Tuesday, 11 June 2013


Someone remarked about the movie review I just did, "Role of women? What about the role of men? Isn't that a little one-sided?" I would like to address that here.

See, yes, it is one-sided. Just like the problem.

Because while there are certainly ways in which Hollywood stereotypes men and makes them one-dimensional and even sexualises them, there is nothing like the same kind of systemic, far-reaching problem as there is with the way women are portrayed in film.

Consider the following:
-According to a recent study by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, male characters have nearly three-quarters of the speaking parts in children's entertainment, and in family films, male characters outnumber females 3:1.
-The majority of movies do not pass the Bechdel Test, either featuring only one token female character, or by never having two females cross paths, or by putting two females together and having them only advance the plot on behalf of the male characters. Even more movies only pass the Bechdel Test by one conversation. Try to imagine a world where the reverse was true-- most movies only had one man and if there were two, they wouldn't ever speak unless to talk about the female main character.
-Except for in films made specifically for a female audience, the vast majority of leads are male.

I have to agree with Geena Davis' assessment. Have you noticed recently that the women in your life are hard to come by (drastically outnumbered by the males?) No? What about how they interact? Have you noticed that women tend to avoid each other like the plague unless they are getting together to talk about a man? No? Hmmm... Well, have you noticed that whenever you talk to a female you're bored to tears? Still no?

Okay, so now that we've established that that's not how the world works, I can establish why I want to approach film reviews from a perspective of the role of women. It's not because I think women are more important than men-- it's that I think they're just as important, and Hollywood is doing a terrible job of communicating that. If we aren't aware of just how one-dimensional and marginalized Hollywood makes their female characters, we will unwittingly absorb the message that women are more one-dimensional and less important than men. Like any of the subtle underlying biases in film, being aware of the problem is our best protection against assimilating the message. So I point out the maginalization of women in movies not because I enjoy complaining-- it's because I want change. I want people just starting out in film to think about why a man shouldn't enjoy a story about a woman, to think about what they're saying if they never make two female characters interact. I want movie-goers to come away from the theatre and to say, "The way they had that female character act was unrealistic because x," and then think about what real women are like and go out into the world with realistic, interesting women in their heads instead of a stereotype.

I've heard it said regarding this issue, "Once you see it, you can't unsee it." Thankfully, it's true. And once you're seeing it everywhere, you can become one more voice asking for something different-- something better.

No comments:

Post a Comment