Towards the end of 2015 and in this first month of 2016, are we starting to see the long-awaited rise of female leadership? The seventh Star Wars film passed the Bechdel Test; the pretty basic standards a film has to meet in order to be classed as ‘feminist’. The film involved a scene of a certain length with two women talking to each other (not about men). Whilst this seems like easy standards to achieve, there are few films that can actually meet them as women in film are often talking about the main protagonist, who is frequently a man. In Star Wars‘ original trilogy, for example, Princess Leia – a pretty empowering role for women at the time – only spoke to men on-screen, while other women in the film achieved a total of 63 seconds speaking on camera across all three films.
So Star Wars has made a change for the better, and it is starting to look like several other films will be doing so too. Joy, with Jennifer Lawrence playing the powerful protagonist, an underdog entrepreneur, really is a motivational and inspirational story and, best of all, it is a true one. Joy becomes the founder of powerful business in consumer goods, as well as maintaining good relationships with her children, all without a man by her side. It’s a role that is perhaps only made possible by Jennifer Lawrence’s star power, and I’m not convinced any other female actor would have been entrusted with the part.
Bridesmaids, released in 2011, was revered for depicting real women, talking about their jobs, their passions and friendships. Some of the cast, including protagonist Kristen Wiig, are back to play the all-female-led cast of Ghostbusters, due to be released in July (how exciting!) Another all-female cast will appear at the end of January, with the release of Certain Women, a story about how the lives of three influential women intersect in a small-town in America.
Whilst it may appear that the film industry is improving in terms of female representation, we must not forget that from 2007-2014 (only two years ago) females represented only 30% of speaking characters in the top 100 films. Behind the scenes, the situation is no better. The film industry is far from reaching gender equality regarding wages. In 2014, Hilary Swank revealed that male actors often earn 10 times more than their female counterparts. Forbes magazine estimated that its female top 10 earned $226m whereas the top 10 men earned almost double, with $429m. Moreover, the directing of movies is significantly a male-centric arena, with only 4.7% of studio films directed by women from 2009-2013. 2016 might be the year it all changes, but I won’t be holding my breath.
Featured image courtesy of Columbia Pictures