“I wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress…I wanted her to react humiliated.”
Ruffalo’s latest flick is one film I’ll be sitting out on.
This could be Disney’s boldest move yet.
There has been a lot of talk recently about the glaringly obvious differences between male and female protagonists in Hollywood films, made even more obvious by the distinct lack of female protagonists. All films nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards had a male main character. Not just any character either; they were heavy, quirky, complex, unique, context laden roles ranging from the beautifully historical (Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game) to the downright bizarre (Michael Keaton as Riggan Thompson in Birdman).
However, the fabulously talented women nominated for Best Actress had to be content with the serviceable but archetypical wife/mother/girlfriend/sexy murderess roles that seem to flood modern screenplay. In addition to this, the majority of supporting roles in all film and television are male, and are (again) many and varied in terms of age, shape and size, ethnicity, etc. Women are relegated to the ditzy college student, the ingénue, the pretty, late 20’s lawyer-type and the wise but cranky older lady. There is very little in between.
Hollywood has always been a bit of a boy’s club (hence the lack of female directors/producers), but the absence of the truly female story indicates that this is becoming more, not less, prevalent. The lives and thoughts of women are constantly revealed through a male lens. Whether the world of Hollywood realises it or not, the female experience is secondary to the tales of men. This is a terrible shame, because aside from the obvious gender (and therefore employment) inequality, women are really, REALLY interesting. Why wouldn’t viewers want to see a story filled with wonderful women? We’ve got our own way of thinking and our own unique yarns to spin.
This week, I had a long think about the issue and decided to ask a few of my female friends and colleagues what they specifically would like to see in a Hollywood heroine. What character traits would appeal to them and what do they relate to? Here, in a nutshell, is what women want to see on the big screen.
Heroine’s age: I guess anywhere between 20-35, mostly I think I like to watch characters around my own age so I can relate to them better.
Special skills/superpowers if any: Well I would love for my perfect heroine to be able to defend herself – so have a good knowledge of self-defence skills – maybe some cool Game of Thrones style fighting skills.
Ethnicity: Purely because I want to relate myself to this heroine; Caucasian.
Five words to describe her personality: Kind, loyal, quick-witted, generally intelligent (interested in the world around her), confident.
Financial status: Middle class – working towards making some of her own money – paying for things herself not having her rich kinky boyfriend called Christian Grey do everything for her.
Traditional name or original name (e.g. Elizabeth vs Meadow): Always for the original name. I like names that are different to everyone else.
Country of origin: I honestly don’t have much of a preference. It doesn’t bother me.
Bookish and reclusive or outdoorsy and outgoing: I think watching a character who is more bookish and reclusive learn to be more outdoorsy and outgoing would be great, possibly seeing someone who is quite shy coming into themselves and finding a healthy balance between the two.
General Thoughts: I think my perfect Hollywood heroine would have flaws. I don’t want to see someone absolutely perfect on screen and start to compare the inadequacies to myself, especially as I am a real life person; not a perfect, well rounded fictional character.
In terms of qualities in a perfect heroine though, I think I would like to see someone who is generally kind [and] always means well. Maturity that suits the age of the character (I hate nothing more than when the main character – who is an adult – starts to behave like a young teenager over something like a boy).
A lot of Hollywood is about romantic love/relationships. One of my favourite TV shows is Friends, because of the strong bond between those characters that really forms their own little family. I think the perfect heroine in Hollywood would have at least one good friend who she has a strong bond with and won’t discard once something/someone better comes along.
She should be witty; able to hold her own in a conversation, a bit like an Elizabeth Bennett against Mr Darcy!
Heroine’s age: 37
Sexuality: Maybe a lesbian, but it shouldn’t be the main thing. Like, she should just happen to go home and have dinner with her wife. Or husband. Gay or straight; it shouldn’t be what the movie is about.
Special skills/superpowers (if any): Sailing…and amazing chin-ups. Basically Sarah Connor.
Ethnicity: A real mix. A bit of everything, but not blonde with blue eyes. I had this teacher at school who taught me Latin and she was so beautiful. She had some Egyptian in her I think?
Five words to describe her personality: Capable, gritty, confident (like, Rebel Wilson confident), varied, adventurous.
