Monday, 25 July 2016

Why We Need Female Leads

I may be trying to cover more than I should here….

A few weeks ago in the Huffington Post, an article was posted up with the headline; One Photo Shows Why We Needed An All-Female ‘Ghostbusters’ Reboot and there was photo of Kristen Wiig talking with a group of young girls dressed as Ghostbusters.

We all know by now that the Ghostbusters reboot has received a huge tidal wave of internet troll abuse not to mention the heinous attacks on Twitter on the amazing Leslie Jones, but the filmmakers and the cast had the last laugh. The film has been well received and no childhoods were ruined in the process as some idiotic people claimed. The photo proves that. These girls in the photo and all the young girls who watch the film will hopefully be inspired that they can be whoever they want to be.

Young girls aren't just given the same old role models to look up to, they have a choice, they won't get told that they like 'boy films', as they are just films, no gender separation needed.

I was brought up, along many others on films like Ghostbusters, Star Wars, Back to the Future, heck even Lord of the Rings, which is (collectively) one of my favourite films BUT even in my twenties, given the chance to see female lead characters on screen is something I didn’t think would happen, not the way things were going. I thought the dream of great female characters was going to continue to be a niche thing, no matter what Cate Blanchett said when she won her Oscar. It’s my go to speech when I want to make a point of how important that speech actually was, people DO want to see films about women/starring women.

While watching films like The Hunger Games, Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I didn’t think twice that all the leads were female. I just thought what great characters and how much I enjoyed the films. Of course I was over joyed about Rey being the Jedi over other male characters, but apart from that, gender did not cross my mind. This is why I was surprised at the back lash from people complaining, actually complaining that the leads were female! It’s absurd and several different kinds of wrong that people saw fit to complain about this.

Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars getting the main brunt of these complaints, it seems that people couldn’t bear to see women in great roles where they weren’t just the side characters and more than a few lines to say. The battering down on female roles is a prime reason why we need MORE female roles that aren’t conscious, they just feel natural. Then more young girls, like the one in the photograph, can see their heroes or heroines on the big screen.

Strong Female Characters

What defines a strong female character? To me, a strong female character is someone is front and centre. She is determined in her goal and isn’t swayed or controlled by a man. She isn’t just in an action film, she could be in a comedy or thriller or anything she chooses. She isn’t an ‘ice queen’ and she isn’t ‘quirky’ and she is not always ‘romantically inclined’. She is described by more than her appearance and her age is not relevant. She has a personality and is not a one dimensional character. She doesn’t necessarily have to be the hero, she could be the villain. She is more than her job, more than the people that surround her. She has an actual name. She is a strong female character.

Reading the above back (not out loud) I think I’m asking a bit too much. But hopefully I’m clear in what I mean. A ‘strong female character’ is NOT only, someone in an action film who can beat up an entire warehouse of people without breaking a sweat. This description of a female character has been used too long to hide the fact that she may be strong but she’s the only female around. I think I’m also guilty in using this description in the wrong way, but I will stop from now on and only use this when its right.


The misconception that about ‘she-boots’ is that they are not a progression as women should be given new stories and their own franchises and so on. Honestly, I think the fact that potential film reboots have been given their own gender specific nickname is the bad thing here. Why aren’t they just called reboots? Why does there have to be name calling? Why is there a need to point out that the leads are female?

So called ‘she-boots’ aren’t the long-time solution to the gender inequality in Hollywood but they are a start. The news that there was an Ocean’s Eleven-esque heist film with an all-female cast going into production sent another uproar through the ranks. I had always thought that the Ocean’s Eleven was a film where it really didn’t matter if the cast was male or female and now that a similar film was underway, I couldn’t believe it. But when further news was released that Cate Blanchett and Sandra Bullock (excellent cast so far) was cast and one was Danny Ocean’s sister, I was less enthusiastic. However, never to turn down what otherwise looks to be (with more actresses cast) an excellent film.

 Over on Hitchcock’s World, he’s written a post about a number of possible re-boots with all female casts. For me this illustrated that re-boots are not the ultimate answer, even though I loved his idea for Die Hard, I would watch that film. I think what is needed, is more stories, films that feature women in the lead roles and more importantly, new material. What with actresses banding together to start production companies and more women directing and writing, hopefully we will be other the ‘she-boot’ hysteria and moans from the negatives out there.

And one last thought….

In A World…

 Actress and writer Lake Bell’s debut feature, In A World… tackled the world voice over artists, in particular the famous worlds used in countless trailers, ‘In a world…’. This industry is dominated by men. The main part of the film is competition to be the voice over artist to immortalize those three little words in a new big blockbuster franchise which happens to feature a cast of women. Bell’s character is competing against her father, who is well renowned in the business and belittles her whenever he gets the chance. He doesn’t see her as competition at all. Ultimately she is picked, but she is told she was not the best person for the job, but was chosen for the greater meaning of having a woman in that role. The funny thing about this is the executive who delivers this truth is played by Geena Davis, who is known for championing women.

I found this a mixed message, unsure whether to take it as the industry is like this, blunt. Or it could be taken that, the only way for things to change is for people in a position of power to change things themselves. Somehow, this might not be the best approach to the industry run by men. Everyone wants to feel that they deserve the opportunities that they are given and aren’t given a place because, a token is needed or diversity numbers must be met. However I still believe equal opportunity should be given. 


  1. I understand why a lot of people were skeptical about a re-boot for the film, though I did not like the original Ghostbusters so I didn't think a re-boot would do harm, but I also believe some are being misogynistic about the new film. I'm really glad you wrote a post about this issue. As a woman, it would be nice to look up to strong female leads that aren't sexualized or have any depth to them and I think that is a problem the film industry has. Hopefully the new Ghostbusters will lead to more she-boots and in general more female leads, something the industry desperately needs.

    1. Thanks Rachel! You're right. The industry needs to change, and hopefully now with more women taking control with whats being put out there, there will be changes. There seem to be more women setting up production companies which is a great sign. Also, yes I know what you mean, I;m fed up of seeing potential role models sexualized. I would love to see a spy film where the spy is a normal woman, like 'Spy' but a serious film.

    2. Finally some hope for us women haha. The other day I was thinking of action films where the female doesn't fall for the lead and the only one I could think of was Spy, and we deff need more films like that, but better.