So I had it confirmed finally, that feeling that things were not quite right in flim and tv-series. Today, I came across a column addressing the topic, and it referred to a study made by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen; It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World, Even in a Pandemic Year: Portrayals of Female Characters in the Top U.S. Films of 2021.
I mean, you have probably noted it yourself, without giving it too much thought (at least it you are a woman yourself), that most films and tv-series you watch, are dominated by male characters. As a mother of two boys, I have seen my share of Marvel films the past few years. Loads of mostly white, strong guys, fighting some villain or several. The character “Black Widow” being a rare, female character. As a matter of fact, I got so fed up with this male, macho universe, that I told my boys and my husband that they can watch these films without me. I can’t stand it anymore.
We have also been through the whole bunch of Star Wars movies, several times, and not surprisingly perhaps, my favourite is “Rouge One” where we are introduced to the female character Ray. Equally not surprising perhaps, is the fact that this is not the favourite film of the rest of the family…
It’s a fact that I have a weakness for a variety of police/agent series, like NCIS, Hawaii Five-0, and New York Major Squad, to mention some. In all of them men are overrepresented compared to women. They do have female detectives and agents, playing central parts, but still, it’s rarely more than one female per team of 4-6 agents.
And it’s this that has been bugging me for some time. Why is it like this? Why this gross imbalance on average?
The column I read today also pointed to another interesting fact. The author had noted that the films Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and Turning Red, reviewed by males, were viewed as “overwhelmingly” female (Wakanda Forever), and “for relatively small audience” (Turning Red).
Wow! Just because they can’t, for once, identify with the leading character? I don’t know if I find it tragic or comic, that these men whine over these facts. I mean, I don’t expect a man in his 40’s to really identify with a girl growing into puberty, getting her period and experiencing all the hormones raging her body. But I do expect that he can appreciate a film that focus on something else than girls going teenage, wanting to be a perfect little woman pleasing everybody. Because that is how I often see girls portrayed in movies, glossy creatures with long, shiny hair and perfect skin. Well, mister, welcome to the real world! We are quite a few out here who appreciates new ways of presenting our gender!
Being underrepresented everywhere, I think we women are used to stretch our imagination to fit into a universe that often seems to ignore us. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. Girls growing up deserves heroes of their own, whom they can identify with, that look like them. We need more females of all ages on the screen, of all colours and all sizes. (I think our boys could need a bigger variety of shapes and colours to identify with as well). We need more multi-dimensional female characters, in all kinds of films and tv-series. We need more Dana Scullys and Rebeccas (from the 2013 movie “1000 times good night”). Rebecca is a photo journalist, travelling to war zones, while her husband is the one with local based work, taking care of their kids. I found that movie so inspiring! The roles were completely turned around, and I adored it. Because that it also how it can be. We are way too much told the story of the man with a career, and the woman sacrificing herself for the wellbeing of the rest of the family. I welcome every challenge to that image.
I do have to point out at the end, that there have been some rather fun movies presenting girls in a more interesting manner. When I grew up, it was with Pippi Longstockings, a rare female superhero at the time. Pippi really challenged the ideals of how girls should behave at the time (and still do). Recently, I watched Enola Holmes on Netflix, the two films, and I find them amusing and inspiring. And I like to present my boys with something other than the stereotype heroes they are used to from the Marvel universe. Boys, like girls, need the current stereotypes to be challenged. They need to see that there are many ways to live their lives, that humans are complex beings, not divided into “soft creatures” (women) and “tough heroes/villains” (men). Women can be tough, men are allowed to show feelings and cry. I wish we could see more of that, too. Not just in sentimental dramas, but in action movies as well. Why is it always the female characters that grab the box of Kleenex, while the men punch the wall?
Most of all, I would like to see more female, complex characters. The fact is that women makes up about half the population of this planet, but when watching movies we are reduced to a small minority. It’s time to do something about that.
Happy new year!