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Sarah Michelle Gellar: Female-led superhero movies are 'torn apart' by audiences
The star of Wolf Pack talks about the imbalances of genre storytelling and more.
Sarah Michelle Gellar knows a thing or two about playing a female superhero. Buffy Summers may not have appeared in a comic book until after she showed up onscreen, but she's still a super strong, super tough Chosen One who's saved the world several times over, and became a household name along the way.
That puts Gellar in an interesting position when it comes to discussing the place of female-led genre/action movies and shows in pop culture right now. She's told those stories and worked on those projects, and fans still look to her as an icon, so when she talks about these things, people tend to listen, particularly when Gellar isn't especially pleased with what's going on.
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Speaking to The Guardian about her return to acting and her new show, Wolf Pack, Gellar discussed the odd in-between place that frustrated her in the years before she stepped back from the spotlight. In many cases, according to Gellar, the roles she wants just weren't there, because she was either perceived as too old or too young to fit certain stereotypical casting calls.
“When you are mid- to late 30s in this business, and you look young like I do, you’re not getting the meaty wife or mother roles, because you don’t look old enough — but you’re too old for the ingenue," she said. "It’s a weird position to be in.”
Now Gellar is back, and with the role of Kristin Ramsey on Wolf Pack, it seems she's found her sweet spot again, this time as one of the leads of a genre series in which she gets to serve as the seasoned veteran alongside a bunch of young, up-and-coming stars. It's a good role, but that doesn't mean Gellar is entirely satisfied with the genre offerings she sees around her. From where Gellar sits, even the biggest film series in the world has issues right now when it comes to women, no matter how many meaty genre roles that series creates.
“Every time a Marvel movie tries to do a female cast, it just gets torn apart ... Unfortunately, audiences weren’t as accepting," she said. "There’s still this mentality of ‘the male superhero,' this very backwards way of thinking.”
While female-led superhero projects — like Captain Marvel and last year's Black Panther: Wakanda Forever — have certainly found success at the box office, they've also often faced an extra layer of scrutiny and scorn, suffering "review-bombing" across various platforms and cries of being too "woke" for some moviegoers to enjoy. As someone who's spent years hearing the same old lines about Buffy, Gellar is clearly attuned to those issues, and isn't afraid to speak up about them.
In fact, according to Gellar herself, she's not afraid to speak up about most things anymore. After a career in which she did everything from blockbusters to serialized TV, and a break in which she got to spend time with her family, she's ready to speak her mind on sets and beyond, and that's carried over into the environment she's tried to create on Wolf Pack.
“I still don’t get taken seriously by men on sets," she said. "I still feel the need, sometimes, to read [out] my résumé, like: ‘How many of these shows have you done? How many experiences have you had at 2 a.m. with 250 extras, a late shot, a stunt — all of these things? I not only have produced it, but I’ve also been in it. Listen to me, because I know where I’m coming from.’
“I can speak like that now, where I think 10 years ago I probably couldn’t. If there’s one thing children teach you, it is patience.”
New episodes of Wolf Pack arrive Thursdays on Paramount+. In the meantime, you can catch Gellar in Harvard Man, The Air I Breathe, and Possession, all now streaming on Peacock.
Looking for more shows about teen wolves? Check out Wolfblood, now streaming on Peacock.