There are certain movies that I can watch over and over again. They’re like old friends with whom time is never wasted. They make me laugh, cry, or just feel warm and fuzzy with nostalgia.
The Mummy (1999) is one of those movies. If you haven’t seen it, here is the gist: Evelyn Carnahan, played by Rachel Weisz, is a librarian/aspiring archaeologist working in 1920s Cairo and is obsessed with ancient Egypt. Rick O’Connell, played by Brendan Frasier, is the American she saves from the noose in order to lead her to the fabled city of Hamunaptra where they accidentally wake up the cursed Imhotep, played by Arnold Vosloo, a.k.a. The Mummy. Rick and Evelyn (or Evie, as her flaky brother Jonathan likes to call her), then spend the movie trying to put Imhotep back in his grave so he doesn’t destroy the world.
The classic plotline is full of action, adventure and a healthy sprinkling of comic relief and romance. What I really love about this movie though is the heroine — Evelyn. Here are just a few of the reasons she’s an ideal female hero and I want us to be best friends.
She’s not overly sexualized.
Female heroes in action movies usually have big boobs and wear an impractically minimal amount of clothing that seems to only serve to emphasize the fact that they have boobs. Not that I don’t enjoy watching these female heroes kick villains’ butts, but to have The Mummy’s female hero introduced to the audience stacking library books without a significant amount of skin showing is a refreshing change. As a potential bestie, this also makes her more approachable for a girl like me who would rather wear sturdy hiking pants than booty shorts into the jungle.
She’s smart and not afraid to let the men around her know it.
After a clumsy incident in the library where we first meet Evelyn, her boss exclaims, “why do I put up with you?!” Evie proceeds to tell him exactly why he “puts up” with her, from her knowledge of ancient languages to her cataloguing and organizational skills. You tell him, girl!
There are plenty of other moments in the movie when Evelyn uses her intelligence to gain an upper hand, such as when they first begin digging at Hamunaptra, and the men around her are smart enough to follow her lead. Those who don’t are left in her dust. One of my favorite lines is from Evelyn when she corrects Benny’s translation of Imhotep’s words with a wry “for all eternity, idiot.”
She doesn’t hate men; she just treats them as equals.
Female heroes are often depicted as man-haters, when in reality, they’re just written with the masculine characteristics that (I assume) male screenwriters think they need in order to be heroes. So they talk with their fists, give orders and expect everyone around them to just fall in line, or act as the lone cowboy who saunters into town and wrangles the bad guys all on their own.
Evelyn on the other hand turns to the very boss who put her down in the beginning of the film for help after first reviving Imhotep, because she recognizes they need his knowledge. She doesn’t have that typical hero ego that drives the hero to try and save the world all by themselves. Evelyn knows they’ll need to work together to defeat the Mummy.
This girl loves ancient Egypt and takes any chance she gets to talk about it, whether it’s explaining to Rick exactly how they removed the brain during the mummification process or giddily showing a group of cowboys the scarab skeletons she found in the Mummy’s tomb. She never feels the need to hide her enthusiasm over making discoveries or solving ancient mysteries. Even as a mob brainwashed by Imhotep is closing in on them, Evelyn can’t help but proudly declare victory after solving the puzzle of where the Book of the Living was buried.
While she’s the true hero of the movie, Evelyn is also vulnerable. You know, actually human. She gets distracted in her studies thinking about her first kiss with O’Connell. When she first encounters Imhotep after he’s come back to life, she’s terrified and begs the man who was first attacked to not leave her alone. Heroes are often single-minded with blinders on, barreling forward on their mission. Evelyn works to defeat Imhotep while also wondering how O’Connell feels about her, keeping her brother on track, and trying to prove herself to those silly Bembridge scholars who mixed up where the two Books were buried. I feel those efforts to do it all in my soul.
Be like Evelyn.
What I love most about Evelyn is the way she wonderfully demonstrates how you can be strong, vulnerable, beautiful, smart, and humble all at the same time, and those traits can all work together to create one awesome person. It’s important to know when it’s time to stand up for yourself and what you know to be true, and when it’s time to ask for help. It’s important to celebrate those small victories, even when a zombie mob is closing in. Evelyn shows us how to live life with passion, regardless of what others may think, without bulldozing over everyone who doesn’t see it our way.
Women are so often put into boxes — the strong girl, the pretty girl, the smart girl — and we get pushback when we show up as just ourselves, which never fits into one predefined box. But we don’t belong in boxes! We belong out in the world being awesome people doing amazing things. Evelyn was proud of who she was, so why not us?
Whether you’re a librarian obsessed with ancient Egypt who wins camel races, a physicist who sunbathes in a bikini on the weekends, or a writer who ballroom dances and dreams of becoming best friends with fictional characters, show up as you and be proud!