It seems as though 2016 is not only proving to be the year where:
- It’s near impossible to say anything without offending anyone,
- It seems like every one of our childhood heroes is passing on,
- Politics has never seemed so interesting,
but the voice of feminism has never seemed to be more mainstream, far-reaching, and might I add a little too loud for its own good.
I want to start from the top, say at the end of 2015 with a historic event that is very close to my heart and go on to probably do my best in listing the events that I remember and which I tagged #feminism mentally in the recesses of my head.
The Female Protagonist
So yes, said event at the end of 2015 is none other than Star Wars: The Force Awakens (TFA) which is definitely a historic event. Alright it’s just a movie series but in the annals of pop culture history Star Wars IS the definite grand daddy of all mainstream movie series and it’s reincarnation in the form of this 7th movie is significant in more ways than the death of Han Solo (yes that’s a spoiler because if you have not watched it…shame on you).
Getting on to the main point: many had correctly pointed out that Disney executed a marketing masterclass with the casting of Daisy Ridley as the main protagonist, Rey in the film. An absolute unknown, fans slowly but surely warmed up to her bubbly and way too unbelievably-authentic mannerisms (think hashtags like #idontwanttogotoworktoday). The stage was set for a feminist win – in the movie, Rey went on to defy all female stereotypes and saves the day (sort of) WITHOUT (and this is important) getting tangled in any romantic bullshit along the way. For the benefit of those who had not seen the film, here’s a breakdown of the ways that Rey steered clear of the classic female supporting role in action movies:
- In the initial scenes with Finn (the black Stormtrooper), Rey rejected his slightly chauvinistic helping hand thrice (while saying: “I know how to run without you holding my hand”) and eventually saved his ass
- When Han handed her a blaster before an imminent battle she replies: “I think I can handle myself” (watch out we have a BA over here)
- She fixes shit (all the shit in fact, hence the Mary Sue accusations https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Sue)
- She did not need to undress or in any way sexualize her character for us to be captivated by her performance
Why is this important? I definitely know it’s not the first movie that has a female protagonist or one that does their job without getting involved romantically but its definitely a first time this is done with a relatively unknown in one of the most anticipated movies in recent times (surpassing The Avengers).
And boy (or should I say, girl) did that send ripples of glee throughout the world as young girls everywhere finally had a wholesome hero (not heroine) to look up to. A hero that did not, by the end of the movie got married to some love interest or whatnot and was yet emotionally authentic with her own struggles for us relate to.
Which brings us to 2016, which I felt was basically a year where many jumped onto this “Female Protagonist” bandwagon and basically followed in the wake of Rey’s success.
- Wonder Woman, where I felt such similar vibes when Gal Gadot stated “What I do is not up to you”
- Star Wars Rogue One, where it was recently revealed that Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones) will be the leading character
- X-Men Apocalypse also had Jennifer Lawrence as the lead playing Mystique whom I hope will not attempt another motivational speech in the near future
- Female Cowboys? Jane Got a Gun stars Natalie Portman as a gun-slinging cow girl on a quest to save her husband
- Ghostbusters had an all-female reboot which proved that slapping on an all female cast ain’t a recipe for success
Feminism in US Politics (which is so entertaining in itself to be considered pop culture)
I think that the whole starting point of writing about 2016 as a year of feminism came from a Vox documentary about how HRC’s debate performances “left Trump’s presidential campaign in ruins” (https://www.facebook.com/Vox/videos/587702298084043/?hc_ref=NEWSFEED).
But in a sense, we can be very thankful for the rhetoric played out these past few months between HRC and Trump. Both are not ideal candidates for sure, but for the past few months, the sensible people of the world have been trying ways and ways to halt Trump’s unbelievable march towards the presidential seat. They tried tearing down his policies (or the lack of it), his morals (for suggesting state-sanctioned murder of terrorist’s families), his financial state and tax returns, his religious extremism but nothing had worked.
We had to wait for a leaked recording for the world to wake up and for dozens of politicians to step up and proclaim that they cannot sanction the actions of Trump because “I know a woman too. My wife’s a woman, my sister’s a woman..” and so on. We had to wait for HRC to be a figurehead of sorts (at least for this campaign) and be the best person you can find right now to denounce Trump’s alleged “respect for women”. Within 3 debates, the margin between the 2 has expanded by 7%.
If HRC does take over as POTUS, it will be sort of a feminist win on both fronts. One for dismantling Trump’s campaign at the final leg, and one for another first for the US, a female president.
I feel that sometimes the publicity can be too much for its own good. There has always been a gap and it seems like overcompensating isn’t going to cut it either. There was so much hoo-hah in 2014 when Emma Watson took on the role of UN Ambassador for gender equality with the speech and whatnot. Its good to know that she’s actually taken the year off from the limelight to work on understanding gender equality on a global scale.
And it does feel a little contrived when people latch on the feminist tag for ulterior motives (which HRC is accused of being guilty of) and when it shows up in places where it’s not needed (in gender neutral situations).
Well, the year is really proving to be too damn well complicated.