Sisters are doing it for themselves, quite literally; the #1 and #2 films at the North American box office this weekend feature female leads. Strong female leads, too. This is remarkable because, off the top of my head, there has been only a handful of movies this year that featured lead female characters. So ya, it’s kind of a big deal.
Why is this a big deal? Because the year in film has been dominated by men and though that isn’t particularly surprising, it is just as troubling and another reminder of how male-dominated the medium is. Sandra Bullock can only star in so many female led blockbusters, okay? The first Hunger Games film told Hollywood “Hey, females can lead action-driven blockbusters too” and Catching Fire reminded them of this. Frozen, while it may be an animated film and seen as less important in it’s sexuality mission, it is equally notable: most of the animated films released this year feature male leads, with secondary female characters (are the minions in Despicable Me asexual/gender neautral? I digress).
It’s not that films featuring female leads (and female leads that are strong characters) are non-existent, because they’re not, but they appear so rarely that they might as well be. Back to Sandra Bullock: The Heat was a wonderful reminder that both men and women will show up to see an action/buddy-cop movie that features female leads. I know, shocker. And Gravity? Well, besides it being amazing, it reminded them that women can lead and deliver and action-blockbuster. Again, shocker.
Amy Poehler is often asked about her opinion on being asked the deplorable and exhausted “are women funny?” question. Her response is always remarkable: it’s not even question. It isn’t. It shouldn’t be. Why is it, though? Because Mike comes before Molly, because it’s Two & A Half Men, because no one watches Parks & Recreation, because Liz Lemon is polarizing, etc… So just like the women in comedy issue, the women in film is, to borrow from Poehler, a non-issue. They exist. It’s happening more and more, and this weekend, they broke records. But why do we have to wait so long to see films with female leads? That is the problem. Sex & The City and Bridesmaids were years apart with few in between. So, it’s going to take a while. We get The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 next November, so, I mean, we have Katniss once a year but that’s almost done. Then what? Frozen 2? Unfortunately, that isn’t enough.
In The Hollywood Reporter Roundtable: Actress Edition, Emma Thompson brings up Joss Whedon and how he is always asked “why do you write such strong female characters?” While Joss is always gracious about it and is willing to go into detail, Thompson cuts the shit as she always does, and, again, like Poehler, declares that that is not a question. Why WOULDN’T he write strong female characters? Because he is a man? That is why he is asked, because no one is asking the female screenplay writers why they are writing strong male characters. So once we stop purposing such inane questions, start looking at the figures and the facts, and realize that “if you build it, they will come” is the truest statement, then we can move forward. But let’s soak in this weekend. Because we have to. Because I don’t know when the next one will come.