motherhood, and of a world in which other women were enemies in a hostile city. It was a great test of actress that few noticed.
The great Joe, a robust adventure in King Kong style, saw her as a handsome jungle girl, a sort of protector of nature, with a stormy and indocile character, but finally "tamed" according to the old Hollywood clichés.
The astronaut's wife is The rules of the cider house they allowed her to display an uncommon acting talent, to immerse yourself in fragile characters, symbol of a femininity dominated by a male world often monstrous (alien in the first case), violent and domineering.
An unpredictable criminal
Everything changes with John Frankenheimer's Criminal Trapthriller in which, as well as being the bearer of a turbid sensuality, she is also very good at an unusual role: that of the villain.
For the first time we see her in the shoes of a ruthless, indomitable criminal, to which he gave absolutely perfect magnetism, changeability and false candor.
There, with a weapon in his hand, he showed himself in a much more muscular and less tied to a cliché that had its roots in its stratospheric beauty.
Always as a criminal, but this time positive, in The Italian Job he became part of a gang of robbers together with whom he tried to avenge the death of his father, killed treacherously by a former partner after a robbery in Venice.
In this case her character, Stella, an expert burglar who becomes a criminal for revenge, represented rebellion, independence, the ability to go beyond her "daughter of" limits.
Among the most important female roles in cinema of this new millennium, there is also the Aileen Wournous of Charlize Theron, the serial killer who in the late 90s and early 2000s sowed a terrible life of victims, made up of prostitution, violence and terror.
In addition to being the irrefutable proof of her incredible skill as an actress, through a fabulous make up and the 15 kilos taken for the role, Theron provided us with one of the saddest villains, desperate and in a sense almost "justified" as always, a woman who from the age of 13 was forced to sell her body, to accept violence and abuse.
The sex symbol became a "monster", in appearance, in ways, in a process that made it Patty Jenkins monster one of the most innovative films especially in a genre (that of the movies about serial killers) where women were almost always victims, at most police officers, cloaked in a white light of innocence and sacredness.
She took everything away, showed them fearful, repulsive, murky, capable of killing but at the same time human, animated by an evil that had its roots in a violent, male-dominated, intolerant country.
More than a movie about a monstrous woman, he told us about how these monsters are born, what makes them come into the world. The stunned Oscar that won sanctioned its inclusion in the Hollywood firmament.
Paladin of women's rights
But perhaps the real, fundamental step for Theron it was in North Country – Josey's story, taken from a court case that saw the workers of a mine bring to abuse the abuses, the harassment, the harassment (and rape of one of them) that they had to endure in a male chauvinist environment.
His Josey, victim of yet another violence in his life as a single mother, emerged as a symbol of the struggle against that profound, white, alcoholic and male chauvinist America, for which women still today are often objects, inferior beings.
By the way, Theron found herself no longer "alone" as the only charismatic female character, but in a cast that included top-level actresses such as Frances McDormand and Sissy Spacek, as well as aces of the caliber of Sean Bean, Woody Harrelson, Richard Jenkins and Jeremy Renner.
It was certainly the role that projected her in the public as in the private (given her childhood very unlike that of the character) in a dimension in which she was the bearer of the redemption of women, a redemption that in the future would also pass for roles of action.
Between cinecomic and auteur films
A cinematic transposition of an animated series from the 90s, Aeon Flux was massacred by critics, but allowed it to compete with Jovovich, until then the main point of reference in women's action of the new millennium.
Theron had more sensuality, a more incisive charisma and stage presence, in which space was made (and still is) an element of independence of enormous energy and strength.
Something that also emerged in Hancock, a sort of film about superheroes halfway between parody and realism, in which she is opposed to a decadent, lost, lost, lost Will Smith, more powerful, present to herself, determined to live in a bubble , to give up her strength, to embrace a path of woman of the house and family.
The whole thing was a splendid metaphor for the modern female condition, which Theron also collected in the beautiful In the valley of Elah, a masterpiece by Paul Haggis, which brought to light the social reality of America in uniform, the white, conservative, militarized one.
Here too she was a single mother, an agent forced to fight every day with rude, corrupt, absolutely incapable colleagues and in whom she represented a police made not of muscles and coffee, but of intelligence, psychological penetration, professionalism.
On balance, a totem of the women of America 2.0, which in some ways was opposed (but only partially) to the "old" America, severe, traditional but respectable, of a mourning Tommy Lee Jones, to whom also the meeting with this strong and whole woman would have changed her life.
If before we talked about the role of villain, such a figure for Charlize Theron it is connected to four films: Snow White and the Hunter, The Hunter and the Ice Queen, Prometheus is Fast & Furious 8.
In all four Charlize she was a woman of power, freezing, regal, authoritarian and ruthless, but in herself often hiding weaknesses, traumas, coincidentally to be associated with a male figure, described as cowardly, weak and manipulative.
In the Vin Diesel engine saga it becomes the most terrible nemesis of Toretto and associates, because it has a great capacity for deduction and an absolute lack of pity and scruples.
However (apart from in Prometheus) is always, constantly, bearer of great strength, of total independence, is alone, inaccessible.
The world of affections is a trap, the happiness of others is a weapon, power something for which every wickedness was worth committing.
The Valkyrie of cinema
The same strength and contempt for danger has shown it in the two roles thanks to which it has decidedly imposed a change of course in the female cinema characters: Furiosa and Lorraine Broughton.
In Mad Max: Fury Road she is actually the real protagonist, with his escape, his rise as an Amazon in the fight against patriarchal slavery that appropriates female genitalia.
Half woman and half machine, she is one of the most incredible warriors ever seen on the big screen, reckless, never tame but not invincible or infallible, but rather unable to surrender.
In Mad Max: Fury Road women of all ages and races fight against a sado-maso-mortuary army, commanded by a faceless man-machine, almost a totem of violent male possession.
In Atomica Bionda she went even further in some ways, she moved into an action with some of the best fighting scenes ever seen, because realistic, not pushed towards an unreality of women who hit with the force of a Mike Tyson, rather related to improvisation, cunning, technique.
Her refusal of the role of "woman", the cliche that in another era would have seen her fall into the arms of the "bellone on duty", in a world of traditionally masculine spies, it also expresses itself in a sexuality that is not openly straight, in a bond with another woman, who is also skilled and lonely.
An actress who changed the female image
These are two characters with whom finally the cinema has found a capacity for renewal as has not been seen for almost 30 years, which is now followed by Old Guard, another film based on shots and fights that was received in a discordant way by critics but in which once again the South African actress has convinced.
In recent years Charlize has also dealt with comedy, both demented and romantic, but there is no doubt that her name means talking about a woman capable of restoring lymph and vigor to a cinematographic dimension different from clichés.