Barbie vs. Hercules

English 102

The 20th of February 2004

Imagine a world in rose and purple where golden flakes are falling all over in a mirage of perfection. It is a world populated by nymphs and sleeping beauties, a world ruled by heroes and princes. From different prisms and colored glass, we see this world all the time reflected by what is called “the 7th art”. But is our real world made only of those perfect creatures?

Media represents a mirror of our world and society. It is well known that media is one of the greatest manipulation tools ever and should be used carefully. Media shapes beliefs and mentalities, it creates taboos or it destroys them. As an important part of media, movies should offer a more realistic illustration of women, less stereotypical, because the movies have a very strong impact all over the world.

Hollywood transformed “the 7th art” into the commercial art, the art of making characters for money. Movies are directed towards the audience who will earn the most money for the film: a male audience. Women in the movies are often completely plastic, total Barbie dolls. There are created several stereotyped characters. There is no movie, no matter its subject and kind of action without “la femme fatale”. The success formula inevitably contains a thin, gazelle-eyed creature, with long legs, but so emotive and vulnerable. The types of roles given to women are usually hookers, mistresses or waitresses, while men are heroes. But are those characters the only one meets day by day, in a real world? What happened to the sarcastic, but not very beautiful scientist woman? What about the old lady who always gives homemade cookies to all children in the neighborhood? They are so real, but one barely or never can discover them in a movie.

It is true that once in a while movies illustrating powerful women appear on the screens. There are movies like “Iron Magnolias ”, which is a story of women from the South, “Erin Brockovich ” who had the power to pursue her goal or “Amelie”, a movie that revolutionized the entire French society and not only. But those are exceptions from the stereotypical routine, exceptions that empower even more the idea of media fulfilled by stereotyped characters.

The role of women in society has changed over time. The woman of today is a career woman, a woman that embodies power and action. The idea of femininity changed also over the history: in the renaissance a woman was beauty if she had curves, nowadays the very tall, skinny girls are top-appreciated. If in the past times it was considered extremely feminine to be emotive and cry, the 20th century transformed this in a proof of weakness. And so on. Movies should present more divers feminine characters, non stereotypical, “revealing” to the world the existence of old, fat, ugly women, women with career, women who have the force to change the world.

One might say that this character is a feministic one, but if so the problem of stereotypical characters remains unsolved. But not creating stereotypes of powerful women is the solution. That would be just the other extreme, not to close to a realistic perspective either. Our society does not need women like Lara Croft (“Tomb Raider”), but more like Dora (“La Vita e Bella”).

Motion pictures often have the power to amplify one or another characteristic, or feeling, or the intensity of a thought. Nevertheless, showing only stereotypical images of “normal” people means distorting the truth. Sometimes women are shown as persons dominated by feelings, incapable of making any decision, of fighting or finding a logical, valid argument. Women from movies cannot live in the absence of a proactive man, nor can find happiness. Looking around, one might find out that there are more single mothers, taking care of themselves and their children, than women sustained by men. Step by step, women start to take control in leadership positions. They can be anything they want to, disregarding the gender issue: they can be good analysts, they can fight just well and more important they have the power to destroy the shopenhaurian myth of the non social, non aesthetic woman that should be kept all the time pregnant, in the kitchen.

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