Annihilation hits theaters today, and it’s one of the most feminist sci-fi movies ever made in my opinion. In large part because it’s fronted by women in a way I’ve never seen before: Natalie Portman leads a cast of A-list actresses who set out to discover the root of an inexplicable “shimmer” that’s slowly enveloping the land. Best of all, it’s completely devoid of the male gaze—something that’s truly alien for male-written sci-fi movies, pun intended.
The protagonists are all women; they’re scientists and soldiers, packaged with flaws and mental illness and unapologetic queerness. But the most awe-inspiring element of Annihilation might come as a surprise: It’s the belted khakis. Yes, Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, and Tessa Thompson were tasked with the important and necessary job of carving out a space for women to look cool in belted khakis—and for that, they’re truly heroic.
It took years of dogged, feminist work to get here. Annihilation’s ancestors obviously played a large part in outfit inspo, so let’s take a moment to appreciate some of the influential costumes that gave way to these khakis. There was Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in Alien (1979), who wore beat-up jumpsuits and baggy denim with suspenders. She was a patriot, paving the way for scientists, action heroes, and female characters who were allowed to just do their jobs without being blatantly objectified.
1987 brought us Linda Hamilton as The Terminator’s Sarah Connor, queen of gun-show tank-tops and belted work pants.
Jurassic Park (1993) starred Laura Dern as Dr. Ellie Satler, a scientist who wouldn’t be caught dead without a fanny pack, a denim accessory, and—what else?—belted khakis. Finally, some momentum in the women’s lib movement!
Three years later, Helen Hunt played Dr. Jo Harding, the bull-headed meteorologist in Twister who wore pearly tank-tops and, yes, belted khakis.
The following year, Jodie Foster perfected the ultimate scientist aesthetic as Ellie Arroway in Contact, sporting basic tees tucked into…you get it.
In 2015, Charlize Theron followed suit as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, where she shaved her head, tore off her sleeves, and heroically rescued a group of women from their crazed captor.
I’m not saying wearing belted khakis makes you a feminist hero, but am I? Don’t get me wrong, I love a sexy action hero as much as the next lesbian—Kill Bill’s Beatrix and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider are still trailblazers—but there’s something special about witnessing the wardrobe department on Annihilation try their hardest to make beautiful women like Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, and Tessa Thompson look like shit. They really gave it their all—and failed!—by upping the humidity, throwing them in combat gear, and robbing them of skincare routines. It felt like a giant eff-you to the male gaze, and I loved it.
Like, finally, female characters are allowed to do technical jobs on screen and wear fugly glasses. It’s electrifying and freeing to watch. This movie proves that it’s OK to own a pair of taco-stained khakis, belted to your hips for practicality rather than fashion, and it’s not just OK. It’s encouraged! It’s pragmatism. Wearing an old pair of khakis is liberating, a bold, brash Emma Gonzalez-like middle finger to meninists. When I left the theater, I felt inspired to start a ’90s female scientist mood board. It’s become my vibe for 2018.
You see, women in belted khakis are so rare on screen—if we’re even graced with one, she’s usually alone—but Annihilation is finally opening a dialogue for future characters who shop at Kohl’s. There’s inherent power in owning something as genderless as khaki pants and a leather belt, so wear them proud and loud, like the feminist heroes who laid the groundwork for you to do so. Name a more iconic duo, I’ll wait.