“Women don’t buy movies. That’s why the film industry caters to men.”
Although I hate to admit it, my fiancé is right. Men are typically the ones willing to pay upwards of $40 a pop for the newest Blu-Ray releases. Women tend to only buy movies we really love and will watch more than once in order to get our money’s worth. Men like my fiancé on the other hand, will buy a new release, watch it once, and add it to their ever-expanding collection of Marky Mark movies and hackneyed, apish, action/adventure flicks. Women tend to be smarter consumers when it comes to entertainment.
I love a good chick flick. Growing up with girl power classics like Clueless, Legally Blonde and Mean Girls, I happen to own them all. But I only own about 20 movies (most of which belong to the rom-com genre) as opposed to my fiance’s collection of literally hundreds of action/adventure movies. And I’m good with that. Because there’s no way I have the time (nor the desire) to watch any of those movies more than once.
What I’m not okay with, however, is the dearth of chick flicks or even gender-neutral flicks in theaters on any given day. It’s no different in the new release DVD/Blu-Ray section of any major retailer. If you’re a woman who’s over the whole male-dominated, testosterone-fueled, violent action/adventure thing, you don’t have a whole lot of options. Date night? Look forward to being subjected to yet another mind-numbingly dumb and overly violent action movie. There are few other options at the movie theater lately. Because men rule the movie market. Filmmakers typically aren’t concerned with appealing to women’s tastes simply because we are not their target sales demographic.
Men are the primary consumers of all things relating to electronic entertainment. Once in a while, they pick up an obvious chick flick to pacify their wives or girlfriends. For every ten Blu-Rays my fiancé buys, he might buy one chick flick or non-gendered film that suits my viewing sensibilities. And he does it simply to appease me, promptly falling asleep once he realizes it doesn’t feature any special effects, fight scenes or explosions to compel his interest. Needless to say, any movie I’m interested in, I end up finishing by myself. Yet I’ve had to endure countless action/adventure flicks simply because they’re impossible to sleep through with all the loud explosions and bright flashes to stimulate the nervous system, keeping me wide awake, on edge and unable to sleep for hours later from the disturbing images clouding my mind.
Another thing I take issue with is the way women are portrayed in these male-dominated films. They are either the token stereotypical damsel-in-distress figure, the sex object, or often, a combination of both. There is little room for the strong, empowered, female heroine in contemporary film. If a woman is too strong of a character, then she is typically portrayed as the bitch, which is the third type of female character we see depicted — or should I say vilified — in these movies. Never mind the fact that in real life women are complex beings capable of mastering a multitude of different societal roles (often simultaneously!) from motherhood to corporate America to extreme sports and serving in the military alongside the men glorified in many of these films.
Although I studied war films as an undergrad, I don’t gravitate toward them. In fact I tend to avoid them whenever possible. I personally utilize movies as a form of entertainment and escapism and often seek out love stories, comedies and independent films that offer a unique take on the human experience. We see enough violence occurring in real life on the news everyday. When I watch a movie I want to escape from all that and be reminded that there’s still good in the world, even if it is scripted.
So how can we collectively ensure that the film industry starts making a shift to portray women more accurately in film when men are still the primary purveyors and consumers of movies? Simple. Stop watching these sexist action films with your significant other. Don’t go to the movies if that’s all that’s playing. Don’t participate in viewing them. Instead, actively seek to support women in film. Female directors and independent films often (but not always) more accurately showcase women as real human beings worthy of being represented and catered to in a market that almost exclusively caters to men. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, set out to make movies of your own that dispel these gendered stereotypes. There are dozens of local film festivals in every city around the US. If you have the time, knowledge and inspiration, make your voice and vision heard. And strive to depict female characters with the depth and breadth of character we deserve.