“Lara is super strong, invincibly strong. But also stunningly beautiful, unbelievably beautiful” (Smelik, 2009, p. 179). These qualities have become a requirement in the portrayal of female heroine in films since the 1990’s. But is it an accurate portrayal of women? Films have been guilty of an unfair and inaccurate portrayal of gender roles especially for women. In the early years, women were portrayed as submissive, emotional and dependent on males and males are portrayed as the lead hero in the movie, saving the day and getting the girl in the process (Gilpatric, 2010). However, in recent times, we can observe a new trend in recent movies. Films such as Tomb Raider (2000) ...view middle of the document...
This concept forms the basis of which tough women are depicted in films. In addition, Smelik (2009) argues that there is a new portrayal of gender roles in modern films rendering the older film theories irrelevant.
While some have proven that traditional gender stereotype may exist (Sternheimer, 2003; Gilpatric, 2010), others have proved that there is a new trend towards a broader depiction of gender (Brown, 1996; Brown 2003; Nelmes, 2007; Smelik, 2009). These previous researches make it difficult to conclude if the trend is true. In light of this issue, this paper seeks to argue that because of the impossibility to eliminate traditional gender stereotypes, the progress towards a more accurate portrayal of gender has been slow in films.
Traditional Gender Stereotype
The traditional stereotypical image of gender is impossible to eliminate. Even in modern times where gender equality is fervently promoted, they are still present in modern films (Nelmes, 2007). In a study by Gilpatric (2010), he used violence as a strong indicator of masculinity in films. He concludes that although women have taken up violence in films, traditional gender stereotyping is still evident. Most of these women often still rely on the strength and direction of the male character which do not put in an empowering light. Women only appear to be independent but ultimately they still rely on men (Sternheimer, 2003). Male protagonists have proven to be able to generate even greater revenue and a guaranteed success in the cinemas (Brydon, 2009; Gilpatric, 2010). This signals a demand for the older stereotypes motivates film makers to stick with the stereotypical portrayal for profits. So what fuels the demand for such films?
A main driving force for gender stereotypical movies is the patriarchal nature of society (Nelmes, 2007). However, films are the main culprit of reinforcing this concept. Films, having the power to construct meaning, can shape the mindset of society (Smelik, 2009). These images shown in the films resonate in the minds of the viewers, reinforcing the image of the film (Nelmes, 2007). Equipped with this capability, Disney films may have the greatest impact on society. Firstly, Disney films have a huge outreach to millions of households as they are suitable for all ages especially children (Brydon, 2009). Secondly, besides attracting children, it empowers older audiences as it gives them a chance to fulfill their childhood dreams (Sternheimer, 2003). With such an outreach and influence on society, Disney has earned the label of “cultural demigod” (Zipes, 1995; Giroux ,1996 as cited in Brydon, 2009, p. 132). Disney films contain images of extremely strong traditional gender stereotype. A typical storyline portrays female characters as dependent on males with male heroes having to save the damsel in distress. (Sternheimer, 2003; Brydon, 2009). Such stereotypical images of gender reiterate the dominance of a patriarchal society. This impact is further...