Actresses in Distress

See! It's female empowerment. 
29 September, 2011

Yesterday I wrote about goals for male characters in Hollywood films. Today I'm doing women. 

I see films with Female leads as fitting one of these three categories:

1. Ass Kicking Leather Fetishists

The most obvious female stereotype is the "Damsel in distress." The damsel is almost never the main character (except in Twilight, where her goal is to be an object of male desire. Way to aim high. You go girl).

Idiots think they will be edgy and subversive by having their female characters be ball-smashing superheroes. Basically these writers show that they think of women as being either props for men to take hostage and rescue or to avenge OR they must be action heroes with titties and one-liners. 

She walks AND carries things!? WHAT!?!
The most egregious violator is the film Sucker Punch. Go here for a complete breakdown.

2. Super Business Woman

Every other chick flick is about a woman trying to make it in a man's world, expertly juggling a family or love life with her high powered career as a journalist, photographer, publicist, or running an art gallery. 

The film hinges on her being able to be successful in her job and her love life. 

I want you to think about this: When was the last time you saw a movie that was about a man simply trying to make it in the business world and maintain a family?

Not many films fit that bill, and most of them that do are boring ass Dennis Quaid movies where his entire goal is to pay for his kids' college. 

Another subset of this stereotype is the talented but reticent girl from a small town that tries to make it in the big city. Think Coyote Ugly. The whole film is just about her trying to survive in the big scary city. 

3. The Vaguely Spritual, Searching for Meaning, Blank Slate Woman

What would the male version be?
Eat, Fuck, Sleep? I'd watch that. 
Think almost every Julia Roberts or Meg Ryan movie. They are down on their luck and suffering from the mildest white people depression that can only be cured by going to Europe, having Mr. Right sweep her off her feet, and life affirming platitudes that make Agnostics look like fundamentalists. 

What really gets to me is the fact that films with female main characters essentially are about the fact that she's female. Like it's remarkable for a woman to be outside of the kitchen, so much so that we need to stop and make a movie about any time a woman gets a real job. 

Where's the female Apocalypse Now, or the female Fight Club, Donnie Darko,  Blade Runner, The Graduate, Back to the Future, or Cast Away. These movies aren't about what it's like being a man, they're about culture and clash between generations and what it means to be human. 

Can you imagine if they made Cast Away with a female lead? They'd be making period jokes before she'd been on the island for five minutes. 

The real problem I'm getting at here is that female characters tend to have no depth. Strong characters are flawed people struggling against some kind of opposition. 

The Ass-Kicking, Tit-Armored, Superhero woman has no flaws. She's just a super bad ass and the only flaw is that she's a woman, let's see if she can kick ass which obviously is man's domain. 

The Super Business Woman (or the reticent small town girl) both have a flaw...They're women trying to make it in a man's world. That's really it. 

The Julia Roberts/Meg Ryan "Spiritual" woman doesn't really have flaws. Put Carrie Bradshaw in this category. These women are writers or have some excuse to speak in introspective voice-overs about finding meaning or small victories in life. Her flaw is that she doesn't have the perfect life or perfect man she wishes she had. 

Honestly, if you really get down to it, female main characters' flaws are that they are female, and so the stories are about them overcoming the fact that they are women. That or they just make her clumsy, or as Mindy Kaling put it in this article from the future, "She can’t be overweight or not perfect-looking, because who would pay to see that?...So they make her a Klutz...The Klutz clangs into stop signs while riding her bike and knocks over giant displays of fine china in department stores. Despite being five feet nine and weighing a hundred and ten pounds, she is basically like a drunk buffalo."

There was a lot of hype about Bridesmaids being a great movement towards female films. This was a raunchy high-concept comedy usually reserved for guys but it's about women, Progress!

Or was it?

Protags need a Goal, an immediate objective and a "dream" or a long term objective. In Back to the Future, Marty wants to be a musician, that's his dream and it comes up repeatedly. 

She's a deep character since she has
 a tragic flaw: a reproductive system.
Annie's dream is to make a living creating fancy cupcakes. She even opened the store and had it fail hard. She's also fuck-buddies with a sexy but total douchebag guy from Mad Men. She wishes there was more to it, but he is only interested in meaningless sex with her, but she puts up with it and does nothing about it. Since losing her company she's gone to work selling engagement rings at a jewelry store. 

So this is her background. Can you think of a more stereotypical background? 

Here's the formula for a chick flick: 
Jon Hamm + Puppies + Cupcakes + Weddings + Jewelry = $

I can't even imagine how you could have made this as stereotypical and demeaning if it was about men...but I'll take a shot at it. 

This is Groomsmen:

Tim is 30 and worried that his rugged good looks are fading. He is fuck-buddies with a mega-hot chick and is secretely in love with her, but she wants no more than to use him for his large penis. He opened a restaurant called "Hot Meat, Beer" where he engineered the awesomest hot wings ever. But his restaurant went under and now he works as a paintball referee where he watches dudes with perfect lives have fun all day. Then his best friend Jimmy is getting married and asks him to be his best man.

 Tim and Jimmy's rich friend Steve compete for Tim's approval as they try to one-up each other in making the coolest bachelor party ever. Tim is like, I'm getting crazy Cuban hookers, but Steve is like, nuh uh, I'm getting expensive French whores, they're classy. Meanwhile Tim starts flirting with a cute girl that works at a coffee shop, they hit it off, but then Tim screws it up. He tries to make it up for her by making her bad-ass buffalo wings and leaving them on her doorstep. 

Howcome they haven't made Hooters: The Movie yet?
Before the wedding, Jimmy goes missing to have a crying fit about only getting to fuck one pussy for the rest of his life. So Tim and Steve, former enemies, now have to team up to save the wedding. Steve invites Tim's cute and flirty love interest to the wedding, thus insuring that Tim never has to actually accomplish anything himself. Then Limp Bizkit plays the wedding ceremony. The end. 

See what I'm talking about? Even this movie, written by women, about women, for women, still treats women like stereotypes. Don't get me wrong, I thought Bridesmaids was a decent movie and was still pretty funny, but a feminist example for future filmmakers it is not. 

We should be more like Japan where they admit that their females aren't so much characters as they are boob-delivery systems:

That's why I'm embarking on writing a film with a female main character. It's about Sierra, a quirky waitress who dreams of being the perfect mom with the perfect family and being a neurosurgeon, but her angry vagina keeps murdering the men she has sex with because they're premature ejaculators. She has to go on the lamb to Europe and be swept off her feet by capable Italian love-makers and learn platitudes she can whisper to her vagina in order to tame it. 

I call it The Vagina Whisperer. 

1 comment:

  1. So bold! So tragic. I will be first in line for The Vagina Whisperer.