Financial status: Has some money, but works hard for it (as in, if she’s super rich she should be a top investment banker; no mysterious money please).
Traditional name or original name: I’m a sucker for old names. Elizabeth, Jane, Mary, Kitty, Lydia…
Country of origin: Oooh… Australia! No, maybe Iran?
Bookish and reclusive or outdoorsy and outgoing: Outdoorsy. I’m so sick of the classic Hollywood girl who sits around designing or reading or writing or some other non-intrusive occupation all day and then a MAN has to come and bring her out into the world. Blah blah.
General thoughts: You didn’t ask about physical shape and size! I’d love someone who’s just normal looking, like a strong body that is beautiful but in a Sarah Connor/Jennifer Ehle from Pride and Prejudice/Emma Thompson. Like, not super sexualised. I miss the days when a woman like Julie Andrews was considered a star. I never saw a hint of boob or even a knee. Not that you SHOULDN’T show your boobs or legs or any of it, but it shouldn’t be why she’s cast.
Heroine’s age: 25
Special skills/superpowers: Super strength. Mind reading.
Ethnicity: Hmm. Any really! There’s an appeal to all.
Five words to describe her personality: Strong, funny, empathetic, determined, just.
Financial status: Middle class.
Traditional name or original name: Original name.
Country of origin: Again, there’s an appeal to any!
Bookish and reclusive or outdoorsy and outgoing: Book smart but fit. Perhaps was neither of these things and worked hard at both.
General thoughts: I just find an appeal to someone incredibly average doing extraordinary things and a woman being powerful without the end goal being a man.
Heroine’s age: 20
Five words to describe her personality: Feminine, witty, clever, dreamer, romantic.
Financial status: Lower-middle class.
Traditional name or original name: Traditional name.
Country of origin: America
Bookish and reclusive or outdoorsy and outgoing: Outdoorsy
General thoughts: Confident but not 100 per cent sure of herself. She’d be in fine form but with curves!
Heroine’s age: Not too young. I think you want a woman who you can tell has experiences under her belt and is confident enough in herself to look the world in the face.
Sexuality: I don’t think in any way this should be a focus of a film and as such I don’t have a real preference for sexual orientation. However, I have often found that some of the women most accessible while still being confident and strong don’t necessarily place a label on their sexuality but are open to just accepting their love for whoever they find themselves in love with at the time (regardless of their partner’s biological sex).
Special skills/superpowers: I love intelligent characters who you can tell are bountiful in wisdom and don’t flaunt this over others but are patient , kind and understanding while still being strong enough to stand up for their opinions, those they love and themselves. These may not seem like extraordinary traits but too often in films women must be either intelligent OR loving OR strong. When she is able to have several of these traits rolled into one, that is when she is given the depth and complexity that a main character should have, and in a way, I see this as a superpower in its own right. I also love a bit of kick ass skills, witty banter, sass etc and an athletic protagonist.
Ethnicity: I wouldn’t have any problem with a Caucasian protagonist, especially because they are most likely to be relatable to my own circumstances. However Latino, African, African American, British African, Spanish, Mediterranean, Egyptian, any ethnicity really would be really cool to see. To have a non-Caucasian woman in a leading role that women can be proud of would be awesome because it reaches out to everyone in a completely different way eg. Lupita Nyong’o or Zoe Saldana would both be incredible.
Five words to describe her personality: Quirky, witty, confident, loving, multifaceted.
Financial status: Doesn’t matter as long as they work hard for their money. A character who works hard for what they have is more accessible for audiences because we get to see a bit of our daily struggles in that character. And if they can be strong, in both the good and bad times, working towards a worthy goal then why not us too?
Traditional name or original name: I absolutely love traditional names and they would be my first choice for any character I write about, but I think the name has to match the character’s attributes (if they’re quirky or stern etc.) and ethnicity of the character. I feel that if a character of a particular ethnic background is the lead then why not give them a name (and indeed experience in the film) that reflects their unique cultural heritage.
Country of origin: No preference.
Bookish and reclusive or outdoorsy and outgoing: I love a character that is intelligent and has a deep respect for learning but why should this mean they can’t also have a love for the outdoors and a deep-seeded belief in themselves that makes them strong and outgoing?
