Starting back in March when The Hunger Games was released, a trend has been appearing in many major film releases. Quick, what do The Hunger Games, Prometheus, Snow White & the Hunstman, and Pixar’s upcoming Brave have in common? They’re all high-profile “action” movies, and they all feature female protagonists. You can even include The Avengers on this list, because even though Black Widow is hardly anyone’s favorite character, she had more screen time than Thor, Bruce Banner, or Hawkeye. That would mean there have been five major film releases this year with female protagonists, and we aren’t even through June yet. While five movies is hardly a staggering amount, it is actually really impressive when you consider past years.
(NOTE: I’m only counting “high profile” movies, meaning wide releases that are advertised regularly. A female protagonist in a limited-release film is nothing new.)
Last year, I counted only four female-driven movies through August: Sucker Punch, Scream 4, Bridesmaids, and The Help. Now, those first two films flopped at the box office and were not received well by critics. (Rightfully so. They were awful.) But the latter two were huge successes, and while The Help was technically “more important” because of the themes it dealt with, I think Bridesmaids is more important to the general public today. Bridesmaids proved that in a heavily male-centric film world, women can be just as raunchy and hilarious as men.
Is it possible to trace back this new trend to the success of Bridesmaids and The Help? I think that is certainly an argument worth having, and one that I would firmly agree with. These two films showed that women can drive an R-rated comedy and also effectively carry a heavy-themed drama. It seems only natural that Hollywood would hop on the estrogen bandwagon and create more movie opportunities for women.
There are a few more movies of the like coming out this year, including a hard “R” comedy called For a Good Time, Call…, about two female roommates who start a phone sex business. While I don’t think femtagonist (I just made that word up — let’s see if it catches on) movies will ever surpass mantagonist (I may be pushing my luck now) movies, I think it’s quite clear that women are making a push to prove they can be just as entertaining as their male counterparts.
Considering there have been five female-driven action films so far this year (and another Resident Evil is on the way), we see that women are invading territory that has always been considered a man’s world. This is by no means a bad thing, and I am eager to see what action heroines the future holds. Ridley Scott proved that women could control action films way back in 1979 with Alien. What took us so long to catch up?
What are your reactions to the rise in female-driven films? Do you think it is a positive for the film industry? Do you think I missed something in my article? Agree or disagree with me in the comments below.