Women In Film

Who cares?

How women are represented in film is something that we have all been exposed to in some way or another. Unless you’ve never seen a movie, you’ve probably seen a woman in a movie. We all have childhood memories of trying to be just like our favorite character, be it Hermione Granger, Belle, or Luke Skywalker. From our earliest days, we are impacted by the entertainment around us. This makes positive representation far more important than we realize. So the short answer is that we should ALL care, the positive representation of women in film is crucial

What got me interested in this topic?

Historical Beginnings

Ever since film began, the portrayal of women on screen has been flawed and  important. The early tropes written into female characters are crucial in understanding and  analyzing film from a feminist perspective today. If you’d like to learn more about the historical angle of this issue, feel free to skim over my paper on the historical background of female representation in film:


Although the representation of women in film has improved, it is by no means perfect, not even close. Th next time you watch a movie, try putting it through the Bechdel Test. The Bechdel Test asks if 1) a movie has at least 2 female characters, 2) If they have have a conversation with each-other, and finally 3) If the conversation topic does not involve a man. If you pay attention to these requirements when watching movies, you’ll realize how few films stand up to the Bechdel test. However, the Bechdel test is not the end all be all of positive female representation, a gray area that I explore in my full paper. As previously mentioned, the negative representation in film has not vanished, just shifted. If you’re interested in the dissection of a common modern film trope, check out the video below.

If you’d like to learn more about the present side of this problem, take a look at my full paper on the present issue and possible solutions:

What can YOU do?

The issue of female representation in film is difficult to solve because it is much more of a societal issue. However, by becoming far more conscious of the media we consume, you can stop negative portrayals from negatively affecting your view of women in the real world. Obviously you’re not going to stop watching poorly written female characters overnight, I’ve probably watched Grease six times and I enjoy it every time, its just important to consume all media with a critical mindset. Becoming a conscious viewer is a long process that we all work at everyday in some way, but I hope I’ve been able to jumpstart your journey to to conscious viewership.

What can we ALL do?

As I mentioned previously mentioned, this issue is primarily societal, so it is difficult to make change on a larger scale. However, I do think that by hiring more female directors, producers and  general film executives, women would be written in a more positive, realistic and  developed ways. Female directors and  producers represent a minuscule part of the industry and  are disproportionately represented in comparison to other industries. More equitable hiring in Hollywood could be encouraged by government compensation or tax breaks for film studios that hire diversely. Additionally, by supporting female directors, we are showing that female made films can be successful. Recently, female director Greta Gerwig has gained a lot of attention for her woman centered and  highly successful films such as LadybirdLittle Women, and  20th Century Women

Final Thoughts

I hope that I’ve been able to make you more conscious of the issues with female representation in film and that I’ve inspired to look further into this complex and fascinating issue. A next step could be as simple as just watching a female directed movie! Notice the different ways that female characters are written in different films and the different tropes that they are written into. Notice the imprint that film and entertainment make on the world around us. With just a little more consciousness, we can all make positive change in the way that film affects the world.


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“Film Industry.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Jan. 2020,

Lauzen, Martha M. “The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 100, 250, and 500 Films of 2018.” The Celluloid Ceiling, 2018,

Fang, Marina. “The Male Gaze Still Dominates In Movies Around The World, New Study Shows.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 1 Oct. 2019,

Keogh, Joey. “Misogynistic Moments from Movie Classics That’ll Make You Cringe Today.”, The List, 16 May 2018,

Feldman, Lucy. “Oscars 2016; how the 2016 Oscar Nominees did on the Bechdel Test; to Measure the Extent to which Women are Included–Or Left Out of–the Top Films, the Journal Subjected the Best-Picture Nominees to the Bechdel Test, Named for Cartoonist Alison Bechdel.” Wall Street Journal (Online), Jan 14, 2016. ProQuest,

Agarwal, Apoorv, et al. “Key Female Characters in Film Have More to Talk About Besides Men: Automating the Bechdel Test.” Proceedings of the 2015 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies, 2015, doi:10.3115/v1/n15-1084.

