The 86th Oscars was entertaining as always: Ellen DeGeneres bought pizza for Brad Pitt and Meryl Streep, John Travolta got a little tongue tied, and the best selfie ever was taken. More importantly, Lupita Nyong’o was recognized as the Best Supporting Actress in a feature film for 12 Years a Slave (the 7th woman of colour to win best actress/supporting actress) and Cate Blanchett won Best Actress for Blue Jasmine (a truly feminist film).
But in all the bright lights, sequins, and peak lapels, Cate reminded us of a glaring issue: sexism in the movie industry.
“To those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences, they are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. So the world is round, people!"
And with that said, let’s reflect on some of our favourite movies that celebrate leading ladies.
1) She’s The Man
This chick flick gospel, adapted from Shakespeare’s The Twelfth Night, definitely fits the criteria for a feminist film. We have a female lead (the awesome Amanda Bynes) along with three other dynamic female characters. The main character, Viola, sets out on a mission to prove she is capable of playing on the boy’s high school soccer team by posing as her brother. By Viola kicking butt on the field and celebrating womanhood at a debutant ball all in the same weekend, the movie shows women as multifaceted creatures that are more than just archetypes.
Moreover, this movie breaks down gender stereotypes (cue the endearing conversation between Amanda and Channing) and illustrates that girls can do anything boys can (Na na nana na!)
A quieter film from the early 2007 that didn’t receive the acclaim it should have. This movie centers on Jenna Hunterson (played by Keri Russell), a sad and lonesome waitress in a small town married to a horrible man. Her loving friends support her as she explores her sexuality, accepts and (sometimes celebrates) motherhood, and deals with her husband (as a person, rather than a hyperbolized monster).
This movie is truly feminist because it puts a female at the center, does not let her drown in a sea of men, and avoids the pitfalls of clichés for both men and women. It is a brilliant movie, celebrating a brilliant woman.
3) Legally Blonde
Yes, you could look at Legally Blonde as a movie following a stupid girl who foolishly chases after a boy who doesn’t want her. OR you could see it for what it truly is: bad-ass.
Elle Woods, pink lady extraordinaire, broke down the worst stereotypes. Blondes are not always dumb, caring about appearances does not dictate your depth, and even the most comfortable people can change.
Elle is initially fixated on a boy and a specific lifestyle, but only because she had never been allowed to aspire beyond a model, homemaker, or socialite. In the end, despite constant doubt and putdowns, she carves a path for herself, and in a very Elle Woods kind of way. Nails buffed, hair curled; this girl killed it at Harvard Law School with unwavering amiability.
Thanks for teaching us that it’s never too late to prove people wrong.
4) First Wives Club
A nineties classic, The First Wives Club may very well serve as my feminist bible. When in doubt, look up to Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton.
This flick is about three older women, all who have been dumped by their husbands for younger, prettier girls. After reconnecting at a dear friend’s funeral, the three women set out for justice with their ex-husbands.
From dealing with substance abuse to body insecurities to sexuality, these women face the ups and downs and discoveries of life together. They kiss their old selves goodbye and embark on a new, refreshed chapter of their lives.
At it’s center, The First Wives Club isn’t a story about men or love; it’s about gathering the courage to stand up for yourself — especially when “yourself” is no longer the youthful, petite kind either.