When Snow White first debuted in cinemas in 1937, Walt Disney not only invented the hand-drawn animated feature film, but reinvented traditional fairy tales for the modern audience, creating a new genre. He removed the cruelest and more disturbing parts of the stories, added musical style songs and funny animal sidekicks. Then, over the last twenty years, his company has moved progressively away from conservative and patriarchal clichés: female characters are now more interesting, independent and equal to their male counterparts, love at first sight has given way to more unpredictable and sparkly relationships, ethnic diversity was introduced with Arab, Native American, Afro-American and Polynesian princesses. There is only one aspect of the fairy tales the American cartoon factory has a hard time letting go of: the royal status of its heroines.
Attractive, sexy, leggy, blonde, beautiful, athletic… naked. Hollywood producer Ross Puttnam recently made headlines sharing, on a dedicated twitter account, the sexist one line descriptions of female lead characters in film scripts. Their tight jeans, stiletto heels, fit bodies and fuck-me-eyes are what defines them. Some of those characters, it turns out, have sense of humour, a functioning brain or a career but that description always comes after. If ever.
Women on screen are objectified, they exist primarily for the male gaze. It’s no big news. But now we know that it’s not only a matter of stereotyped casting choices, star power, glossy direction: too often in films they are actually conceived like that, their beauty the first and most relevant attribute from the written page.
The exceptions are rare. But very welcome. Continue reading “Let’s celebrate Women’s Day with two TV characters subverting Hollywood gender stereotypes”