I recently wrote a post about role models; about the rise of reality tv stars, of social media and of the notion that being rich and famous equates to success. I wrote that as a parent of two young boys and yet when I really think about it, it must be even more difficult for young girls. For years, boys and men have been shown strong, powerful men, particularly on the big screen, whilst women have played the damsel in distress or the attractive side kick (hello, Bond girls). In fact, it’s such a prevalent issue at the moment that only ten days ago, The Los Angeles Times’ publication ‘The Envelope’, which specialises in Hollywood, the film industry and film awards, featured only women on their cover to promote and encourage discussion about how women are treated, viewed and employed in Hollywood.
The entertainment industry is one of the main culprits for the continued prevalence of gender stereotyping, particularly in big budget blockbusters. There is still a big portion of projects that present women either in subservient roles, or as beautiful, empty shells. The New York Times mentioned that one reason for this is that until recently, men were the ones who called the shots and made the rules. However, more filmmakers are now daring to put women under the limelight. Whether it’s their primary agenda or not, here are five movies that champion female empowerment.
Mad Max: Fury Road
(Image credit: Alpha Coders)
Tom Hardy might have played the lead role in Mad Max: Fury Road, but the women in the film are nothing short of showstoppers. They were led by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). Aside from performing many of the stunts in the film, Theron’s character was also the indisputable leader, the one who called the shots and who led the women’s revolt against Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne).
While Furiosa might not be as physically strong as Max, NY Post points out that brains are more valuable than brawn sometimes, and she used her mind to formulate effective strategies against their pursuers. The film showed clearly that women can overcome any difficulty that comes their way.
Bend It Like Beckham
(Image credit: Mental Floss)
Bend It Like Beckham pokes fun at the notion that girls shouldn’t be allowed to play sports. Packaged as a coming-of-age-story, the movie tackles not just feminism, but also multi-culturalism. The story revolves around Jess (Parminder Nagra), a young Indian girl who belongs to a first-generation migrant family in the UK. She showed her family how to look beyond cultural and gender expectations, while her friend, Jules (Keira Knightley), proved to the community that girls can actually be good at sports.
(Image credit: DC Comics)
Wonder Woman was applauded by critics and filmgoers alike recently. The majority of the acclaim went to both Gal Gadot, who played the eponymous character, as well as Patty Jenkins, the film’s director. The superhero’s story isn’t exactly new, as she has been around for 75 years. She’s one of the favourite characters in the DC comic universe, and even inspired a television show starring Lynda Carter along with a Wonder Woman game on online portal Slingo based on the programme. However, Wonder Woman’s first big screen feature was praised for its fresh take. It even earned the reputation as the best comeback film of the comic book company, considering its last few film outings were regarded as critical flops.
There are some who contest that Wonder Woman is counter-feminist – one of the arguments is that Diana’s skimpy outfit is still made for the male voyeur. An article on The Guardian rebuts these arguments, though, by saying that every element of the film is a feminist act, including the heroine’s costume. Furthermore, Jenkins’ key role in directing the film also helped pave the way for women directors to remain vigilant against the disparity in wages. What can be more feminist than that?
(Image credit: UNO the Gateway)
Hidden Figures is a true-to-life story of a group of black female mathematicians who played a critical role in NASA’s mission to launch the first men on the moon.
Besides sexism, the film also tackled racism. The film portrayed how the women were able to do their jobs despite the discrimination against African-Americans and the fact that they entered a predominantly male industry.
The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe.
(Image credit: Empire Online)
Suffragette is a historical period drama film that highlights women’s suffrage, or right to vote in political elections, in the United Kingdom. It gives viewers a better understanding of how the fight went in the past to enable the women of today to enjoy and practice their rights. The film also brings forward issues that remain relevant to women even today, including sexual harassment, equal pay, and humane working conditions.
While the film has a heavy tone, Sarah Gavron and Abi Morgan said to Times that anger wasn’t what they wanted their audiences to feel. The director and screenwriter, respectively, said that their “intention was to advocate to use your vote, and to remind us all that it was hard-won.”
The film stars Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Meryl Streep, and Anna Marie Duff.
With more and more films and filmmakers being aware of casting a strong, female cast, like the recent remake of Ghostbusters and the upcoming Ocean’s 8, hopefully we can continue to move forward in a way which gives women and girls powerful, positive role models.