How ‘The Old Guard’ Avoided the ‘Sexy Catfight’ Movie Trope

The Old Guard is a 2020 Netflix movie directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. Prince-Bythewood is actually the first Black woman in Hollywood history to helm a big action film. The Old Guard, which is about fierce immortal warriors trying to save the world, stars Charlize Theron. But the entire cast of characters is much more diverse than many big blockbuster movies. That’s part of what drew the former Love and Basketball director, Prince-Bythewood, to The Old Guard comic books (which served as the source material for the Netflix film). She also made a decision to portray the leading female characters in a nuanced fashion — rather than as objects of the male gaze.

Gina Prince-Bythewood, director of the Netflix movie ‘The Old Guard’, wanted to portray her main characters in a way that was true to the female experience

Charlize Theron - The Old Guard
KiKi Layne and Charlize Theron in The Old Guard | Aimee Spinks/Netflix

In an interview with Wired, Prince-Bythewood wanted to portray a different kind of female character than we often see in big-budget action flicks.

“I always wanted to focus on their athleticism and skill, never on their sexuality. Never let it be a sexy catfight,” the Old Guard director said. Expanding on that thought, she shared:

I also wanted to stay true to the fact that they were women, and not just create the same kind of choreography I would for a man. Is Nile going to pick Andy up and throw her across a plane? No. Women have a different type of strength. It’s about how she’s throwing punches, and at what part of the body.

However, some of Prince-Bythewood’s personal favorite scenes have no action or violence involved. For example, the moment where Nile is riding up the elevator.

The Old Guard director
Gina Prince-Bythewood at WonderCon 2018 | Araya Diaz/Getty Images

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“It is such a heroic moment,” she told Wired. “We stayed on a Black female character for 15 floors to marinate in what it was for Nile to be making that decision, to accept who she is, and go and save the day.”

Prince-Bythewood wants to see more diversity in casting in future movies

A big part of what drew the Old Guard filmmaker to the project in the first place was the “organic diversity” in the source material.

“… the normalcy of the diversity within the film is the way I see the world,” Prince-Bythewood explained. “I would love others to see that world as well.”

Because, as she explained, it’s different for Black women, who are less represented in mass media. The Old Guard director shared:

Little boys get to see 100 different versions of themselves as the hero. Women have so few, and black women even fewer. There’s a great batch of movies coming out this year with Black Widow and Wonder Woman 1984 and Mulan. I want more women in films at the center, not as a love interest or sidekick or an afterthought.

The Old Guard
Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlize Theron, and Luca Marinelli in The Old Guard | Aimee Spinks/Netflix

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The Love and Basketball filmmaker believes that movies and television can affect the way we see ourselves.

“The more we make it normal, the more it will start to affect the way the world behaves,” Prince-Bythewood said.