Fur and Feminism: The Portrayal of Female Characters in ‘G-Force’

For those of you who weren’t previously aware, G-Force (2009) is an animated film about extra-ordinary FBI Agents: specially-trained and technologically-enhanced guinea pigs. As IMDB puts it:

“The story is about a team of trained secret agent guinea pigs that takes on a mission for the US government. A specially trained squad of guinea pigs is dispatched to stop a diabolical billionaire, who plans to taking over the world with household appliances.”

And no, I’m not joking.

The G-Force Team consists of three main guinea-pigs, and two ‘sidekicks’: the technological whizz Speckles (a mole), and a camera-laden fly (or bug) whose name I didn’t catch. All of the animals were trained and developed by two human scientists: Ben and Marcie.

The guinea pigs (from left to right): Juarez, Darwin, and Blaster. Also, Hurley, an extra addition to the team. It’s probably not obvious from the picture, but Juarez is a female guinea pig. A sassy Spanish female guinea pig voiced by Penelope Cruz, no less.

I’m still not joking when I say this post will be a consideration of the character of Juarez and the message it sends to the main audience of this film: children.

Using OverthinkingIt‘s Female Character Flowchart (the best test of a woman that I know of) you can take Juarez two ways. It depends on whether you think she can handle her own story. I’m going to go with yes. Partly because she gets a lot of screentime on her own and her own backstory (but also because this would be pretty pointless if I didn’t think so). In addition, she’s three-dimensional (she shares opinions and challenges others), she’s not just a metaphor (what she’d be a metaphor for I can’t tell you), she has flaws (she’s a flirt, and she’s rude) and she doesn’t get killed off before the third act. Voila! A Strong Female Character.

Alternatively, if you decide that she isn’t any of the above, and follow the flowchart to its conclusion, she’s either a Useless Girl (you cynic), or a Lady of War (the example given is Zoe from Firefly, so almost there!).

Juarez is, throughout, as tough as the boys. There is nothing that she doesn’t take part in, she’s not behind the scenes or merely supervising; and she makes it quite clear that she can stand up for herself. At one point, she is purchased from a pet store and ‘taken hostage’ by a little girl intent on using her as a plaything. Juarez is put in a pink dress and tiara, given an earring, pink nail polish and pink lipstick. On being waved in front of a mirror to see “how pretty” she looks, her reaction is: “Not pink! I look like Paris Hilton’s chihuahua.” The first thing she does on engineering her escape (stealing a toy jeep) is throw off the tiara and dress: Juarez has no need for dressing up or changing her appearance to form her character, she does that by standing by her friends/teammates and working at her special agent training, putting in hundreds of thousands of hours to be as good as she can be. Aside from the hourglass-shaped fur on her abdomen and the long eyelashes, you wouldn’t really be able to tell that Juarez is female: she has similar hair to the male character Hurley, a kind of short mohawk. This shows that while she’s conscious of her appearance, she’s not forever lamenting the lack of hair-styling products or scared of breaking her claws. Think about it, how easy would it have been to cast a long-haired guinea pig as the female?

But this is not to say that she isn’t feminine. For one, she keeps the earring as she likes the way she looks with it. But it’s as an enhancement, not a pandering to femininity. Another giveaway is the fact that both male guinea pigs, Darwin and Blaster, argue over her affections and confront her more than once about which one of them she is “interested in”. Rather than the conventional ending of Boy Gets Girl, the film ends with Juarez denying the obvious assumption that she has to be interested in one of them: in fact she’d rather they both wanted her and she played hard to get. Now, I’m not saying that teasing boys is a mark of a strong woman, but you can’t deny her her independence here. Juarez is challenging the assumption that she will end up with one of the boys because of mere proximity, instead she is confident and independent – and it’s this that makes her, for want of a better word, sexy. They want her because she’s not waiting for them, and she says as much. “If she acts as though she’s interested in you, it’s to make me think that she’s really interested in me,” to paraphrase Darwin. It could be argued that she’s trying not to complicate matters, there is no animosity between the boys, no awkwardness between the team: she’s responsible. I’m sticking with sassy and independent, to be honest. But that fact that she’s a single woman not waiting for a man to sweep her off her feet is what I’m struck by here.

In fact, so much so is she not waiting to be rescued that she’s the saving grace at the climax of the film. I hope I’m not spoiling things here, but Speckles and Darwin fight and Darwin loses his parachute but they need to jump from the enormous violent appliance-cum-robot before it explodes thanks to a computer virus. Did you get that? In any case, when they jump – free-fall – Juarez is the one who appears above them, grabs them both and says “I’ve got you” while opening her parachute.

In this film, the girl literally saves the day. Or at least the hero.

Am I wrong in assuming that this is quite rare in movies about humans?

It’s also important to point out that Juarez asks for help from the boys: she’s not an artificial StrongWoman who’s stubborn and gets everything right. During a car chase she calls to both Darwin and Blaster to help her escape from the FBI agents – exposing her flaws, if you like, and also showing that she is equal to them. She needs help, but she can also save the day when necessary. And all without the validation of a romance at the end of it.

Not that romance is bad, guys! Just that I think it’s rare for a female character to be portrayed as sexy, appealing, smart, strong and also ‘human’, as it were. The fact that she’s a guinea pig, and that now this whole post makes me sound mental, is beside the point really. (Unless you want to get into an argument about why human females aren’t portrayed this way… I’ll pass for now.)

So: perhaps the Christmas port has got to me. But if not, I’m impressed with the decision taken by filmmakers not to just include a female character because they had to – or if they did, not take the obvious decision to include her as a love interest. And let her have a vital role in the survival of the male protagonist. And make her funny, pretty and independent also.

I don’t even know what to ask you anymore. Ask me things. I can barely believe I just wrote that with a straight face. Happy Christmas!

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One thought on “Fur and Feminism: The Portrayal of Female Characters in ‘G-Force’

  1. Pingback: Top Ten Posts « Post-grad Panopticon

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