Short Thoughts: Where Are My Role Models?

Now that my exams have finished for this year, I often find myself watching films to pass the time, but last week whilst I was trying to decide on what to watch next I started to really think and I noticed the lack of representation of women in film and how they often fall into set archetypes and are never truly able to break free of their prescribed gender roles. The more I began to think of this, the more it started to bother me. Why didn't I have any real female film characters to truly aspire to be whilst I was growing up? I know that they wouldn't have dramatically changed the way that I view the world or how it would shape me as a person, but it would have been nice to have had some impressive role models. Perhaps I may have been influenced to be more sure of myself or more confident about myself as a female, instead of feeling limited to being inferior to my male counterparts. Where were the empowering female role models?

The portrayal of women in mainstream film is often mediocre at best, with them often being weak or providing nothing more than a goal for the male protagonist to chase after, or sometimes they go to the other extreme of portraying women as heartless bitches who care about nothing but themselves. There are a few exceptions to this rule such as Katniss from The Hunger Games, Lara Croft from Tomb Raider, and Black Widow from The Avengers. But when it comes to representing larger woman it is almost impossible to find one that isn't used primarily as a vehicle for humour. Prime examples of this are Rebel Wilson in Pitch Perfect or Melissa McCarthy in basically every film she is cast in. The only example of a larger woman in film that has any sort of strength and isn't used as a comic device is Gibourey Sibide in Precious where she breaks free of her abusive family.

So why can't women who don't conform to the traditional standards of beauty be anything more than funny? What type of message is this conveying to younger, more impressionable viewers? That in order to be strong and successful you have to be slim and slender? You can't possibly be strong if you weigh more than the average woman. This is wrong. You can be strong and independent regardless of your weight. So maybe what we need next is for a strong female protagonist who doesn't require a man to be happy and whose main focus isn't to be some light comic relief for whom the audience can laugh at.

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