This year’s Oscars awards ceremony heavily touched on the lack of female representation in the film industry. From Greta Gerwig being the only woman nominated for Best Director in eight years — and with Kathryn Bigelow being the only winner in the Oscar’s 90 years — to the pay gap to the Time’s Up movement, the 2018 Oscars were groundbreaking in their call for equality in Hollywood.
Female representation has become increasingly common in superhero movies. Movies like “Wonder Woman,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and recently “Black Panther” have given audiences a fresh perspective on how women can be truly badass warriors. Charlize Theron’s bald head showed audiences how femininity can take on many shapes and forms, while her bravery and rational thinking helps saves the Citadel. “Wonder Woman” and “Black Panther’s” progressive views have also been extremely praised for their inclusiveness, breaking away from the traditional white male hero.
Other films have also shown women they can break into traditionally male dominated environments. Two stellar examples are “Hidden Figures” and “Bend It Like Beckham,” with women trailblazers in the academic and athletic fields, respectively. In “Hidden Figures,” audiences learn about the little-known story of the team of African-American women responsible for several NASA missions. On the other hand, “Bend it like Beckham” tells the story of a young girl whose family forbids her from playing soccer. In the end, she does not let her culture or family stop her from playing, convincing her parents of her passion for the sport. In both movies, not only are women successful in making way for other women in predominantly male fields, but they are also women of color.
The next style of feminist movie portrays fearless women willing to stop at nothing for equality. This type of feminist is most clearly seen in movies like “Suffragette,” “Frida,” “Mulan” and “North Country.” In these movies, one can see a woman’s journey in a world of inequality and segregation simply based on her gender. Nonetheless, these strong-willed women fight through a myriad of obstacles for their rights and to be held in the same regard as men.
And out of all of the movies mentioned, all but “Black Panther” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” are either written or directed by women. Not only are most based from personal female experiences in some way, but many of these films also feature women of color. As a result, this two-fold form of representation is more holistic, resulting in strides for both gender and race relations. Through faithful and inclusive depictions in film, there can be a greater tolerance toward others’ differences, and they can inspire younger, impressionable generations.
Overall, the most accurate portrayals are those that come from firsthand perspective. “Wonder Woman’s” immense success was due to the groundbreaking and empowering depiction of female warriors from a female director. But many raised concerns with the sexualized costumes for Wonder Woman’s army in male-directed “Justice League,” indicating the lack of a female voice in making these key decisions. Additionally, Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” is indicative of her own coming-of-age story, a transition from the stereotypical teenage girl struggling to find love to a strong young woman trying to find herself.
Films about women should not be about making them appear flawless: It’s about showing women’s flaws, while also highlighting their strengths. Female depictions should focus on accuracy, shifting away from a solely male perspective and toward a more authentic and humanizing view of women. In her interview with Rolling Stone, Gerwig stated: “… I think we’re very unused to seeing female characters, particularly young female characters, as people.” Young women are only seen in banal stories in the form of stereotypes. Women need to be shown as more than the spineless and love-sick puppy, the psychotic ex-girlfriend or the backstabbing friend who will stop at nothing for her own benefit.
Representation matters. If young women continue to watch the same old movies that only teach them that their ultimate goal in life should be to find the man of their dreams, then society is clearly doing something wrong. Movies should inspire women to follow their dreams, pursue their interests and find themselves not just as wives and mothers, but as strong and capable individuals. Just as boys grow up watching movies that tell them they can be astronauts, cowboys, presidents, superheroes and whatever else they may please, girls should also grow up having the same mentality and vision. However, in order to do this, female writers and directors must be encouraged to follow their calling. Women have talent — all they need is support and recognition for their craft.