General thoughts: A woman who doesn’t have to be a sex symbol in every seen, who doesn’t have to look like a model. To see a female protagonist’s beauty come from her strength, intelligence, moments of doubt, protectiveness, sense of self-worth is a far greater beauty than looks alone and speaks volumes to audiences. Come on, Hollywood; listen up!
Image via Izismile.com
Everybody is on the hunt for young up-and-comers and here at SHESAID we have been lucky enough to meet a selection of them. These ladies are on the road to success and generating waves within their chosen field. Whether they be creatives, sporting talent, founders of start-ups or someone striving to make a real difference, these young women are definitely ‘Ones to Watch’.
Who knew that at someone so young could make such an impact? We certainly didn’t, at least that was until we meet Genevieve Clay-Smith. Back in 2009 along with a small but driven team, Genevieve created the short film, Be My Brother, whose protagonist and film crew included Australians from marginalised backgrounds. After the film won first prize and best actor at Tropfest, Genevieve took the initiative to create her own organisation – Bus Stop Films. The pioneering organisation is providing people from all walks of life with the opportunity to become involved with the film industry. So it comes as no surprise that Genevieve’s hard work is being recognised with multiple accolades to her name. This week, we managed to find a spare moment in her busy schedule and see what she’s been up to.
Tell us a bit about you. Where are you from? What do you do?
I am the co-founder and co-owner of a creative agency, Taste Creative, I also voluntarily run a not-for-profit organisation, Bus Stop Films and I am a filmmaker too! So I wear a few hats and have a very hybrid career across business ownership, creative leadership and social entrepreneurship.
When did you discover your talent? What made you want to follow it into a career?
It all started with wanting to be involved in the film industry. Originally I was working towards becoming an actress but at university I discovered I actually had a knack for getting projects started, and making films. While I was at uni I got a job as a trainee filmmaker working on a documentary for Down Syndrome NSW, where I discovered that film could champion positive social change and I was very attracted to the idea that something I make could change and impact society.
Your success at Tropfest in 2009, lead you to found Bus Stop Films. What inspired you to create the film, Be My Brother?
Gerard O’Dwyer was the inspiration behind Be My Brother. He was one of the participants with Down Syndrome in the documentary I was making and he wanted to be an actor. Although he was full of talent and ambition, he’d never had the opportunity to study at a mainstream acting school and get opportunities other young actors might get. So I began questioning, who was going to see him, who was going to help him achieve his goal of acting? And then, a bright idea entered my heart – I call it my miracle moment, and the thought was “why don’t I make a film?”
And so on no budget, with limited resources, I did just that. And on this journey of making a short film starring Gerard, I was ethically driven to also include other young people with disabilities in helping to make the film too. I believed the process of making the film, was just as important as the end result. I wanted to give others the opportunity to learn. So I held a filmmaking workshop for five people with disabilities in a friends lounge room, who then fulfilled crew roles on the film.
What makes Bus Stop Films unique to other organisations?
We heavily focus on engagement with the professional film industry. We focus on using film education to up skill people’s English and literacy skills as well as personal development skills – learning how to be on time and grow self esteem. We teach film theory as well as practical filmmaking and because people are interested and passionate about the topic they step up to my expectations. When I make a film with my students I hold them to the same standards and expectations that I would have of anyone else working on set. It’s quite military. But in having high standards, you show a person that you believe in them and that you respect them, you also give them the opportunity to achieve something, they might never have thought they could.
What have been the stumbling blocks for you, initially getting started and since then? How did you resolve these?
When you think you’ve fixed one problem another one arises, and when you have finally achieved something, it’s all about what’s next. Bus Stop has achieved a lot and created some incredible social impact, but the next step for it now, is how to make it sustainable, and how to give more people access to our program. I am currently working with some amazing people who are supporting me through working out what Bus Stop 2.0 will look like! When I started Bus Stop with my Co-founder Eleanor, I simply tried to connect with as many people as possible who knew more than me, and the Foundation for Young Australians was also a wonderful support which helped me through the very beginning of setting up.
What drives/motivates you to keep going?
