Silent Movies Are Back – For Women At Least!

Sometimes I think we’re going backwards, I really do. In the long slow path to achieving gender equality it often feels like one step forward, two steps back. (Sound of heavy sighing from me).

Marguerite De La Motte Silent moviesThere have been some brilliant films  featuring women in strong leading roles. One of my favourites was ‘Bridesmaids’ because it was very funny, but also because women were the main characters and, despite it being about a wedding, at no time were we treated to the ‘I’m too fat, too thin, will he love me?‘ sort of vapid dialogue that often accompanies the genre. And the women were all sorts of sizes and shapes and it was not a matter for comment at all. Plus, (if you’ve seen the film you’ll know what I’m talking about here) they were normal women who had normal type catastrophes which women aren’t usually meant to have – on screen at least! Hugely refreshing.

This month, May 2013, a new report was released by the University of Southern California which revealed that speaking roles for women have fallen to their lowest level in five years.  And if that weren’t bad enough, those females that do get a look in are most likely to be teenagers portrayed in a sexualised manner. Good grief! What are we doing???

Among the highest grossing 2012 films at the US box office  28.4% of the 4,475 speaking characters were female. This is a fall of 32.8% from three years ago. Only 6% of the of the top earning films in 2012 featured a balanced cast, which is defined by the study as females in at least 45% of all speaking roles. When they do get on the screen 31.6% of women were depicted wearing sexually revealing clothing, the highest percentage in the last 5 years.

This doesn’t surprise me in the least. I have recently been ‘forced’ to watch Da Vinci’s Demons courtesy of Fox TV. (Forced because my husband was an extra in it). Despite opening with the wonderful Hugh Bonneville (who very sensibly died within the opening 10 minutes) it is a paean to the 70s; I have rarely seen anything featuring so much gratuitous nudity of women. It’s almost unbelievable, virtually every scene will have a woman with her chest bared, even if she’s a nun! It matters not to the plot, sometimes they’ll just be in the background. The only real female character of any note is a mistress so of course she rarely keeps her clothes on and is led by the actions of the men. Oh and of course, she is fickle. It’s like going back 30 years. I do not recommend it on any level (apart from very brief glimpses of my clothed husband, of course).

This may seem like a triviality in the grand scheme of things but it does matter.  It matters how women are portrayed in the media; it matters to both genders. No wonder report after report says women lack confidence, look at the role models we’re giving our youth, both genders. Thirty years ago this portrayal of women in the media was commonplace. Just over 31 years ago I had my first child, a daughter. I really thought she would be growing up in a different world.

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Picture of silent movie actress, Marguerite de la Motte courtesy of GoldenSilents.com

Posted on May 22nd, 2013 by

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