In the Blog

“Females want more than victims, nymphs, bimbos”

September 7th, 2007     by Catherine Hayday     Comments

In 2005 Peter Howell at the Toronto Star wrote a piece called “Women are going backwards” which, on re-reading, is a pretty poor title for the article. What it should have read is “Film is going backwards” or “Hollywood is going backwards”. What Mr Howell’s article dealt with wasn’t the regression of women, but the regression of how women are portrayed in film. Because while women are attempting to go forwards it seems that the portrayals of us keep slipping backwards:

“…it’s sobering to think how little progress has been made. Bewitched and The Honeymooners were both damned by the Women’s Liberation movement in the 1960s and ’70s, yet they’re considered ripe for renewal in 2005… where are the modern-day counterparts to the classy and confident women of yore?”

While I think Peter might over-romanticize the strength and depth (and role-model-worthiness) of the characters portrayed by Lauren Bacall or Elizabeth Taylor, he surely does have a point about the dearth of strong women in modern film.

So a little thought experiment: off the top of my head, what strong and confident female characters can I think of? And as Peter largely limits his analysis to big budget mainstream movies, so shall I (though, importantly, he does include that “the one place where women still find an important role is in the art films that are the lifeblood of film festivals”).

Scanning my DVD shelves for inspiration, I come up with the following:

  • Lord of the Rings: Galadriel (and Arwen, but only for the horse chase and that one scene in the river)
  • Chocolat: Vianne
  • The Matrix: Trinity, and here I have to quote: “I just thought you were a guy.” “Most guys do.”
  • Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Yu Shu Lien and Jade Fox
  • Run Lola Run: Lola
  • Serenity: Zoe (Dear Joss, thank you for making a Firefly movie so I can include you in my list…)
  • Alien: Ripley
  • The Fifth Element: Leeloo (though I think making Bruce Willis pivotal at the end was a bit of a cop-out)
  • A View to a Kill: May Day
  • Ghost in the Shell: Major Kusanagi Motoko

At which point I notice that my list is exclusively populated with characters out of science fiction or fantasy. Granted, our at-home DVD collection is skewed that way, but I have real trouble coming up with female characters out of more ‘everyday’ fiction whom I find inspiring.

So over to you — who’s on your list?

Tags: features, film fridays

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