There are certain things that, as a female movie fan, you just get used to. For example, the tendency to replace characterization with buzzwords like “strong” and “feisty”. But some female-centered issues have gotten to a ridiculous level. This article will cover three mistakes that 21st century movie-makers have got to stop making when it comes to the ladies.
All Women Are Baby/Husband Crazy
In the shiny world of romantic comedies, ladies are a focused lot. Good girls, or at least desirable girls, in the movies are passionate about commitment. Often more passionate than they are about the man they are committing to. Examples include: “27 Dresses”, “The Wedding Planner”, and classics like “Four Weddings and a Funeral”. All of these feature women who have either been waiting to be swept up the aisle for long time, or are virtually chasing their men up there. Also consider works like “He’s Just Not That Into You”, which portray the female stars as chasing a variety of commitments that the gentlemen involved do not want to make.
According to Live Science, the Centers for Disease Control in the US are reporting that more couples choose cohabitation than marriage at first. The age of getting hitched has now gone up, on average, to 26.5 for women and 28.5 for men. Books like “Last One Down the Aisle Wins” by Shannon Fox and Celeste Liversidge even encourage waiting until your thirties to get married to ensure a more mature and successful partnership.
The squealing women in their mid-twenties and early thirties talking about being “left on the shelf” look a little redundant these days, don’t you think? Movies aren’t showing the attitudes women really have when it comes to marriage any more.
Breasts Make You Evil or Manipulative
Evil comes in many forms, but Hollywood has a real fondness for making those forms female. From the femme fatales of old to the modern-day bunny boilers, ladies in romantic comedies are frequently displayed on a sliding scale of beauty and evil. The prettier they are, the more likely they are to do dreadful things like sexually assault you (“40 Days and 40 Nights”, “Wedding Crashers”, and “Horrible Bosses” to name just three) and get away with it. Then there are stalkers (“My Super Ex-Girlfriend”) and ethically-challenged reporters (“Hitch” and “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days”) to consider.
Tragically, none of these examples show the women being punished for their behaviour. This suggests to audiences that karmic retribution should not apply here, because women are just like that. Many of these films portray borderline sociopathic behaviour on the part of women as normal, giving the impression that men can expect no better from us. In reality, women are culpable human beings and would never get away with such appalling nonsense in real life.
To Be Attractive She Must Be Deeply Flawed, or Just Fall Down a Lot
On the other end of the evil and crazy scale, we have the “likeable” female lead. Even if the woman in question is reasonably intelligent, she usually has some kind of character flaw or physical clumsiness problem that renders her endearingly helpless, making audiences wonder how she dresses herself in the morning.
A good example of this characterization catastrophe is the inciting incident of “The Wedding Planner”, when the presumably adult Mary gets her heel stuck in a manhole and has to be tackled out of the way when a dumpster on wheels speeds towards her. Instead of just, you know, getting out of the way. “Cracked” writer Christina H poses the excellent theory that these beautiful, high-powered career women need a flaw or we won’t like them. Clumsiness encapsulates a flaw without making them unattractive, while they can be as endearingly helpless as the heroes would like them to be.
In addition to clumsiness, some characters are unable to find or retain love because they are too focused on work, which is not an issue that affects their male colleagues. Examples include: “The Wedding Planner” with exaggerated irony, “Morning Glory”, and “The Proposal”, the premise of which is a terrifying female executive who has to bully her employee into marrying her so she can stay in the US. If that isn’t a sad indictment of women in the workplace, nothing is.
Other ladies are fixated on past loves in a way that would be romantic and heroic if the role was held by a male; because they are female, these characters are portrayed as pathetic or insane. Elle in “Legally Blonde” goes to Harvard Law School to win back her (frankly horrible) ex boyfriend, and surprises everyone when she actually displays an aptitude for law. Jenny in “My Super Ex Girlfriend” is not only painfully insane in her fixation on her ex; she is also magically cured of her lunacy when she gets together with someone else. That seems healthy.
It is past time that Hollywood screenwriters and producers started to create romantic comedy characters that are flawed in a way we can all understand. A woman who bites her nails or forgets to do the dishes is far more relatable for most than an impossibly beautiful sadomasochist who follows her ex lover to university, or a superhero with commitment issues.
There are great, romantic, funny films out there that do a wonderful job of portraying women, although they don’t usually happen to be blockbusters. “Drinking Buddies” is an excellent display of talent from both Olivia Wilde and Anna Kendrick, playing women who actually seem like people. “Enough Said” does a similarly excellent job of portraying well-rounded and flawed leads. On the more popular end of the spectrum, “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat” were great examples of physical comedy that didn’t rely on adorable clumsiness, and showed up the ridiculousness of some beloved clichés in a hilarious fashion. There’s hope for you yet, Hollywood. Keep it up.