Betina and the Action Heroine’s Handbook

So, how many books have you read lately where a woman had a knife fight, dangled from a helicopter skid, broke into a building or safe, dug herself out of a cave-in, or crossed a crocodile-infested river? Yeah, me too. Action-adventure is all the rage these days. Women in books –yes, even MY women –are expected to be able to take care of themselves. And sometimes even save the hero!

 So, where do you go to find out how to fight, escape, drive, track, chase, survive. . . you know, the stuff that action heroines need to be able to do?
 I just found a book titled The Action Heroine’s Handbook, which purports to give you the skinny on: “how to win a catfight, drink someone under the table, choke a man with your bare thighs, and dozens of other TV and movie skills.” I snatched it up and headed straight for the checkout counter. I mean, who wouldn’t want to learn how to choke a man with her bare thighs?
I settled in with a cup of International Coffee (Cafe Vienna, my sugar-free fave) and started taking notes. The book was organized into sections dealing with “tough chick skills, beauty skills, brain skills, brawn skills, and escape skills”. . . with techniques gleaned from real life heroes and heroines identified as “FBI agents, stuntwomen, sexologists, beauty queens, drag kings, champion boxers, dominatrixes, and detectives.”The first advice offered: “How to win a high-speed chase in high heels and a bustier.” The illustrations are of Wonder Woman. Special tips include: staying on the balls of one’s feet, pitching forward, and countering up-and-down breast bouncing with side to side elbow movement, and as a last resort– flashing your opponent a bare breast to distract him. Upon catching the quarry, the reader is instructed to use her shoe heels as weapons.Gee. I felt more powerful already. I went on to “how to pop a nose wheelie on a motorcycle,” “how to navigate a room full of laser beams” (involves a lifetime of yoga), and came to “how to drink someone under the table.”Unfortunately, in order to drink someone under the table, you have to get used to drinking liquor, to “build tolerance” before hand. [Thus, I will never be good at this.] According to their expert, before the competition you have to fill your stomach with a normal sized meal, agree to which kind of liquor to consume (avoid mixed shots!), and consume one glass of stout beer half an hour before the competition to prepare your body to metabolize liquor. During the contest keep a sober demeanor–no chit-chat. Choose straight tequila if you can, since it contains a stimulant, remain standing through the competition, drink your shots at the same time as your opponent, maintain eye contact and focus, and order a harder or potent mixed shot when your opponent shows overt signs of inebriation– slurred speech, wild laughing, or inability to get additional liquor into his open mouth.

The next chapters deal with recognizing the “undead” and escaping them, outwitting a Sasquatch, and giving birth under pressure. Huh? Giving birth under pressure? They cite Dana Scully of the X-Files as an example and urge the reader to remove as many external stressors as possible. Then “dim the lights, light candles for focus, put on some soft music,” and “ignore external distractions such as gunfire, aliens, and flowing magma.” The rest involves two clean shoelaces, a clean sock, some scissors, two baby blankets or large towels, and a large drop cloth. I had to quit reading at the drop cloth.

Moving quickly on, I learned “how to make yourself into a hottie in five minutes or less”. . . which seemed a little optimistic and involved additional mascara, hair gel or hair spray for “action heroine volume”, using bright red lipstick to emphasize your mouth, and using bronzer to better delineate your cleavage. Then there were a few quick dance lessons. . . tango (which is NOT simple– I know, I had lessons!), fast “maniac” dancing, and of course striptease. By then I was really ready for instructions on “How to hook a millionaire,” which involves identifying millionaires by their watches and shoes and then playing coy and letting them pay for things until they fall madly in love and insist on showering you with information and/or material goods. Alternatively, the next chapter is titled “how to turn a man into a sex pawn.” (Shrug.) Different strokes, I guess.

I began to suspect the guide might not be as good as advertised when I got to the section on profiling a serial killer and found it consisted of three pages and six easy steps. Hey, why hasn’t anybody shown this to the FBI? This is where I skipped ahead to the “choking a man with your bare thighs” part, which was why I bought the book in the first place.

Imagine my dismay upon learning you have to knock the guy to his hands and knees (doggie-style position) before you can start. Then you straddle his shoulders, taking his head between your thighs and pulling his head up by the hair. They caution you not to sit on his back. . . bad form, I guess. For additional “stunnage,” box your opponent’s ears while he’s under your control. . . like you’re clapping your hands, only his head is in the way. Hmmmm. If I could actually get a guy down on all fours, I would be able to run away right then. . . so, who needs the whole choking thing? If I do it this way, it seems like gratuitous choking. And don’t I lose reader sympathy if my heroine is too eager with her thighs?

