During my childhood, I saw the expectations in cinematic roles change between both males and females. In modern society, women have come a long way, generally being seen as free equal members of society. The cinematic field has come far in featuring women as these independent, important members of society just as expectation would have it. Many people who have grown up watching television or film before our contemporary society would have the expectation of a man saving, destroying, and or monitoring (keeping the peace) a fictional world. Both movies and televisions shows are directed by both genders. It would seem as though equality in modern day cinema would be there. Shockingly enough, society today is still evermore growing and changing their expectations and beliefs. Women are now being displayed more and more, but it is a work in progress. As a movie goer and a fan of many shows, seeing female heroes has become one of my favorite aspects of film because I am able to see more variation within the roles of gender in film. Since the element of female heroes has been introduced, audiences have a greater appreciation for the variation within film and TV.
Particularly the way women are now being portrayed is quite fascinating. People may be used to seeing male heroes, but heroines are on the rise. The situations of roles they are placed into have become of more importance, thus their work is cut out for them. Women are now being given roles other than the expected ones. Roles that have more depth. “As portrayals of heroic women gain ground in film, television, and other media, their depictions are breaking free of females as versions of male heroes or simple stereotypes of acutely weak or overly strong women” (Avery, Carol A.; Bajac-Carter, Maja; and Batchelor, Bob). Many women are given the roles of female characters that are positively complex, more to them than just what a reader or movie goer can observe on the surface. These complicated characters give and make viewers think past the perception of expectation and deeper into the equal decision making process of an actual human being.
In many fantasy fiction films, the audience watches the hero become who they are and learn of why they are who they are. Today, roles for heroines ensure a variety of just that. I love that I can see more background stories, it’s absolutely interesting when it comes to both genders. Women are given many supernatural or natural situations in which their destiny leads them down a road of leadership, thus becoming a heroine. The many background stories are completely original. Many of these works include recent trilogies such as The Hunger Games, Divergent, The 100, Reign, Underworld, both the volume set and TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They all have creations of worlds in which the heroine is completely the saver, overseer (peacemaker or watcher), leader, and or warrior of her world. She is capable of determining and creating justice or security for the greater good. You do not need a male to constantly save the world for the world to get back to normal. “Characters like Katniss Everdeen are changing girlhood and challenging tired stereotypes by not waiting for some guy to save the day: They’re saving themselves and their worlds, too. Yet Katniss, her screen sisters and the industry have a very long way to go” (SCOTT and DARGIS).
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These heroines carry on the same role as their opposite gender. They are often left with the burden carried by their leadership. I love this controversial idea of humanity. Often both female and male characters are led down this decision-making path and question their own humanity. It often seems as if a hero’s role comes with the burden of selflessness. The hero begins to feel for everyone they surround including the people they can save and those who are unfortunately not saved. I like that I can still feel for the female who carries this burden, and not look at it any other way. It is not weird, awkward or falsely done. When these emotions are occurring on screen the imagination and depth take over in the heart of audiences who can visualize it. A females’ character is as strong, courageous, honorable and lovable as any male’s, creating substance and meaning within her fictional world. My favorite television examples are the series Buffy the Vampire slayer and The 100. My favorite movie examples are Carrie (I loved the 2013 version, but the 1976 is the classic) and Underworld. These character roles were emotionally complex and suffered from fates much larger than themselves. A warrior chosen in her generation, she is the chosen one in the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 100 juvenile prisoners are sent back to the earth to test its habitability; one girl takes charge in the TV series The 100. An innocent, pure, talented girl is raised by a religious Zealot is bullied until one fateful night in the film Carrie.
The interesting motivation, need, and idea of heroines changing their situations within their own unique feature films does not only offer the audience a different perspective in the abilities for females, but also gives way for future meaningful heroes that girls and women can look up to and be inspired by. Film has the incredible way of making it so that it is the audience who escapes their reality, and if we can do that for both men and women, that would not only be equal, inspirational, and fair but a change for the better. Growing up in the late 90’s through early 2000’s, a girl such as myself, grew up watching a wide selection of Disney movies (both Disney classics and originals). I sought out inspiration and comparability no matter what. I always wanted to be like the characters I saw. As I got older, I was able to appreciate films other than just Disney and Pixar titles. I was introduced to a wide variety of film in different genres that had diverse heroines and it made a…huge…difference.
