U.S. History Paper
This past month, the nation tuned in to see which of their favorite movies of the year would earn a coveted golden trophy at the 91st annual Academy Awards. Upon first glance at the nominees represented by the academy, women seemed to have a record year. In the categories that were gender neutral, 52 women were nominated. This number was up from the previous year’s 44. However, many of the largest awards of the night were underwhelmingly diverse in gender.
The co-founder of the Women’s Media Center stated that “A nomination for an Academy Award can open doors… With three out of every four non-acting nominations going to men, women, again, are missing that stamp of approval.” No females were nominated in categories such as cinematography, editing score, visual effects, or director. In fact, only five women have been nominated for best director in Academy Award History.
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This is exceedingly frustrating due to the number of outstanding films directed by women in the past few decades, such as Big, Clueless, and American Psycho, as well as other groundbreaking pieces. Not only are actresses and females who work behind the scenes not getting equal opportunities, stories of women are not being told on screen. As stated by Jessica Chastain: “”We need more diversity. We’re not telling the stories of many, we’re telling the stories of few.
There’s a problem with the storytelling, with the protagonists…it’s in front of the camera, it’s behind the camera…This is not how we want to be working and we need to tell the stories of all.”” When their stories are not being told, the public is not able to be educated on things that they are ignorant of. This enables a cycle of mistreatment and inequality that has continued on since the film industry started.
While social media and activist movements led by women in the last few decades have stressed the need for equal representation on and behind the screen, progress continues to be frustratingly slow. While gender stereotypes in movies and televisions have received more of a negative connotation as of late, women continue to be taken advantage of in the industry. New inequalities are brought to light everyday in the form of sexual harassment, unequal pay, and discrimination in the distribution of jobs. If change is going to be made, women need to band together as they have been doing in the past few years and use their platform in Hollywood to speak out about bias happening in the industry.
This paper will cover the stereotypes that were being portrayed on screen 30 years ago through examples and why those stereotypes are not seen as often now in film, as strong female characters are appearing in movies more often. Next, it will compare the privileges given to straight, white men versus women in the industry and what is continuously allowing women to be taken advantage of. After that, the Me Too Movement and other activist movements will be discussed and the impact they have on the fight for women’s rights. Finally, the future will be theorized and how the banding together of women can change gender stereotypes for young girls.
Gender Stereotypes Portrayed On Screen
Before the turn of the millenium, women were being portrayed on screen in repetitive tropes, and constantly used as plot devices to motivate the male characters in the story. Female characters are seen as undesirable when they are nerdy and book-smart, and are only worthy of positive recognition when they are transformed with a wardrobe change and a makeover. In She’s All That, a movie from the 1990’s, Laney Boggs is a social outcast because of her traditionally “nerdy” lifestyle, and only gains attention when she is “transformed into a social butterfly by changing her clothes, hair, and taking off her glasses.” The fact that Laney is not valued for her art skills or her kindness by her peers before she is physically transformed is pinpointing the fact that women are only valuable for the way that they look.
Women are often seen as sexual objects, especially in sitcoms from past decades. They do not have much storyline of their own, and exist solely for the male characters enjoyment. Although the three female leads in Friends, a 90’s sitcom, have many empowering moments throughout the show, there are also examples of them being treated unfairly due to their gender. As stated by Ilana Kaplan, author for The Independent, “storylines laced with homophobia, sexism, borderline emotional abuse and sexual harassment are portrayed as punchlines…
Truth be told, several of the jokes written in the show that began 24 years ago probably would be thrown out before they even got into the writer’s room.” In one such instance, Joey, who is known for being a womanizer on the show, compares women to flavors of ice cream when comforting Ross through a divorce. “What are you talking about ‘One woman’? That’s like saying there’s only one flavor of ice cream for you… There’s Rocky Road, and Cookie Dough… Grab a spoon!” By comparing women to flavors of ice cream that men can enjoy whenever they please, Joey is dehumanizing women and justifying the way that some men objectify them. Also, he is saying that a man can take as many “flavors” as he wants, as if a women has no say if she will be “tasted”.
Sexist symbols in the media originated many years before sitcoms and movies were common, and made appearances in even the most beloved classic children’s story of Walt Disney. The appearance of women’s bodies in the original Walt Disney classics such as Snow White, Cinderella, and the Little Mermaid was unrealistic and provided unattainable expectations for young girls who idolized the princesses. “‘White as snow, and as red as blood, and her hair was as black as ebony…
When she was seven years old she was as beautiful as the day’” All of the physical attributes of Snow White are the most extreme in terms of beauty. She has the prettiest lips, skin, and hair which is a discouraging and confusing message for young readers. Furthermore, Snow White’s appearance is the first real description of her, making it more important in the story than her personality.
