We Need More of This

It used to be that in Hollywood, once an actor turned 40, the leading roles totally dried up. She would then be relegated to playing secondary characters like the mother, the long-suffering wife or the madam at the brothel. Luckily for us, that is no longer true. These days, it seems the juiciest, most adventurous characters are saved for our favorite actors no matter their age — and that’s exactly how it should be.

The way a female superhero or femme fatale is portrayed is also changing because our culture is changing. Though things are far from perfect in our society, women are more empowered now than ever before. Women have careers, make their own money, are able to control their biology and can delay having children if they so desire. 

In the 1940s, femmes fatales became popular characters in films like The Big Sleep and The Lady from Shanghai. This is because World War II sent the young male population overseas and women entered the workforce en masse, taking jobs typically meant for men. The archetype of the femme fatale is a beautiful, mysterious, cigarette-smoking woman with bad intensions. She was created out of men’s discomfort with women gaining power during this time. 

As for superheroes, today, they’re in their golden age, so it makes sense we’d have plenty of female superheroes of all ages, especially in franchises like The Incredibles, about a family of superheroes. Let’s take a look at some of our favorite women over 40 who are playing these exciting roles.

1. Sandra Bullock, 53

In Ocean’s 8, Bullock plays Debbie Ocean, a modern femme fatale who masterminds one of the biggest heists in all of history. She’s as beautiful as she is wicked. We love Bullock as Debbie because she’s relatable while being clever, resourceful and a dreamer. 

2. Michelle Pfeiffer, 60

In the new film Ant-Man and the Wasp, Pfeiffer plays Janet Van Dyne, aka The Wasp, who has the ability to shrink her body, fly and emit bioelectric blasts. But in this sequel to Ant-Man, The Wasp has been lost in a subatomic world, forcing Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Janet’s daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), to team up. We love Pfeiffer as The Wasp because she has emotional fortitude and trusts her family will save her.

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3. Cate Blanchett, 49

In the film Thor: Ragnarok, Blanchett plays Hela, the goddess of death. She wears all black, wields two swords and wears a frightening thorny headdress. We love her because she makes the perfect villain — cold, calculating and powerful. 

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4. Halle Berry, 51

In the X-Men franchise, Berry plays Storm. Though she’s now 51, she was 47 when X-Man: Days of Future Past was released in 2014. We love Berry as Storm because she comes from a long line of African witch-priestesses and continues her legacy of controlling the weather. 

5. Charlize Theron, 42

In the 2017 film Atomic Blonde, Theron plays a femme fatale named Lorraine Broughton. In leather boots and smoking cigarettes like the stereotypical femme fatale, there’s one big update here. Instead of seducing a man, she hooks up with a woman — Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella). We love Theron as Lorraine because she loves to get physical in every way possible. 

6. Taraji P. Henson, 47

In the recent action film Proud Mary, Henson plays the title role. As an assassin for a crime family in Boston, she works overtime to protect an innocent young boy. We love Henson as Mary because not only is she fierce, she’s got a strong maternal instinct.

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7. Holly Hunter, 60

In Incredibles 2 Holly Hunter plays Elastigirl, the superhero who can stretch, expand and contract into any form she wants to. The mother of three kids, we love Hunter as Elastigirl because she’s a great mom who still makes time to save the world. 

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