Beyonce VMAs

Women in film and TV: Did we just get lucky in 2014?

By Sophia Hyder 

The year 2014 was when women, especially in pop culture, decided that enough was enough. We saw the rise of the new age of feminism last year, and it happened all too quickly.

It was as if an ancient council of suffragettes sat together, said something along the lines of, “Two hundred years down the road and people still don’t know sh*t”, waved their bras around a little, and summoned our pop culture women to do their bidding all in one night.

Surprising as it may have been, it was extraordinary. Women in pop culture started to take ownership of their femininity and sexuality. They started to kick inequality in the balls.

Image source: Sciencefiction

Image source: Sciencefiction

Scarlett Johansson and Anne Hathaway, among others, called out sexist interviewers. Beyoncé dropped a brilliant women-loving album and had that perfect 16-minute VMAs performance, where she proudly declared that she’s a feminist (bless our souls). Speaking of Beyoncé, she wrote a short piece on gender equality. Leighton Meester wrote an essay on her role in Broadway production, Of Mice and Men, and explores why her character is inexplicably hated. Taylor Swift decided that she won’t take crap from people any longer, and has since dropped her best album to date. Nicki Minaj continued to embrace her sexuality (explicitly) with Anaconda.

I could go on and on, but we’re here to talk about women in TV and Film.

Last year, the number of films and TV shows made for women, by women and about women shot through the roof.

Disney’s Frozen is a prime example. Everyone’s sick of hearing about Frozen, and I know what you’re thinking, ugh, it’s that stupid ice movie my kid cousin can’t stop singing along to. Forget the annoying characters and that insufferable song for a second, and focus on the story. It centres on sisterly love; it replaced the traditional Disney princess with a queen; it passed the Bechdel test (an indicator of gender bias in all forms of fiction); and its director, Jennifer Lee, is the very first female director to make a billion-dollar film.

Three criteria in the Bechdel Test. Image from Wikipedia

Three criteria in the Bechdel Test. Image from Wikipedia

How’s that for flipping the switch on sexism while simultaneously pissing people off with “Do You Want to Build a Snowman”?

In TV, Orange Is The New Black and Orphan Black both swept up the airwaves with their presentation of all sorts of women – women of colour, transsexual women, badass women, gay women, feminine women, masculine women, androgynous women, and so on. In How To Get Away With Murder, we have Viola Davis playing the coolest and most terrifying law professor. Carmilla, a mostly-female webseries about a lesbian vampire and her roommate took YouTube by storm. And my personal favourite, Legend of Korra, a Nickelodeon animated series for children, wrapped up with two women of colour, Korra and Asami, ending up together. Yes, together.

“So,” you ask, “what does this all mean?”

While 2014 has been such a fantastic year for women, I sense that 2015 will not follow suit.

Nine movie-weeks into 2015 and the movies we’ve seen have set us back five years.

American Sniper, although critically acclaimed, suffers from a severe lack of female characters and also from third-degree racism. Vice, Project Almanac and The Seventh Son don’t do women any justice. Fifty Shades of Grey… let’s not get started on that pathetic vanilla nonsense.

Given, the year did start out with a trough of action movies, which women don’t really star in, for some reason. But in all honesty, have you seen a woman kicking some serious ass? It’s scary and hot. (Note to Hollywood: more female action leads please.)

Pepper Potts in Ironman 3

Pepper Potts in Ironman 3

Unfortunately, 2015’s movies will continue to fall back on college humour, moneymaking sequels and mindless action. Cases in point: Ted 2, The DUFF, Furious 7, Get Hard, Mission: Impossible V and another Paranormal Activity. You can see a full list here.

Not exactly the most women-friendly year for film so far, but at the very least we can look forward to Orphan Black coming back for another season in April, and Orange Is The New Black in June. Special mention goes to Broad City, pioneer in female-stoner comedy, which is back in its second season as well.

Maybe the blessing of the ancient council of suffragettes has the shelf life of a year. Or it lasts longer for TV than for film. All we can do is hope that the next awakening will come soon.

But until then, enjoy your movies and TV shows with a pinch of salt.

Header and thumbnail image: Beyonce at VMAs 

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