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Four Steps to Rid of Sexism in Film

Sexism is an age-old argument that many grow tired of discussing. Hollywood has received critiques of its traditional conventions since its inception. Can these two issues work together to find a solution? Absolutely yes!

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Our media shapes the way that we perceive the world around us. If we constantly see depictions of damsels in distress, then we will have a very narrow view of how the reality of females.

There has been a lot of change in favor of females in film over the years.  Much of this has been caused by the awareness spread by the likes of feminist film theorists, yet while we may be better off, it does not mean things are equal, or even decent.

This summer, especially, proves how much females in Hollywood are slighted, with films premiering week after week featuring males performing great acts while the women are stuck in the wife, mother, or mistress role. Pictured above is Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, an all-encompassing stereotype of the way women are objectified in the movie business. However, simple changes can be made in the movie business that can allow for females to offer more than simply sex appeal. Well it may not be able to be revolutionized in four steps, but these alterations will cause drastic changes for the better.

What kind of changes am I alluding to? Well, let’s get to it!

1. Let’s Get a Female Superhero!

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Yet another Iron Man has been released, and Man of Steel hit theaters this weekend, and in both of them women watch from the sidelines as the men save the day…again. Do we need to have a live-action Powerpuff Girls movie? I think that can wait, but it would do a great deal of help if a female kicked butt while not wearing thigh high boots and/or a leather jumpsuit.

Female action heroes, such as Katniss from The Hunger Games, come along every once in a while, but they are still the exception and not the rule. Let’s give our next generation a group of female idols that don’t have to use their looks to get what they want.

Studios plead that a female-driven action movie won’t draw a big enough audience, yet many male-driven ones have crashed and burned. Maybe it’s time to try something a little different, and see how it turns out. The Hunger Games proved it can be done, and that was no fluke!

2. Where Them Mainstream Female Directors At?

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Sure, there’s Amy Heckerling (Clueless), Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation), Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), and, of course, Nora Ephron (You’ve Got Mail).  All of them have directed top notch films, yet none of their films have been mainstream for quite sometime. Ask a casual moviegoer and they will be hard-pressed to name multiple female directors.

Can we really blame them? Catherine Hardwicke currently holds the tile for highest-ever opening weekend for a female director with Twilight, which earned $69 million, a small number in comparison to many large blockbuster openings. Also, Hardwicke did not direct the later installments in the franchise.

If, by some trick of fate, a female does direct a large blockbuster it is most likely an animated feature. Not to minimize the importance of animated films, but this genre does not let women get their name out there as much as action films do with directors like Michael Bay and Christopher Nolan. For example, Jennifer Yuh became the first woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, but her name is still obscure to many. 

Thankfully, a group of younger female directors, including Sarah Polley (pictured above) and Danielle Harris, are moving up through the ranks and proving that the girls can be just as edgy. While their films are still indie treasure, they could sneak into the mainstream soon enough.

Once we have a major female director producing mainstream films, it won’t be long before the major studios start to realize that maybe it is time to get a different vision behind the camera.

3. Women Are Funny-Let Them Headline!

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Kristen Wiig’s Bridesmaids did so many great things, but its most important feat was proving that women are just as funny as men, if not more so! Why this had to be proven baffles me, however, many people only flocked to comedies featuring the likes of Adamn Sandler, Kevin James, and Zach Galifianakis.

Female comedians have ruled the small screen with Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore, Betty White, and Tina Fey, yet none of them made quite as big a splash on the silver screen as Bridesmaids. While it may not be great that these other women had less of an impact, Wiig proved that a group of women can be headline a film, be funny, and not fall into stereotypes. Better late than never!

Now that we have this down, let’s get some more comedies with female leads! This Is The End opened this weekend and features a number of major male comedians, while giving bit parts to Emma Watson and Mindy Kaling. Now that film is receiving good reviews and audience reception, but it would still be refreshing to see a comedy that allows women to be funny, rather than be the straight man and offer eye candy.

If more women were able to headline more comedies, more women along the likes of Rebel Wilson could broaden their horizons and offer their talent, not their bodies.

4. Love Is Not All You Need.

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Brave has received plenty of mixed reviews, but it did prove that women do not need romance for a happy ending. Too often romance is shoved in the faces of female viewers everywhere. This starts at a young age, and Disney can be partly blamed for this. Their “Princess” films are wonderful, but in nearly all of them, notable exception being Mulan, the main female in unfulfilled until her Prince Charming comes along and sweeps her off her feet. Brave went against all of this, and had the protagonist Merida blatantly refuse romance.

Now don’t get me wrong, romance is wonderful on the silver screen, but too often that is all women are used for in film. This summer’s The Great Gatsby, a film I greatly enjoyed, pushed the love story between Gatsby and Daisy, while glossing over the many complexities of Daisy’s character. This happens more often than not, unfortunately.

Of course women want to see a rom-com every once in a while, but does that mean that is all they should get? Absolutely not! The days of Kate Hudson, Katherine Heigl, Jennifer Aniston, and others, starring in stereotypical, sexist, and just plain boring rom-coms are waning and it is time to shut the door on that embarrassing period in movie history.

Let us have more actresses along the lines of Betty Davis, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Faye Dunaway, Charlize Theron, and other legendary actresses, who offer ferocity as well as femininity, and do not stand in the shadow of any man.

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Will these changes be made? It is doubtful, but I will not stop hoping. Strong women are around us everywhere, and we need to start acknowledging them. Women are as diverse as men, and it is time that the many sides of women came into the mainstream film industry.

A man writing about feminism may seem strange, but I hold the firm belief that all perceptions of an issue must be discussed and examined. This is my view of one way the fight for equality between genders can be helped. Media, specifically film, is very influential in how we view the world around us. Let us start giving viewers a more realistic, fully realized look at the world.

Thank for reading. Happy moviegoing!

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