Part Two: Using Our Wits and Our Wallets To Fight Stereotypes
Why is a change in our media due?
On Monday, I started the topic of changing the way media portrays women, and suggested that maybe we can change things around with our wallets. I proposed that headlines and studies about “female roles hav[ing] positive impact on box office” suggest we might have to use our wallets to change things once and for all! It’s also great to see some women in the media who serve as positive role models for the fight towards a health body image. My favorites like Jennifer Lawrence who loves chatting about her love of food, Lena Dunham who decided not to conform to Hollywood’s stick-thin standards, and Kristen Bell who is vocal about the dangers of body disorders and who is super talented – Frozen anyone?
The Wind Is Changing
In case you haven’t noticed, things have changed. Women aren’t just sitting around and looking pretty. We’re independent. We make money. We hold strong opinions and are informed. And most importantly to the media industry –we spend money. And more and more, we’re becoming unwilling to pay for movies that reinforce negative or outdated stereotypes.
For me this impatience with Hollywood’s objectifying
women started subconsciously. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, at first… I used to LOVE James Bond movies, and pretty much every action movie ever made. Lately, though, I’ve been getting more and more bored or disappointed by action movies. Why are all the protagonists big men with small heads, beefy necks, and veins bulging from steroids, and why are the only women pretty girls running? I don’t see anything relatable in these scenarios. If the world is coming to an end I’d like to be a part of the cast that saves it, not an afterthought. I’m looking for a movie I can relate to – with women that fight the big fight, or are the brains of the operation.
You don’t need to add a romantic component to all female storylines. To think that’s the ONLY realistic way to add a woman to a story is ridiculous! I work in a mostly male industry, but my day-to-day interactions with men have nothing to do with romance. That would be unprofessional, and a waste of my time. And besides, I don’t need saving. I’m quite capable. In fact I often do the saving myself. I’m often the one that comes up with a solution to something, or spots a hole in the way things are being done. And if not me, it’s often my female colleagues. So why don’t our movies reflect this “new” reality (which I don’t think is all that new, personally, but that’s for another day)? You see strong women in all fields, holding positions of power, or in the very least positions that require brains, brawn and lots of courage.
Even Ocean’s Eleven made me feel sad. Why couldn’t George Clooney pick a witty pickpocket ingénue instead of Matt Damon? Or a brainy explosives expert instead of Don Cheadle? Or have an ever-bantering pair of sisters to replace the dueling brothers? I love the show Leveraged because it shows just how well women could
have fit into a storyline like Ocean’s Eleven. With pretty Parker who picks locks and climbs just about anything. That show still has a guy with big muscles, Elliot, whom I love, by the way! But his very existence doesn’t depend on a weak woman who runs in high heels while her buxomly bosoms bounce about. He is strong on his own, just as Parker is strong on her own. To me, that’s a model that I can relate to and see in the real world, even if the plot isn’t necessarily realistic.
I’ve had trouble sitting through True Detective for this very same reason. I really want to know what happens at the end, but I have a tough time finding myself wanting to get to know the main characters. Would it have killed them to make Matthew McConaughey’s character a woman with addiction instead? Women can do Quaaludes just as well as the next man. (On an unrelated note, I’d LOVE to see Tina Fey or Kristin Wiig act out this video that apparently inspired Leo’s work in Wolf of Wall Street). In a recent NPR discussion about new tv shows this year, I heard that Top of the Lake is a better written show with a very similar plot line. I’m going to check it out, and try to sit through the end of True Detective so I can do a good comparison and get back to you! Somehow, I think that we should watch both shows, not just the one where there are no strong women.
Even in terms of comedy – movies like Bridesmaids, or shows like Parks and Recreation, that highlight more positive and realistic relationships between people (like Ron Swanson valuing strong women like Leslie or supporting the talent of young women like April). I found it really commendable that in Don Jon, Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character moved away from a woman that used her status as an object to get what she wanted, and towards a more realistic/positive woman who wanted to be seen as a person, not a thing, towards the end. To me, the success of that movie goes to show that we as a society are all, male or female, hoping to move away from Hollywood’s outdated characterizations of what “should be,” and towards what’s really going on in real life.
Even Netflix Knows
Today, I’ve found that all the user data collected about me, through my purchases and preferences on the web, it’s as if my decisions count as a vote for more positive and
realistic portrayals of women in the media. Even Netflix knows I’m looking for movies with “strong female leads” –and that I’d rather spend an hour sifting through their movies than watch something with an all-male cast, or a model running in heels while her knight in shining armor saves her. And I’m not a crazy anti-male feminist. I love men. I think they’re great. And I know plenty of respectful men who don’t treat women like objects, or expect us to be at their disposal. I just feel completely dissatisfied with movies or shows that don’t include someone like ME in them. I just want to be INCLUDED in the discourse, not told to change, dumb down, slim down.
And frankly, I find it hard to believe that all men expect women to behave like the ones they see in movies. To me, that just doesn’t match up with reality. If women account for over 50% of our population, and more of us are rising up in the ranks, then you’d think that everyone gets a more realistic notion that we’re just as capable as men. The more strong women out there – the more it becomes normal not to think we need saving, or are pretty things to admire. I don’t see a lot of men resenting me, or other women for it either. I find that for the most part, not including some old fogies stuck in their old ways (whom I refuse to give more attention than they deserve), most men respect me as a smart and hardworking person, and the fact that I’m a woman doesn’t come into it. The fact that some of our superiors are women doesn’t even come into the equation.
And yet, I do find that as a woman, I have held the mentality that I have something to prove. I consistently work harder, put in more hours, look to do a better job
than other men. While I want to stay true to myself – a quirky, hard-working, interesting and happy person, I feel that I need to show that I’m capable. While I’m not afraid to fight for myself, I do hope for a future where my children don’t live in a world where they notice women or men doing better, or being taken more seriously. And in my opinion, the way to that is by changing the way we see ourselves, and the role models and stereotypes we see in our media.
Ultimately, while I’m happy to see more strong female roles in movies, tv and books, and more and more entertainment passing the Bechtel test, I’m getting annoyed that we’re STILL talking about this. By now, it should be obvious that women have disposable incomes and have power of the purse. Why is Hollywood reacting so slowly to us?
Do you think that it will ever be a norm to show women as strong characters, not objects or damsels in distress? Are women using their power to change things for good, or are we still spending on magazines that glorify unachievable beauty standards and movies where women are objectified?
If you’re a man reading this, do you notice a difference between the women you see in the media from what you see in real life? Would you watch movies with more “normal” women if the plot is interesting? (Note: I know plenty of guys who don’t seem to expect women to be objects, but it’s hard for me as a woman to tell if these guys have also outgrown the James Bond formula, or if they still secretly prefer seeing sexy women objects on-screen).
Please comment, share your thoughts and let me know what you think. Please help me keep this a positive forum, though. I am so excited for some debate, but let’s respect each other please. I reserve the right to monitor and delete inappropriate posts. Thanks in advance!