Then there was the “how to fight with your hands cuffed” section. . . where I learned I should– I mean, the heroine should– kick her opponent in the throat. Go on. . . just stretch up there with your hands cuffed behind you and kick that 6 foot 4 inch baddie in the throat. Or kick him in the groin or head-butt him in the bridge of his nose. Also, the front teeth are sharper for biting through skin than side or corner ones. . . and can easily bite through an ear or the end of a nose. . .

Ewwwww. I stopped right there. Before I even got to “how to win a chase across rooftops”. . . which was based on the moves in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” And, after paging ahead, I had been looking forward to learning how to do that flying stuff.

But, maybe I’m not cut out to be an action-adventure writer.

Or maybe I just need a different kind of guide book. Yeah, that’s it.

Okay, I’ve decided to collect my own set of moves for action-adventure heroines. Starting now. So what mad skills does a gal have to have these days to survive big adventures and dangerous thrills? If you were a heroine, what would you need/want to be able to do to survive in the big story? I’ll put ’em all together, figure out how to do them, and make the list available. . . I promise!

Posted by Betina Krahn

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8 Responses to Betina and the Action Heroine’s Handbook

  1. Kylie Brant says:

    Too too funny, Betina! I’m howling just thinking about any of us in these moves. Except for Greiman. I figure being a horsewoman she just might have the strength in her thighs to choke a guy to death after he’s obligingly gotten in position to worship at her feet 🙂 As for me…skewer ’em with sarcasm. That’s my only real fighting skill!

  2. Michele says:

    Betina, I love that book. But yes, some weird advice in there too. For research I veer toward the martial arts DK books, which have great diagrams, and for the most interesting book on martial arts/living/medicine/lifestyle/kick-butt tactics, pages through THE ART OF SHEN KU by Zeek if you ever happen across that in a book store. Interesting.

    I personally think we can use our feminine ‘wiles’ over a roundhouse kick any day. But that means I’d better get on sharpening those wiles of mine. Do I have wiles? Hmm…

  3. Keri Ford says:

    I have that book! Haven’t read it in years, but I remember it getting pretty crazy.

    And I guess I would want guts. I’m not exactly a chicken, but I tend to over anaylze things. I think if you’re into action, there is no thinking time. there’s just doing time.

  4. This was too funny…the book sounds interesting, but I think I’d be laughing my @$$ off too much throughout the whole thing before I could learn anything. The choking with the thighs part…am sure that is in both the FBI and CIA handbook defensive skills 101…just kidding. Disarm, disable and run. Why stick around, unless you’re playing out some kind of sexual fantasy OR you’re the assassin in Golden Eye who tried to kill James Bond with her thighs.

    One thing I learned in martial arts. It is possible to do that kick to the head thing with your hands cuffed behind your back. You just need to be really flexible and quick.

    Peace and love,
    Paula R.

  5. Leanne Banks says:

    I would have to do some serious working out… unless I had super powers. So if I don’t have a lot of upper body strength, then I’ll take cleats and super powers. Great blog, Betina!;) xo, Leanne

  6. Betina, you made my day! The image of choking with thighs will keep me laughing ’til sundown. Plus, the book went straight to my gift list. Dear daughter is difficult to buy for, and she’ll love this. She takes the bus to work now (works in county adult probation department) and says whn she was reading THE PSYCHOPATH TEST (my last gift) no one sat down next to her. In fact, Elizabeth should contribute here. She’s the only real person I know who could be an action heroine.

  7. Feminine wiles. Here’s a story for you. When I was teaching high school, I had lots of female students who were pretty tough, but they pretty much only fought with each other. In those days at least, wimpy girls were left alone. One girl told me the key was to establish your wimpiness without hesitation. “I just cry,” she said. Somebody asked her once if she had no pride, and she said she was proud of the fact that her hair, teeth and bones were all intact and her face was devoid of scars.

  8. lois greiman says:

    Ahhh Betina, I actually called my daughter to share your wonderful tips. Thanks for making my day.

    We have a 17.1 hand Trekener horse on our property. His withers are well over my head. I bet my husband $5 I could jump on him bareback. He said, “What are you going to do, jump out of a tree?” I managed it without the tree. (I mean seriously, I’ll do anything for $5) though it wasn’t pretty. So if anyone needs hints on jumping on a giant horse I’m there for you. But I think simply being able to shoot might come in a lot handier.

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