Explained by Bell: “The young heroines are typical of ‘the perfect girl.’ whose body, voice, and destiny are a ‘mesmerizing presence’ through which ‘girls [enter] the world of the hero legend, and experience the imposition of a framework which seemingly comes out of nowhere- a worldview superimposed on girls but grounded in the psychology of men.’” The idea of “perfect” is psychologically damaging to young minds because no girl in real life is ever perfect. However, no imperfections are dared to be shown in the bodies of the original Disney princesses. “Perfect” is a myth that a girl will always be chasing, rendering them self-conscious when they should be reading about and watching positive role models with known flaws.
In films and advertisement as of late, there is more demand for equality and empowering female roles instead of stereotypical ones. Roles for women in film and advertisement have become more diverse and they do not feature women as heavily in tired roles that have been overused. “Over the course of the history of TV advertising, women have been defined in very narrow roles… women were firmly placed in the domestic sphere, talking animatedly about cleaning and housework…
There have been some real strides in that recently, where ads show men in a much more nurturing rule.” By reversing, or merging, roles that certain genders were previously molded into, the advertising industry is allowing men and women to create their own identity without feeling as pressured to fit into one type of idea of their gender.
Although women are being featured more heavily in film and advertisement, equality is still a long way off. Because of all the gender inequality buzz happening in the industry, there is a scramble among workers to cast and hire more women than ever before. “The worst excesses have been removed, and we are much more sensitive as an industry. There’s a genuine desire to move with the times. But there’s still a long way to go. When brands feature woman as the lead character, it’s normally to make a point about their gender. Real progress will be made when it’s much more equally divided.” When women are cast in roles purely because they are deserved while still remaining equal with men, then it will make the industry an even playing field. Until then, the fight for gender equality will never truly be won.
With activism and the fight for women’s rights gaining traction, the small screen has seen an increase of powerful female characters recently, and less stereotypes and jokes at women’s expenses. “The millennium was an interesting transition time in American society, as female characters that supposedly broke societal rules were becoming more prominent on television.” The public is becoming more aware of circumstances and wanting equality to be a thing of the present, not the far-away future.
More roles for women standing on their own, not just as a plot device, are starting to emerge, although the process is gradual. “The millennium was an interesting transition time in American society, as female characters that supposedly broke societal rules were becoming more prominent on television.” The public is becoming more aware of circumstances and wanting equality to be a thing of the present, not the far-away future.
More roles for women standing on their own, not just as a plot device, are starting to emerge, although the process is gradual. Characters such as Galleria from the Cheetah Girls started to appear on screens and became an inspiration for many young girls who had never witnessed positive female role models in tv. Many of her feminist quotes can still be found online today, and many of them provided an example of how a women can allow herself to be treated.
In the Cheetah Girls series Galleria does not let herself be distracted by romance, proving that women can be more than the object of a man’s affections. In one scene of the movie, Galleria says to her fellow band members “May the power of all the fabulous divas who came before us be with us now. May we use our hearts, our brains, and our courage to reach our… potential.”
Galleria is calling for the union of strong women and how they can bring positive change to the world if they put their voices together. They are using their “hearts”, “brains”, and “courage” to work hard and reach their highest potential. This is going against the trope that women should rely on their looks and not aim too high, and saying that the opposite should be the goal if a girl wants it to be.
Along with gender equality improvements on television, the film industry has had a boom of movies centered around strong female characters, with many of them being aimed towards children. In 2017, the positive feedback that the hit film Wonder Woman garnered proved “that the need for women’s representation in pop culture is valid.” “We are all used to having male protagonists in movies [directed by men]. But the way Patty has captured the Wonder Woman character, she is very relatable to everyone. Boy, girl, man, woman — everyone can relate to her.”
The director of the film, Patty Jenkins, was able to create a complex character who could relate to all in the audience, not just girls despite the lead being female, and not just boys despite the action genre of the movie. Being a woman herself allowed Jenkins to use her knowledge and personal experiences to create a strong characters that did not follow the patterns of a Disney princess. “”Historically, audiences in this genre are male — 60 to 40 percent” When Wonder Woman premiered, more girls showed up to watch the show, excited to see a woman going on harrowing adventures and having her own storyline that was important to the overarching story.
The iconic Wonder Woman costume that has a 75-year history through movies has changed in design drastically with the introduction of the 2017 movie. For the creator of the original movie, it was important to create a character that has a “sexy and feminine” quality to “counteract what he called the “blood-curdling masculinity” of comics at the time.”
Another children’s movie that caught the eye of critics for overcoming gender stereotypes was the modern Disney movie, Moana, which focused on a young girl working to save her island from destruction in Polynesia. In the movie, although she does receive help from a male demigod along the way, Moana’s grandmother is her main source of help on the journey. The use of a female mentor for Moana is an interesting choice and highlights strong female relationships and how girls can support each other. At mentioned above, Moana bonds with a male on her journey, but there is never any indication that Moana and Maui have romantic feelings for one another.
The decision to not give Moana a love interest further highlights her strength and a female’s ability to carry a storyline without using romance as part of the plot. While still gorgeous, the character of Moana has a much more realistic body type than previous Disney princesses, a fact which the film’s producer said was a very conscious decision. “A leader doesn’t have to be size 0 to succeed.” A girl watching the movie should be able to see themselves in a strong female protagonist, and a “size 0” Disney princess is not realistic to most of the young viewers. By giving them a relatable character, they are more likely to see themselves in a strong role like they see that character.
