Women Directing Movies: Their Impact on Female Gaze
There is an obvious lack of the female gaze, and here we examine how it affects the industry.
After the Bechdel Test was created, the cinematic industry became more aware of women’s representation lack within the movies. The criteria seem simple: A movie has to include two named women, they need to have a conversation with each other, and it cannot be about a man. Still, more than 50% of the movies do not pass the test. From big blockbusters like “Avengers” to children’s movies like “Finding Nemo,” the inclusion of female characters that influence the plot has been lacking for decades in the industry.
But even passing the Bechdel Test does not secure correct female representation. Some of the movies that meet the criteria have a small conversation between two women without guaranteeing a central storyline for any of them. It can be traced back to behind-the-scenes: Female narratives are not included because no women support the creation of movies.
The Celluloid Ceiling Report examines women’s employment in the 250 top-grossing US films. The numbers are not encouraging: 94% of the top 250 US films were made without female cinematographers, 92% without female composers, 82% without female directors, 73% without female editors, and 72% without female screenwriters. Even when there is protagonism on the screen, movies are not made by women. It can be easily seen in the storylines, as they may fall into classic generalizations: From manic pixie dream girls to a lady in distress that needs to be saved, it is not easy to find outstanding representation in the top US movies.
Furthermore, female-focused movies are usually treated as inferior to their male counterparts. For example, rom-coms are targeted toward a feminine audience and are generally treated as less important in cinema than movies focused on a man’s growth. But usually, these stories do pass the Bechdel Test, even when their main storyline is about a love story. If movies focused on a heterosexual relationship can include more female characters and conversations that do not involve men, why can’t action, adventure, or indie movies do the same? If they are not listening to women and their insight into characters, it is impossible to ensure representation when the film comes to life.
The few movies that focus on women’s growth are usually heavily criticized for not being “relatable enough.” “Turning RED,” the new Pixar movie, was heavily attacked for talking openly about periods and the beginning of adolescence for little girls. The characters were called immature and cringy, while many women saw their younger selves reflected on the screen. Puberty is not an easy moment. For little girls worldwide, it was validating to see how hard it can be to fight family expectations, the importance of female friendships, the hardness of first love, and how important fandoms can become in one’s life. It was relatable, but not for the people that usually get to criticize movies: The industry is used to male storylines. Examples vary for all genders. From “Legally Blonde” showing that you can be extremely feminine and also successful, smart, and powerful to “Captain Marvel” being criticized for showing the same attitudes as “Iron Man,” the female struggle to tell our stories in cinema is still notable.
The female gaze is essential to creating good movies. As seen in the awards, The Oscars have only had three female directors winning their category, and all of them happened in the last 12 years. In the 2022 writing category, there was not a single woman nominated. Women should be included behind the scenes to ensure proper representation and storylines to which women can relate.