The Scorch Trials' Rosa Salazar and Kaya Scodelario on Feminism and the Dystopian Future

Thomas (Dylan O'Brien, center) surveys his new environment, along with Ponytail (Jenny Gabrielle) and Brenda (Rosa Salazar).EXPAND
Thomas (Dylan O'Brien, center) surveys his new environment, along with Ponytail (Jenny Gabrielle) and Brenda (Rosa Salazar).
Richard Foreman, Jr. SMPSP

Feminism in Hollywood is the newest case du jour. Everyone’s talking about it and young actresses are taking stands against the  lack of representation and treatment of women in Hollywood. Just look at Emma Watson with her successful He for She campaign, and even teenager, and Girl Meets World star, Rowan Blanchard and her eloquent essay on intersectional feminism.

However, not every young actress can be as artfully expressive as Watson and Blanchard.

During a press day promoting their new film, The Scorch Trials — the second installment in The Maze Runner series — Kaya Scodelario, who plays Teresa, and Rosa Salazar (Brenda) attempted to fight the good fight and stamp out gender inequality.

It was refreshing to see more women were added to the film this second time around. The first film of the series, 2014's The Maze Runner, is a boys club, Scodelario’s character was the sole woman, save for the occasional flashback or video footage of the overarching Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson). The future, apparently, was no place for women. And since the dystopian science fiction flick picks up moments after where the first left off, audiences are rushed quickly into plot and action.

Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), Teresa, Minho (Ki Hong Lee), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Frypan (Dexter Darden), and Aris (Jacob Lofland) meet Brenda after escaping from the Scorch. Brenda has spent her life living outside the Scorch in a derelict building surrounded by nothing but sand and zombie-like Cranks. So, it’s safe to say, her upbringing was very different from that of Teresa, who experienced life in the maze.

And though the characters are very different, and their differences drive the plot, don’t ask the actresses about their characters’ similarities or differences because that's, apparently, an affront to feminism.

“Bloody hell, what is with this?” cries Scodelario.

“I’ve never gotten that question before and I’m actually shocked that it’s even a question because it’s 2015, about to be 2016,” interjects Salazar. “We can vote and we can talk and we can read and write and I think we both are so capable.”

Salazar goes on to explain a few differences between her Brenda and Scodelario’s Teresa, ultimately blurring the line of reality with that of her fictional self.

“Since Teresa was working for the governmental agency and these like corporations, I would say that her struggle was not only physical but also mental. I would say that her ethics are questioned every single day, she’s constantly telling herself this story, which is like the biggest struggle, your mind is the most powerful muscle you have. I would say that because I was, just out of circumstance, thrown out to the Scorch, I had to rise to the occasion and I would say that Teresa would probably be in the exact same situation that I was in and rise to the occasion. And I think that if the apocalypse did happen, I think that we would see the return of the matriarchal society… Obviously, Brenda is super tough but we don’t know. If buildings started [crumbling] and solar flares actually happened, I might be like under my bed sucking my thumb pissing myself. I have no idea, but we would all hope that we would rise to the occasion. And I think that women are extremely strong individuals.”

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Taking a breath, Salazar allows Scodelario to add to her sentiments. “I think these two women are both products of their environment and that’s where their strengths lie and that’s how they’ve learned to survive.  “Why isn’t it a question of Newt and Thomas, like ‘who do you think is stronger?’” adds Salazar. “It’s just because they both have dicks, ‘well, they’re both strong for sure.’ Like, I mean, I think we’re all facing similar situations.” 

Amidst their speech on how strong and capable both women are in the world of the Scorch and how women would run the world after the apocalypse (do we really have to wait until the end of the world to see women in power? That's a depressing thought), neither actresses addressed the lack of prominent female characters in the film, nor did they address the immense amount of criticism the series has received for virtually writing women out. "These aren’t two-dimension[al] women, they never have been," Scodelario says, "...people want to do this Team Brenda, Team Teresa thing,” but Scoldelario implies that's not going to happen.

For argument’s sake, compare The Maze Runner series, written by James Dashner, to that of another popular young adult book-to-movie franchise, the Divergent series written by Veronica Roth. Both create worlds where teens rise against the governing powers (adults). Yet, whereas Roth writes a strong female lead and incorporates a coed world, Dashner pens a strong male lead and — for the most part — takes women entirely out of the equation. So it's a bizarre script and adaptation to pin any iteration of feminism on to begin with. 

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials opens in theaters today. It's entertaining on a surface level and will satisfy fans of the first film and the books.


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