Monday, June 21, 2010

Is Girl Power Gone?

There are no heroines in Hollywood today.

The other night, I went to a party with several young screenwriters, all of whom were working on scripts -- action, comedy, horror -- with strong female leads.

And none of us could catch a break with our scripts. Why?

One writer told a sad story: he pitched an animated action-adventure TV show to a major studio. The show starred a brother-sister duo. The studio exec loved it, but he had one note:

"Change the sister to a brother. Women don't sell overseas."

This is a crock of bullsh*t.

You know who was the biggest Box Office draw of 2009? Not Robert Downey, Jr. Not Johnny Depp.

Sandra Bullock. That's right. Her two movies The Blind Side and The Proposal raked in over $600 Million worldwide (see box office mojo).

So either this studio exec doesn't read the news, or this "Strong Women Fall Hard" Myth is very pervasive in Hollywood.

To prove my point, try the Bechdel Test for Women in Movies for the last 3 movies you saw. Just ask yourself:
  1. Are there two or more female characters with names?
  2. Do they talk to each other?
  3. If they talk to each other, do they talk about something other than a man?
If you answer "No" to any or all of these questions, it's not really a movie with any real, strong female characters, now is it?

Now obviously this is not a perfect test, but just reverse it: almost every Hollywood movie ever made features two men talking about something other than a woman.

So what happened to roles like Ripley in Aliens? Sarah Connor in Terminator 2? The Bride in Kill Bill? They've been replaced by frivolous fare and eye candy, as in Mamma Mia and Transformers.

How do we get strong women back on the silver screen?

Simple: If you stop going to bad movies, they will stop making them. Stop seeing movies that objectify women as damsels-in-distress.

Vote with your wallet at the box office. Do NOT see Eclipse. See Salt.

And we all have to work together. Writers, keep writing strong female characters. Actresses, keep taking on strong female roles. Producers, keep developing movies starring strong women.

We have to do this together.


  1. excellently put, nate. i read article, after article in the blogs, papers, magazines stating this same myth over and over again and it makes my blood boil.

    when it comes down to it though, i think it's about creating the work and letting hollywood catch up to us. which is exactly what you're doing, so, awesome!

  2. Is Salt actually any good, or is it just a different kind of objectification? I'm sure it's possible this is a role more like Ripley or the Bride, but if it's more like some of her other roles it seems like the point of all her 'strength' is just to make her desirable, and that this is what validates her. Makes it seem unlikely it'll get past criterion 3.

  3. Based on the trailer, I'm willing to wait in line to see SALT and find out.

    Whereas in ECLIPSE, the trailer shows us the female lead literally throwing herself into harm's way so that her prince can save her.

    In SALT, the trailer shows us a woman at the top of her field fighting to save her husband and her own life.

    Based on the trailer, SALT is nothing like TOMB RAIDER. SALT has been one of the hottest, best-written scripts on the market for some time now (read an early draft here:

    If Angelina Jolie's star persona gets people in the theater to see a film about a strong, resourceful woman kicking ass and taking names to save her family -- more power to her.