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Positive representation of women on the rise

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Movies are a fantastic way for audiences to escape from reality. People see themselves in the characters onscreen, and well-written characters are especially engrossing. That’s why it’s incredibly frustrating that it is so difficult to find good representation of women in cinema. Why are the damsel in distress and one-dimensional romantic interest archetypes so common when there are clearly women of all different shapes, sizes, races and personality types?

Over the last year or so, there has been a surge of empowered female characters in mainstream cinema that is impossible to ignore. Here are four characters who represent women in a way that both the industry and audiences need to take note of and celebrate:

 

Rey – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

If the $2 billion worldwide gross and widespread critical acclaim of Star Wars: The Force Awakens proves anything, it’s that women can absolutely be represented with the same strength as men without any impact on a film’s reception.

Rey, the protagonist, functions very much like the previous main characters of the Star Wars franchise, Anakin and Luke Skywalker. Over the course of the film, it’s revealed that she is an incredibly powerful wielder of the Force. In fact, Rey could quite possibly be the most powerful character in the Star Wars universe to date; without any training by another Jedi, she demonstrates the telekinetic abilities that took Luke halfway into the second Star Wars film to perfect.

In addition, she is never sexualized with revealing outfits or provocative camera angles, and isn’t given an unnecessary romantic relationship. The Force Awakens doesn’t have an agenda; there is never any attention brought to the fact that Rey is a woman. Her gender simply has no impact on the way she is viewed by other characters, and it shouldn’t have any impact on the way she is viewed by the audience.

 

Furiosa – Mad Max: Fury Road

When talking about the depiction of women in cinema, good representation does not equal perfection.

Imperator Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road is a more than competent warrior, and serves as a high-ranking driver for the patriarchal tyrant known as Immortan Joe. A well-respected soldier, it’s clear that she has earned her title through her combat and driving skills.

Nevertheless, in their first encounter, the titular Max defeats Furiosa in hand-to-hand combat. However, as the film progresses, Max recognizes that Furiosa is more skilled than him in certain areas.

When it comes to firing a sniper rifle with limited ammunition, Max hands Furiosa the gun, acknowledging that she is a better shot. Yet, Max isn’t upset that a woman has upstaged him because he views Furiosa as an equal. In his mind, she is just another survivor in the post-apocalyptic wasteland—a person not defined by gender.

 

Michelle – 10 Cloverfield Lane

It’s not just action movies that need more strong female characters; the horror genre frequently portrays women as cowards in life or death situations. 10 Cloverfield Lane’s Michelle is refreshingly clever and resourceful.

When Michelle is introduced, she’s choosing to run away from her relationship with her fiancé. We soon find out that she has a habit of running away when the going gets tough. 10 Cloverfield Lane is about Michelle growing to a point where she is brave enough to confront her challenges head-on.

It’s a natural character arc—one that’s seen with male protagonists on countless occasions—but what’s most important is that Michelle comes across as a real person. She isn’t perfect, and she isn’t fearless. When she wakes up in an underground bunker, handcuffed to a radiator, she’s scared. Who wouldn’t be? It’s the fact that Michelle overcomes this fear and uses her brain to make the most out of a bad situation that sets her apart from the average female lead in a horror film.

 

Tip – Home

Often portrayed as shallow, materialistic or emotional, teenage girls in movies tend to get a bad rap. When so many young people are influenced by what they see in the media, Tip from Home provides a hero who also just happens to be a teenage girl.

Following the invasion of Earth by aliens, the brave and quick-witted Tip sets out to find her mother with the help of an alien named Oh—eventually saving the world in the process. Tip is a strong and determined character who defies the idea that young girls can’t be heroes and are the ones who need to be saved.

From Dreamworks, the 14th highest-grossing film of 2015 challenges the family film industry, where less than a third of characters are female, according to a study by the Geena Davis Institute.

Along with resisting misogynistic stereotypes, the movie challenges racial ones as well.  Tip, an immigrant from Barbados who called herself a nerd and got an A in her math class, challenges the stereotypes of being a girl, but also a girl of color in an industry dominated by white men.

 

Unfortunately, for every well-developed female character, there are considerably more Lois Lanes and one-dimensional Bond girls. Furthermore, women of color and female background extras are still underrepresented in popular films. Despite all the terrific female characters who have appeared recently, there is still progress to be made.

Rey, Furiosa, Michelle and Tip are some of the greatest examples of female representation in recent mainstream cinema. Characters are characters, and their gender should not play a role in how they are written or perceived.

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Positive representation of women on the rise