What to think about “Nikita,” a new show debuting on The CW tonight at 9 p.m. (EST)? Based on the 1990s TV series, which was based on the French Luc Besson flick “La Femme Nikita,” in this incarnation of the story, martial arts star Maggie Q plays a woman rescued from prison by the CIA to become an assassin in a secret division. She has escaped their clutches and after years in hiding, she wants to rescue others from the division’s control.
A smart woman? We love it. Principled characters? Great. But why does Nikita have to be yet another ass-kicking female in tight pants, stilettos and a blowout that always looks just-so?Nikita is not just an assassin, but a sexxxxy assassin. She runs around in high heels and cocktail dresses, or high-heeled boots and tight pants, or sometimes she just lounges around with her guns in her bra. (Don’t we all?) And, of course, during a poolside scene in the trailer, she’s wearing high heels with her teeny-weeny red bikini as the camera zooms slowly in on her lips. In another scene, she takes a compact and a lipstick from her purse, twists the tube of lipstick and a bomb goes off. Nikita has a typically feminine plot line as well: She didn’t leave the CIA because she, oh, objected to murdering people. She left because she fell in love with a civilian; the division killed him and made it look like an accident. Which is exactly what happened in “Alias,” too. And then there’s a sub-plot of how one of the male agents hunting Nikita down used to be in love with her, which may or may not factor into the delight he will take in killing her.
No one is saying powerful women have to be neutered, sexless frumps—just that the sexy ass-kicking female is a tired stereotype that is limiting roles for actresses, not to mention role models for viewers. “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” may have had more feminist intentions, but “Nikita” has endless predecessors: Bond girls, “Xena: Warrior Princess, ” Angelina Jolie in “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” the various “Mission: Impossible” movies (which, incidentally, Maggie Q is in), Uma Thurman in “Kill Bill,” Carrie Ann Moss in “The Matrix,” Kate Beckinsale in the “Underworld” series, Milla Jovovich in “Resident Evil, ” Charlize Theron in “Aeon Flux.” (And don’t even get me started on cop shows. The sassy CurrentTV show, “Modern Lady,” did a hilarious send-up of this stereotypes when they asked why lady cops are all the same: tough-talking, but hawt.) You could take the same body and just use interchangeable heads; that is how similar they are.
“Nikita” is yet another example of the ass-kicking female who is femme-ed out to the extreme, from that dang “Charlie’s Angels” cookie cutter. Is she supposed to be relatable to women viewers who know more about lipstick than they do about handguns? Is it so she doesn’t intimidate male viewers who mind a self-possessed woman a lot less if she’s eye candy?
Who knows why it happens. But it’s offensive to all of us that year after year, season after season, the sexy ass-kissing lady stereotype persists.