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:
- Are there two or more female characters with names?
- Do they talk to each other?
- If they talk to each other, do they talk about something other than a man?
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 They've been replaced by frivolous fare and eye candy, as in Mamma Mia and Transformers.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.