We probably all know a few movies with a really popular female lead. Or we have a female character we look up to, who inspires us, like Wonder Woman, black Widow, Amy Dunne (Gone Girl), or Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games)... The world of movies has multiple strong female characters that are considered powerful, maybe independent, or at least “well-written”.
On the flip side, the world of cinema is plagued with outdated female stereotypes that just refuse to go away. Most popular movies are sending messages to young girls that leadership is mostly for men, and that women have no ambitions and their whole purpose is to look pretty, support the male lead, or be sexualized/ objectified. This is generally explained by the fact that the world of cinema lacks female directors, scenarists and other important jobs. In more details, studies have shown that in 2018, women comprised only 20% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 grossing films in the US. And only 1% of films employed 10 or more women in the above roles. In contrast, 74% of films employed ten or more men.
To get more information, I conducted a survey to see what our student body thinks by sending out a google form to multiple students of our school. 72% of the students who filled out the form consider the portrayal of women moderately accurate. And yet 75% agreed that female stereotypes are dominant in the entertainment industry.
When asked “which genre or type of movies portrays women in what you would consider a degrading or shallow way?”, a majority of 64.7% selected romance, and someone specified that “this counts as romance but Hallmark movies stereotype women very heavily”. And although it’s not a genre, anime comes 2nd with 58.8%. Then we have Comedy with 47.1%, then fantasy and Horror (29% each), sci-fi and drama (23.5%) , in this order.
And what comes as no surprise, is that 93.8% agreed that oversexualization is a big issue that we see often.
Other female stereotypes include :
● Trophy girlfriend/ wife (a young, attractive wife regarded as a status symbol for an older man. )
● The cliche trope of the damsel in distress, or a female who only exists to be kidnapped, harassed, or injured...
● Awkward virgin, may or may have braces, acne, and labeled as “ugly”
● Always being in heels / makeup even in most unlikely scenarios. ( example: waking up
from a coma, walking around the house in heels, fight scenes...)
● Women who wouldn’t have made it if it wasn’t for males in her life ( dad, boyfriend,
husband...), or a female character who’s whole back story is centered over her
dependency on a man.
● And of course, there’s white washing and the lack of diversity.
Female cinematic stereotypes reflect and shape common prejudices, in the same way that Asians are portrayed as nerdy, black men as dangerous, and Latinas as fiery... Fortunately, these stereotypes are slowly but surely decreasing. New research found out that last year, 40% of the 100 highest-grossing films featured a female protagonist – the largest percentage ever.
Women accounted for 37% of major characters, up one percentage point on the previous year. Women are making slow and steady progress towards equality in the movies, in hope of a future these stereotypes would have faded.