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Are female characters underwritten? A comment on film feminism.

Are female characters underwritten? A comment on film feminism,Bitter Balcony, review, movie revieww, movie, bitter
Are female characters underwritten? A comment on film feminism.

We watched the video below and it stirred us to write this post on the subject of female characters in modern film.

Are female characters in film too shallow? Sure they are. Let’s face it, men largely run the industry. The majority of the writers are men, too. Surprise! The problem with a video like this is that it presents two alternatives: 1) Men write movies with male leads in action movies or sexually charged comedies because this is the only crap Hollywood studios produce. 2) Men in the industry start writing more films with female leads. Neither alternative would solve the issue in this video because the argument could be made that male writers don’t understand women and can’t write about realistic women (as if the men in these movies mentioned are realistic).

The movie examples listed in the video were easy pickings:

“Austin Powers" – One of the Powers movies is about how he lost his MOJO, the very element of his sexuality to women. He is a male lead that pokes fun of the 007 series and is either saving the world or pinning the ladies. Obvious choice to mock much?

“Fight Club” – A story of a man's journey. If there would have been women in the fight clubs, someone would complain that watching a woman get a beat down by her own volition was torturous and masochistic.

“Wall-E” – Seriously, you are going to poke at this film? Let's take a step back and look. The characters in this movie are machines. Machines! The symbolically female machine in "Wall-E" is a bad-ass, high-tech machine compared to the worker drone that is Wall-E. So is it not good enough that the female is a sign of excellence in heart, design and function?

Other films mentioned in the video clip are worth another look. Should more women work in the industry? Yes. Should more women write movie scripts to provide compelling female characters? Yes. Are most women written into movies two-dimensional? Sadly, most characters in Hollywood films are two-dimensional. But when the lead is a male and there is no real need for women to interact (according to the rules defined in the video), why force it in? Why sacrifice the quality of the story?

Why not mention movies like “Sex and the City," which is based on characters created by a female writer? Most of the conversations between the "SATC" women are about men and their sexual situations with them.

Let’s not forget Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight," in which the female interaction is based on Bella's uber-dramatic life. Bella's constant victim status doesn't exactly show teenage girls an example of a positive relationship.

Interview with a Vampire” was written by a woman and then adapted by that same woman, Anne Rice. It is interesting to see that she chose men as the leads. Why force it? If the idea seems to work with male leads then go with it. There is no need to force elements into the story to make them more tedious and broken than what Hollywood does to the majority of the screenplays that get produced.

We support more women in Hollywood and thought that it was a great boon to the female filmmakers that Katherine Bigelow won the Oscar. But Bitter Balcony refuses to support forcing nonsensical elements into a script to appease some random set of feminist rules.

Tara Veneruso, founder of the First Weekender’s Group, put it best when she said, “The studios don’t care when women complain. The bottom-line is box office.” Hollywood reasoning sucks, but they're making movies people are paying to watch.

Here is, what we believe to be, a better list of rules:

  • 1. Is there a three dimensional female character?
  • 2. Is she something more than just a damsel in distress?
  • 3. Does she display strength of character and still maintain her femininity?

P.S. This video does not contain two female characters nor does the woman in it ever mention her name.

The video in question:

Source of the Bitter: JAS

Comments, rants and other stuffs below
DCM (not verified) on Thu, 05/27/2010 - 2:39pm

I agree. Unless we want to slip into propaganda-esque, politically "correct," dictatorship thinking, artists must be very careful of trying to force certain "correct" themes into their work. Just because it would be more "correct" to have a lead female heroine or two, as well as an equal male one (and heck, lets thrown in a black guy, an asian woman, and a lesbian), doesn't mean we should do it. You will sacrifice the heart of the story that you are trying to tell by pleasing everyone.

I mean, Lord of the Rings? Really? Movies and books should tell a captivating story, whether or not it is politically correct and satisfies these crazy-ass feminist "rules" that the video suggests. Awesome politically-incorrect movies: American Gangster, Memento, The Godfather, Star Wars. Come on!

And yes, it is unfortunate that sometimes crap movies that are offensive to some group are popular. But, you know what? The movie business, just like any other business, is ruled by money. If people didn't like it, they wouldn't pay money to see it. Then the movie productions companies wouldn't keep making films like that. Simple math.

So instead of putting down certain awesome movies as anti-feminist, we should appreciate them for the great works that they are. No litmus testing required. And yes, us women should really get out there and create more awesome female-lead, inspiring works. Speaking of which...I think that's exactly what I'm working on...

JAS on Thu, 05/27/2010 - 2:56pm

Proactive! Awesome!

JAS on Thu, 05/27/2010 - 1:01pm

I'd also like to note that I think the idea that feminist women write for a website/magazine called Bitch magazine is contradictory and ridiculous.

"Hey, take me serious. Respect me. It's OK if I call myself a bitch, but DON'T YOU DARE CALL ME ONE!"


JAS on Thu, 05/27/2010 - 1:07pm

I get that it's tongue in cheek, but it's much too close to be humorous. Not to mention it's like fishing for shit.

LyndiT on Thu, 05/27/2010 - 10:11am

This is a conversation worth happening. If it takes someone making a short movie to stir the conversation up then I am okay with that. Nothing that this video or Jas has said is off topic. I am going to zoom out a bit and say that as a culture the momentum for this conversation might need a bit of a budge. Unfortunately it seems that Hollywood has a big pull on our culture so it makes sense to criticize them. Thanks for the post and encouraging that we keep moving and talking about how the stories of women are told.

JAS on Thu, 05/27/2010 - 12:57pm

As a man there is only so much I can relate, but when it comes to Hollywood movies and how they write female characters I agree that it does need a change, but at the same time we can't get stuck focusing on some arbitrary set of rules and lose sight on the fact that the quality and depth of the characters needs to improve, which may or may not have them interact with one another.

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