The number of female protagonists in hit films was at an all-time high in 2016, according to a study by The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. The study states that women led 29% of the top 100 grossing films of the year in 2016 – a recent historical high. In comparison, female protagonists only made up 11% of the top 100 movies in 2011. It’s projected to be even higher with the increasing number of female leading roles in 2017. Women have always been prevalent in the movies, but recent blockbusters seem to carry a message of female empowerment overall. The recent shift in portrayal of women in movies seems more and more prevalent, especially with the following list of blockbusters that released this year.
One of the most highly anticipated movies of 2017 is this fantasy adventure centering on iconic female superhero Wonder Woman. Israeli actress Gal Gadot portrays the Amazonian princess who sets out to explore the world, becoming one of the universe’s greatest heroes in the process. Sheltered from men through her upbringing in an all-female island, the Amazonian princess Diana does not fit the stereotypical female role – she instead shows women can also be brave super-powered warriors.
Emma Watson plays Belle, the daughter of an inventor in a small French village. She gives her own take on Belle in this live-action retelling of the animated classic Beauty and the Beast, and really embraces the heart of the character. The popular Disney fairy tale, of course, features a beautiful young woman, imprisoned by a grotesque prince (Dan Stevens), who falls in love with him despite his monstrous appearance. With her intelligence, warmth, and independent spirit, Belle is an excellent role model, especially for young girls.
For those of you who have not seen the latest installments of the Star Wars universe yet, English actress Daisy Ridley stars as Rey in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Rey is a female reminiscent of an early Luke Skywalker, and was first introduced in Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015. The character of Rey is fearless, brave, yet compassionate at times. Rey is stubborn, but maintains fierce loyalty to her friends. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is set to release in theaters December 15, 2017.
Wonder Woman, Belle, and Rey all teach young women a common lesson – that they don’t have to fit into gender stereotypes. They don’t have to act incompetent to get attention; they don’t have to look or dress a certain way to be considered beautiful. They don’t have to be rescued by someone else. These female protagonists seem to be a part of a movement that are representing women in a new light. Rey and Wonder Woman especially, are female leads in the type of movies that boys are expected to watch. Young male audiences are being asked to empathize with female leads the way girls have long been doing for decades. Let’s wait and see how female roles in film will grow in the years to come.
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