Badass Femmes is a bi-weekly column written by So from So’s Reel Thoughts about all the Badass Females in pop culture that shaped her life.

Girls are constantly being told that they can’t do what boys can, simply because…. biology. Alright, we get it! Now, shut up! I understand that we are physically not built the same way. But while we sometimes might not be able to carry something really heavy or open an insanely air-tight mason jar, it doesn’t mean we don’t have anything to offer. This is why it’s so obviously infuriating to tell a woman, a person who can bring life into this world, that they can’t do and don’t have the same power as men. This idea is one of the central themes in Karyn Kusama’s breakthrough debut, Girlfight, starring then fresh-faced newcomer Michelle Rodriguez as Diana Guzman. As the role that catapulted the now, Fast & Furious star to fame, the role of her lifetime gave us an unapologetically fierce and downright in-your-face Diana, a woman who fights (literally) against gender discrimination both in her private and public life.

The opening shot of Girlfight is one that doesn’t easily leave one’s memory. The zooming close-up of Diana mean muggin’ amidst her chaotic high school environment is a look I’ve practiced many times before. In my reality, a grimace was all I gave to the catty girls around me, never earning the courage to go beyond reciting comebacks under my breath with dizzying repetition. Diana on the other hand, actually gets to stand up against them in defense of her submissive friend, fearlessly throwing down at a moment’s notice. It’s at this moment in the film that she became everything I wanted to be: a confident martyr to voiceless high school girls against their ruthless tormentors, in contrast to my unconfident, anxious and blubbering teenage self. Getting to see Diana actually take charge with force was like a fantasy come true.

Training to become a boxer, Diana never doubts her abilities with a strong resolve that breaks down gender discrimination and doubts from everyone especially her father. Who knows why she wanted to start boxing; the roots can possibly be traced to her abusive father, who raises her with the distant memory of her kinder, now deceased mother. Regardless, she fights head on with such determination in a heavily testosterone-filled arena. The true test of Diana’s might is revealed when she has to fight against her baby boy Adrian in the finals of a tournament. He shrieks that he doesn’t want to fight a girl because he doesn’t want to hurt her (oh, boo hoo), and if he loses, will be considered a wimp. It’s Diana that demands he fights her like a legitimate opponent. The outcome of this match is one that paints her as someone who refuses to see the discrimination around her, creating her own path at all costs without ever asking for a hand out.

Diana is one of the very few teenage girls I’ve seen on screen are so assured in their own identity, self-esteem and ideals. Most girls grow up unaware of their own self-worth, constantly apologizing for things that aren’t necessarily their fault. A powerful message comes from her coach in the film, who says ”Don’t be sorry, don’t ever be sorry”, which is such a powerful message to females who have been taught to feel sorry. And yet, despite all of her physical and mental strength, she’s still allowed her femininity, showing a vulnerability with her boyfriend. With Michelle Rodriguez’s performance at the helm, Diana is an inspirational figure of perseverance who transcends societal norms and imposition. Through her, it’s proven that women are more complex than most films allow us to be, and can do anything just as well as men can (or even better), even getting to ride into the sunset with the guy! Now, don’t tell us what we can or cannot do!

SYU

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