The rise of intersectional feminism has generated discussions about female representation and representation of women of color in TV and film.
Actresses commonly desire more representation and call for diverse roles that demonstrate strength, vulnerability, and complexity; women are no longer satisfied with the one-dimensional roles they have been forced to play. Moreover, female audiences also demand more representation and inclusivity in films because they want to support movies that depict how diverse the female experience can be.
Audiences identify and relate to characters they view in shows and movies because they see themselves and their experiences reflected in characters. Therefore, it is crucial to construct stories and characters that are inclusive and diverse so everyone can feel represented and be able to identify with the characters they view on screen. Furthermore, women are often portrayed as characters that always need to be rescued such as the damsel in distress, shopaholic, or low level worker. These visuals can be harmful not only because it impacts how society views women and their capabilities but also because it formulates women’s opinions about themselves. Media is extremely powerful; therefore, if movies and shows constantly illustrate women as the victim and never the hero, women’s perception of themselves may be warped and they may struggle to view themselves as anything but the victim. It is essential to display female characters that are heroes of their own stories.
The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film 2016 report indicates that some progress has been made in regards to female representation. Moreover, the report showcases that in 2016, females comprised 29% of protagonists in comparison to 22% in 2015. Women also made up 37% of major characters; this is a 3% increase from 2015. However, the progress of representation for women of color has been much slower. Asian female characters doubled from 3% to 6% in 2016; the number of black female characters increased from 13% to 14%; and the percentage of latina characters declined from 4% to 3%. These statistics highlight the fact that there is still a lot of advancement that needs to be made especially in regards to more representation of women of color, as well as trans-women.
Some recent films such as Hidden Figures (2016), Ghostbusters (2016), and Mad Max (2015) feature strong, complex, and diverse female protagonists that audiences can relate to. Following women’s demands for more inclusivity in the film industry, there has been some advancement to increased female representation in films. It is important to continue the fight for increased female representation in the TV and film industry so that all women may have the chance to see themselves when they look toward small or big screens.
Brenna Resnick and Sarvenaz Farzad, Women’s Museum of California Interns
Join us for the Women’s International Film Festival San Diego, March 24 – 26. This year the Festival welcome films from all over the world including Canada, Indonesia, The UK and The US. WFFSD gives independent female filmmakers a platform, and allows women focused issues to come alive on screen. You can purchase Festival Passes here