A friend of mine brought to my attention a while ago about how women are stereotyped in films and film plots today. I suppose it should have been more obvious to me, especially with the amount of ‘chick-flicks’ that I have seen, but I honestly hadn’t really thought that much about the characters that female actresses normally seem to be playing.
The most popular roles for women in film today seem to consist of something to do with falling in love, finding the perfect man and being happy for the brief period of time before the film is over and you never see what would actually happy in their lives afterwards. I call this stereotypical character/plot line the ‘Cinderella Effect.’
Reinforced by years of Disney-esque films about women falling in love and having a ‘happily’ ever after, the film business churns out film after film where the main story-line is for the woman to meet the man of her dreams, overcome all obstacles that keep them apart from each other, have a big argument where all seems lost and then end up with both of them running towards each other in the falling rain and embracing each other for a passionate kiss. I have had ENOUGH of seeing film after film where the plot is so predictable it’s obvious that those two are going to end up together.
Despite this, I must admit that I enjoy watching these films. Mostly because they have excellent humour, good supporting characters and most of the time, they do have little twists thrown into the film to make it slightly differentiate from the last one. What I believe we need though, is more complex female characters that better reflect real women and not the women in fairy tales who believe that love is the only thing that will make everything okay.
Another issue with women in film today is that they are indisputably over-sexualised. Women in anything these days (video games, music videos, advertisements, even books) are grossly over-sexualised but in movies, which are mostly the number one media that influences the development of us as people in society, (example, when people say they saw a movie so good it changed their lives) it’s getting out of control. There are whole films dedicated to women wearing nothing but bikinis and taking part in wet t-shirt contests simply for male benefit. This needs to stop. Films are meant to be seen and viewed by a large and diverse audience. Yes, there are films directed at certain audiences like, How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days will probably be viewed by more women than men, but the way women are presented in every films is what causes people to believe the way these women act and look is the norm. Films are extremely influential on modern culture and social development, and presenting ‘ideals’ of what women should look like creates an impossibly high expectation of both men and women that almost always cannot be fulfilled. It’s destructive to so many people’s self-confidence, and yet we still endorse it.
What we must understand is that people learn more from media than any other single source of information.
What I ask for is more films where the main plot is not centering on a woman’s ‘need’ to find love. A lot of women, you’ll find, out here in the real world, are not solely looking for love and a man that will live out their days with them. They’re looking for a better career, or searching for inner happiness that doesn’t come via another person. They’re deciding to raise a baby by themselves because they want children and haven’t found a partner that they want to try for children with. They’re starting charities and leading marches dedicated to stopping cancer, helping rape victims, or advocating for women’s rights.
Where are the films that paint us as people, and not wives or girlfriends or sex objects?
UPDATE: I would also like to state that I know there are films that are exempt to what I’ve been talking about, such as The Hunger Games and Gravity etc. I know not all films have bad stereotypes of women or their ambitions in life.
NOTE: I watched a really good documentary called ‘Miss Representation’ which not only gave me the idea for the title of this blog post, but also opened my eyes to the sexism and prejudice that women face in all professions and in daily life. I suggest fans of this blog watch it, or anyone interested in learning more about women’s rights and struggles.
The trailer is here: (and yes, the documentary is available on Netflix)