The Cinema Uses Their Platform to Further Objectify Women

Jenni Young, Staff Writer

It is no secret that society still struggles with truly respecting and representing women in an impactful and realistic way. Several corporations continue to fight against the gender norms and stereotypes that have been reinforced for generations, but many still fall short. The movie industry has been scrutinized for their lack of positive female representation in the past, but as more directors have put out female-centric movies that display women in powerful positions, the industry seems to be let off the hook. However, there still remains a problem in the way that these women are so popularly represented, due to the fact that they hold unrealistic expectations for a majority of women. Until more people become aware of the scale of this issue, it will be harder to influence the cinematic business and make genuine progress. 

Entertainment journalist Marina Fang delves into some of the complexities of this topic by referencing a study done by a group founded by actor Geena Davis. The study found that “women portrayed in leadership positions were more likely to [be] depicted as sexual objects…compared with their male counterparts, representing how movies are often told from the ‘male gaze’…Female leaders were more than four times as likely ‘to be shown wearing revealing clothing.’” This statistic should be no surprise to anyone who has seen Catwoman, Black Widow, or Wonder Woman. When discussing Wonder Woman’s tight and revealing costume, supermodel Cara Delevingne exclaimed to Empire Magazine,“How does she fight like that? She would be dead in a minute.” While many view the influx of women superheroes as a pro-equality movement, several fail to recognize the objectification toward women that this movement promotes. This portrayal in the media is no accident. Several renowned actresses have shared how they have been pressured to depict specific beauty standards in a variety of acting gigs. In a piece for the Hollywood Reporter in 2015, renowned actress Gina Rodriguez shares an appaling audition experience that illustrates the corrupt truth of this problem in Hollywood. She says, “I was up for a role and auditioned in character…They were like, ‘We love her, but can she come back in with a tight black dress?’ I said, ‘That doesn’t make any sense for the character.’ They were like, ‘We need to know if you’re pretty enough to be on the cover of a magazine.” Women face enough unrealistic beauty standards in everyday life as is, yet Hollywood has no hesitation to further promote these harmful stereotypes. Female characters in film should be expressed for the depth of their personality and not for their perceived beauty. The unhealthy behaviors that the media promotes when every powerful woman protagonist is perfectly thin, strong, beautiful, and coldhearted is a truly appalling and unethical issue. Until the movie industry addresses this problem, society cannot expect sexism to crumble. 

Now, because this issue is quite broad, it cannot be expected to be fixed overnight, but what steps can be done to promote healthier representation of women in film? For starters, the film industry can start hiring more women as directors and producers. This will leave portrayal choices up to individuals that have a personal understanding of what true female representation looks like. Secondly, actresses can refuse to sway to corrupt demands. As for the rest of us, we can choose wisely to support films that strive for authentic representation.  Disney has made two new cinematic pieces that exemplify women who hold influence for their passions and brain power: “Sneakerella” and “Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur.” The Marvel Universe in partnership with Disney has made a “conscientious effort” towards “more progressive treatment of women and their storylines in the Marvel Cinematic Universe” according to female producer Victoria Alonso. As these companies continue to release progressive content, it is crucial that each one of us, as audience members, shows support. It is only when we come together that true change can be made.