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The 14 Most Thankless Female Roles of the Year

From one year to the next, the number of meaty, satisfying roles for actresses can vary dramatically. (This year hasn’t been so bad.) But from one year to the next, the number of slight, unsatisfying, thankless roles for actress varies hardly at all: You can always count on lots of those. 2010 has been no exception, giving many women the opportunity to put their skills to very little use by playing variations on scolds, crazy bitches, babes with no character, and attractive scenery. (Thankless is distinct from just bad: Katherine Heigl’s part in Killers was bad, but because she toplined the movie and had a lot of gun-waving to do, it wasn’t quite thankless.) With the end of the year in sight, we’ve rounded up the most egregious instances of under- or misusing a woman in film, and come up with this list of the fourteen most thankless lady roles of the year.

Genre of Thanklessness: Attractive Scenery In Clash of the Titans, former Bond girl Arterton played the goddess Io, who got to tell no-risk franchise star Sam Worthington he had some God in him and then stand around and watch him fight, like good love interests do. Inevitably, Arterton is signed up for the sequel: Hopefully she had the foresight to ask if she could be the one to release the kraken this time.
Genre of Thanklessness: Bantering Action Babe In Jerry Bruckheimer’s swords-and-sandals flop, Arterton graduated from staring at Sam Worthington to feistily trading quips with Jake Gyllenhaal. On paper this may have been the second-biggest part in the movie, but in execution Arterton was outshone by very sandy special effects, Gyllenhaal’s historically appropriate hairdo, and, of course, all six (or is it ten?) of his abdominal muscles.
Genre of Thanklessness: Laconic Action Babe In Iron Man 2 ScarJo played the Black Widow, theoretically a badass Russian heroine capable of beating people up. Though she did get a few licks in, and crouched sexily while wearing all black leather (the best crime-fighting pose, duh), Johansson was one superhero too many, ultimately getting overshadowed by not only Robert Downey Jr. but Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle, and Gwyneth Paltrow as well. Too many stars in an action movie, someone’s gonna get zero character development and no good lines.
Genre of Thanklessness: Voice of Reason The thanklessness of this part may be a little on Page; she wasn’t much fun as the dream architect Ariadne, all nosily up in Leo’s love life, forcing him to confront his bad past with Mal, the bad lady with the bad name that means bad. But then she didn’t dress herself in that neckerchief, now did she?
Genre of Thanklessness: Bantering Action Babe In the comic-book adaptation Jonah Hex, one of the year’s biggest flops, Fox played a prostitute who falls in love with a disfigured, superpowered former Confederate soldier, gets kidnapped, held at gunpoint, handcuffed, and stored in the hold of a ship, all while wisecracking and flaunting her 18-inches-in-a-corset waist.
Genre of Thanklessness: Punching Bag In Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me, Casey Affleck’s serial killer gruesomely, endlessly punches Jessica Alba’s character (also a prostitute!) in the face until you can see through her cheek to her jaw. This might be enough to make you hate screenwriters too.
Genre of Thanklessness: Bitches Be Crazy As much noted, The Social Network had a lady problem, epitomized by Song’s character Christy, Eduardo Saverin’s (Andrew Garfield) girlfriend. Inexplicably bonkers, jealous, mean, insecure, and pyromaniacal, Christy was stereotypical enough to make one wish that The Social Network, already super-light on female characters, had even one less.
Genre of Thanklessness: Shadow of Former Self In fairness, Miranda and Charlotte had one of the only likable conversations in the entire sequel, but somebody has got to take the fall for this mistake. And what with Carrie being the lead and almost definitionally irksome, and Samantha being so gonzo awfulsome in it, it falls to Charlotte and Miranda to be the responsible parties, as always.
Genre of Thanklessness: Punching Bag If you know what The Human Centipede is about, this is self-explanatory. If you don’t, we’re not going to be the ones to ruin your day.
Genre of Thanklessness: CGI Support/Attractive Scenery This one hurts, because we love us some Judy Greer. (Someone give her a TV show again, so she doesn’t have to be doing these silly movies!) In 2010 Greer played second fiddle to the animated Marmaduke, almost the definition of thanklessness. Then she played second fiddle to Anne Hathaway, as a doctor’s receptionist that Jake Gyllenhaal bangs and then abandons. Neither he, nor the movie, give her a second thought.
Genre of Thanklessness: Voice of Reason The only thing more thankless than playing the straight woman, via telephone, to zany road trippers Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis is …
Genre of Thanklessness: Voice of Reason … playing the straight woman to a gaggle of man-children consisting of Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, and David Spade, while contributing to Sandler’s endless streak of having incongruously hot movie wives.
Genre of Thanklessness: Bitches Be Crazy Look, we know bringing “logic” to bear on Burlesque is missing the point, but of all the parts in the film, Bell’s Nikki was the most befuddling: She’s an alcoholic mean girl who seems like she’s going to be the main villain of the piece until … she isn’t. And she’s not anything else, either. The character must have been more important in some earlier iteration of the script, but as is, she’s half-baked and doesn’t even afford Bell a chance to sing. Also, duly noted: Dianna Agron has an even more thankless part, as a screeching ex-girlfriend, but she’s in the movie for so little, we’re trying to do her a solid and forget about it.
Genre of Thanklessness: Attractive Scenery Everyone in Piranha 3-D was in on the joke except Szohr’s Kelly. The joke being, either you are a topless slut who gets gnawed to bloody bits by a school of lake-living piranhas, or you are a strong lady who likes shirts and piranha fighting and lives to see another day. Kelly is betwixt and between, looking sleepy and confused while showing fear and wearing a bikini top, yet somehow surviving through sheer force of cowardice. Kelly better have grown a backbone — or gotten a one-piece — by the time Piranha 3DD comes out.
The 14 Most Thankless Female Roles of the Year