A couple of months ago, I (Chris) mentioned my hopefulness of what can come out of the success of Furious 7, with its potential impact on the increase of multicultural characters in films. These past few months, a more consistent trend has appeared in the blockbuster engulfed Summer: the dominant appearance of interesting female characters in what is usually considered a testosterone-run season.
In the first act of the overly optimistic Tommorowland, we are introduced to a young girl by the name of Athena (her name pretty much explains her character). When asked by a male counterpart who she was, she simply says, “I’m the future”; her answer is working on two levels for us, the audience. We later find out that this young, charismatic, and strong-willed girl is actually artificial intelligence. Along with that, Brad Bird (director of Tomorrowland) sees her as the future because she is female. With a look at the run of summer movies in 2015, you could easily see several female characters repeating this same line of dialogue in a metaphorical sense.
In past Summers, women were given a week or two of movies specifically designed for them (The Devil Wears Prada and Eat Pray Love). Even a few times, they were thrown a bone with a masculine driven action movie with a female sidekick (Edge of Tomorrow and The Bourne Legacy). Yet occasionally, one if these “chick flicks” makes a major breakthrough, not just with female audiences but with male as well (Bridesmaids). Even the success of Bridesmaids can surprise studio heads, and have them debate whether it’s worth the effort to make more female-driven films that aren’t easily defined as chick flicks in the middle of summer.
This year, we’ve seen an expanse of leading female roles, in the variety of summer films. Most notably in the action/adventure genre, which despite the fact of the summer starting out rough with the problematic depiction of Black Widow in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, we’ve had our share of complex action heroines. Such is the case of the aforementioned Tomorrowland, which relied on two very different female leads. George Clooney is the name that brought people into the theater (very few people actually, the film has only grossed 84 million after being theaters for over a month). Yet the female leads played by Britt Robertson and Raffey Cassidy are the driving force of the story, while Clooney is there to be a helping hand along the way. Despite not being a fan of the film, Britt Robertson’s performance, as Casey, is something to appreciate from a studio (Disney) that often depicts its female leads as delicate princesses. Casey is a self reliant, tech-geek with no bearings of the clichés of femininity.
While Mad Max: Fury Road takes a darker look into our future than Tomorrowland, it also shares a notable appreciation for a strong female characters.The strong female presence has been well documented when talking about the best movie of the summer, Mad Max: Fury Road. The complaint, by certain groups of men(click here for ridiculous article), and how the movie focuses too much attention on Charlize Theron, who plays Imperator Furiosa, is uninformed. This series has shown, in each installment, how Max is the vessel for the action to continue. He’s the launching pad but the world around him has always been the character that keeps us interested; Furiosa is that world and the story. A timely story, as an allegory for the destruction, that men take such pride in our world today. George Miller displays the many ways we have wronged and used women, not as our equals but our “property” in the most extreme terrifying ways.
Both MM: Fury Road and Tomorrowland put the hopes and power of the future in the hands of its female protagonists; giving them the chance to fix what MEN have ruined. This perspective is not only revolutionary but also perhaps evolutionary. We’ve had our chance to fix the future, maybe it’s time for the women to save us (or destroy us).
This Summer, we’ve seen even greater success for females in the comedy world. Pitch Perfect 2, which features an almost all-female cast and was also directed by a woman (Elizabeth Banks, who also has a small part in PP2), became a must-see not with just ladies but with also guys who find this group of misfits endearing. With success of Spy, Melissa McCarthy has show she is capable to sell tickets in a manner similar to that of her male counterparts, such as Will Ferrell and Seth Rogen.
And the summer still has plenty to offer for leading ladies. This weekend, we will see the release of Pixar’s Inside Out, which takes us inside the head of a pre-teen girl, who is going through a difficult time. Rarely do we see “coming of age” films from the perspective of a young girl. With Pixar, you know you’ll always get something interesting and thought-provoking, even in animated films. Amy Schumer’s acting and writing vehicle, Trainwreck gives Schumer the chance to do what all her male counterparts have been doing. To be the crude, vulgar, and “in a state of arrested development” that they’ve been for a long time now.
Hopefully, this is not merely “one good Summer” for this enrichment of vast female characters, a passing trend until we are overloaded with 20 superheroes next summer. This shouldn’t be considered a trend but the embodiment of our culture that women are more than just helpless bystanders, waiting for to be rescued or romanced.