“What do you think about the increase of women we’ve been seeing in movies?”
A friend of mine asked me this the other day. I’ve had other men besides him ask me questions along these lines, and I’ve always responded defensively. But this time, I knew his question came from a genuine interest in my opinion.
I answered with another question: “When have we ever had a problem with male protagonists?”
Yes, there has been a rise in female protagonists in TV shows and movies. It’s incredible. But why has it sparked so much controversy?
I thought back to the movies that have sparked the most debate in regards to female protagonists: Star Wars and Wonder Woman.
On the critic website Rotten Tomatoes, the current top five box office movies are The Maze Runner: The Death Cure, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Hostiles, The Greatest Showman and The Post.
Not a single one of those movies passes the Bechdel test — a test which uses three criteria: the movie has at least two named women in it, they talk to each other and talk about something besides a man.
I’m not here to ban every movie that doesn’t pass the Bechdel test. If that were the case, I would be banning my all-time favorite trilogy, Lord of the Rings, which certainly doesn’t pass the test.
I’m here to say a woman coming onto our screens to serve as something other than a love interest shouldn’t be sparking political debates, and asking for more female protagonists does not amount to asking for fewer male protagonists.
I’m here to say feminism is not — nor should it be — a threat to masculinity.
We need contributions from both men and women to make this world go round. Both contributions should be recognized and celebrated on the big screens.
The first time I saw Wonder Woman, I cried within the first 10 minutes. I had no idea how impactful it would be to see the women in that movie fighting against evil and standing for love and goodness. I didn’t realize that was so important until I realized what I had been missing my whole life.
Another friend of mine rolls his eyes any time I mention Wonder Woman. He says he has “nothing against women,” he just thinks “creating a woman superhero is an annoying political statement.”
Aside from the obvious argument that Wonder Woman has been around since the 1940s, let’s look at the stats: Since the first superhero movie in 1937, there have been more than 100 superheroes starring in their own movies — not including all the superhero TV series. In the past decade, they have only gained momentum, and we don’t see it slowing down anytime soon. Of those, we have three movies dedicated to our heroines: Catwoman, Elektra and Wonder Woman.
Mrs. Incredible said it best: “Girls, come on. Leave the saving of the world to the men? I don’t think so.”
According to the World Health Organization, the average man-to-woman ratio in the world is 105-to-100. Shouldn’t representation in movies equal that?
The desire to see someone like me portraying a superhero is not a political statement. It is equality.
I have always used the word “feminism” apprehensively. I always sweep the room with my eyes to make sure I’m not offending anyone, and my shoulders tense every time I see someone open their mouth to argue. That “f-word” is treated like a crude swear word.
I am fully aware of the negative connotations that word carries, which is one reason I use it so infrequently. But I am learning not to be afraid of using it. After all, it means nothing more than a desire for equality. It is not a threat to masculinity as many might think. One female superhero does not invalidate my love for Spider-Man, Captain America or Thor. My love for Rey in Star Wars doesn’t make me love Luke, Han or Obi-Wan any less.
Womanhood can be acknowledged without having to bring down manhood. We can all walk this earth together without having to put one another down.
We can represent humanity without making it political.
We can have heroes and heroines without sacrificing one for the other.