The (female) Revolution Will be Shown in Theaters

by jillyapsuga

StrongLeads

 

The (female) Revolution Will be Shown in Theaters      

The Lack of Blockbuster Female Presence

 

Growing up, I wanted to be a man or rather, I wanted to be the male characters I saw in movies. The men I watched on screen as a kid were far more interesting than the women. They were spies, albeit misogynistic ones, but spies nonetheless; traveling the world, saving the day, doing cool shit. They were archaeologists; traveling the world, saving the day, doing cool shit. They were superheroes; traveling the world, saving the day, doing cool shit. In fact, with one exception, all of my childhood movie role models were men. Aliens Ellen Ripley remains my favorite movie heroine of all time, and indeed, Ripley has always been an outlier. Here was a woman who took charge, devised solutions, faced her fears, was not hypersexualized, and was allowed to show her nurturing side with the young, orphaned character of Newt. Oh yeah, Ripley was a badass.

The problem with the Hollywood system is that Ripley and similar female characters were and continue to be outliers. Take for example Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa in last year’s Mad Max: Fury Road. That role was fantastic and arguably the lead role in that film and yet the title and top billing went to the character of Max, a man who does little more than grunt the entire movie. I don’t want to take anything away from Tom Hardy’s performance, but that role was not the lead. Now, had the film been titled Mad Max: Furiosa’s Road, at least they’d both be on somewhat equal footing.

Another character that actually fits the bill of leading role and is helping to change the landscape is Rey from The Force Awakens. But for every Rey and Furiosa, there are a hundred other underwritten and quite frankly, lame female roles. Just think about how many films billed as blockbusters you’ve seen. Now think about how many had an all female or mostly female cast. How about one where a woman was the lead character. This is my frustration.

And I can’t even begin to discuss representation of various ethnic groups and sexualities because this is meant to be article length, not book length. So here’s my issue in a nutshell; the most widely visible women on screen in big budget lead roles currently have been relegated to the following; comedies and comedy remakes.

From the hilarious Amy Schumer to the brilliant duo of Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy, female led casts are leading a comedic revolution in film. Movies like Trainwreck, Bridesmaids, Spy, The Heat, and now Ghostbusters, are an important benchmark in cinema and pop culture. And while I may not think all of these films are hysterical, I love that they exist. They need to exist. But I persist because I just read that they plan to remake Ocean’s Eleven…again(!) but this time with an all female cast. Great! Just what I’ve always wanted; to watch a movie that’s already been made twice, sequeled within an inch of its life, all with men, redone yet again, only now, with women! It needs to stop. I don’t want some outdated Hollywood system deciding that women are only bankable in comedic remakes because betting on serious original female storylines is too risky.

One would think that studio heads would have realized by now that women hold tremendous power when it comes to ticket sales and would start giving more original blockbuster screenplays featuring strong female roles the green light.

I sincerely hope that the success of the above mentioned films will lead to further opportunities for screenwriters and actresses to showcase the complex nature of the gender that comprises half the population, but given Hollywood’s track record with doing anything original, it could be a long wait.

So while I’m grateful that funny women are enjoying their well earned and incredibly overdue moment in the blockbuster sun, (and yes, I’m absolutely going to see the new Ghostbusters) I’m still wishing and waiting to see the women I wanted to be when I grew up, on screen. I want to see the new iteration of Ripley, Rey, and Furiosa.

I want 10 year old girls everywhere to know that they can be funny & irreverent, but that they can also be serious, nurturing, and imperfect. I want them to see a clever, smart as a whip adventurer, space cowgirl, international spy, or all of the above. And I want all of it to be reflected in the lead roles of the movies they go to see in the summer. In short, I want them to see badass female leads who travel the world, save the day and do cool shit.

 

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