Discrimination In The Industry
While the Me Too Movement only took off in 2017, women in the film industry have been oppressed and demoralized for decades, with that treatment not being discussed. Sexual harassment was enabled for years due to the stereotypes placed on women in the media and was not spoken about until very recently. On set of one of his movies, Arnold Schwarzenegger was accused of “‘playfully’ groping their breasts, buttocks, and crotches.”
Although the women on set all knew what was happening, their complaints were passed off as “Arnold being Arnold.” The mentality of “boys will be boys” is used as an excuse for inexcusable behavior by men. They are not being held accountable for their actions and this is allowing them to get away with more than should be permitted. Because Schwarzenegger is a “name” in the industry, he is able to get away with actions because of his dominance and power.
Another issue that is not addressed as much as it needs to be is that of the pay gap between male and female actors. The pay between male actors and female actors who have roughly the same amount of importance in a film has been following an unequal pattern, with female actresses getting paid much less than their male counterparts. “The world’s highest-paid actress, Lawrence, made $52 million in the 12 months to June 2015—an impressive number until it is compared to the $80 million banked by Robert Downey Jr., the world’s top-paid actor.”
While Lawrence and Downey Jr. are both very well respected in the industry, the difference in their pay is very noticeable. While both actors are putting in hard work and creating movies that garner positive reviews, they are being rewarded for this work unequally. Not only do women get paid less for their work, but they also are underrepresented on screen and behind the camera. Less than two percent of films in the last year were directed by women.
While more men in the industry have been pushing for equality come awards season, the inequality of opportunities doled out prevent this from happening. One of the most telling examples of pay inequities in the entertainment industry occurred during reshoothing for All the Money in the World. Although Mark Wahlberg’s team stated that he was getting paid just as much as Michelle Williams and their other costars. It was later revealed that Walhberg made $1.5 million in comparison to Michelle Williams, who earned less than $1,000 for the reshoot. That is less than one percent of her male costar’s earnings.
Me Too Movement
With the introduction of the Me Too Movement last year, women, both celebrities and the public, have come together to share their experiences with prejudice and sexual harassment, instituting a new system of change in the nation. The saying ‘Time’s Up’ has urged a change now. It adds a sense of urgency to shift the dynamic between men and women, not only in Hollywood, but all over the nation.
“Days after the first allegations against Harvey Weinstein were published by the New York Times, Milano tweeted: ‘If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.’ The first response? ‘Me too, he was my stepfather.’”” When women realized that they were not alone in their pain, it gave them strength to spread their empowering message, using social media as a platform.
By claiming the words “me too”, women are empowering each other by sharing their own experiences and offering empathy and support. “In the first week, 1.7 million tweets included the phrase, and 45 per cent of Facebook users in the US had at least one friend who posted “”me too””. Second, its universality. What started with famous actors–Rose McGowan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Lupita Nyong’o –soon spread.”
The wide spread brings attention to just how out of hand the issue of sexual harassment has gotten. Women had been suffering in silence for years, with societal codes rendering them unable to stick up. When positive female role models that are in the public eye join an activist movement, it gives the public strength to stand up as well. “Despite a media tendency to treat #MeToo as a celebrity story, the women at its centre have always insisted that its focus is much wider: not one monstrous Weinstein, but a whole patriarchal system that crushes women in the workplace.”
The Time Magazine 2017 Person of the Year cover featured a much different image than that of the Donald Trump, who had been on the cover the previous year. Instead, it featured a host of women named the Silence Breakers, whose message was almost the exact opposite of the current POTUS. The Silence Breakers are a collection of women who have been catalysts for the sexual harassment meeting.
Many of them have shared their stories with Time Magazine in order to inspire others to come forward as well and demand more from society. “‘I thought, What just happened? Why didn’t I react?’ says the anonymous hospital worker who fears for her family’s livelihood should her story come out in her small community. ‘I kept thinking, Did I do something, did I say something, did I look a certain way to make him think that was O.K.?’ It’s a poisonous, useless thought, she adds, but how do you avoid it?”
This hospital worker was under the illusion that the sexual assault was her own fault because of the way she was dressed, something that many people feel following an assault. However, upon reading other’s stories, it allows women like this one, who chose to remain anonymous, to realize where the real fault lies. It is not with the women: it is only with those who think they are allowed to take something from them without permission.
Apart from Me Too tweets trending on social media, more diverse kinds of women are now being portrayed on popular sites such as Instagram and Twitter, and many are using these platforms to speak out about gender related issues. Although many social media platforms, such as reddit, have predominantly male users, Instagram is much more geared towards young women. This allows women with a large platform to speak directly towards impressionable female minds and instow strong beliefs on them, as well as allowing them to form their own ideas.
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U.S. History Paper. (2019, Oct 15). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/u-s-history-paper/
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