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Let’s Represent: 3 Action Movies Featuring Us

These films include Black women who make moves and live life unapologetically.

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Today, movies featuring middle-aged women are not as scarce as they were just a decade or so ago. Now, films represent a range of women over 40 and their perspectives. In fact, the movies that inspire me right now are the ones with characters who look like me, who are doing big things and living their lives unapologetically — or learning to do so.

Some of today’s action and superhero movies are definitely centered on characters like this. Here’s what’s on my radar now.

Gunpowder Milkshake

In Gunpowder Milkshake, crowd favorite Angela Bassett plays Anna May (not related to her role as Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It), who appears as one of four librarians (with the others played by Lena Headey, Carla Gugino and Michelle Yeoh). But really, these librarians are middle-aged, gun-wielding assassins who have protected one another on their various assignments.

Although the film focuses on a younger woman, Sam (Karen Gillan), and her story arc as an assassin fighting a crime syndicate, there are fight scenes that have Anna May and her fellow librarians taking out scores of men sent to kill Sam. Although there is some mention of body aches from aging, the women don’t back down in protecting their space. Gunpowder Milkshake inspires me to stand firm and fight for what I believe in, for the life I have built. My challenges aren’t nearly as big as these women’s, but the lesson in Gunpowder Milkshake still holds. (Streaming on Netflix.)

Thunder Force

In Thunder Force, an action-comedy film, the talented Octavia Spencer plays tech billionaire Emily, who is also a mom and becomes a superhero. As the film reveals, Emily’s best childhood friend, Lydia (Melissa McCarthy), is back on the scene and down on her luck. Together, they go on to test Emily’s serum that gives superpowers to regular humans. They become Bingo and Hammer, fighting crime at 40-plus and in plus-sized bodies.

Thunder Force inspires by centering on a middle-aged nerd, Emily, who takes a leap into following her dream of becoming a superhero. She also puts her talents to use in serving her community. Taking a leap into new things does not stop in my 40s and neither does community service. Thunder Force, in its silly, often corny storyline, reminds me of just that. (Streaming on Netflix.)

The Suicide Squad

Comics still hold space in my free time, but few middle-aged Black women from the books I love have been adapted to movies. That is, not until the incomparable Viola Davis took up the mantel of Amanda Waller in 2016 for the first Suicide Squad film. On August 5, the sequel, The Suicide Squad, debuted in theaters, putting her character front and center. Waller is not a traditional “good” person. However, she does inspire me to take up space in areas where I am confident and where my work is good. She also inspires me to stand firm in the face of adversity and to remember that I belong, no matter what I look like or how others respond to me initially.

In the sequel, Waller is once again in charge of a large team of very creepy superheroes. She is also the head of a team that is often less than capable of following her orders. Throughout the film, we see Waller make decisions and stand behind them because she is confident of what works. And knowing when to stand firm and when to leap is my lesson from this film.