Where are the Women?

As I watched the Golden Globes, I remarked upon how diverse the critically acclaimed offerings were this year. The best film categories included some of the best and most varied films in years such as Boyhood, Foxcatcher, Selma, The Imitation Game, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Birdman (With the incredible oversight of Whiplash). These films are different in all areas but one: each film has a male protagonist that dominates the story. Reviewing movies last year, I found myself astounded with the complete lack of women at the center of most films. While there are some notable exceptions such as Wild, Big Eyes, and Obvious Child (not necessarily awards season fodder, but an incredible movie with a female protagonist), the majority of films this year are about men (for the most part white) and their struggles. In 2014, a year in television which has produced more diverse stories about gender, race, and sexuality were told than ever before, film has disappointed in its ability to tell stories about women.

Some will make the Sorkin argument, that the scripts and roles for films which place women at the center of their universe are severely lacking in Hollywood. I, as well as many of my peers, find this incredibly hard to believe. These films are not being made because of the lack of faith that the male executive hierarchy has in what they term “female stories.” Up until the release of Bridesmaids, it was hard to sell a female-centric comedy that didn’t have romance at its center, due to the largely held belief in Hollywood that women just aren’t funny. Even though we make up a majority of the theatre audience, we continuously are subjected to stories in which women are treated as two dimensional characters without needs and wants of their own. When I watch a film with a man at the center, such as many of the amazing films that were nominated last evening, I do not think of the story as a “man’s story,” but as a story in general. Why in Hollywood is there a predisposition to thinking that all stories about women have to do with inherently female themes and subjects? Why are those themes and subjects supposedly things that only women want to see? Just like the stories of the men in the films above, at the end of the day stories about both genders are just stories about people. We are the leading figures of our own lives; why have we come to expect ourselves to be limited to supporting characters in film?

2014 was the year our movie theaters were stained by a manifestation of “bro” culture and extreme disrespect of women by men in the form of the movie That Awkward Moment. Three charismatic and talented actors – Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller, and Zac Efron –  are thrust into the roles of millennials with machismo pride issues. They believe that in order to be a man they must treat women as objects without emotion and when their own personal feelings begin to contradict this idea, they run and make dumb mistakes only to be welcomed back by their two dimensional female love interests. 2014 was the year that women in lead roles were erased from the collective film culture of the United States.

So far, 2015 gives me cause for hope in many genres, with such anticipated projects as Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Trainwreck, Jupiter Ascending, Sisters, Tomorrowland, Freeheld, Suffragette, Suite Francaise, and Room. While we have no idea in full what next year in film will bring, I can say confidently that this year has a void in its stories so big that it cannot possibly be paralleled.

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