Women in Film
Let’s face it, over the years, throughout the history of film, TV and video games, women have been severely underrepresented. Did you know that as of 2013, a survey showed that only 13% of Hollywood films had an actress in the leading role? Also, out of the top 250 “highest grossing films of 2012”, female directors only directed 9% of the bunch – a number that has remained almost exactly the same since 1998.
When it comes to film and TV specifically, this is not only happening behind the camera but it is also happening in front of the camera. Throughout film and TV history, women have typically been represented through one of several very common (and often stereotypical) ways.
The Disney Princesses are a long running series of animated characters (created by Walt Disney Animation Studios) dating back to 1937 after the introduction of their first princess character, Snow White. In the story, she is described as having “hair as black as ebony, lips as red as the rose and skin as white as snow”, which were seen as ideal traits for a woman at the time. As of 2017, there are 11 Disney Princesses, all of which follow similar character traits of currently having or needing to obtain beauty, possessing kindness and searching for male companionship. In fact, the character Merida (of 2012’s Brave), is the only Disney Princess that does not have a love interest and does not sing during her film.
Dating back to the 1940s, bad girl movies were films that often fell under the Noir or Detective genres. These films contained women that were very provocative and beautiful but would scheme and usually have questionable morals that found them on the wrong side of the law. Often, these “bad girl” characters would show their vindictiveness just for the sake of showing it. Actress Rosamund Pike played a great example of a “bad girl” in 2014’s Gone Girl as the character of the disappearing wife. Viewers feel an extreme amount of sympathy for the beautiful (and seemingly helpless wife) only to find out things are not what they seem as the story continues.
An offshoot of the “bad girl” character is another woman called a “femme fatale” (from the French phrase, meaning “fatal woman.”) A femme fatale uses beauty, sexuality and her womanly features to allure and trick men into compromising and (often) dangerous/deadly situations. A femme fatale’s sole motivation is often fueled by the idea of “complete destruction/ruin of men.” In some cases, femme fatales are associated with the “supernatural” and will use their evil powers as another tool to seduce men. Other times, they’ll some use literal tools (like “sleeping gas”) in their methods. Marion Cotillard is one of the modern actresses most associated with the femme fatale character.
Wives & Mothers
While everyone has had a mother, this is not the only thing women are useful for within the realm of film and TV. It’s certainly true that some women throughout the history of TV and film gained their fame and notoriety after playing roles as mothers but there are other women that are constantly typecast and can only get roles as mothers (or wives). Sally Field and Jenifer Lewis are two actresses known for frequently playing wives and mothers in films. In fact, Jenifer Lewis has been nicknamed “The Black Mother of Hollywood” for famously playing the role so many times in different films and TV shows.
Perhaps the two most iconic female film action heroes are actress Sigourney Weaver (portraying Ripley from the Alien film series (1979-1997)) and Linda Hamilton (portraying Sarah Connor from first two films of The Terminator series (1984, 1991)). Both characters show the evolution of a woman that is very vulnerable in her early stages but is forced to breakout of “stereotypical women’s roles” and rise above in order to save the day. While still not a commonalty in the film world today, the role of the female action hero has grown more and more in recent years to include many other iconic female action heroes (The Bride from Kill Bill, Alice from Resident Evil, Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell just to name a few.)
Where do we go from here?
It’s an interesting idea to think about. For example, some people may not think it’s such a bad thing typecasting an actress as a “movie mother” if she continually plays the role well. Some people may not agree with females playing action heroes because of all of the overt violence that typically comes with it. One could see a film like 2017’s Wonder Woman and finally think that women have “made it” in the world of cinema. On the other hand, considering it’s taken its basis from a 1940’s comic book, one could argue “Why did it take so many years to finally be adapted into a film? (especially after male counterparts Batman and Superman have received several different adaptations of their content on film and TV. At the same time, the same person could also look at those statistics in the first paragraph (above) about females’ roles in filmmaking and argue several other points. The main thing to remember is that women should be treated as equals when lobbying for roles (that aren’t gender specific) and not pigeonholed to specific roles on screen that are based solely on their gender. More forward thinking is the key on the road to gender equality in cinema.
Although the representation of women in film and TV is improving there is still a long way to go. XINLELU X KUNMANMA wants women to break away from these stereotypes that we are so used to seeing, especially the negative portrayals, by redefining and empowering the women of Shanghai. Their collection depicts a modern-day Shanghai girl image that is perfect for every woman. The style resonates with the modern female by being a unique mixture of sophisticated and feminine. Their clothes are for the woman who empowers others, is not afraid to show off who she is and sets her own goals and dreams – not listen to some silly stereotypes set by the media.
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