Of the 100 top grossing films of 2012 only 4% were directed by women. Of the 500 top grossing movies of the same year 71.6% of film characters were men. Women are horribly misrepresented in cinema as two-dimensional characters, but they’re also not being represented at all.
Earlier in the year I was annoyed at the suggestion that characters such as Homer Simpson and Peppa Pig’s Daddy Pig were bad representations of modern day fatherhood so I’m in no way suggesting that I want every female character on screen to be perfect, because life isn’t like that, and film is essentially about life. I’m just suggesting that perhaps the balance is currently not fair. In any way. At all.
And when we do get strong and interesting female characters, such as Black Widow from The Avengers or Katniss from The Hunger Games they’re still only seen by the media as a body.
The video below shows a pretty clear difference between the questions asked to a female and a male actor from the same film.
(3 minutes in)
As for Jennifer Lawrence, Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeffrey Wells accuses Lawrence of being “big-boned” and “seems too big for Hutcherson” – because girls always have to be smaller than the man they’re paired with. Duh.
When Anne Hathaway was asked about her weight loss for the role of Fantine in Les Miserables, in which she plays a poor and starving woman forced to become a prostitute, she responded:
“This is not a Hollywood diet. I was an actor and I had to do a role and I find it kinda weird the way the media can glamorise this sort of thing. I didn’t lose the weight to look attractive. I needed to look like I was dying and I worry that all that attention adds up to an unhealthy way.”
Seems kind of awful that this had to be said at all.
It’s shocking that in 2013 women are still being asked about their diets and weight loss when they’re portraying interesting and complex characters. It’s vile that only 4% of top movies last year were directed by women. I went into a supermarket the other day and when I looked at the magazines Empire was being sold in a bumper pack with FHM. Because, you know, it’s a male thing to like movies and to read about them.
However, I offer you an antidote.
Contrasting to the media’s depressing approach to women and cinema is buddy cop movie The Heat, directed by Bridesmaids and Freaks and Geeks’ Paul Feig.
Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is an FBI agent focused on her work and little else. In order to prove she is worthy of promotion she has to work on uncovering a drug boss in Boston. Here she forms an unlikely duo with Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) a foul mouthed and strong minded officer. The two women are wildly different but must find a way to co-operate in order to stop not only a drug lord but to protect those they hold dear.
It shouldn’t be so shocking that this genre of film can be about two women but it struck me as I watched it that I couldn’t think of many others. It turns out women can have bromances and guns too! Shocking!
Screenwriter Katie Dippold said she was inspired by watching other buddy cop movies such as Running Scared.
“[In] Running Scared, they go down to the Caribbean and there’s this montage of them on scooters, and there’s a different hot girl on the back every time it cuts back to the scooter. And it just felt like, I don’t want to be the girl on the back of the scooter. I want to be the awesome cop doing this stuff.”
At 117 minutes it’s a little long for a comedy and has a predictable trajectory. But the jokes are enjoyable and it feels refreshing to see two women form a friendship on screen without the need for a love interest. Even though it’s about women making their way in a man’s world, that aspect of the film isn’t the focus. The focus is the plot and the character development, because whilst I’m pointing out the brilliance of seeing normal females on screen, it shouldn’t be a big deal. And the film doesn’t make it one.
And whilst all the jokes are going on, it still has heart. The Heat is not only a film about women standing their own. It’s a film about friendship and the importance of that over everything.