Scrolling through Facebook, I came across this link that has gotten a lot of attention:
The link is a video summarizing 2013 in terms of female representation of media. The video starts out with positive representation such as the success of “Catching Fire” with a female protagonist and the popularity “Orange is The New Black,” a Netflix original series with an almost entire female cast. Even with these and many other accomplishments the past year, the video went on to give examples of what still needs to change in terms of female representation.
It amazes me to hear politicians and people we are supposed to look up to talking to women in such derogatory ways.
Novels like “The Hunger Games” and television shows like “Orange is the New Black” exemplify how women do not have to fit the roles of over sexualization in media or fit into a stereotype. In the video, there is definitely an imbalance of how women has positively treated women versus negatively treated women. The positive portrayals of women are not as high in number as the negatives and mostly center around the entertainment industry whereas the negative portrayals talked about commercials, films, television shows, and real events.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog on how maybe one way to approach art is to take it away from its need to be representative of society and instead not force this representation. I still think this is a valuable perspective to have, especially when analyzing film and television, but representation in this sense is more of an example than a direct parallel. Most people don’t read “The Hunger Games” and say, “yes! Katniss represents the strong, independent woman.” Rather she is an example of a strong, independent woman.
By having lead female roles in films that don’t have them fit into a stereotype allows for perspective on what “a woman’s role” should be. In reality, there is no “should be” for any human being. While people often have parts of themselves that fit into stereotypes, everyone in just as many ways breaks out of this stereotype. So going back to my previous blog, obviously one character cannot be representative of an entire group of people. They’re not supposed to.
So when female characters are over-sexualized or thrown into a stereotype, while one way to describe them is misrepresentations, another way to describe them unrealistic examples. And yet they are high in number, especially when the female character is a supporting or smaller role. This is one of the reasons why “Orange is the New Black” was so positively received. The side female characters were just as well developed as the main one.
Side characters being underdeveloped is something that can be argued is common in male and female characters. Many even think Peeta in “The Hunger Games” is an underdeveloped character as he is more of a side character. While this is a common struggle among writers, there are more male protagonists than female protagonists, which leads to more underdeveloped female side characters. This is also why “Catching Fire” and “Gravity” made it into this video.
I found this video extremely interesting because it highlighted some key issues that we are still facing today. But I look forward to the day when seeing a well-developed female protagonist and a female role model on Time magazine is not so noteworthy because it is common. These characters, politicians, and people should not be highlighted for being female, but rather for what they did and do. The more well-developed and realistic examples, the better media will be at portraying and even representing women out of a stereotype or given “role.”
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