A few posts ago, I talked about how female actors were choosing not to wear make-up when filming. Amongst those who had made this decision was the actor, Sarah Lancashire. She recently won the BAFTA for Leading Actress in the Best Drama, Happy Valley, so less make-up obviously didn’t affect her performance.
Why is it so important for female actors to portray themselves in a naturalistic way? First, the world of drama becomes more like the ordinary world of the audience and female viewers will connect better to the actors. It’s all about role models and even adult women need those but do they need the ones portrayed in films. Yes they can dye their hair the same colour as the heroine and get longer lashes but when they’re playing Jane to some he-man’s Tarzan, as soon as the screen goes black, they’re back in a real jungle where too often they really are Jane.
It’s not just about making role models for ourselves but about finding stories that mean something to women. Female actors are trying to do this all the time as well as finding work. For too long, actresses have gone from playing the love interest for the lead man to playing the lead man’s mother – apparently the only acceptable roles for women in a male dominated industry.
When groups of women are portrayed in films, not many story lines dip beneath the surface of what society expects from them so it was good to watch a conversation between Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern talking about how much they enjoyed working with each other on “Big, Little Lies”. In Witherspoon’s words,
“I think the show pulled back the curtain on what women are really thinking in marriage and life and that it’s not just the persona we construct for society.”
“Big, Little Lies”, the screen version was adapted from the novel of the same name by Liane Moriarty.
This difference between the real world and film where women are concerned was forcefully highlighted when Jessica Chastain spoke out at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
“Chastain, a member of the 2017 festival’s jury, was witness to 20 of the world’s most acclaimed new movies and noticed a disheartening trend. The Academy Award-nominated actress acknowledged that there were exceptions, but most of the female characters seen at the festival were passive and empty shells of characters. Chastain continued by saying that these characters did not reflect any woman she had ever encountered in real life and that the lack of accurate representation speaks to how the world views women as a whole.” (uinterview.com/news)
Unfortunately, until there are more female directors and writers, film story telling is unlikely to change and neither is the world.
For further insight into women in film this article in the guardian is worth a read. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/sep/27/geena-davis-institute-sexism-in-film-industry