Jaimie Alexander is not your typical female superhero.
The whiskey-swilling, motorcycle-riding, 5-foot-9-inch actress is anything but the predictable choice for a role in Marvel’s “Thor: The Dark World.” But it’s the unexpected castings that give the film personality and attitude, carrying the sequel.
Alexander’s character, the warrior Sif, saves the Norse god Thor (Chris Hemsworth) within his first two minutes on screen, by catching a flying arrow with her shield. Her first words afterward? A sassy, “You’re welcome.”
Her reflexes aren’t her only sharp trait. Her tongue, sword and jawline cut through the preset Mary Jane mold to reveal a character as caring as she is strong.
Although Alexander flaunts a hard shell, the actress realized that the best way to show strength is by admitting weakness.
“It’s very hard when you have all these people looking at you and because you can bench-press a house and because you ride a motorcycle, they think you’re this tough girl,” she said. “But I realized that the strongest thing somebody can do is actually show that you’re vulnerable.”
Alexander’s character is not the only distinct female persona in “Thor.” Each of the actresses owns her own individual personality, but all carry a sense of purpose. The strong presence of women marks a shift toward gender equality in superhero stories.
“Thor” even features a kiss in which the female character sustains the male’s weight under hers, effectively sweeping him off his feet.
Alexander’s character is one of a recent wave of more progressive females. Consider “The Amazing Spiderman,” in which Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy not only avoids being pathetically saved by Spiderman, but also saves him twice and the world. In “The Avengers,” Black Widow shows off mentally-manipulative and physically-impressive ability. Girls in superhero movies have come a long way since Lois Lane’s damsel-in-distress purpose in ‘80s “Superman” films.
One of the big pushes has been to reduce the objectification of women in comic book stories, or at least level the playing field by making the men equally scantily clad. In the film, Sif wears armor, just like her male counterparts.
“Marvel is one of the comic book giants that does it very well … They’re always very smart, very strong and very stoic in a way. They’re not bimbos running around that are really hot,” she said.
Much like her character, what makes Alexander appealing is more than her looks. Her positive energy, physical strength and down-to-earth attitude give the actress an undeniable magnetism. Alexander sees the positive in everything: a botched haircut turned pixie-cut is her way of looking like Jubilee, her favorite comic book character. When others would complain about the rigorous training two months prior to the “Thor” shoot, or of the ten-hour-long days comprised solely of fight scenes, she celebrates.
“It’s the best workout ever, you’re in this crazy outfit, back flipping off the horses and you’re like ‘I don’t have to go to the gym today,’” she said.
Alexander knows her positive, confident outlook is an asset.
“When you get out into the real world, what’s so great is being educated and being confident,” she said. “I used to be self-conscious about my voice, my height and now that’s what people really like about me.”
In the end, Alexander is an obvious choice for superhero franchises heading in the direction of prominent female characters. Alexander is proud of Marvel’s proactive representation of women.
“Young women don’t have any role models,” she said. “We don’t have superheroes to look up to.”
Well, not until now.