I know that our filmmaking program and the films we produce have an impact, and I want more people to gain access to what we’ve developed. I get fan mail every week from people all over the world saying “thank you”. And that is a big driver. I am also very passionate about education, I love teaching people and seeing them grow, I love how sharing my knowledge and passion for film can help a person develop and grow confidence. It’s magic.
Bus Stop Films is now 6 years old, congratulations! How has the organization evolved over the years?
We’ve gone from just making films with people with a disability, to realising that what we’re doing can help other people, like members of the refugee community and CALD communities. It’s all about helping people up-skill through studying a subject of interest, like film. As humans, we all love story telling, we do it everyday, we re-tell stories, we read stories and we watch films. What we do at Bus Stop, can help other people who might need help with English skills, and personal development and also, we can help those who just want to learn more about the industry. Also as my creative agency, Taste Creative has grown we’ve been able to work out pathways for my Bus Stop students to gain work experience and employment on some of our sets.
Your work has brought you some serious recognition, being named 2015 Youth of the Year and winning the Young Leader category of Westpac’s 100 Women of Influence. How has this affected you and your work?
Honestly, it’s been wonderful to get a pat on the back, Bus Stop is voluntarily run on the side of my other work with Taste Creative and I do it for the love of it, so recognition like that simply helps me to keep going and makes me determined to get our program and films out to as many people as possible. I feel like I found something important and impacting and I need to steward it well and ensure that it can reach and help people more broadly.
As a creative, what inspires you?
I love other entrepreneurial stories, I’m very inspired by my friends at Thank You Group and also watching films and reading books inspire me. Even going for walks can help to clear my mind and bring new ideas into my head!
What are your plans for the future and the future of Bus Stop Films?
At Bus Stop we are going on a journey to explore and discover how to impact more people more broadly. We are looking at developing a new business model that will allow it to operate without me, which is very important for any organisation – the exit plan for the founders. I have discovered, only recently, that I am not scalable! The way I teach my workshops and engage with people is unique to my personality and me and can’t be replicated, so the question for us is, how to we give more people access to our program without me? We are looking at how I will set the culture and tone of our program but then ensure we can make it accessible for a wide range of people. It’s an exciting adventure because it means I am taking our impact to the next level and hopefully will help more people at a larger scale than what our current capacity is.
What advice would you give to somebody hoping to follow the same path as you?
Anyone who has an idea to do something, should jump off the deep end and give it ago – find mentors, find like minded people and just start! You might have to make some sacrifices but that’s the price of taking a risk. Also don’t expect it to be easy – if you think it will be easy you’re dreaming, and if you fail – that’s not an excuse to give up, failure is a part of growing and learning, just read Walt Disney’s story and you will be inspired not to let failure dictate your future decisions!
To see more about what Genevieve and her team get up to, head to http://www.busstopfilms.com.au/
Unbelievably, it has been 10 years since the release of the cult movie Mean Girls. This film was to the early-2000s what Clueless was to the ’90s. It was a mega hit and “so fetch” at the time and its success took most people by surprise, including Tina Fey. Her adaptation of the book Queen Bees and Wannabes was dark in its humour but was relatable to so many women, and particularly girls aged between 13 and 20.
Besides highlighting the high school experience in such a funny way, the movie is one of the most quotable films ever. Here is my top ten:
- “He’s too gay to function.”
- “That’s why her hair is so big. It’s full of secrets.”
- “Irregardless! Ex-boyfriends are just off limits to friends. I mean, that’s just like, the rules of feminism!”
- “I don’t hate you ‘cause your fat. You’re fat ‘cause I hate you!”
- “You smell like a baby prostitute.”
- “I’m sorry I called you a gap-toothed bitch. It’s not your fault you’re so gap-toothed.”
- “If you’re from Africa, why are you white?”
- “On Wednesdays, we wear pink.”
- “One time, she punched me in the face. It was awesome.”
- “It’s like I have ESPN or something. My breasts can always tell when it’s going to rain. Well… they can tell when it’s raining.”
Did you know? Lindsay Lohan originally auditioned to play Regina and Rachel McAdams wanted to be Cady. Wow, wouldn’t that have made for a very different movie?!