Monday, December 8, 2008

Stereotypical Roles of Women in Films

Films reflect and reinforce the dominant ideology, and this applies to how women are shown in films. Although roughly half of the population is female, they are underrepresented in films. Most leads are men. Also compounded with this issue of underrepresentation is how the women are shown, cast stereotypically in traditional roles.
Women films were popular in the 1930s and early 1940s, when women were shown as wanting to gain independence from their families, and trying to experience true romantic love. In this sort of film the woman was the central character. These were often melodramas, where the woman would eventually have to sacrifice her career for love, or vice versa. This showed women that although they could want to both work and have love, that it was not entirely possible. Also during this time women were shown as “sex goddesses” who were sensual and manipulated men. Actresses that fit this stereotype are Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich.
In the 1940s the production code, a way of censoring movies to make them more appropriate, kept the sexuality of women out of many films. At this time, women were shown as competitors to men in the workplace, such as many Bette Davis and Katherine Hepburn films.
Sexuality reemerged in the 1950s, when women were shown as blatantly sexual and seductive threats, such as Lana Turner or Ava Gardner, or as innocent and wholesome, like Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. Marilyn Monroe slightly bridged this gap, as she was often depicted as both seductive and innocent.
More recently, the status of women in films has been declining, and the stereotypes have only been increasing. Women are shown in adventure films as sex objects, like “Star Wars” or “Dirty Harry,” if they are shown at all. In crime films women are often the victims, like in “Psycho,” and they are often times terrorized before they are killed. And then there are the androgynous roles, where women do not appear to be sexual in any way, such as “Alien,” “Lara Croft,” or as in the “Terminator.” These are supposed to be the “strong” women, showing viewers that women cannot be both strong and sexual, without posing a threat.
This stereotyping of women’s roles in films is nothing new, and will not go away unless women, who make up half of the film audience, voice their opinions of what types of films, and what types of leading ladies they want to watch.


ADAVIS43 said...

I agree that women do not get fair shots at leads in the film industry. The roles that they do get are very stereotypical and do need to get more balanced roles as males do. I can not say how they would go about doing such a thing but it does need to happen. Especially considering that they do make up half of the movie-goers. Big budget films do need to have more dominating female roles as they are just as important as anyone else in society.

ledholm said...

I understand if women aren't the leads in every movie, but why can't we see ANY women in movies that aren't entirely focused on "hooking the man"? If I ever want to see real women having real life issues, not just romantic woes, I have to look to underground or indie films, which is fine and all, but every now and then you want to just go to the theater and see something original and engaging.

selixcl said...

There are a couple films in which I can think of that women have a pretty strong leading role. The movie Cutthroat Island with Geena Davis is 1995 pirate movies where she is a captain of a pirate ship in search of a hidden treasure, Underworld with Kate Beckinsale where she plays a vampire in a war between werewolves and vampires, and Matrix with Carrie Ann Moss who plays Trinity in a fight against machines who control the world. All of these films have a pretty positive portrayal of women in strong roles. Its still a far cry from the typical male action star but its gradually getting better.

Chris Selix

Matt way said...

I agree that women do recieve very sterotypical roles is many movies. However at the same time i was told and have heard numerous times that women now have the uperhand in recieving small roles that help them get their foot in the door while they work their way into larger roles. Also i think that one reason why women are not taking as many lead roles is because of the types of movies that society favors. which i think are mostly action, comedy, and thrillers. most of these movies especially action and thriller for the most part have story lines that just arn't suitable for a women to play. i dont think that it is sexism in hollywood that keeps women out of lead roles but instead it is society that approves of movies with story lines that hapen to have a male as the lead actor.

Bec_Hansen said...

I'm currently doing an essay on women in the workforce and my teacher used "working girl" and "the devil wears prada" as examples. these women aren't hard workers. Hollywood has stereotyped them as office workers and people in fashion. Nowadays women are brickies and labourers and in some cases do a better job than the men they are working beside.

khadijat said...

i am more particular about women behind the scene.the big question is- why is it that women do not participate in technical roles?

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