Words: Victoria Mcewan
According to Women and Hollywood, in the 100 top grossing films of 2017 females only accounted for 24% of sole protagonists, 68% of which were all white. With only 16% representation of black women, 7% were Latina, 7% Asian and the final 2% consisted of other races. In addition, female protagonists were 30% most likely to appear in comedies and dramas ,17% in action films, 13% horror films and a mere 4% in animated features and science fiction films.
The Geena Davis foundation stated that 74% of women wished they had seen more female role models in films growing up, with 90% of women across the globe agreeing that female role models on film or TV are important. Here we recognise and celebrate the strong female role models we do have in film.
Lara Croft has been on our screens and at the centre of our video games since 1996. As the worlds first female action protagonist, Lara has always been strong, smart and brave. Coming a long way since 1996, Lara is now more than just a sex symbol. Alicia Vikander brought Lara’s story of character growth to life in the new Tomb Raider re-make; showing her great physical strength ( Vikander gained 12 IBS of muscle for the role) and qualities of determination and courage in which she is able to find her father, solve one of the greatest mysteries of Himiko and save her male counterpart Lu Ren. This reimagined character is one of many being added to the canon of reimagined heroines which will hopefully continue to grow.
A film not just containing a female, amazonian protagonist but also directed by Patty Jenkins, the film has become the biggest blockbuster ever directed by a woman, grossing $100 million in the first opening weekend. Blowing the damsel in distress label out of the water, the film promotes that women are just as powerful as men. The film also takes away the idea that to be a winning heroine you must use violence. Wonder Woman’s winning weapon is quite frankly, love. Love is valued over hatred, peace over war, combining force and beauty, showing both the masculine and feminine sides of women.
Disney films now provide us with much stronger role models than they did a couple of years ago, and Moana is no exception. Representing women of colour and acting as an icon for girls and women all over the world through her tale of finding her true purpose and becoming a stellar leader of her island Motunui, Moana is one of Disney’s most iconic films.
Legally Blonde 3 is on the horizons, with Reese Witherspoon returning to her role as bright and breezy Elle Woods, she is also co-producing the film as part of her media company, Hello Sunshine. There are many qualities which make Elle Woods a brilliant role model. She believes in herself, she completely abolishes judgemental stereotypes and she handles the challenges that life throws at her with positivity and grace, all whilst completely owning her style and personality and not letting male patriarchy tell her she’s inferior.
The woman who brought us Smelly Cat, also brought us numerous life lessons. If you’ve seen the show, Phoebe has overcame numerous life difficulties such as homelessness, death of loved ones and a difficult relationship with her twin sister. Despite this she has a positive outlook, is always open to learning new things, she stays true to herself and is an honest friend, and she cherishes those around her dearly – so much so that she even acts as a surrogate for her own brother.
A character who completely challenges patriarchy within the family and transforms the lives of those around her by being an excellent role model and always striving for success, Mary Poppins is a wonderfully creative woman. We can all learn from her one liner “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and – SNAP – the job’s a game” which encourages positivity, and that no matter how hard a situation may seem, we should always try to find the positives. Played by Emily Blunt, she’s set to make a return in December and reignite the magic of joy using her magical skills.
The Incredibles 2
Amidst all the anticipation and excitement of this long awaited title, The Incredibles 2 should be commended on how it promotes female roles within society and gender equality. Violet is a metaphor for the teen angst and difficulty that we all go through as teenage girls but at the end of the film she teaches us to embrace what makes us who we are and develops a great sense of maturity and appreciation. Elastigirl – Mrs Helen Parr – the mother of the family is portrayed as the ‘breadwinner’ of the family, heading off to work (save the world) whilst Mr Incredible stays at home to do his duty as a house husband.
Would it really be the incredibles without Edna Mode? A sensational half Japanese – half German powerhouse of intelligence and creativity, fashion designer of the nuclear onesie and all round Mahatma Gandhi of the animated world, Edna shares her worldly wisdom and takes on a motherly and supportive role within the family, offering her infinite care for Jack Jack in exchange for a unbreakable contract to be the supers personal fashion designer.
Whilst it is good to celebrate the female role models that we do have in film, the statistics above show that we still aren’t doing enough. Holly Hunter – the voice of Elastigirl said that the release of the Incredibles 2 is forging a path for more women superheroes and role models “this is something we need to have in our cinema, in our lives, in our reference points, in our goals”. Let’s hope and show encouragement for these characters, in the hope that producers curate more powerful females for us to follow and admire.