A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA


A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA


A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA


She’s Always a Strong, Independent Woman

Could the push for feminism be turning Hollywood into its own femme fatale?
Graphic by Natalie/SAC.Media

There once was a time when being described as a strong, independent woman who doesn’t need a man meant something in movies.

Prior to the last decade, the two roles women could get in film and television could be summarized as such: the meek and mild, or an object of sex. Men walked around in suits, women served them coffee, and occasionally, a damsel was in distress. This meant that for a woman to be cast into a leading role, playing a character just as bold as the average man on the silver screen, was mind-blowing. That is, until recently.

Of course, we can’t forget classics like “Alien” and “The Terminator” giving us two of the most kick-ass female leads we still know and love today. Recently, though, there has been a sudden spike in movies following their footsteps. From “The Hunger Games” in 2012 to “Captain Marvel” in 2019, the film industry has fallen in love with female leads. In the last few years alone, there has been a significant number of times a spotlight is shined down on two archetypes in particular: the strong, independent woman and the mother. Sometimes in movies such as “Birdbox,” we even see a bit of both.

Another trend I noticed was the amount of male roles being changed out for females. I used to roll my eyes whenever I heard someone whine and groan about the fact that the “Ghostbusters” reboot would feature a team of women. Now, I’m starting to understand their shock and confusion as the male characters I grew up with get swapped out as well. For example, in “Doctor Who,” the newest regeneration of its main protagonist, The Doctor, caused an uproar within the fandom after it was announced that he would now be female. The two most recent instances of this trend continuing, though, is the introduction of Lady Thor into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the rumors of the next James Bond being a woman. Yes, Lady Thor is an established character in the comics, and these rumors haven’t even been confirmed, but I still don’t feel particularly excited about either of them being on the big screen. Maybe Gabriel Gundacker was right three years ago, when he jokingly said on Vine, “The feminists are taking over!”

So why is it that, even as a feminist, I’m losing interest in the whole “I can do this just as well as a man” plot? I was able to narrow it down to two simple reasons: It’s overdone, and it’s a lie. I’m sick of hearing the “I’m not some little girl” female empowerment lines. I’m tired of the tough girl team-ups. The tropes of “we’re strong women” and “you’re a stupid man” is getting old. I am especially annoyed whenever I see a movie trying to preach feminism when what I get is a flipped version of gender inequality.

Being a feminist used to mean supporting equality between both men and women. However, what I’m seeing in theaters now is men slowing down and women stepping onto the exact same pedestals, but with a little more fanfare because they’re seen stepping on misogyny and the patriarchy on the way up. If a male character that puts down women in skimpy outfits disgusts me, why shouldn’t a female character showing her superior, violent femininity over dumbed down men garner the same reaction? Why should this be considered a step in the right direction?

In an era when superheroes are used to reflect on these issues, out of the 23 Marvel Cinematic Universe and seven DC Extended Universe Movies currently released, I found four movies touching on the theme of rising feminism. In “Wonder Woman” and “Captain Marvel,” I saw one movie with a strong feminist icon and one movie with a forced feminist icon. In “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Endgame,” I saw one movie that showed the equality feminists should be cheering for and one movie that drove a stake into the existing divide.

With “Wonder Woman,” we had a female protagonist literally being thrown into a man’s world without having any experience with the opposite gender. She pointed out the strange ways society differentiates between men and women from how we act to how we dress. In fact, one aspect of the film’s creation I appreciate the most is the costume department’s attention to detail when making Amazonian armor both feminine and functional for battle. When it came down to her character, though, she wasn’t really portrayed as a strong woman making it in a world dominated by men. She was a warrior walking onto the battlefield to fight for the end of a long, devastating war. To her, being unyielding and getting into the fight without fear wasn’t a trait generally meant for men or something that made women powerful. It was something she was simply raised to be. There were even moments where she displayed much more “girly” traits such as cooing over a baby, but this just showed that she could be a woman just as much as she could be a warrior, and it’s that kind of characterization that I find completely iconic.

Two years later, moviegoers are given a new superpowered female lead in “Captain Marvel.” It could easily be said that “Wonder Woman” raised the bar when it came to my expectations, and I wouldn’t be able to deny it. It’s likely what influenced my opinion when I say that I don’t think Carol Danvers was presented well as a representative for modern feminism. We got a transformation montage of seeing her always stand up to misogyny and a motorcycle theft scene that generated countless infuriated tweets and critical Tumblr posts. The fact that she was a woman who won’t be pushed around and won’t stand to be called weak was thrusted into the view of the audience so often that it nearly overran the plot, despite it having nearly nothing to do with the story. It was the kind of feminism that tattooed the words, “Yeah, I’m a woman. No, I won’t smile for you. Deal with it.” onto your eyelids when all you really wanted was a superhero origin movie with a strong lead.

Outside of representation, there’s also the matter of background feminism. When it comes to praising the movie “Black Panther,” I think a lot of people overlook how it presented a fantastic example of gender equality without the need for a female lead. During T’Challa’s coronation scene, M’Baku criticizes how the nation’s “technological advancements have been overseen by a child.” It was the perfect opportunity to fit in the words “little girl” as many screenwriters have in the past, yet instead, they used her age as a sign of weakness. In the final battle, we see an army of females and an army of males clash and match each other when it comes to intensity. Even when M’Baku brings his own army into the fray, we can see both female and male warriors on the field, and no one is treated weaker or stronger. It’s all very subtle, and it adds a level of excellence to the work without being asked.

Meanwhile, the final battle of “Avengers: Endgame” featured a quick team-up that has received both a lot of praise and a lot of criticism. In the midst of all the fighting, we see a ton of strong heroines join together like their own team of female-only Avengers. One question that came to mind while talking with some other film enthusiasts that found an issue with this scene, was, “Why did they have to be isolated?” What made this group so significant when they could have just mixed everyone together completely to defeat the big bad? The answer is that it was simply another way for the movie to say, “Hey, we love strong women and now we have a ton of them!” In reality, it comes across as a hollow attempt to curry favor with the audience. A lot of upcoming superhero movies have been leaning toward featuring a variety of strong women, and I fear that one day, every film I see will have a single character archetype leading the way: the strong, independent woman.

From the moment I became a feminist, I have argued to just treat people like people. So when I see a “feminist movie,” I don’t want to be suffocated with messages of female empowerment and calls to end the patriarchy. I want to see how a character’s gender does not affect the value of their strength. I want to see my favorite characters, regardless of gender, age, race, religion or orientation to stand strong simply because that’s who they are, and that’s all they will ever need to be.

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