In 1972, I joined the National Organization for Women, which was six years old and had begun a strong membership drive in support of ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. There were other male members, but not too many. It’s not that I was a staunch feminist. Hey, I was a freshman in college and cared more about meeting women than anything else. But I truly believed in equal rights and felt that it was absolutely stupid that more than half of the population were targets of legal discrimination.
Those were heady days, and even though the amendment was not ratified (for absurd reasons I will never understand), it was a period of enlightenment around gender roles and realities. Within a few years, that enlightenment seemed to spill over into the cinema, and since then, there have been several movies about women who aspire to strength and success not limited to their personal relationships. They include “Norma Rae” (1979), “Silkwood” (1983), “The Color Purple” (1985), “Aliens” (1986), “Working Girl” (1988), “The Accused” (1988), “A League of Their Own” (1992), and “Erin Brockovich” (2000).
However, a recent spate of movies has caused me to wonder about the message we, as a society, are sending to girls and young women. In films like “Julie & Julia” (the Julie character), “Sex and the City 2,” “The Kids are All Right” (Julianne Moore’s character), and “Eat Pray Love,” there seems to be a strong focus on self-absorbed, affluent, white women. Unlike some men, I dislike the term “chick flick,” and I generally prefer movies that actually deal with some level of relationships rather than merely random explosions. I also understand that the women portrayed in these movies exist in our society, but do we have to keep glorifying them when there are so many great women doing great things daily? Where are the movies about them?
I’m not saying that these movies have to be depressing. Most of the movies I listed two paragraphs above, from “Norma Rae” to “Erin Brockovich,” were highly entertaining films that I have watched several times. I just think it’s time that Hollywood and the independent filmmakers started to focus a little more on women who inspire rather than those who wallow in self-pity. I personally know plenty of women whose experiences I’d rather see portrayed on film, and I’m sure you do too.