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AMST204 Response Paper 2 Rough Draft
Women have been discriminated against in film ever since the beginning of Hollywood. With the changing times, some female directors have emerged. However, they are not dominant in their field and their movies are very undermining of femininity. Thus, the men of Hollywood have the constant source of power, upholding their male dominance through several movies, as explained in America on Film by Benshoff and Griffin. The discrimination of women in film has been persistent throughout history. In classic films, women were portrayed with ³innocence, purity, and the need to be protected´ (Benshoff, and Griffin 208). Thus, a woman was weak and relied entirely on a man to make her feel safe. This implies that a female cannot fend for herself and is not mentally or physically strong enough to withstand the problems that she faces. In particular, there is one genre of movies that accurately fulfills this description. This genre is the ³Disney-Princess´ movies. Take for example, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Even her name, ³Snow White´ implements the image of purity, virginity, and goodness. In this movie, Snow White is helpless and falls into a deep sleep, only to be awakened when the masculine prince arrives to save her. What is most frightening is that this is a children¶s movie. In result, from an early age, a girl may think that she is supposed to act timidly to be feminine, rather than being her strong independent self. The 1950s brought a new discriminate perspective: the sexually attractive female. With the help of photography, women were made sexually appealing so they became the item of men¶s attention. She is nothing more than a visual for men to enjoy (Benshoff, and Griffin Ch.11). Again, a woman¶s independent identity is obliterated, and continues to be dependent on
the male. When a woman is able to get what she wants in films, she flaunts herself sexually to the male. There are several Disney princesses that fit this description as well. Esmeralda in Hunchback of Notre Dame, Meg from Hercules, and Jasmine from Aladdin all uses their excessive beauty and sexual allure to persuade or distract the villain in order to obtain their goal. These several Disney princess films are evidence of the ³virgin-whore complex,´ which portrays the message to little girls that they may either ³good´ or ³bad´ sexually (Benshoff, and Griffin 210).This is a stereotypical trap for women, which small girls fall into from an early age while watching Disney movies. If they are considered ³good,´ they ultimately become contingent to the male, losing their identity. In contrast, if they are considered ³bad,´ they are looked down upon in society. Is it fair to categorize women in only two groups? The Lion King is an interesting case when one focuses on female discrimination. It can be argued that females are considered unimportant because they are only background characters. Returning to the stereotypical passive female, the lionesses are helpless when the kingdom is taken over by the evil Scar. Only when the male lion, Simba, returns do they regain their kingdom. However, it can be argued that females have a small amount of power in the film. For example, the lioness Sarabi is not afraid to speak her mind to Scar when he is controlling her kingdom. Next, Simba¶s female lion friend Nala is constantly able to pin him down when they play-fight. Finally, Shenzi is the female hyena in Scar¶s henchmen group. She, of the three hyenas, is the smartest and seems to be the dominant leader. These characters definitely represent a progress in representation of the stronger, more dominant, independent woman. Feminine progress has also come about throughout history because women have become directors. However, it can be argued that this progress is deceiving. Presently in the Directors Guild of America, seven percent of its members are female ("MSNBC.com"). Sadly, this is an
improvement from classical film. In the early days of film, only a couple of females emerged as directors in the dominated male industry. To make their dream happen, these women had to push themselves to extreme measures, or they just became lucky. Some females first had to become actresses to possibly have the chance to get in the director¶s chair. One particular female director who went to the extreme to gain equality was Dorothy Arzner. To do this, she dressed, talked, and acted like a man (Benshoff, and Griffin 216). It is sickening that this was the only way a female could make progress is to blend in; losing her individuality, and become the very person she is not. Today, nine percent of the 250 top grossing domestic films were directed by women (Ulaby). One of these films was Twilight, directed by Katherine Hardwicke. Even with its success, the movie¶s content contains the ultimate discriminating representations of the female gender. First Bella, the story¶s protagonist, is not a hero. Besides being smart, she has no qualities that allow her to be looked up to. Often, she is sarcastic and cold to her peers. These actions are due to her obsession with Edward Cullen, a vampire whom she loves. Her overwhelming compassion for him is feminine in nature, and she is succumbed to the stereotype that the woman lives for the man. Edward Cullen himself is an ultimate representation of a male in film. He is extremely handsome and strong, and is there on countless occasions to save and protect Bella. In the climax, Bella is so infatuated with Edward that she wishes to become a vampire so she can be with Edward forever. Sara Seltzer, a female columnist, describes Bella and her situation best in her article when she states ³[Bella is willing] to sacrifice her physical safety, her education, and her family and social ties for Edward--and the well-meaning but stringent control he exerts over her.´ Ultimately, Bella fulfills the classical Hollywood stereotype because
she is the helpless female who is willing to give up everything, including her identity for her man. A second female character in Twilight that implements the classic female stereotypes is the vampire Victoria. In the movie, the actress is highly sexualized. As a result, it is not a coincidence that she is portrayed as evil. The classic Hollywood formula demonizes highly sexualized women, and perpetuates the ³virgin-whore complex´ (Benshoff, and Griffin 281). It is evident that throughout history, women have been discriminated against in film. Regardless of how they act to the male, women still have unfair representation. Even when women direct films, they are extremely underrepresented, and forced to obey the male ideal. In reality, there has been minimal progress because the only successful movies directed by a woman have strong representations of the female as they are presented in classical Hollywood.
Benshoff, Harry, and Sean Griffin. America on Film: Respresenting Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies. 1st. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2004. 207-289. Print. "Female directors remain a rarity in Hollywood." MSNBC.com 2009: n. pag. Web. 4 Nov 2009. <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20074475/ns/entertainment-movies//>. Seltzer, Sarah. ""Twilight": Sexual Longing in an Abstinence-Only World." Huffington Post (2008): n. pag. Web. 4 Nov 2009. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarahseltzer/twilight-sexual-longing-i_b_117927.html>. Ulaby, Neda. "Female Directors, Still A Scarce Movie Commodity." NPR:Find A Station 13 Jul. 2009: n. pag. Web. 4 Nov 2009. <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106402458>.
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