Female Characters in Film

It’s fairly commonly understood that women get the shaft in the movie business.  As far as female characters go, they are underrepresented in that they have far fewer (at a 3:1 ratio) and generally much less interesting roles written for them than do men.  Many have raised this issue before, yet things don’t seem to be changing very fast, so I suppose I’ll add my voice to the din and hope it helps. 

Geena Davis wrote a great article “Two Easy Steps to Make Hollywood Less Sexist.”  As a writer, I find that the trick she mentions of simply swapping the genders of your already-written characters works scarily well, with a lot less tweaking than you might think, to create much more unique and compelling group of people for an audience to watch and get invested in.

Oh look!  Two fascinating female characters played by extremely talented women in Blue Jasmine.

Oh look!  Two fascinating female characters played by extremely talented women in Blue Jasmine.

Don’t get me wrong.  Like everyone else on the planet, I can certainly appreciate the beauty in the female form, but women and girls are capable of so much more than being pretty and thin.  I’m as put off by seeing them portrayed as helpless things to be alternately lusted after and saved from peril as I am of seeing men only capable of emoting a vague toughness through somber whispers.

I suppose I’m not a huge fan of shallow characters in general.   The brainless bombshell meant for the hero to rescue and copulate with in a stereotypical action movie interests me about as much as the assortment of sickeningly sweet and charming men the lead actress has the dilemma of choosing between in many a romantic comedy.  She is not really human; she exists only as a foil.

Writers and movie makers, give me characters who think critically, give me human beings with a healthy set of neuroses and imperfections to counterbalance their qualities, give me people I haven’t seen before, give me people who surprise me, and make more of them women: women villains, women heroes, women over 35 who aren’t mothers, large women, small women, women of many different skin colors and points of view, interesting women, more women, and more women. 

I will always strive do the same.  In Rolling with Virgil, my favorite character to write was Miss Cupcakes.  Don't let the name fool you; there's a reason for it.  She's a fiercely intelligent, if disturbed Latina woman.  She's passionate and capable of great love and violence, but also great tenderness.  I can't wait to cast her!

Let’s smash that stubborn 3:1 ratio out of existence.  To put it in frat house terms, nobody likes a sausage party.

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