Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Miss Representation and Female Protagonists

After watching Miss Representation last week in class, the one thing that stayed with me was the idea of a female protagonist. Now the documentary wasn't telling me something new about women in men dominated work fields like politics or news. But the idea of the lack of fictional female main characters did make me think more about their presents in films and television shows. And they are lacking. So why would I bring up that small detail from the documentary? Growing up (and still to this day) I read tons of books—in the Young Adult genre—with many strong female protagonists. These characters embodied the type of person I wish I could be in real life. Their experiences engrossed me outside of the real world, and it is this feeling that I now always seek when reading a piece.  So the idea that female protagonists out there in some form of medium are lacking has never been in my mind before.

This brings me to my next point about female main characters from YA literature. In Miss Representation the success of Twilight, the YA romance novel by Stephanie Meyers, was mentioned from the director, Catherine Hardwicke. That same day I found this article talking about the upcoming YA novels-turned-movies coming to theaters thanks to the success of Twilight. The main reason I thought this short article was a great mention was because it mentions the disregard of the teenage girl demographic that Twilight tapped into when it came to studios. I felt like this goes along with what some of the women were mentioning in the documentary. I remember Rosario Dawson talked about getting stories written down by women out there. And that is exactly what is happening with movies nowadays. Many of the adaptations of YA books that I know of are written by females with female protagonists (and the same is said for teenage boys) and the authors usually have some involvement in the production of the adaptation.

This is a still of the female protagonist Clary Fray from the upcoming Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones movie adapted from the novel City of Bones by Cassandra Clare.
This is another YA series by Lauren Oliver that has been offered a pilot on Fox's network that showcases a strong plot line and a strong female character.

So for me much of what the women were saying about there being a lack of in the film industry I was finding elsewhere. That is my main point: it’s out there; it’s just harder to find. And now it’s even melting into the films and shows we are exposed to. Is this a good thing that the YA genre is getting filmed more now? Can any bad come from this? Are these adaptations tapping into what the ladies were talking about in Miss Representation, about the lack of female protagonist or even an age group like teens and children? Or am I just focusing too much on one tiny detail that this documentary made me think about (and am I even making sense)?


  1. I like what you've brought up in your post, because throughout some of the movie my mind drifted to these types of books. For example, I thought of the Hunger Games, which book or movie, is based around a strong, young woman.

    I think that it is a good thing that more books of this category are being filmed; however, I definitely do see some potential obstacles. First, books to movies never seem to turn out as detailed or satisfying, which may lead to the strong characters being less effective on screen. Also, I still feel like in most of the books which have a female protagonist love is the central focus or changing themselves in some way to break oppresion, etc. I'm not saying that love is bad by any means, or fighting for what you believe in, but it seems like these characters are still often facing the same issues - not being in power, and not viewed by other characters as equal.

    I always like to see a well-acted, complex female role, and I definitely think this genre of books has potential in film.

  2. The question I'd like to ask is "why is there a lack of strong female protagonists in newer and more used forms of media? I think it's odd that, as we make progress toward gender equality (or believe ourselves to, at least), we misrepresent women more, it seems. I'm not taking a side on this or implying anything, merely pointing out contradicting trends. Films and television are generally biased, but not books, eh?

    What does this say about our society and/or the progression of it? Also, does it indicate that literary types tend to be less biased, gender wise, than those who prefer visual media? Would this be the result of a "peek-a-boo society," if so? I expect that, as our minds become more fragmented, we may tend to think less about social issues or about who may be left out or offended by the products we create. I wonder...

  3. I found that the mention of Twilight in Miss Representation was slightly incongruous with the point that they made earlier about the lack of strong female protagonists in film. Bella in Twilight is not a strong female character, and story revolves around a love based plot. I understand that when mentioning Twilight they were trying to highlight female directors, but I feel that mentioning Twilight was not beneficial to their argument.

    I think that young adult novels with strong female characters like The Hunger Games are great for young women, I myself was rather fond of Tamora Pierce's novels, which all feature female protagonists. However, I do agree with Melanie that strong characters can be watered down on screen (I think this did happen with The Hunger Games).

    Why are strong female characters watered down in film adaptations? Is is merely a time constraint, or what the film industry thinks an audience wants?

  4. I find myself thinking about young adult novels a lot when searching for good female protagonists. I think many of them are great examples of strong female protagonists and I love reading about them. My question is whether females can be strong without males being strong too. Miss representation (at least the lecture) seemed to stress women having equal power to men. This seems to be true in young adult novels and many of the movie adaptations of these novels.

    I thought about it a lot when I saw Beautiful Creatures over the weekend. Lena is an incredibly strong female character and though Ethan is as strong character he has very little power in the novel and no power in the movie. This is not really a big deal, after all there are countless movies where men have all the power. What really got me thinking was that I found it so strange and I liked the movie less because he had so little power. It just really hammered in the idea that we are programmed to expect certain things and think a certain way and we obviously don't realize it most of the time. What else am I not thinking about simply because its normal.