You and I, we go back a long ways. Once, I thought we were in it for the long haul. You’ve produced some unforgettable entertainment and even, on occasion, pieces of true art. Hell, once I loved you so much I earned a master’s degree in Film & Television Studies. I’ve worked on film sets as a script supervisor and loved it. I don’t tell you these things to boast, but so you know where I’m coming from when I say this:
I’m breaking up with you. You’re not taking care of my needs anymore. If I’m honest, you never really did.
I knew things were turning sour when I stopped going to the movies, but I told myself I was lazy (true), movies cost too much (also true), and if I stayed home I wouldn’t have to deal with people (so freaking true). I’d watch them when they came out on demand.
Then I noticed my queue was filling up with unwatched movies. Skyfall, The Bourne Legacy, Django Unchained, The Hobbit… all movies I was, in theory, interested in seeing, but never seemed to care enough to order.
I started to see a pattern. There were so many movies I almost wanted to watch, ones that were sure to be entertaining. Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, Pacific Rim, Monsters University, Star Trek: Into Darkness. But one film after another landed in the theatre and I made absolutely no effort to see it.
Here’s why–all those movies I listed, plus dozens of others released this year alone, deal with the male experience. Male spies. Male superheroes. Male monsters. Yes, there are female characters in the films, and some are even integral to the plot, but the movies aren’t about them. They’re about the men. Men’s problems. Men saving the world. Men getting their vengeance. And sometimes women go along for the ride, but that’s the most we can hope for.
Let me say this, as clearly as I can. I am fucking sick of it. I am sick of not seeing myself represented on the screen. I am sick of being portrayed as a reward, a sidekick, or comic relief. I am sick of having one female in a cast of eight men and being told I should stop complaining about unequal representation, because a woman had lines and did something important to the plot.
I am sick of the majority of films with a female lead being romantic comedies, as if all women care about is finding a happily ever after with some hot guy.
I am sick of hearing people express surprise when The Hunger Games, Bridesmaids, and Pitch Perfect are hits. Of course they freaking were. They’re great films, and great, entertaining films make money. It’s not complicated.
I am sick of people saying they can’t make a female superhero movie because Catwoman and Elektra flopped, which they present as proof that female-led superhero films can’t make money. Those films didn’t flop because they starred women. They flopped because they were terrible, terrible films.
I am sick of people holding up the exception, that one film that came out this year with female leads, as if it makes up for the twenty films that came out the same month with women relegated to secondary roles.
This isn’t about the Bechdel test. The Bechdel test, which states that two named female characters in a film must have a single conversation about something other than a man, is a ridiculously low bar most films still don’t manage to clear. But even when the films do clear that bar, it doesn’t mean the film is balanced. It doesn’t mean those characters’ stories are positioned as being equal to the men’s stories.
Indie films do a better job of this, but I live in a small town. I have access to the blockbusters and that’s about it. More to the point, I shouldn’t be limited to indies if I want to see women portrayed as three dimensional characters on film. I love blockbusters. I love shiny, flashy, mindless entertainment. I’m just tired of always seeing the same thing.
I’m not refusing to see any films with male leads. That would be ridiculous. Despite what the trolls would say, I don’t hate men, and I’m happy to see stories about their experiences. I just refuse to see only those films. So, here’s my solution.
I will see one film about the male experience for every film about the female experience. A 50/50 split seems entirely reasonable to me. Of course, this means there will be a LOT of films I’ll have to skip while I wait for the next movie with a female lead, but I can live with that.
I tried waiting patiently. I thought you’d eventually realize that female-centered films consistently make money. I hoped you’d see the error of your ways. I’m done waiting.
Hollywood, I know you’re not exactly quaking in your boots at the thought of the $50 a month you won’t get from me, but it’s a start. Plus, you better believe that if I’ve reached this point, when I’ve loved movies my entire life, there are others who feel the same way.
Look, I’ve been through my 20s. I wasted enough time dating people who didn’t respect me or took me for granted. I’m not doing it anymore, no matter how many fun superhero films you try to tempt me with.
In the meantime, I’ll be giving my money to authors (both male & female) who write strong female characters and I’ll be watching episodes of Scandal or Nashville or Parks & Recreation on Hulu.
Trust me, Hollywood. It’s better this way.
No longer yours,