I recently read Emily Blake’s fuming blog post about a screenplay she had to read, in which there was only one female character, who was a passive victim, waiting for a man to save her. It’s well worth a read, just to see the sparks of fury flying off your screen.
Besides that, though, Emily raises an interesting point, which was also discussed recently on BBC’s The Review Show, when one of the topics was Sex and the City 2: How come women’s experience is not more often the focus of mainstream movies? As Abby McDonald, one of the writers participating in the show said, there are plenty of movies with great roles for actresses, but very few films really portray a woman’s point of view.
Which goes some way to explaining the huge response from female audiences to movies like Mama Mia and Sex and the City.
To some extent I guess the dearth of authentic female points of view in mainstream cinema is just a another manifestation of prevalent gender status differences: Most people who write, direct, produce, fund and distribute movies are men. But I don’t think that’s the whole story. And I don’t believe there’s a deliberate, male chauvinist conspiracy to prevent movies that appeal to women from being made. After all, the same industry that churns out testosterone-driven action movies, also produced those female audience hits I just mentioned.
There are so many factors involved in getting a film made (and seen), that there’s probably no point trying to pinpoint any one issue that prevents more “female” films being made. Although… wait… actually, there is one thing: MONEY. And it’s ubiquitous flipside: RISK.
If only more of the conservative-minded men working in the movie business would sit up and take notice of the fact that hundreds of millions of women around the world, with enough disposable income to go to the movies with their girlfriends now and again, are dying to see their lives and problems portrayed more authentically on the silver screen... They’d see that there’s a lot less risk involved than they fear.
And as for simplistic representations of passive female characters with nothing better to do than wait for some muscle-bound numbskull to come along and sweep them off their feet… To me that just sounds like lazy and derivative writing. Isn’t it much more interesting to do something innovative with stereotypes rather than simply repeat them? And what else is Hollywood looking for, if it’s not new and surprising versions of familiar stories?
So I guess it’s really up to us screenwriters to recognize that it does make good business sense to write “female stories” which have the same dramatic, comedic impact as the overcooked macho stuff we’re used to seeing. At the very least it sets your screenplay above the masses of generic and lazily written scripts.
And if you’re a male screenwriter, clueless as to how to go about writing good female characters, take some advice from Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) in As Good As It Gets: “…think of a man and take away reason and accountability.” He was speaking ironically, right?