Female roles in movies show women have a long way to go

Last Friday, I was tired and needed a break from the relentless election news, so I checked out two trailers, both for upcoming comedies, from the Internet Movie Database.

The first was 17 Again. In it, Matthew Perry plays a middle-aged man whose wife and two children are apparently not his biggest fans.

Just as Perry is wondering if his life has been a big pit of pointlessness, a chance encounter with a guy who looks a lot like Santa Claus turns him into Zac Efron. Second chances and life lessons are sure to ensue.

The second was Bride Wars, in which Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway are best friends since childhood, that is until wedding planner Candice Bergen accidentally schedules both of their weddings on the same day at their dream location.

This turns the two characters into vindictive harpies, trying to ruin the other’s life. I would say that life lessons ensue, but the trailer froze about a minute before it was over and to be honest, I wasn’t all that eager to find out.

I thought, what would happen if the genders were swapped and 17 Again was about a mom who gets a second chance, and Bride Wars was about two catty grooms. The first would be highly unlikely, and the second would be nearly impossible.

That made me really sad, especially considering later that day, I took a two-hour train ride home to vote in an election, where for the first time in my lifetime, a woman was on a major party ticket.

While we rightfully wonder why it still has taken so long for women to reach the top position in the country, sometimes I wonder why we aren’t bothered about why women aren’t on top of more movie posters.

Politics trumps movies every time, but film is the mirror that reflects our society. Less movies with female leads are very indicative of less women in the lead role, so to speak, in politics or business.

But wasn’t “Sex and the City” a big hit, you ask? Or earlier, wasn’t there “Baby Mama,” with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler?

Yes, films starring females and aimed at female audiences have been on the rise. But look at the women in these movies: they’re mostly preoccupied with relationships and starting families.

Traditionally female concerns, to be sure, but you couldn’t swap out a woman for a man in those and still have the same movie.

You could swap out a man for a woman in many of the top-ten movies of the year so far and still have an amazing plot and identifiable characters.

A lot of this probably has to do with a lack of female directors and screenwriters.

In a May 24 letter to the Los Angeles Times, Jennifer Warren and Jacqui Barcos, both board members of the Alliance of Women Directors, wrote: “Legions of talented and accomplished female directors would give their eye teeth to direct a genre, tentpole or blockbuster summer movie. But they are never given the chance.”

If there were more women behind the camera in Hollywood, maybe we would see more female characters not solely defined by their femininity, but you could count on your fingers the number of movies in the last six months directed by women.

Last Friday, as I cast my vote, I felt a sense of empowerment, both in knowing that I had had my say and by seeing Sarah Palin’s name on the ballot, despite the fact our views aren’t exactly the same on every issue and don’t need to be.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a sense of empowerment after watching a movie trailer. When one examines both the election and the movies, it’s clear to see women still have a long way to go.

Valerie Hannon is a senior news-editorial journalism major from Allen.