Women in Media
The present state of society is such that female actors don’t get equal compensation, are sexualised on screen more than the other gender, and are often dumbed down to increase their “appeal” to male audiences. I recently came across an article about a common film trope known as “Born Sexy Yesterday”(BSY), which means certain female characters in media are portrayed as naive and inexperienced (like a newborn baby), but in the body of a mature (sexy) woman.
It’s a disturbing concept that our society can add to the gross injustice of the depiction of real women in the media. However, there have been instances of honest and unfiltered projection observable over the last 15 years who have personally inspired me as well as other women around me. It has been eye opening to see these traits realized on screen and played by our favorite actors.
In this article we will take a look at some of the recent female characters who have been written in stronger and more gender-neutral roles.
- Carol – The Walking Dead
In a post-zombie apocalypse world, people band together to maintain sanity and safety. The show is framed around survival and addresses the gender roles that society expects the women to take. In the first season we see women naturally falling into caretaker / caregiving jobs such as washing, cleaning, and cooking – whether by conscious or unconscious bias, by the men who take on brute tasks such as hunting and safe keeping. Carol started out as a meek, shy woman, taking care of her husband’s needs and looking after her child. Over the next 5 seasons, we see Carol “take care” of her husband so that she never has to see him again. She becomes the most capable with a gun and defends her group against an opposing one with chilling, cold blooded murder unlike any other. What’s more impressive is that she’s not the only female character on the show to have broken these stereotypes – all the other women have been shown as equal members of the new society with a choice to participate in any manner they wish.
- Kimmy Schmidt – The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Even though this show is of extremely frivolous nature, it presents the audience with a real alternative to the BSY trope. This show tells the story about Kimmy, who has been recently freed from an underground bunker after being kidnapped by a misogynistic priest, claiming he did it to save them from the end of the world. Kimmy, now 30, decides she must navigate through life on her own and gain back her lost time. She finds a job, a house, a roommate and creates a plan for her future without the storyteller passing it through a “male lens”. Inexperienced in most ways, she takes her relationships slow and on her own terms and opens herself up to new adventures, including much needed therapy.
- Carrie Mathison – Homeland
Carrie is the perfect example of a woman married to her career who has it all. She’s the brightest employee working at the CIA, with great intellectual prowess and athletic competency, accomplishing unachievable heights and sacrificing all that she can for her country. After losing the father of her child, she perseveres and stays committed to her job, traversing through countries with a child on her back. Her relationship with work partner Saul, is a refreshing change in dynamic. Both male & female characters on the show are comfortable with the gender-neutrality of the roles.. men comfortable with women being superior to them in roles of extreme physicality that are traditionally viewed as the male dominion
- Rani – Queen
I believe Queen is one of the best new-age Bollywood movies that focuses on nothing but the female character. The movie guides the audience through Rani’s realisation of a world beyond her wedding and her husband – the idea upon which most young Indian girls are coerced into. She breaks the shackles of social norms even though she comes from a conservative family, establishing a new identity for herself as no longer being dependent on a husband, brother or father. Rani treated her honeymoon and freedom maturely, and as an opportunity to find herself rather than finding someone else.
- Kaira – Dear Zindagi
Kaira, who I would describe as a beautiful mess, a reflection of the present times in the current generation, is a character most young girls can relate to. She doesn’t have it all planned out, she has made plenty of mistakes in her relationships and sometimes just wants to cry it out. She uses modern motifs and support systems like counselors and friends, to help her navigate through the problems, and get comfortable in her skin.
Elaine Benes – Seinfeld
Elle Woods – Legally Blond
Hermione Granger – Harry Potter
Peggy Olson – Mad Men
There are also a few examples of entire movies/shows that are intrinsically more equal in the representation of men and women. They are focusing on the modern demands of reduced stereotyping, removing traces of “macho” men, “dumb blondes” or nerds altogether. They are far more realistic and provide an “everyday man” to almost all types of people. Here are some examples:
- Sex Education
- Big Mouth
- Game of Thrones