2016 in Review: Feminism Meets Hollywood

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Courtesy of Thomas Wolf

Now that 2017 is finally here, giving us all a blank slate to scribble on for the next 365 days, I figure we have an obligation to take a second to look back on a conflicting year. Some people call it the worst year yet, but others roll their eyes at that exaggeration. Some people bring up new technology and new ideas that are pushing us towards the future, but others bring up the racism and discrimination that has continued to plague our world. Through all the chaos and confusion and fear, one positive topic shines through: women in film. While perhaps not significant to everyone, it is certainly a step forward for young girls and teenagers and women everywhere.

There is no arguing that the portrayal of women is stronger and more powerful. No longer are women insignificant supporting characters, but rather the picture of courage with a bow and arrow, or a dangerous criminal with a baseball bat. A strong example of a movie with a strong female role is the feminist revival of Ghostbusters that premiered over the summer. While the movie received many hateful reviews along with repulsive sexist and racist comments, the four women who held the main roles balanced comedy and action perfectly. They stood strong while bullets were fired at them for their skin color and body shapes. Together, they certainly defied the stereotypes of women in film. In my eyes, they were one of the biggest inspirations in 2016 to show young girls just how much a women can do without having a supermodel figure. Switching the genders of the protagonists in such a famous and adored film was risky, and though not everyone enjoyed it, it certainly left a mark. The famous line, “who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!”, now applies to a group of badass women, not just men, saving the world from the supernatural.

Furthermore, while Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad seemed to rule Halloween with Joker and Harley Quinn outfits popping up everywhere on social media, her portrayal was a different type of empowerment. Though Quinn’s bordering on the edge of insane is entertaining, but not exactly inspiring, there is no denying she can stand up for herself. With her clown-like makeup, and her handy baseball bat, she can knock a man down cold. It is refreshing that Harley Quinn finally had the chance to step out of Joker’s shadow in this movie.

One of my personal favorites, though perhaps not a crowd favorite, is the introduction of Supergirl on the CW. Much like her cousin Superman, by day she works a normal job as a reporter at Catco, but by night she puts on a cape and saves the lives in her city. While it does not explore deeper topics regarding sexism or racism, it is certainly an entertaining action filled show and a great addition to CW’s other shows such as Arrow or The Flash. One issue I have noticed that is particularly difficult to handle is when someone negatively reviews a tv show or movie primarily centered around a woman simply because they disliked the film, they are immediately branded as sexist. While there are certainly sexists who decide to automatically hate a show or film because the woman is the main character, there are also innocent ones that simply do not like the plot or the character development. The difference between the two is very significant.

Speaking of woman superheroes, this new year, Wonder Woman will make an appearance on the big screen. It is perhaps the best inspiration for young girls when they see woman superheros diversifying a comic world where males seem to dominate. Just a few years ago, comic books were considered for boys. Any girls who read them were “tomboys.” But now, after the ever so popular Avengers movie and all the Iron Man and Captain America movies, superheroes have saved the world and captured the hearts of everyone in the audience. There’s Iron Man, and Captain America, and Ant-Man, and Hawkeye, and Spider Man, and Falcon, and Vision, and Black Panther, and War Machine… and then there’s the Scarlet Witch and Black Widow. Can you really blame anyone for wanting more female superheroes? To get more recognition? Wonder Woman has the power to make a change. But while her name is well known, her story is not. Taking place during World War I, this film speaks about an Amazonian princess who leaves her island full of female warriors and plays a huge role in the war to end all wars. She fights in the war, though it was very uncommon back then to have a woman on the battlefield. The pressure on this movie to be absolutely perfect is almost painful. Wonder Woman saves the world in her perfectly trim figure and a suit that clings to her body like spandex. Only time will tell whether this movie will portray Wonder Woman as a strong, independent, and dangerous superhero, or an overly sexualized superhero depending on men. But for now, she holds the title of the feminist icon of 2017.

2016 held twists and turns, too many deaths, and too much fear and discrimination. But it also proved that we are entering a new era in which women are portrayed as the strong, determined, and intelligent characters they are. Though perhaps we are not carrying a baseball bat while wearing pigtails, we are hitting away stereotypes and negative comments regarding women’s rights. Although we do not have the power to fly, we do have the power to seriously project the voices and ideas of women on a podium in a presidential debate. While we are not fighting the supernatural, we are fighting for more. For more recognition. More voices. More rights. More stances. More chances. More opportunities for women everywhere. And most of all, more steps towards a world with gender equality.

– Joanne Wang (redefy Journalism Team)