David and I went to see Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters this weekend. Yes, I know that the movie is ridiculous, but we still enjoyed it. There are plenty of reviews of the movie out there my personal favorite being the review on io9, so this is not a review. Instead, I want to do a character study of Gretel, because she is one of the stronger female heroines we have seen in a while – as well as being a female lead who did not need a love interest to complete her story. (SPOILERS for the movie after the jump.)
From the very beginning of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters the character of Gretel proves to be more than capable. When they are kids and captured by the witch, Hansel is locked in a cage forced to eat candy while Gretel is chained up and forced to do various chores. When the witch gets distracted as they are getting a fire ready to cook Hansel, Gretel picks her cuffs and gets Hansel loose so they can fight the witch together. Ultimately they work together to throw the witch in the fireplace.
Gretel did not just sit there and take her situation, she stood up to the witch and made a play for freedom. She was not sitting around waiting for someone to rescue her, she rescued herself.
As we are introduced to older Hansel and Gretel, we see a woman who is smart, cunning, strong, kind, and knows how to take care of herself. Hansel on the other hand is pretty brutish, and often does not seem to think before he leaps. For example, Gretel is the one who insists that a witch show signs of being a witch (a dark witch begins to rot from the magic she uses), while Hansel would just kill anyone accused of being a witch just to be careful.
During most of the movie Gretel is trying to figure out why all these children are being taken in such a seemingly random fashion. She never stops trying to discover more about what is going on. She often tries to talk to Hansel about their past or about what is going on and for the most part he never wants to talk about it.
Now so far I have just described her smarts, and strength of character, but that does not mean she does not kick ass when time calls for it. Even in, dare I say, practical clothing. She is still a woman, but it is not like she has a ton of exposed skin and is wearing high heels.
It is not even just that she can cause a beat down, although she can. It is also that she can take a beating. She gets pretty roughed up a couple of times and she keeps getting back up for more. There is only one time that she is rescued from a fight (she is rescued at the end, but it isn’t from a fight, she is captured), but she is in a fight of 4 against one and it takes a Troll to rescue her. Not some knight in shining armor who can be a love interest, no – a Troll.
A Troll whom Gretel proceeds to befriend. She is scared at first, but it is not like she is screaming or fainting, though she recognizes that she just saw a Troll massacre 4 guys without breaking a sweat. That would be pretty scary, but Gretel keeps her cool and finds out the Troll’s name before he runs off.
The Troll, named Edward by the way, is the closest thing Gretel could say comes to a love interest, but it is more of a respect for an amazing creature. He almost dies trying to help her defeat the Grand Dark Witch and she rescues him. Her rescue is not based on the typical premise that she cannot live without this other character. Instead, it is that this character does not deserve to die, and one good turn deserves another.
I could go on, but this gives a pretty good understanding of why I think Gretel from Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is a great female heroine and role model. And just one more thing to point out: this movie passes the Bechdel Test. There are at least two named women characters, two or more of these women have a conversation, and the conversation is not about a man.