Nobody would have ever thought that a man’s undergarment, nicknamed for spousal abuse (wife beater) would become a symbol of feminine strength and power.
The wife beater is such an offensive nickname, for such an innocent garment. Marlon Brando was perhaps the first celebrity to exemplify its masculinity, but since then women in cinema have adopted it to symbolize extreme sway over perceived vulnerability.
The first time I saw this sleeveless tee, as I am guessing many of you did, was on Sigourney Weaver in the climax to the movie “Alien.”
Versatile, non-restricting and breathable the garment was the ultimate in mobility, but offered no real protection. That force would have to come from within, and many women have harnessed that strength to make this a horror movie wardrobe prop worth recognizing especially during Women in Horror Month.
Here are six times the “wife beater” has been used where women take charge of seemingly insurmountable situations.
Alien – Sigourney Weaver plays the exhausted Ripley who seems to finally be out of harm’s way. She can relax in the confines of her escape pod after taking down one helluva nasty creature in “Alien.” Wearing only a wife beater and panties our heroine prepares herself for the journey home light years away. However just as she is left to recuperate, a hidden hitchhiker has taken solace inside her escape vehicle prompting her to take one last stand.
Wrong Turn – Perhaps returning to its design roots, the muscle tee is the wardrobe of choice for one Jessie Burlingame on a road trip to hell. Played by Eliza Dushku, Jessie and companion are stalked by cannibals who live in the forests of West Virginia. Luckily for them the human eating inbreds don’t realize the power of a female in a wife beater and underestimate Jessie and her aptitude for critical thinking.
Scream 4 – There are two “cottons” in the “Scream” franchise: one a questionable suspect in a throng of serial killings and the other the fabric of choice for our heroine Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell). The undergarment can come in many colors and Sydney (Neve Campbell) isn’t shy about wearing one around the house with butcher knife in hand.
The Descent – The girlpower behind the movie “The Descent” is palpable. This strength is even more charged as our heroine Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) must wade through a pit of bloody innards inside an underground cave after becoming trapped by flesh eating humanoids. Is her t-shirt, stained with the dye of human life strong enough to let her see the light of day?
The House at the End of the Street – Teenage Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence ) is a rebel and against her mother’s better judgement starts dating a boy who may or may not be involved in a dark and twisted neighborhood mystery. Clad in her sleeveless tee, Elissa begins to unravel the numerous questions surrounding her boyfriend in this shocking thriller.
Machete – Agent Sartana Rivera (Jessica Alba) is caught between doing her job and staying true to her family. Given that she must capture and arrest the behemoth “Machete” of the movie’s namesake, it’s a good thing she packed lightly and included a muscle shirt because taking him in is isn’t going to be easy.
There are probably a lot more examples of movie heroines wearing the fabric of their lives in the form of a muscle shirt. If you can think of any post them in the comments below.