Hello, readers of WWSF, my name is Indya Henderson, and I am an 18-year-old college freshman from Los Angeles, California attending the University of San Francisco. For my first perspective, I want to sort of introduce my view on women in movies and our roles in this industry.
Growing up as a young, African American girl, I already knew what stereotypical boxes were going to be checked off or “filled” once anyone saw me. I expected that if I ever auditioned for a play or a film, I would be cast as the token black girl, who was always secondary to the white ingénue. However, I was taken by surprise my freshman year of high school when I was cast as Emily in the play Our Town. I made it my mission to play that part as best I could.
That experience made me realize that representation for everyone in the Arts industry (tv, film, and theater) matters so much. It matters because people want to see themselves in movies and television to feel like they are normal. To feel like they belong. To feel like you and people who look like you matter in society, or even exist in society. To not be disregarded to just a percentage in the census. My director and stage manager of Our Town were both women, and it was beautiful to have people in high positions on the production that understood my experience as a female. But I notice in the mainstream film and tv world of Hollywood, that men were the directors and the backbone of this industry. Simply put, not many women were put in positions where they could showcase their talents.
Everyday, we always see big director names such as Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino. We all love their movies and pretty much know that anything that they direct will be unforgettable. Just look at Spielberg with the Jurassic Park Franchise and Tarantino with Kill Bill. It is common knowledge to know what movies that these famous male directors have directed, but have you ever stopped to think about which of your favorite movies were actually directed by women? Did you know that Jennifer Yuh Nelson, the director of Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011), was the first woman to be the sole director of an animated film from a major studio? Women have made such huge accomplishments in the film industry recently, but there is still such a long way to go.
Ironically, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 is about a woman getting her revenge on the people who wronged her in the past, and can be see as a movie that empowers women. The main character was not in any way a “damsel in distress”, quite the opposite. This is important because women were told as young girls to fit into these little, gender-role boxes, that prevented them from becoming something extraordinary. However, still using Kill Bill as an example, one could argue if the film’s female characters are powerful and fearless, or are they just vengeful victims of male brutality? Either way, most feel that this movie empowers women, and puts them in positions of power. I first watched this movie as a little girl, and I remember thinking, “Wow, she doesn’t just cook and clean, mom! She is strong and can fight!” I think it’s so vital for young girls to see this kind of imagery so they know that they don’t have to grow up and be the typical ‘housewife’, they also have the option to be a woman trained in martial arts and sword-fighting.
Another issue that has strikes a chord with me is storytelling. Why are we being told the same stories over and over again? How come all the movies we have seen in the past few years are remakes and superhero movies? Only recently, have some movies been made from different, unique but honest perspectives like Love Simon, 17-year-old’s coming out story or Fruitvale Station, the retelling of the tragedy of Police brutality. The problem is, women are being refused by major studios to tell their stories, our stories, and this keeps part of our lives in the dark. And when women are portrayed in movies, they are over-sexualized and shown as the secondary character to the male primary character. Once again, we are being fit into these tiny boxes that have been introduced since the beginning of modern society.
In conclusion, I think we, people who view media and take part in it, need to pay more attention to our surroundings and the issues within the industry that we love. The ones who view this entertainment is also responsible for the issue of representation because not enough people are speaking up from that perspective. This issue has not gone away just because a few women have been making a difference, or more people of color are being cast in major motion pictures. It will continue, until something is done and equality is finally achieved.