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Has It Really Been A Great Year for Female Film Characters?

Although we’ve seen many male-led movies such as The Martian, The Revenant and The Big Short garner a lot of attention, many critics say the past year was good for fans of films with female characters too.

They point to films like Carol, Room and Mad Max: Fury Road as prime examples of films where the women were the stars of the show, and of media where leading ladies kicked ass first, taking names later in their own way.

Some critics argue that it hasn’t just been a great year for female characters, numbers wise, but in how they were presented as well.

The characters in these films, including Inside Out and Grandma, don’t necessarily fit into the typical ‘strong female character’ mould either, as they’re flawed and messy and imperfect in the same way that actual, real-life women are.

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But does that mean that we’re in a new era of movie-making, where women get to take the lead in more pictures, and are written in ways that won’t make us want to throw the nearest piece of pottery?

Not necessarily.

We may have made some real strides in terms of both numbers and the actual depictions of these female characters, but the work is far from over.

For example, although we are quick to praise the diversity of movies like Grandma, Freeheld and Carol for starring lesbian characters, it‘s also important to consider that these three movies, like many of the others being praised for positive representation of women, star white women. (All three films were also massively snubbed at the Oscars, with misogyny being blamed).

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Also important to note is how the 2016 Oscars featured no nominees of colour in any of its acting categories, sparking a revival of the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag.

While this is incredibly frustrating, it’s both an ugly symptom of the Academy’s massively lopsided voting pool and of Hollywood itself and it was massively disappointing to see films like Tangerine (a movie about two trans women of colour) get shut out.

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It’s also worth noting that one film that has been praised for its black female ‘heroine’ character, Chi-Raq, has also been criticised for its own misogyny, as it involves ending gun violence via the means of women withholding sex.

Straight Outta Compton, another movie starring people of colour that many felt should have been nominated by the Academy, also overlooked the violent acts committed by Dr. Dre against women.

Whether we will see the trend of female-led films (hopefully with more diversity) continue into 2016 and beyond is unclear.

Although Hollywood blockbusters make far more at the box office when starring female characters, who’s to say that Hollywood will pay attention when it’s been ignoring that factoid for years?

Additionally, with so few female film-makers holding Hollywood’s top jobs, decisions of these female-focused films are largely in the hands of men.


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