The past couple years have sparked seemingly, sudden changes in Hollywood. The #OscarsSoWhite trending this year launched a complete member overhaul in the Academy and the way voting was handled within the membership. The EEOC launched an investigation of the Hollywood’s studio system’s complete neglect of hiring women directors, which has sparked an online movement for women in film, both in front of and behind the scenes.
Several celebrities, such as Reese Witherspoon, have created production companies to support stronger female characters in film. We saw the release of the female led Ghostbusters and the trailer for DC’s first female led super hero film, Wonder Woman.
There is no doubt that an extensive amount of change is crucially needed in Hollywood on many fronts. Outdated stereotypes for people of color, the disabled and women flourish in current mainstream films, regardless of the deafening outcry for better quality, diversity and inclusion.
The feminists on my Twitter feed have been overwhelmingly supportive of the new Ghostbusters and Wonder Woman, and other women-led blockbusters, before they were even available to see them. Though, I too, was excited at the idea of both of those films, the reality has left me wanting.
My kingdom for a great script
Much of the past 20 years of my life has been devoted to learning the craft of and writing screenplays. In all of those years, not once have the words, “Just write something mediocre” ever crossed the lips of any teacher, writing coach or script consultant, nor has it graced the pages of any screenwriting book I’ve read. Yet mediocre and worse is all mainstream Hollywood is producing.
I went with my three daughters to see the new Ghostbusters, full of anticipation and an open mind. What unfolded before me, was awkward, at best. That’s not to say there weren’t some fun parts, but for the most part, they had four talented actresses, with really nothing to do but rattle off ho hum dialogue, flavorless jokes and mundane attempts at character distinction.
Wonder Woman, one of the most anticipated films of our time, was launched with a trailer, having the main feminist icon seemingly leave her beloved home island, to follow a man she barely knows to the U.S. The rest of the trailer shows her fighting battles and spouting feminist phrases, meant to get us excited, and prove her character is as strong as the comics.
How are we supposed to believe that, if her first move is to leave everything she knows and loves, for a man she doesn’t even know in the first place? Doesn’t that negate all that “strong feminism” her character represents? Couldn’t she have been summoned by the gods to a far off land that needed her help?
How about the fact that the actress chosen, is exceedingly thin and portrayed sexy like every other female stereotype in Hollywood? Why is one of the ONLY lead female characters over six feet tall, being played by someone 5’10”, and her Amazon mother being played by someone 5’4″? When I proffered this to the feminists, they decried that “Amazons come in all sizes”. Even though that’s not what I was taught about Amazons, if that were the case, why can’t actresses?
Other than Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones, you’d be hard pressed to find a mainstream female character over 6 feet. Even rockin’ Brienne is stereotyped as male tempered, brutish and unattractive. Why is it not important to supposed feminists, that tall actresses be included into mainstream film and television as well?
God forbid an actress could be taller than the actors, even Wonder Woman. Actresses over six feet tall exist and they can be just as feminine, beautiful and powerful as those under.
We’re just accepting the scraps
I’m concerned that many feminists, starved for representation in an overwhelmingly male industry, are beginning to accept the scraps from Hollywood’s tables. It’s clear who still runs these shows and who is making them. Let’s make a tent pole film about America’s best known Amazon warrior, but make sure she’s not too big, or too strong, and certainly not taller than the men in the film.
Make sure she’s pretty, sexy and appealing to the men who come and watch her, because that’s most important. Give this film to a woman to direct, but don’t let a woman write the script, ’cause men know exactly how to write women. Huh? Even the new Ghostbusters was written and directed by a man. I know, it’s co-written by a woman, but why not let her write it by herself? Hollywood has long let men write, direct, produce and star in films about men and women. Isn’t it time women got the same shot?
It’s also time that we stop embracing the garbage that Hollywood is feeding us. Yes, even those cloaked in the guise of diversity and progression. We shouldn’t be “taking what we can get” when we, the paying public, are the ones supporting the entire industry. We cannot applaud a poorly written film just because it stars women.
So what can we do?
We can’t accept a stereotyped, “male approved” super heroine, just because it’s finally being made and we’re excited to see it. We have to look at the whole picture. We have to scrutinize these films with the finest of microscopes. Why? Because all the world is watching and women need to join this party with guns blazin’. Long entrenched sexism has made sure of that.
These “revolutionary” prototypes in film need to be in tip top shape and be prepared to blow us out of the water. If they don’t, all the men who’ve said women can’t do film, have won. All the Men’s Right’s Advocate’s complaints, will be validated. All of the excuses we’ve been fed about how female leads can’t carry films in international markets, will continue and don’t think for one second that Hollywood’s bigwigs don’t already know this.
They are counting on it. They want these movies to fail, so they can shout a resonating “I told you so”and never have to make them again. To them, adding a token female to the crew makes sexism a problem of the past. Feminism in film can’t afford championing mediocrity. There’s too much riding on it.
It is up to us, the movie-going public, to take a stand against these poorly executed, overtly stereotyped, less than mediocre products being churned out on a regular basis. If they don’t get our money, they can’t make them. If we refuse to stand by one more excruciatingly painful execution, no matter how much we’re longing for the idea, it won’t get the attention necessary for its success.
If we dare to demand better for ourselves and the next generation, Hollywood and the film industry will have no other choice but to do better. And, oh boy, do they ever need to do better.
What are you willing to do to demand exceptional films?
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