On a day when many Gen Y’ers are celebrating the ten-year anniversary of a cult classic, another has announced the cast for the first film of their three-part instalment. While one is centred on four females, the other is notably missing exactly that – women (which is so not grool).
In the newest addition to the Star Wars universe (for those counting we’re now up to number seven), there are only two women. Yes, you read that correctly – two. Just two. A set, pair, duo, whatever you want to call it; out of a cast of thirteen only two are of the female variety.
The first female in this ensemble cast is Carrie Fisher, who will reprise her role as Princess Leia (the woman in the white getup with the side buns who kissed her brother) from the original trilogy (IV-VI), while British newcomer Daisy Ridley is the second. But that’s it.
Now I’m not usually one to jump on the “we need more women in this because of these reasons” bandwagon, but it seems that as of late, films of the fantasy genre can only handle one or two female leads, and it’s starting to bother me.
While I can’t list the entire range off the top of my head, I can draw on some examples. Such as Disney’s Frozen, which is the tale of sisters Elsa and Anna, and Brave, which focuses on the relationship between Merida and her mother (even if she is a bear for most of the film). Or The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where Marvel Comics have shown us that girls too can kick ass through Natasha Romanoff (The Black Widow) and Agent Maria Hill. Even in the block world of The Lego Movie, WyldStyle/Lucy and Unikitty wave the flag for the girls and help Emmet save the day.
Overall, women tend to make up the background as the supporting roles, on par with the loveable, only-there-for-the-comic-relief sidekick. They’re the caring mothers/grandmothers, dutiful and doting wives/girlfriends, or the best friend who undoubtedly has an unreciprocated love for the male (ahem, Eponine). That’s not to say though that we haven’t had our fair share of incredible lead characters over the years, notably Hermione Granger (Harry Potter), Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games), as well as a string of fearless women that grace our small screens each week (see: Game of Thrones, Mad Men, etc).
Now try and remember the last film you saw. How many female leads can you think of compared to those of the men?
Even movies with huge casts such as Les Misérables and the Harry Potter series feature only a handful of female leads. So why is this? When we’re trying to teach young girls about self-esteem and empowerment, how can we expect them to feel any of that when we’re not giving them anyone to look up to?
At this year’s Oscars, Cate Blanchett made this comment in her acceptance speech:
“Those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences, they are not [niche experiences]. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people!”
And her comment does not come without warrant. Some of the most successful films of last year had female leads – Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Heat and Gravity, to name a few.
But these movies are targeted towards those who are older, the teens and adults. What about the kids?
Like most others my age, I grew up watching Disney films with princesses fawning over a man. Some even going as far as to trade in their voice and swap their fins for feet, only to then have to use nothing more than their looks to attract the man that they desired.
Great message that’s sending out, isn’t it?
But thankfully in the past four years, Disney has created some truly magical female roles in movies such as Brave, Tangled and Frozen that feature not women, but girls (keep in mind these characters are all young – Merida’s 16, while Rapunzel and Anna are roughly 18), that young girls today can look up to and admire.
These characters aren’t searching for a man, unlike their pre-2000s counterparts. Brave centres on the rebuilding of the strained relationship between Merida and her mother, while in Tangled, we go on an adventure with Rapunzel as she makes her way to the royal kingdom to see the floating lanterns (there’s more to it than just that), and in Frozen we get a heart-warming story of love between two sisters when Anna goes off in search of her older sister Elsa after a horrible and heartbreaking mishap.
So why can’t we have more stories like these? Whether animated or not, for kids or adults; the world could do with tales of groups of women searching for adventure, being the leader when it comes to protecting their family or simply just having a good time where their motive is not of a vindictive nature.
You know what kind of movie I’d like to see? One where there’s a bunch of young twenty-something’s who aren’t all friends but meet by chance in a city that isn’t New York. Each of them is struggling to find a full-time job after graduation, and boy problems are far down on their list of concerns. They want nothing more than to spend all day in bed watching movies on their laptop but get up anyway because they know they have to get on with their lives. They meet for brunch every Saturday at 10am and divulge the week’s ups and downs to each other over a good cup of coffee.
In other words, a movie with a simple story that’s well written and perfectly cast.
Now I’d pay to see that.
And I know, you’re probably sitting there telling me that I’ve practically just described Girls and Sex and the City (well, to some extent), but those types of shows/movies are filled with a rather large amount of unrealistic events to happen to one group of people. Seriously, who genuinely has a life like that?
Anyways, as Cate said, audiences want to see films with women at the centre, so much so that last year on average, movies with women as the leads earned more money than those with men. So if J.J. Abrams wants to make his instalments with a male-dominated cast, then may the force be with him. But given the fact that it’s 2014 and there’s an ocean of incredible female talent out there, I’m a bit upset that he’s only dipped his toes in the water.
Even if he had added an extra two or three, it would’ve been nice to see more than two lead women in this fantasy film. But it’s still early days. There are yet another two instalments to go in the J.J. Star Wars universe, and maybe Obi-Wan will hear our message and come to our aid.
Either way, I guess we now know how Luke felt when he found out that Darth Vader was his father.