A friend on Facebook posted this article about men in movies. How very, very, tired the writer is about movies about men. The movie they chose to discuss was American Hustle. Which... is a curious choice. I'd consider it to be an ignorant choice. And it's an argument that drives me insane every time it comes up.
I like male characters. I like female characters. I think that both are important, both represented poorly and brilliantly. I get so angry at how people complain about the representation of gender in film. Particularly when it's in the context of something like American Hustle, and it's a period piece.
Let's review some things. So, American Hustle is a little bit misogynist, it's crass, male-centered, and it's... very 1970s. The movie takes place in 1978. Yes, feminism had begun, and the women's liberation movement was in full swing. This doesn't mean that all women were involved, or wanted to involved. It doesn't mean that women wanted to be superior to men. Just like today, some women (like the characters played by Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence) were happy to be lovers, mothers, and seducers. Sure, in the background there would have been women who wanted more. Women who leaped at the opportunity to join the FBI in 1972. Like all stories, though, not all women want to be heroines, or the top of the pile, or the ruler of all that the sun touches. Neither do men, for that matter.
Like anyone, I would appreciate to see movies about women. I like female characters, and some can be quite powerful. However, talking in the sense of time period. The way this article is written, it makes it sound like all history involving women should be re-written in order to fit our contemporary society. A certain quote comes to mind. Allow me to paraphrase; those who ignore history are destined to repeat it. If we change history through representations in film, where do we stop? Yes, we could change the roles of women, but then we may as well erase the presence of concentration camps. We may as well remove slavery, and the actions of early Americans. We may as well erase every dark part of history that revolves around racism, sexism, homophobia, and every negative thing that we have fought against. If we change everything, or if we ignore everything, how do we know what to appreciate, or be thankful for? How can we be graced with the sense that we have fought against something, and won? If film makers and writers ignore history (misogyny and all), where do we stop? I mean, let's face it. A lot of people have seriously skewed sense of history, and how we've gotten to where we are today.
Back to female characters in movies. Now, yes, there may be a few more "strong male leads" in movies than female... or at least it might seem that way. Do we maybe think that because of an enjoyment to complain? Within the past few years, we have had films like Hunger Games, Zero Dark Thirty, Evil Dead, and many others. Not to mention anything that Joss Whedon makes. Then, it raises another question...
What defines a strong female role? Does such a title demand a woman who wears pants, fights battles, and controls all men? I'm constantly getting the sense that anything short of that isn't enough. Speaking personally, I don't want to be a heroine. Yes, it's inspiring... but I constantly get the sense, and the pressure, that wanting to be a stay-at-home wife or a mother isn't respectable. I'm not sure if anyone else gets that sense, but mothers and wives can be strong women, too. Back to history; if we take a page out of any woman's book, we'll see that their strength is immeasurable. Talk about impossible boots to fill. Forget being led to believe that your body should be something else; what about your goals and how you react to things? I would never be a strong woman by the standards of what people want to see in films, and that's an unfortunate pressure to have.
All in all, I think it's unreasonable to want to alter movies that can't be altered, based on their time period or what they're about. Yes, I'd like to see films with strong female roles. But then again... it's impractical to ask for a film where a strong woman has no interaction with men, just as it's impractical to ask for a film where a man has no interaction with a woman. Relationships, however little we may want to deal with them, are relate-able and interesting. Particularly when there is a push and pull. That is why Shakespeare has stuck around and continued to be so relevant. I think people just need to think a little more about what we want to represent, and what battles we want to choose in terms of entertainment. Perhaps we're focusing on the films, the wrong books... Or more people need to write the scripts that they want.