WHAT MAKES A FEMINIST FILM FEMINIST?

LIAM EASLEY, TRUMPET ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR

It’s a sad reality that the art of film is so void of female filmmakers. According to USAToday, only 13% of all directors are female, which is a four percent increase since 1998, and only five percent of all cinematographers are female, which is an increase of one percent since 1998.

Despite these staggering statistics, feminism still leaks through the cracks of the male-led film industry, but these stories are often told from a subconsciously male perspective. A recent example of this is the 2020 thriller movie “I Care a Lot.” Most of the time, these films explore post-feminism. This is common among most romantic comedies, going back as early as Billy Wilder’s “Sabrina.”

Post-feminism portrayed in film only harms the image of feminism, as it assumes that gender equality has already been achieved. The message of post-feminist films is usually subconscious, as they typically portray women climbing to power by presenting themselves as more beautiful, which might (somehow) get them their dream job but it also lands them into the male gaze and obliterates their independence.

Ultimately, post-feminism tells young women that they need to be pretty to be successful, or at least achieve what society views as successful.

The main problem with films like “I Care a Lot” is that they act as if they’re special for having a female protagonist. Pretending like portraying strong female protagonist makes a film feminist actually defeats the purpose. It attempts to elevate femininity in an attempt to attract a commercial following, and once you realize this, it doesn’t seem to have a meaning any deeper than exploitation film.

Exploitation film and feminism get skewed with titles like “I Spit on Your Grave,” “Ms. 45,” “Revenge” or “Thriller: A Cruel Picture.” These movies might place a female protagonist on the more favorable side of a gun, but they also use images of rape, sexual assault and bloody gore to shock and attract audiences, thus exploiting femininity and violence for commercial gain.

So if these examples aren’t feminist, then when does feminist film truly promote the idea of feminism?

Feminism is a strive for gender equality, which places all genders on the same playing field. One reason there are fewer female filmmakers is because we live in a world where we are surrounded by male artists in every medium. Women weren’t able to explore music or physical arts (painting, sculpting, etc.) until the late 19th century. Even after that, not many women went into filmmaking because of social norms such as household duties and motherhood getting in the way.

Having so many male filmmakers made it look like a job reserved only for men, causing young women throughout history to fail to even consider filmmaking as an option. It didn’t matter that the first film director, Alice Guy-Blaché, was a woman – not one of her 430 short films or 25 feature films are known to the world. Her legacy was quickly snuffed out.

Observing that there are less female filmmakers because young women observe more men in the position, this same psychology can be used to promote female presence in film. When it comes to portraying a strong female protagonist, just portray her character as it is.

At the end of the day, giving female characters the same treatment as male characters makes them look normal. Pointing at them in awe might seem like a good move, but it only makes it look less normal. If it truly was normal, no one would bat an eye. The same goes for female filmmakers. Once female directors become normal, young women will be more likely to see the career as attainable. Making female filmmakers normal alongside their male colleagues will emphasize their natural equality.

According to Eugene Civic Alliance, in their article about increasing women’s participation in athletics, they mention some universal truths about increasing female presence in other male-dominated careers as well.

“Help girls recognize that athleticism and femininity are not mutually exclusive and that sweat, hard work and strength are not solely masculine realms,” the article stated.

We should be showing young women that female filmmakers exist and that they can make movies just as well as men can. A great example of this is Chloé Zhao, who recently was the second female director to ever win a Golden Globe for her film “Nomadland.” Even if they don’t win awards, knowing that a good film was directed by a woman has just the same impact.

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