Posted by: miralbessed | October 14, 2012

Hollywood and Women’s Position in the Narrative

The 21st century motion picture has come a long way from the old days of classic Hollywood. The plots are more sophisticated, the characters are more polished and the cinematography and production aspects are nearly flawless. Unfortunately these advancements do not reflect women’s’ status in our society.

As O’Shaughnessy discusses in chapter 17, when it comes to narratives, it is not a question of whether women are positioned differently from their male counterparts, but rather how vast is the degree of difference? Unfortunately, Women continue to be placed in the old-fashioned, traditional and stereotypical roles—good girl/bad girl while male character resonate with us almost as repetitively. Our good girl, of course, includes subversive mothers, sisters and wives. The bad girl, for the most part, is any deviation from the norms above. Few narratives document the transformation from one character to the other in an attempt to teach a lesson and solidify the belief that honorable women are those who represent the traditional values in our society.

Other similar narratives that also continue to make their way into the big screen are the story of independent and career driven women who are either still seeking their prince charming or are too busy moving forward to remember their familial responsibilities including being fateful to their husband. In The American Beauty, the character of Carolyn reinforced this belief allowing us to almost justify Lester’s attraction towards an underage girl. Despite the fact that Carolyn is depicted as the stereotypical “independent” wife, she is attracted to a powerful and wealthy man reinforcing/reflecting our society’s the hegemonic structure.

Women who deviate from the social norms are often punished for their unorthodox choice by facing loneliness, social rejection and even death. Most Hollywood narratives terribly fail to admit that a woman’s path to self worth is not exclusive the traditional roles.

So the question remains, why do Hollywood films continue to recycle these outdated narratives despite women’s social mobility? Granted that as women, we till have a long road ahead to achieve equality, one shouldn’t ignore the significant progress we have made thus far. Why it is that most Hollywood films fail to reflect this progress?

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