August 18, 2011 § 1 Comment

An hour has passed since I left the cineplex, having used my free movie ticket given to me by a friend to view Rise of the Planet of the Apes, starring a somnambulant James Franco and, while the film itself was almost worth the gas money spent, I’m perturbed by one question:

Why, um…. are there no female apes in the movie?

Let me qualify with a disclaimer: at no time during the film was ape genitalia sighted, of either gender; therefore, I cannot be certain that there were not she-apes present. Having said that, were the creators to tell me that the presence of female apes should have been assumed, it would only increase my agitation.

An agitation engendered by the fact that Hollywood, if it can be believed, has become even more feminine-averse that I’d previously thought possible.

Note the use of feminine, as opposed to female. Yes, there are roles for women (albeit not many leading ones) in Hollywood movies- the problem is that most of them have veered even more in the direction of male-created stereotypes.

It used to be that the two roles available for the vast majority of actresses were either Virgin or Whore. Ingenue or Vixon. However, in the last generation, the studios have added a new category: Warrior. Sigourney Weaver ushered that new Hollywood archetype into the mainstream with Alien and since then, we’ve witnessed a cornucopia of adaptations : Milla Jovovich in the Resident Evil series, Radha Mitchell in Pitch Black and Angelina Jolie in Salt, to name a few.

Can we call this proliferation of roles embracing the female-warrior archetype progress? It may very well be a step back. When we consider in retrospect what might be called the “golden years” of Hollywood, a glance at the leading ladies of the time might well give us pause when considering the “progress” some people claim women have made in front of the camera in recent years. Actresses like Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman and Joan Crawford epitomized a feminine archetype whose power didn’t come from a facility with automatic weapons and a third degree black belt, but from a different kind of weaponry: that of intelligence, wit, inner strength, courage and a seductiveness borne out of a seemingly indestructible sense of personal power.

Where are those women today? More accurately, where are the roles? Must women be either sex objects, helpless maidens, gun-toting killers or a combination of the three?

The public is ready for, and I would argue is in need of, vehicles for powerful, dynamic actresses that represent true feminine power, a power that can manifest itself through emotional fluidity, intuitive playfulness, shredding wit and, among a multitude of other facets, the loves, rages and desires that can storm from its pure life-giving and love-bearing essence.

While there are no shortages of roles in the American film industry for men to embody the masculine essence with its properties, the same cannot be said of that terrain in relation to women. That needs to change and not just for fairness’ sake. We need a new paradigm that allows for the feminine to rise, as opposed to a warped idea of femininity that is propagated daily by a male-dominated industry.

Vote with your wallet. Staying home can sometimes be a powerful gesture.

Picture  :  Where were the female apes?


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