Nisar, Liaba. “The Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Trope Or Mythos?” Film Inquiry, 20 June 2019,

“Film Roles for Women Have Seen Old Tropes Fall Away and Full-Fledged Human Beings Emerge.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 6 Nov. 2019,

Rabin, Nathan. “The Bataan Death March of Whimsy Case File #1: Elizabethtown.” Film, Film, 23 Aug. 2017,

Sullivan, Colleen. “Deconstructing the Manic Pixie Dream Girl: She Always Had Something to Say.” Medium, Medium, 20 Sept. 2018,

Penny, Laurie. “Laurie Penny on Sexism in Storytelling: I Was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.” Laurie Penny on Sexism in Storytelling: I Was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, 30 June 2013,

Miller, Kara. “A Sturdy Glass Ceiling: Representation of Women on Screen and Behind the Scenes of Hollywood’s Top 100 Films throughout the Years.” Journal of Purdue Undergraduate Research, vol. 8, no. 1, 2018, pp. 24–31., doi:10.5703/1288284316736.

Shaffer, Rosalind. “Can Life Begin at 42 for Mary Pickford?: Film Queen Seeks New Fame in Radio can Life Begin at 42 for Mary Pickford?” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Feb 03, 1935, pp. 2. ProQuest,

Gaines, Jane. “Film History and the Two Presents of Feminist Film Theory.” Cinema Journal, vol. 44, no. 1, 2004, pp. 113–119., doi:10.1353/cj.2004.0045.

Kaplan, Ann. “The Feminist Perspective in Film Studies.” The Feminist Perspective in Film Studies, 1971.Petro, Patrice. “Reflections on Feminist Film Studies, Early and Late.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 30, no. 1, 2004, pp. 1272–000., doi:10.1086/421881.Torma, Eszter. “The Brief History of American Film.” The Brief History of American Film, 2005,

Share this project
  1. April 23, 2020 by Seva Kelly

    This was really informative and well put together! I love watching romantic comedies and most of the women in them are manic pixie dream girls. I think it’s really important to show how women are portrayed in films because a lot of people don’t realize how shallow some characters are.

  2. April 23, 2020 by Maya Gray

    Wonderful presentation! I love watching movies and have also noticed the underrepresentation of women. Your final point about being a conscious viewer is something I absolutely agree with. To put that in a different context, a lot of people believed that females were snubbed out of nominations for the Oscars (I think this as well). I wonder if we could have any impact on who judges what movies are nominated. Maybe there should be some sort of objective criteria sheet to avoid unfair viewings of movies? I hadn’t even considered this option before I read your presentation. Well done!

  3. April 23, 2020 by Margaret Rosenbaum

    I love to see movies, and I tend to take my feminist perspective out of the picture when I watch. The film industry is mainly run by men, so you usually have to forget about the slightly sexist things that happen in movies. I haven’t thought a lot about what an individual person can do to try and create equality in such a big industry, but your point about watching movies critically is a really great first step. Your presentation was lovely to see and also very informative.

  4. April 27, 2020 by Jane

    This project is very interesting and I hadn’t really thought of it this way before. I really like your point about being conscious while watching things and paying attention to these details. I’m going to try and be more conscious going forward!

  5. April 27, 2020 by Lily

    This project it very interesting to me because having grown up with the knowledge of the film industry I always find myself being drawn to more film related topics. I really liked the part about female directors because that is a very new issue that has come up and it is interesting to see how the academy and the rest of Hollywood are reacting.

  6. April 27, 2020 by Hailey Dondis

    I think this project is so cool because it makes me think of the difference between characters like Princess Buttercup from “The Princess Bride” verses a character like Wonder Woman. I really enjoyed reading about this project and the ways this problem can be fixed!

  7. April 27, 2020 by Madison Seda

    This is an important topic and I’m glad you wrote about it. There’s been so much progress in the film industry towards the portrayal of women, but there are still times where I watch a movie and see a female character that is only there for a male character’s development, or just so there will be a women in the mix, and see women have no real depth to there characters while their male counterparts do.

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