Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Just how crap are women's roles these days? Let's check in with Vidya Balan!

(What? Are you saying I chose this image for an excuse to post sexy Vidya in drag?! Then you would be correct!)

Vidya Balan has been out promoting Bobby Jasoos and the big talking point is how women's roles in films are kind of crap still:

"I think 95 percent of the portrayal is still very stereotypical and only five percent portrayals are attempting something different, more realistic like 'Bobby' (her film Bobby Jassos)," the actress said.

I have issues with the word "realistic" getting tossed around but she's not wrong.
By coincidence, one of my favorite radio shows, On Point, also just had an episode on the lack of women in HOLLYwood and one of the articles linked to was this one from Time magazine talking about women role's in film this year and how it drives the audiences going to the movies. The Time article posits that better women characters means more women shelling out cash to go to the theater means higher box office returns.

That doesn't seem like such a bad thing, huh?

But the part I really appreciated was this:

Neighbors features a fantastic scene in which married couple [Seth] Rogen and [Rose] Byrne debate who gets to be the irresponsible one in the relationship. He says she has to be because she’s the woman and the woman is always the wet towel. She says that’s not fair and refuses to act as his babysitter. Keep writing dialogue like this, Rogen!

What bothers me more than the idea of "one true love" (*barf*) or the prioritizing of romance over everything (*double barf*) in "realistic" romantic-comedies is that if she's not a manic-pixie dream girl, the woman ends up playing Mommy to some overgrown man-child and we're supposed to find it cute. That certainly isn't this woman's fantasy romance… cleaning up after some dude who can't be bothered to find himself his own goddamn pair of clean undies. And I don't think this image is good for men to see, either, especially impressionable young men.

In both Hollywood AND Bollywood, I would much rather see better women characters incorporated into the type of mass films I (and a lot of other people) already find enjoyable than segregated off into drippy "women-centered films." And that includes using better actresses in those mass films instead of just whoever the director or producer is fucking at the time. A good actress can turn the most underwritten heroine role into something memorable. i.e. Kangana Ranaut in Krrish 3 last year. Kangana's role added a lot to that film and in the hands of a lesser actress it could easily have turned into a simpering, boob-flashing nothing part.

Kangana, along with Vidya, is one of the most interesting actresses working in popular film these days… at least in Bombay.

From the above linked press-conference, Vidya even says:

"I always had liking for Kangana. I remember watching 'Fashion' and I think she was incredible in the film. I think she is extremely bold and brave person and that is why she is like that in her films too. It is interesting to see the kind of work she is doing," Vidya said.

Kangs was absolutely the BEST part of Fashion.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this except to say that, Vidya, if you feel women get short shrift on screen in Mumbai, it's just as bad, if not worse, in Hollywood. At least Bollywood films all require a heroine to show up for a few songs, Hollywood movies don't even have that flimsy role available much of the time. I won't go to see a film because it has "strong women's roles" but I've definitely NOT watched things because of terrible women's roles. (I'm looking at you, Moffat.)

"Better women's roles" gets conflated with "strong" and "fierce" roles but "strong" and "fierce" are just as one dimensional as "simpering heroine." There isn't just one way to be a woman--we're fuck-ups, superstar heroes, sexy, ugly, jiggly, smart, silly, occasionally drunk, judgmental, open-minded, open-hearted, and complicated humans just like the men-folks. I wish the cultural critics would keep in mind that just because a woman character appears conservative and traditional doesn't mean she's not "strong" in her own way. And just because she might choose family obligation over romance doesn't mean she's backwards.

So… stop writing insipid bikini heroines, hire Kangana more often, and… women are people, too! Bobby Jasoos doesn't look like the kind of movie I typically enjoy but I wish Dia and Vidya and the team all the luck! I hope people like it!

1 comment:

odadune said...

I watched Commando recently, and I remember thinking that the love interest in that would actually have been a pretty cool role for someone like Sona or Parineeti if they'd just toned down the stupid moments a little and gave her a stronger finish to the character arc: she had lots of humorous lines, some initiative, and the role just felt a bit more substantial than the norm. And then I remembered that supposedly the only reason the role was expanded that much was because of the actress's alleged involvement with the producer. That paradox really seemed to me like everything that is frustrating about Bollywood's handling of women in a nutshell.

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl