‘True Grit,’ ‘Winter’s Bone’ show shift in Hollywood’s portrayal of teen girls

Laura Donovan Contributor
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“I am about to embark on a great adventure,” says the hero, tucking a Colt revolver into a flour sack, donning a wide-brimmed Stetson and riding out into the wilderness on the trail of a killer. Smart, stoic and purposeful, this avenger is a stock western movie protagonist in every way but one — Mattie Ross, the central character in the new film “True Grit,”is a 14-year-old girl.

Given that female adolescents are frequently depicted on-screen as vapid (“Mean Girls”), angst-ridden (“Twilight”), pregnant (“Juno”) or merely decorative ( “Spider-Man”), Mattie Ross is a remarkable role. She never shakes out her braids in a makeover montage, swoons over a cute stable boy or frets about the daunting task at hand tracking down the man who shot her father, with assists from a crusty federal marshal ( Jeff Bridges) and dandified Texas Ranger ( Matt Damon).

“True Grit,” directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, is the second film to be made from Charles’ Portis 1968 novel of the same name. The first, which hit cinemas in 1969 and was directed by Henry Hathaway, focused more on John Wayne’s federal marshal, aged Mattie to be played by 21-year-old Kim Darby, softened the hard edges Portis had etched into her character and added a hint of romance between Mattie and the Texas Ranger.

Full story: Teen girls in film showcase true grit