Deep Dive: The issue with the portrayal of female characters in film

Madison White

While I tend to have a problem with the way common film tropes portray women, at the same time I am never quite bothered enough to stop going back to these films I know and love that present women in such lights. I am pretty positive many people may relate to this. So why is this? When I take a closer look at some of these “tropes” I begin to notice many of them seem to portray a man’s version of a “fantasy woman,” as well as a man’s version of the opposite of that. And this can be shown in many different forms, sometimes through a character’s traits and actions, race, and especially looks, with an emphasis on a woman’s body size. The issue here is that male writers tend to not only use these aspects as the makeup of the character, but these aspects tend to effect the value of the character. A clear example would be actress Rebel Wilson’s current situation. She is mainly known for “side character” type roles that provide comedic relief, a clear example being her character “Fat Amy” from the hit 2012 film Pitch Perfect. Amy is, with out a doubt, Wilson’s most well known role. Though, her character is evidently defined by her weight. And even though her character makes it clear in the film that she is self-aware and confident (she even goes as far as specifically asking others to refer to her as “Fat Amy” so girls won’t say it behind her back.)  Her overwhelming confidence is only used as a comedic shtick for the viewer and not taken seriously due to her size. And overall, character’s like Amy do not have much depth either, because they are literally defined by the external. Because of this, the actress has openly endured a tremendous weight-loss journey, as she is just as fed up with the consistent type-casting she receives from Hollywood. Rebel has shared that she was truly fine being herself at her size, but that after years of acting she realized she would never truly be taken seriously as an actress in Hollywood unless she lost the weight. These movie tropes we are exposed to on the day to day can evidently affect how we see ourselves and even add pressure on one to fit certain ideals portrayed in films. An example being the “Cool Girl trope.” This is a character we are all familiar with, once again the cool girl is none other than another version of a male’s fantasy woman. The 2014 film Gone Girl does a great job of defining this character trope, and is actually the reason for the film’s antagonist, “Amy Dunne’s,” resentment towards her husband Nick, in which she plots a plan to frame him for murder. She states “He loved a girl who doesn’t exist, a girl I was pretending to be. The Cool Girl. Men always use that
as the defining compliment, right? Being a Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker and dirty jokes, who plays video games and eats junk all while remaining a size two, because cool girls are above all hot.” While she may be psychopathic in this film, women may find themselves relating to Amy, in the sense that one may find themselves working hard to fit this mold for a man. When in actuality this kind of a woman does not exist and is only a fantasy character we see presented in movies, usually, written by men. Women are presented these unrealistic versions of what a woman “should be” through media, and it causes an added pressure to fit a certain mold irl. Even actress, Jennifer Lawrence has been criticized for trying to fit this “cool girl” mold in real life. As people eventually picked up on this sense of nonchalance and “over-relatabilty” that tended to come across heavily from the actress in interviews etc. These common character tropes have been presented to us for years and are no stranger to mainstream media as well, hence the “Free Britney” doc, which I will be covering in the next part of my deep dive. In general, women are forced to reflect on what “kind” of woman they are, and what version, the world/media wants them to be at that time. Similar to any other trend. And in my eyes, these are issues men just don’t have as much experience in. All in all, I will never not love certain movies that feature some of these character tropes, but it is important to be aware of these facades. And I truly cannot wait to see more diverse, realistic, interesting female characters on my screen in the future.