Some Thoughts on Modern-Day Feminism in Film

Hello there

A while ago I suggested a poll on IMDb here:

I called it “2015 – The Year of the Feminist” since I felt the year saw a number of movies with females in strong prominent roles.

It sparks some responses on the use of the work “feminism”. Most notably the quote below:

“If we say that 2015 was a feminist year, it’s like highlighting the existence of a deliberate marketing or political trend… well, I don’t know, maybe it’s true.”

Below I’ve copied and pasted my response:

“I think it is true. It’s everywhere.

I watch sports on Sky Sports. They were hands down the best channel for (male) sports, from football to cricket, golf and rugby. Their SS News channel was also an excellent one to keep up with all the latest sporting news.

But this season something changed. Suddenly there was a huge rise in promoting women’s sport on the Sky Sports channels. They also lost ALL their rights to show Champions League football and pretty much now predominately show women’s sports on all the channels, without labeling each show as “Women’s Football World Cup Final”, for example, and instead saying “World Cup Final.” Strange when you consider they can create a new channel for something like Formula One and they don’t for women’s sports, and instead show women’s sports at the expense of what SS have been showing for years.

I see adverts on TV all the time that go out of their way to show men and women in what would generally be considered reverse roles. E.g. the other day I was watching a pizza shop advert that lingered on a woman with her feet up on the sofa ordering pizza whilst a male was hoovering behind her.

I think examples like these can be seen in quite a few places now, least of all in movies. Not to mention feminist groups have a bigger voice than ever now – if a movie lacks a strong female character, you’re gonna hear the complaints about it. Perhaps the reason for the sudden change is that Hollywood movies are usually thought to portray women as damsel-in-distresses, and the change is being done to counter this?

And I think there has been an upsurge in movies deliberately showcasing a strong female character, and I think the main reason is to appeal the masses and make sure no one is offended. It’s not just feminism either. For example, I believe JJ Abrams say that he Fin in the new Star Wars movie was always going to be played by a black person, and that auditions were held with black males in mind for the character, as opposed to juts casting whoever was right for the role.

Personally I think some people are going too far. I think it’s become easy to point a finger at a film and say “that’s sexist” simply because a women was vulnerable and needed help. Whilst a lot of movies are guilty of misogyny, it seems to have become a case that every movie needs a staple generic strong female indestructible character in order to fend off accusations of sexism. For me, it’s becoming irritating because most movies that try to implement it are not doing so in the right way. They instead make terminator-like women.

For example, Fury Road had a strong female character. But for her to shine it was at the expense of the titular character. In fact, you could have removed him completely from the movie and it wouldn’t have made much difference. It’s clear that the character of Furiosa would never have been cast as a man, because then people would be complaining “Whose this guy upstaging Max?” but it seems like it’s OK that if it’s a women, and if you disagree then you’re a Misogynist. That’s what I’ve been told I am, anyway.

On a related note, Furiosa is physically strong, dresses like the men do in the movie, is bald etc. etc. which are all generally traits of men. So if the only way a female character can only be considered strong and independent is to give her masculine qualities and forgo her attributes as a woman…is that not, in itself, sexist? I think there have been a lot of strong female characters over the years, but that doesn’t beam they need big biceps. Mrs. Danvers, Norma Desmond, Phyllis Dietrichson, Nurse Ratched and Mrs. Robinson were not simply inferior cardboard cutout versions of Sarah Connor, as most “strong, female characters” are nowadays.

Speaking of Connor, Emilia Clarke’s portrayal in TG is a badd-ass. And yet the military trained, tough as nails Kyle Reese is a redundant ragdoll who constantly needs rescuing. Daisy Ridley is also unstoppable inThe Force Awakens. Joy went out of it’s way to show the men in Joy’s life were useless and even went as far as to dedicate scenes with Joy and her daughter talking about hardships, forgetting to mention to the audience that she had a son also. The Intern is another film that comes to mind.

I appreciate the intention but in general these politics interfere with the movie. Its one of the reasons why I enjoyed Mission impossible 5 so much. There is a skilled female agent with excellent martial arts abilities, but she fits in the story and they do not shove her in the limelight at the expense of Ethan Hunt.

So I do think that 2015 was “the year of the feminist” of sorts.”