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There are ordinary heroines who are also making a difference within the variation of television and film content today. These common heroes are keeping nontraditional, unconventional storytelling popular. Examples of unconventional films with ordinary heroes are: The help, Gravity, Flightplan and Disney warrior movies such as Brave and Mulan. In a nontraditional sense, these movies are examples that women can make a big difference in both the magical, fictionalized world and the tangible, current one we live in by staying within the contemporary universal scope of themed values we live by. This brings me to the point that women don’t need superpowers or magic to make an impact, be significant, or be heroic. Women have really proven their ability to embrace both simplistic and complex roles that they are given to them in both television and film.
Some may say that the effect of advertisements, films, television, music videos, and video games portray women in the wrong light in respect to our current society, but I somewhat disagree. According to the Scientific American, “Superhero movies and other forms of entertainment, which are often viewed as a temporary escape from reality, may in fact be shaping our realities in ways that are more harmful than heroic” (May). Based on the study the authors found that entertainment media in contemporary society can affect gender role expectations, cultural standards, personal perceptions and attitudes in a negative way. While I do think that the authors made an extraordinary approach to the issue I believe other wise. We gain ideas, understanding, imagination, and experience from the tangible world in which we live in. The point in which this article is making about the temporary escape from reality actually being harmful for us can be countered. We need the temporary escape from our very short, busy, hard lives. If anything the media portrays our attitudes towards one another. The only way I see it as harmful is to place blame on the very medium we contribute to.
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As a culture, I believe that people tend to go with what they perceive, overhear, and believe about how things are. This kind of variation results in subjective televised, broadcasted, and aired cultural norms. Are all of our cultural norms right? I don’t believe so in the least bit, nevertheless perspectives are learned, and observed anyways. I believe that this distraction can also be the best thing for us, depending on the temporary escape. I do not believe that it necessarily should be gender based. If you think about it, fictional heroes like Thor, Spider Man, Captain America and many other heroes are pretty much all stereotypically the “preferred” unrealistic body shape or size, so how much different is it for a heroine running to save the world in her heels with the preferred body “physique?” They are both biased examples. The problem lies in the societal expectation and the overall taught mentality.
In my opinion, we have come along way in airing diverse, unconventional content which is a huge plus however, the expectation and mentality of the variation we include within our broadcasted media is still changing. We are now beginning to show gender queer relationships in various shows like Orange is the new black, Greys anatomy, and The 100. Many shows lack diversity as far as relationships are displayed.
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The matter of the fact is that entertainment media is supposed to be a temporary escape from the world we live in, and we can only let it harm us by what we allow to go on within the tangible world we live in. There are certain things we will never be able to do such as fly, or have the strength to move a city, and we all have that understanding, nevertheless the fictional world does not limit either gender to do so within film. With that being said, if we do not limit variation of both genders to participate within what we broadcast, which adds to our entertainment we are not only being fair, but we are taking a step in the right direction. We can fix the mentality of society’s expectation by including variation within roles and creating a balanced way of thinking. For example, Grey’s Anatomy. It’s a series which portrays an equal representation of gender and sexuality.
Thinking past cultural standards and personal perceptions, we can agree that the tangible world we live in limits our nonfictional lives. In film, we set the limits in what happens throughout the duration. Heroines like heroes are given the responsibility to save people from what they can not control. The gender related issues that have impacted the variation of women’s roles within film have somewhat dissipated which has left audiences wanting more information and having more interests in what women can bring to the screen story related. According to the Vulture List, “Over the nearly 50 years’ worth of TV and movies covered here, female superheroes have fought an ongoing battle against one-dimensional representation, lack of backstory, underdeveloped personae, and relegation to eye-candy status. As women have knocked down barrier after barrier (both literally and figuratively), they’ve kicked the damsel-in-distress label to the curb in favor of more complex portrayals” (Leeds). We gain sympathy and personal attachment for what these women do, not so much what they look like. Their character is important personality wise, and that adds a big factor into our caring about them, as well as the community built around their character.
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Personally, I am able to see the humanity within the heroic character that a woman is portraying very well. Heroines can gain the same amount of emotional attachment from audiences as a hero can, not only through a variation of plots, but in character portrayal, that’s why heroines should be given the credit they deserve no matter their gender, racial, and sexual differences. Heroines are not only radiating with meaning but they are affecting audiences by showing women and girls that they too are represented well.
Leeds, Sarene (November 2015). The 25 Best Onscreen Female Superheroes: Vulture Lists. Retrieved from http://www.vulture.com/2015/11/25-best-female-superheroes-onscreen.html#
May, Cindi (June 2015). The Problem with Female Superheroes: Scientific American. A division of Nature America, INC. Retrieved from
Savery, Carol A.; Bajac-Carter, Maja; and Batchelor, Bob (2014). Heroines of Film and Television: Portrayals in Popular Culture. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.kent.edu/facultybooks/38