Women Written Well

Words by Bree Brincat

 

Note: If you’re just joining us, you’re welcome to begin at the first article in this series: When Men Write Women Wrong. There, you will dive into Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes (2009) and how Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) failed to live up to her potential.

However, every story needs balance: good versus evil. Sometimes, Hollywood gets it so very right. That is the case for Evelyn “Evie” Carnahan-O’Connell from Stephen Sommer’s 1999 The Mummy. Based on the film of the same title from 1932, Sommers writes and directs a fresh take on the classic monster.


After a flash-back prologue, Evie (Rachel Weisz) is introduced in present-day Cairo at her work: she is a librarian. High up on a ladder, she is intent to properly code and catalogue the books around her. In little time, Evie exposes one side of herself: she can read and write ancient Egyptian and decipher hieroglyphics; only someone of great intelligence possesses these skills. Quickly her brother, Jonathan, becomes her foil: a drinker, petty thief, and a man who ruined his own career.

Jonathan is informally the catalyst for the major events when he presents Evie with a key stolen off of Rick O’Connell (yet to be introduced). Rick is a handsome adventurer and minor criminal who instantly steals Evie’s heart even though he is not her type.


Sommers plays with this chemistry in a unique way: the instant attraction between these two characters is mutual and each character firmly stands by their own code while the attraction unfolds. Evie will not accept any less than respect and a bit of romance, while Rick is honest and a little naïve. The growing attraction does not turn Evie into someone she is not; on the contrary, it proves to bring out more of what makes Evie, Evie.


As with any good adventure, a drunken night appears as the calm before the storm. Evie tells the story of her parents: her father, a famous explorer, fell in love with her mother, an Egyptian woman who was quite the adventurer herself.

Evie’s story both foreshadows her and Rick’s future, as well as laying the base for Evie’s complexities. She is proud to be a librarian. Her skills which help the heroes through the trials and dangers of Ancient Egypt stem from her wit and scholarly knowledge. However, she quickly demonstrates that she does not run from a fight but knows when the pen is mightier than the sword.

As with any good adventure, a drunken night appears as the calm before the storm. Evie tells the story of her parents: her father, a famous explorer, fell in love with her mother, an Egyptian woman who was quite the adventurer herself.



For instance, during a stand-off with guns pointed at guns, Evie steps right into the thick of it: “Let’s be nice, children. If we’re going to play together we must learn to share. There are other places to dig.”

Evie’s suggestion leads them to avoid a curse and the discovery of Imhotep’s sarcophagus; unearthing their immortal villain.


When the plagues begin raining down upon modern-day Egypt (due to the folly of the folks at Hamunaptra), Evie is intent to stay and stop what they started. She takes responsibility and will not leave anyone to clean up their supernatural mess.

The rest of the journey is predicated on the fact that Imhotep, our titular Mummy, sees Evie as the doppelgänger of his lost love and is intent on raising the spirit of his girl from the dead and to use Evie as the vessel to succeed.

Although Sommers plays Evie as the damsel in distress near the end of the film, she is able to not only use her mind to help save herself and their group but ultimately defeat Imhotep and send him back to the Underworld. As an ode to the movie from the 1930s, the movie ends with Rick, Evie, and third-wheel Jonathan riding off into the sunset.

Two years later, Sommers releases the sequel The Mummy Returns. Quickly, Evie shows that not only is she still using her keen mind to make incredible ancient discoveries, but she has also learned to fight. She has multiple fight scenes in the two+ hour sequel alongside being the voice of reason and life-saving smarts.

From the very beginning, Evie stands as her own fully fleshed woman who grows with her environment. She makes a great role model for young girls by being smart and principled but not afraid to sword fight a villain in her own living room to protect herself and her family.

Evelyn Carnahan-O’Connell is allowed to be her own person without being sexualized. She stands as a librarian, a scholar, a fighter, a lover, (and later) a mother, and Egyptian Princess reincarnated – none of which is forced wrongly upon her, or used as a device to suit other (primarily male) characters. Evie is the woman audiences deserve to have on-screen and Rachel Weisz delivers a flawlessly flawed woman who will live on, beloved, for generations.


 

The author of this Guest Post, Bree Brincat, is a writer/director living in New Orleans. She is pushing her keyboard to the limit to make writing her full-time career. When she is not writing she is probably hanging with her rescue coven (cats Luna + Phoebe, and dog Sabrina) or reading the giant pile of books on rotation from her local bookstore.

You can find Bree on Instagram or check out her website: www.breebrincat.com.