The user who I was discussing this with agreed with what I was saying, and provided a very good reply. I won’t post it here since it could be seen as plagiarism but you can see it if you click on the link above. Most notablly he said he felt that ‘The feminist message has slowly gone from “be equal to men” to “be like men”‘ After his comments, I posted the following:

“Very true. It’s probably why we’re getting all-female reboots of Ghostbusters, Ocean’s Eleven and all the rest, as if a voice representing the modern feminist is saying “Look, we can do this stuff too!”

Instead of hijacking already-established franchises (I would have the same complaints if Ghostbusters was recast with different men from the original, before I get accused of being sexist) why don’t film-makers create new ones with women as the lead? It’s like Hollywood has been told to put more “strong, independent” women front and center and yet no-one really knows what to do with them.

It’s all getting a bit out of hand. If my memory serves me correctly, a council in Norway (apologies if I’ve got the wrong country) are debating to have teachers banned from calling kids “boys” or “girls” and must instead refer to them as “children”. I mean, come on. What’s all that about? I thought the current cultural movement consisted of telling society to “be who you are” and “be what makes you happy” and all that but it looks like we are going backwards by denying the rights of men/women/boys and girls of who they are and how they wish to express themselves.

I remember having a discussion with two women about the current gender stereotypes and such. One considered herself a feminist. The other mentioned that she would like to have children in the future and a husband who would be able to take care of her kids and support the family. Nothing out of the ordinary, I thought. But upon hearing this, the feminist began absolutely grilling the other woman, exclaiming things like “you’ve been brainwashed by our male-dominated society” and “you need to stand up for your rights as a woman!”

Anyway, back to the movie world. It makes me wonder how older films would be received by audiences if they came out today, or whether they would be forced to make changes to kick all the boxes.

Films like The Godfather, The Good the Bad and The Ugly, and Rashomon would definitely be criticized fro lacking a strong female character (and I disagree with people who say they lack one anyway). Would The Thing make it past the casting stage with an all-male cast? Would Apocalypse Now need to have the boat captained by a woman for the sake of gender equality?

I’ve got nothing against showing strong women but like you said it cannot get in the way of realism. And if it harms the film that is very frustrating for me. E.g. Fury Road had it’s titular character rendered pointless for the sake of feminism. I’ve heard also that the new Star Wars movie contains a female character that, with little to no training, is a skilled fighter, light saber-wielder and force-user…juts in case complaints are made that the film is sexist.

Sicario is a film that I think intentionally makes a comment on this. Without giving plot points away, at times I felt as though the film was slapping modern day “militant” feminism in the face, saying “No, the real world isn’t like this.””


What do you make of my comments? Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below


One response

  1. Furiosa HAD to be a female or else it would appear like another alpha male STEALING the wives of another male. I hope you get this.

    You should interpret her character in the right context. Unlike the women you listed, none of them were “owned” by a despot. In the little world of Joe, unfortunately, women have very little freedom to be anything other than as milk maids or breeders. Was this not obvious in the film? Furiosa rose to the ranks of Imperator by following the natural order of things in the citadel – which, unfortunately, required her to be like the rest of the population given power – the men. She became who she was (shaved, etc) because that was the only way for her to blend in and rise to the ranks. Contrast this to the other empowered women in the story – the Vuvalini (aka the Sarah O’Connors) – who retained their femininity while exhibiting great fighting skills. They did so because they had freedom; they operated in their own world that allowed such things. The other empowered women here who were not physically strong were the breeder wives. They were frail, pampered, but exhibited emotional strength. The fact that they rebelled and escaped at their own will (were not forced by Furiosa), stood up against Joe (Splendid baring her belly to protect Furiosa, The Dag hurling verbal protestations, etc) – show their great strength. In essence, Fury Road pretty much covered almost every type/facet of feminism in movies. Oh, and I thought the casting of Rosie W-H was brilliant here. You could easily compare/contrast her eye candy titillating role in Transformers to what she is in Fury Road. Miller brilliantly introduced the wives in that water hosing scene to tease his viewers with eye candies only to demonstrate scene after scene that these women were not what you expected.

    I suggest you revise your blog because it’s full of inaccuracies. Mad Max:Fury Road was feministic NOT just because of Furiosa, but also because of the Vuvalini and the empowered wives. It was feministic without stepping on the toes of the male heroes here. Furiosa, Vuvalini, and the wives NEEDED Max and Nux. And I have to add that Max and Nux were very progressive men. Unlike many men in our world today, Max and Nux respected these women’s abilities. They did not feel emasculated by their presence.

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