Changing The Representation Of Femininity In Cinema - Raindance

Women and film. Film and women. This tango has been going on far too long in the industry. Whether it’s Amy Dunne in Gone Girl or Bella Swan from the Twilight series, films with a female lead have always gotten mixed responses. Either criticised over how they look or that the role didn’t suit them. My question is why? Is that a way of saying that women can’t carry a film all by themselves?

The new Ghostbusters reboot is getting mixed responses but shouldn’t we applaud the fact that four talented female characters are taking on the responsibility to continue a much-loved franchise on their own? Melissa McCarthy is a personal favourite of mine after watching Bridesmaids and as per usual, she never fails to make her audience laugh with her outrageous performances. She just proves that women in film don’t need to be seen as an accessory. So, I thought it would be fun to compile a list of female characters who embody girl power.

1) Erica Barry – Something’s Gotta Give

Erica is interesting because she is an older woman… nowadays, it’s unfortunate that older women in film are overseen and replaced by their younger and sexier counterparts. But Diane Keaton has broken that ideology. She’s got Keanu Reeves running after her just to prove it! She’s got a great fan following and she is only getting better with age. Playing the workaholic and a divorcee, Erica Barry, she is determined to focus her time on her work and nothing else… until she meets the womanising Harry Sandbourn, played by Jack Nicholson, and her world turns upside down. She’s one of those girls you can sit down and have a drink with. Who wouldn’t want that?

2) Phyllis Dietrichson – Double Indemnity

Personally, I love film noirs. Not only because they are very back and forth, but the women are also so strong and it’s amazing how easily they can wrap men around their little finger. The roles are reversed and it’s pretty cool to see that in the 1930s, women did have some power. Portrayed by Barbara Stanwyck, Phyllis Dietrichson is one woman who is fully aware of this. Seducing the vulnerable Walter Neff, played by Fred MacMurray, she gets her way by using her sexuality. She knows what a man’s weakness is and she uses that against them. She takes charge of every situation and doesn’t take no for an answer. She’s smart. She knows what she wants. She’s not afraid to take it.

3) Ofelia – Pan’s Labyrinth

It’s not every day you see a young girl saving herself. Ofelia is a very special character who redefines the word ‘heroine’. Played by Ivana Banquero, her bravery surpasses anyone her own age when she fights off the Pale Man whilst completing her second task to gain immortality. Believed to be a princess in her past life, she uses that to her advantage by making her own decisions. She’s not one to mess around either… she gets things done. Using her imagination from which she creates these mystical characters, it’s as if she is growing up too. Learning about the real world… that it’s not all fun and games.

4) Mulan – Mulan

Now here’s a girl who knows how to kick butt. Determined and focused, she doesn’t listen to anyone but herself. Posing as a man to join the army and keep her family’s honour, she goes through a dangerous task to defeat the evil Shan Yu. Voiced by Ming Na Wen, Mulan represents the notion that women are not just the homemaker. She can take on other roles… roles that men can do too. Making her challenge her culture’s tradition shows that when it comes to certain things…

5) Natasha Romanoff/The Black Widow – The Avengers

Speaking of kicking butt, here’s another one who’s not afraid to throw a punch or two. Played by Scarlett Johansson, she loves getting her hands dirty in the midst of so much testosterone. In The Avengers, you first see her tied up to a chair… your typical damsel in distress. But she saves herself by knocking the guys out! Her agility, flawless, you forget that she’s a woman…and I mean that in a good way! She’s an equal like the rest of the men! Her quasi-male attitude lets her take on an active role and makes you see that she means business.

6) Samantha Caine/Charlene Elizabeth “Charly” Baltimore – A Long Kiss Goodnight 

Another one who possesses a quasi-male attitude. Samantha represents the traditional woman. Her alter ego, Charley, represents the modern woman. Portrayed by Geena Davis, it’s when Samantha turns into Charley, you see that she embraces being tough and taking charge in her life for the first time since Charley become Samantha. She realises the thrill of it all and it seems like she enjoys it.

So, these women… strong minded, independent and most importantly believable. Yes, they have their weaknesses, just like everyone else has, but that doesn’t stop them from achieving their goals. They subvert your expectations of what a woman is supposed to do. How they’re supposed to behave. Why is that a bad thing again?