Over the last few weeks, watching thrillingly over-the-top action sequences involving awe-inspiring robotic suits, breathtaking leaps into deep space, and jaw-dropping car chases, I've noticed an unexpected trend. Everywhere I looked there were women, from female leads to strong supporting characters, and even peppered throughout the background and in bit parts. Considering the depressing findings of a new study that revealed women had less than a third of speaking roles in high-grossing pictures of 2012 (the lowest amount since 2007), this is definitely a welcome trend.

But it's not just that women are in these movies, it's how they are represented that matters. And that's a bit trickier. To talk about this I will be getting into details G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness and Fast & Furious 6. I avoid spoilers whenever possible, but there small spoilers ahead. More specific warnings are offered as needed.

Let's start where the summer movie season did, with Iron Man 3, where (spoilers start here) the soldiers who've undergone Extremis alterations are both male and female. Notably one of the female soldiers has an extended explosive battle with Tony Stark, while another takes down the Iron Patriot after masquerading as a meek Muslim woman. (End of spoilers.) This sparked vague memories of background actresses in Retaliation's troops. Soon I began actively watching for where women existed in this summer's would-be blockbusters, and saw Star Trek Into Darkness has women within the highest-ranking meetings of Starfleet, and everywhere on the Enterprise from the bridge to the engine room to the infirmary. With Star Trek's themes of progressive politics and equality this may not be too surprising, but it's worth noting they're still far from equal representation there. (Unless there are somehow far fewer women than men in the future galaxy.)

But all of the above movies offer powerful women in lead and supporting roles. G.I. Joe's Lady Jaye is a survivor, spy, and sharp shooter. Pepper Potts has been smart and brave in each of the Marvel movies, but in IM3 she gets to take those skills to a new extreme. Star Trek's Lieutenant Uhura thankfully has more to do in this new adventure, including (spoiler start) facing off against Klingons in an attempt to save her crewmates, and a crew newcomer played by Alice Eve not only proves adept at tackling Starfleet's top secret new tech, but also nobly risks her life for the Enterprise crew (spoiler stop). Fast & Furious's franchise has always been stacked with fierce female characters. The sixth installment sees the return of Letty, Mia, Elena (from Fast 5), and Gisele as well as additions to the good guys and new villains with MMA fighter/Haywire star Gina Carano and Clara Paget. True to the film series, each of these women is distinctly badass and brilliant, whether it is at racing supped up vehicles or battling just like one of the franchise's brawny boys.

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