Strong, diverse women characters take the big screen

For years, women have been asking for better, more accurate representation within TV and movies. This year, film has made quite a few leaps forward with movies like “Black Panther”, “A Wrinkle in Time”, and “Wonder Woman” which have started to develop a more accurate, diverse, and strong representation of women as the norm within the film industry.
According to sophomore and Women and Gender Studies minor, Alexa Pederson, the classic female archetype within film is an inaccurate representation of most women. Often women characters are portrayed as weak and completely dependent on other characters, often men.
“The classic female characters in TV and movies is usually frail, feminine, and often times needs saving,” Pedersen began. “The female character is typically a damsel in distress.”
Emily Cranford, professor of French and faculty advisor for GSA shares similar sentiments about the stereotypical women character in film.
“Unfortunately, even in the 21st century, we see passive women and we see women who…if they talk amongst one another they talk about men,” Cranford said.
In Cranford’s opinion, while film is starting to take steps forward in more accurately representing women as a diverse group, there are still many areas for improvement. She explained that while there are some flaws in TV shows, such as “Orange is the New Black” that have been praised for their work in providing more diverse, strong women characters, the work that they are doing does bring about change.
“I mean, I think, while “Orange is the New Black” has some flaws, I think it really succeeds in showing a diversity of female characters and also humanizing them.” Cranford began. “Seeing them as, or portraying them as, thinkers and adventurers, and warriors.”
While Cranford does see the representation of diversity within women starting to make its way to the big screen, when it comes to LGBTQ+ women, the representation is not completely present. Cranford explained that there have been shows like “The L Word”, and movies like “Blue is the Warmest Color” that could have more accurately represented LGBTQ+ women.
“I want more realistic representations, and I also want…I want to see more diversity in queer identities because there are so many of them, you know? Butch and femme is…you know they exist but that’s not the only thing there are,” Cranford stated.
First-year, Talayah Lemon, also explained that she saw the steps that were being taken to more accurately represent the diversity of the female identity in TV and movies but thinks that getting to the most accurate portrayals of women isn’t going to happen right away.
“I definitely think they’re getting closer… And yeah, I just think that…it takes time…” Lemon stated.
According to Lemon, one way that the film industry can get closer to more accurately and equally representing women is by continuing to make movies that push back against boundaries and stereotypes.
“You know, get away from the norm, the status quo. Keep showing that and pushing for that because it’s great,” Lemon explained.
In Lemon’s opinion “Black Panther” had a major impact on moving toward breaking down the stereotypical women characters in film. She explained that the film really inspires people to lead.
“You know, [the actresses in “Black Panther” are] big role models actually,” Lemon began. “And it motivates people of color, and maybe not…just people of color, to have those roles and have the courage to actually be leaders.”
The example that recent films and TV series have set will continue to influence the film industry and provide a platform for the development women character. Films like “Black Panther”, “A Wrinkle in Time”, and “Wonder Woman” have already start to set the bar for what it means to write strong diverse female characters.
“The power that media has over ideas about gender hierarchies should never be overlooked. By watching films and TV shows which embody strong female characters, young girls and boys alike will grow up knowing that girls are fully capable of making their own decisions and being independent,” Pedersen said.