Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sexist Hollywood

Hollywood is a male-centered business. Once you think that statement over, it is.

There are almost never any good female roles. Actresses are usually cast to play a whiny bitch (*cough* Annette Bening in American Beauty *cough*) or to flash some flesh. It's ridiculous.

Strong female roles started to dwindle by the end of the 70's, around the same time the feminist movement started to end. Ironic? Probably.

If there are good female roles in a movie, there's a good chance they're in the supporting role rather than the lead.

Performances are one thing. Female directors and writers are another matter. There have only four female directors nominated at the Oscars (with one winning).

Most female directors tend to work on movies aimed at women. Or, as they're better known as, romantic comedies. A few managed to veer away from the stereotype (ie, Kathryn Bigelow, Sofia Coppola), but a number of them still direct/write romantic comedies.

Have you noticed when you see a "top performances of the year" list, the majority of it is male performances? Try to remember that when you read one.

A few male directors have strong female performances as a theme throughout their movies (ie, Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock, Ridley Scott), which is good. But now, that theme has dwindled down as much as the strong female role itself.

Why is that? Why are the best parts written for men? Why are the best roles for women tend to be in the supporting rank?


  1. This is the truth! Unfortunately this is mainly because this is what society wants. People in general don't like strong women. My wife goes through this at work on a daily basis. its the good ol' boys club. Sad but true. Hopefully this generation won't continue this practice.

  2. I am married to a feminist so I often lose these arguments but I will give it a go... :)

    While I do agree that male performers in general appear to get more attention and plaudits than females and that this perception is not right it is very hard to agree that there is a lack of strong female roles out there.

    Just look through the list of Best Actress Oscar nominees from recent years. There is plenty of evidence there to challenge with:

    Helen Mirren - The Queen
    Hilary Swank - Million Dollar Baby
    Charlize Theron - Monster
    Meryl Streep - Doubt (and pretty much anything she does)
    Anne Hathaway - Rachael Getting Married
    Cate Blanchett - Elizabeth
    Selma Hayek - Frida

    These are but a few. The list goes on and on and is full of excellent examples of strong female roles. And I just looked through the past 10 years. Go back 30 years through to the 70's and you have a ridiculous amount of great performances.

    I am not sold on there being a lack of examples out there.

    I would perhaps be sold if you were to compare salaries per film and present those results. Or if you compared the number of performances shortlisted by the Academy for the Best Actor and Best Actress roles over the years and presented those numbers. Something like that.

    Saying something is sexist is easy. Proving something is sexist is tricky.

  3. not only sexist, but prejudice. why did penelope cruz win for playing a feisty crazy latina in vicky cristina barcelona and not for her stunning (and downplayed) performance in volver? why did halle berry win for taking off her clothes in monster's ball (brillian performance, but still), and not considered for other roles?

    why did marisa tomei get nominated for playing a stripper, julia roberts for pretty woman (though fantastic performance), and not considered for roles they actually ddn't take heir clothes off to do? tsk tsk hollywood.

  4. I seems I am a sexist pig.. sorry about that! ;-)

  5. I disagree StudyCool. Of course, there is strong females roles to talk about but the overwhelming majority of roles for actresses today are not of that kind. Here, we have a bunch of talented actresses competing for a few meaty and substantial roles. For one role like The Queen, there is 10 insignificant or even offensive weak-willed lead female roles out there.

    You don't look much deeper than the vast majority of romantic comedies to see that. The problem is the public has been conditioned to not question this so it looks like a "normal" fact of life to relegate female characters to supporting role or being dependent on the main male character, even for screenwriters.

  6. OK. Granted in my post I skimmed the creme of the crop and there are countless poor examples of female roles beneath. I cannot argue with this.

    I do have a daughter to raise in this world and plan on being consciously aware of the difficulties she will face. I know that women are portrayed poorly in film. As fun as Transformers was to watch it carried a female role that was, in my mind, sending all the wrong messages. And although my first post did not reflect this thought I do want to protect my daughter against a lot of what Hollywood says a woman should be.

    So I am not arguing against the misrepresentation of female in Hollywood. I guess I have always enjoyed seeing positive female roles on screen and have had a tendency to disregarded roles from genres such as romantic comedies. Just as I would applaud a strong male role and disregard their romantic comedies as being stereotyped and flawed.

  7. Totally agree. I'd love to see a female director burst onto the scene and be taken as seriously as her male counterparts. And I'm all for strong female roles in films. I just saw American Psycho (directed by Mary Harron) and it think a big part of why I liked it was due to the female perspective that informed how the movie was made and shot. Good post!

  8. It's a problem...unless you throw in a healthy dose of foreign films, then it isn't. But it comes down to one thing. When Hollywood is casting, they always ask..."But would I want to f**k her?" And that's the root of the problem.

  9. I see what you've mean. I've actually done a fair bit of writing on the subject and while things may have improved there's certainly still a lot that needs to be done.

    There's one issue that's really been bothering me lately regarding how Hollywood treats women and that's in just about anything dealing with firefighters. I have found almost no material from Hollywood to even depict women firefighters, and the few that do have very negative images. In most movies or TV shows dealing with the subject you keep seeing these all-male units of firefighters with a best case scenario being maybe a female paramedic or a love interest or something.

    Is it weird that the best image I've found so far of a female firefighter is from a Welsh kids' show?

    On the other hand they've started to get better with cops but it's still very male-dominated.


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