It’s come up every time a major release has hit theaters this year. It’s been talked about, broken down, and analyzed all over the Internet in the wake of opening weekends. And now more than ever, it’s the most important conversation we’re having concerning the state of modern cinema. If you guessed “gender roles” as the topic of this much-needed conversation, then a gold star for you. Seemingly every time a big release hits theaters, the debate begins anew, with each individual film presenting its own issues and successes.
It all began in March, with the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron. With Scarlet Johannson’s Black Widow acting as our only primary female hero in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, the spotlight was trained directly on her. Unfortunately (and despite the best intentions of director Joss Whedon), she found herself pigeonholed into a role that many found to be less than empowering. Combined with the fact that Black Widow was the only Avenger without her own toy, it spurred a discussion that still rages on now.
Right on the back of the Avengers debate came Mad Max: Fury Road, quite possibly the most sensational and gender-equal action movie ever made. The title names our titular hero we all recognize from Road Warrior et al, but the real star of the film was Charlize Theron’s Furiosa. It showed us the true potential for empowered female leads in a digestible blockbuster context. In doing so, we once again saw the conversation about the role of women in cinema take center-stage for the second time in as many major releases. It’s something that’s been a long time coming in Hollywood; each debate feeds the next one, and in turn filmmakers get a chance to see and understand the issue on a massive scale.
Things didn’t end with Fury Road though. Jurassic World may have debuted to the biggest weekend box office in history, but when the dust settled, that wasn’t what people were talking about. As Fusio lays out, the fourth installment in the Jurassic Park franchise presented some major problems for women.
As the climactic dinosaur-on-dinosaur battle unfolds, our heroine ends up lying prostrate on the ground, in close proximity to the fighting, for no apparent reason. She is reduced to a helpless damsel in distress, bosom heaving, looking more than a little like Fay Wray in King Kong.
It almost catches you off guard how quickly the discussion rubber-bands right back to this key issue directly following opening night. It’s the same talk we’ve had for Age of Ultron and Fury Road in a different arena, clearly stating that the thing people care about most in their blockbusters isn’t action or excitement. Even romantic-comedies have entered into the conversation, with the Amy Schumer-written Trainwreck acting as a complete reset for perceived gender roles in relationships. We’ve refreshingly evolved to want solidified and equal gender roles in our major summer releases, and it’s only a matter of time before Hollywood stands up and sees that this is the seminal issue of cinema today.
There are plenty more big releases yet to come in 2015, but we’d be surprised if each subsequent premiere doesn’t spark this debate anew. In easily the most lucrative year in Hollywood’s history, now’s the time for this issue to take center-stage, and it appears as though so far, it’s done just that.
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