3 Female Stereotypes (And Why Writers Use Them)

December 16, 2012 1:00 pm

Those who keep up to date with my articles will know that one of my main interests in cinema is the lack of good roles for women. However, rather than spending another article complaining about the alphabet of female stereotypes, I thought I would delve into the three most common choices, and try to explain why writers continuously fall back on them.

3 – SEX SYMBOLS

OK, let us get this one out of the way first, as it is slightly more controversial. Whether we like it or not, sex sells. Although I get annoyed with how this female trait keeps occurring, for no conceivable reason, I do see why writers are adding sexually orientated women, and nudity into films – appeal to the male audience.  I am willing to overlook this for background characters that do not progress the plot, but where this annoys me the most, as a viewer, is when a good female character is introduced to the plot and then ruined. For example’s sake, let’s go with Angelina Jolie’s character in Wanted. I go through the film liking her, admiring her status as the principal action star, appreciating her as a strong female character, and pleased to see James McAvoy dependent on her, rather than the other way around. Then partway through the film, we see her wandering around naked, for no more reason than to be ogled by the male audience. Instantly my respect for her as a strong female character drops. This is where sexualising women in cinema hurts the movie.

2 – DEPENDENT ON THE MALE CHARACTER

This one is most common for action films. I believe that writers often back themselves into a corner, and making the woman a weaker character helps them out of it. Action films with a strong male lead often waste most of their content confirming the hero’s status as a male figure. Rescuing the damsel in distress helps towards this goal. Take Jinx in Die Another Day. She is a good action hero; sharp, clever and tough. However, a lot of the film is of Bond saving her, dampening this image of  Jinx. Her main downfall here is starring in a Bond film. Jinx’s character might be good, but audiences turn up specifically to see Bond, putting everyone else’s image secondary.

Now let us turn to the Da Vinci Code. Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou really impressed me as a cinematic partnership, because they were dependent upon each other. As the characters race through the plot, they are put into situations where the power of the couple is reversed. Tom Hanks is able to solve the riddle that can get them a map, but within seconds they are escaping Jean Reno’s mysterious cop character. Tautou takes the helm and saves Hanks. This is what I want from my film. The female character is allowed to be dependent on the male, if the man finds himself needing her in a similar fashion later in the film.

1 – MOTHER

This one was brought up in a response to my first article. When I said that Emily Blunt’s character in Looper was the strongest female figure of 2012, the commenter reminded me that she was held back by her stereotype of being a mother. I have no problem with this stereotype, nevertheless, I shall describe why writers use this trait so often.

It is an easy trick writers use to build up the profile of a character. It is all very well complaining that a character is underwritten, but a film is often meant to be fast-paced and if the writers spend too long building a character, then the audience could get bored. Stereotypes, like the mother, can be a cheat of sorts, to manipulate our opinion of the character.

Emily Blunt is a protective mother, so we see her as a selfless character, willing to put her life before her son’s. That is noble, and we respect her character more for it. This is why I am comfortable with this stereotype being used; it helps the female character rather than hindering her. I also believe that we can get the same noble outcomes from the Father character, if done correctly.

For once a sense of equality between the genders.

About time, Hollywood!

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