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Gender of a lead character? Does it really matter?

 
 
Reply Mon 26 Jun, 2017 06:21 am
Do men still have a hegemony in terms of lead characters in TV series, movies, kids shows? How important is gender parity to you in the grand scheme of culture?

Is the current improved state of female leads on tv and movies, etc... good enough or not quite there?
 
jespah
 
  4  
Reply Mon 26 Jun, 2017 06:27 am
@tsarstepan,
This is why I write female characters who are almost always the leads, and the books pass the Bechdel test within the first five chapters (the most recent one from last year took until the third but it was due to the plot; usually I hit Bechdel within chapter 1).

Most junky middle of the road films and TV shows could be written as well for one gender as another and would suffer no loss of quality and probably wouldn't even change that much.

That is probably true of at least some star vehicle shows. Did Gregory House really have to be male, for example?
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Jun, 2017 06:45 am
In my new manuscript, Spelville, I start out with a woman lead, but in the third chapter her son takes over. Smile
0 Replies
 
izzythepush
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Jun, 2017 06:47 am
@jespah,
jespah wrote:
Did Gregory House really have to be male, for example?


He did if you wanted Hugh Lawrie to play him.

jespah
 
  3  
Reply Mon 26 Jun, 2017 06:52 am
@izzythepush,
Well, yeah - but it could have been a star vehicle show for, say, Kate Hudson, and the show would not have changed too radically.
izzythepush
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Jun, 2017 08:12 am
@jespah,
I wouldn't know, I must confess that I've never actually seen it. Hugh Lawrie has had experience playing mentally ill characters before though.

0 Replies
 
Roberta
 
  2  
Reply Mon 26 Jun, 2017 10:43 pm
@jespah,
Hey, jes. Thanks for expanding my vocabulary--Bechdel test. I had no idea that such a thing existed.
roger
 
  2  
Reply Tue 27 Jun, 2017 12:00 am
@tsarstepan,
Even Cat House Thursday had a male lead.
0 Replies
 
izzythepush
 
  0  
Reply Tue 27 Jun, 2017 12:20 am
It's long been a problem with drama groups. Most amateur groups have far more women than men, but most plays have more male roles.
0 Replies
 
jespah
 
  3  
Reply Tue 27 Jun, 2017 07:35 am
@Roberta,
Alison Bechdel never intended for it to be as big as it has become. And the kicker is, it is an incredibly low bar. Yet even with pretty much grading on a curve and giving every female-ish interaction on screen (big or small) the benefit of the doubt, many films and TV shows/episodes routinely, spectacularly, fail it.

Beware - long, incoming rant dead ahead.

It isn't even a guarantee of a feminist movie, as Gone With the Wind passes and those women are basically living at the whims of men. Bechdel also ends up being, if you look at the overall data, a condemnation of auditions and casting. After all, the arresting officer could be female. The admitting physician could be. The architect could be. The construction worker could be. They don't all have to be, of course. But when casting directors don't see the smaller, one- or two-line roles (often without a character name) as being something a woman can do, then fewer women get into the unions. They aren't able to build their resumes and, as a result, middle ground and small roles don't (and often can't, due to union rules) go to them.

The system perpetuates as the people with the middling roles are the ones who directors notice and start to think of for much bigger supporting roles. And, eventually, lead roles. The cycle continues, on and on. It also doesn't help that, routinely, actresses are pushed into plastic surgery (and/or endless dieting) to continue to be able to compete in the marketplace. Men, in general, are not. It does not help when younger women are routinely cast as older, because casting directors have a hard time seeing a real 40-year-old and so instead they cast a 29-year-old when there are actresses in their 40s who are out of work and are proven to be good at what they do. They just aren't young enough anymore.

In Death Becomes Her (the film), Goldie Hawn plays an actress and she says that there are three roles for women in Hollywood: babe, mom, and district attorney. And while the line was intended to be over the top for a comedy, it is way too close to the truth.

Tom Cruise was born in 1962 and still makes big money action flicks. He's not raking in the dough quite as well as he used to, but he does fine, I'm sure.

Janine Turner, Jasmine Guy, Demi Moore, and Ally Sheedy were also born in 1962. Only Moore was ever able to 'open a picture', and she can't anymore. She hasn't been able to since GI Jane, which was released in 1997.

Harrison Ford was born in 1942. He had to push to have his character in Star Wars killed off because he didn't want to play the character (Han Solo) again. But he certainly could have.

Actresses born in 1942 include Michelle Lee, Carol Lynley, Linda Evans, and Barbra Streisand. Only Babs ever opened a picture. Her last lead role was in Nuts, in 1987.

I could go on - sorry this is so long. Hollywood doesn't do aging well for anyone, so I do recognize that older actors also have trouble finding work unless they are the bigs. But men tend to have a longer shelf life, at least according to the people in charge of casting - and that only perpetuates this.
ossobucotemp
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Jun, 2017 08:18 am
@jespah,
We used to slightly know a then prominant casting director, through friends. I just remembered her name, but I'll leave that out. I bring this up because she was smart, savvy, funny, and so forth, not a shy violet. I completely forget what films she cast, much less who, but my bet would be that she did consider women, but ran into walls with film producers, directors, writers, etc. This was back in the early eighties. This is conjecture on my part, but fits the pattern.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Jun, 2017 10:31 am
Kathy Bates certainly carried the story in Misery. I didn't check to be sure, but almost guaranteed she got second billing.
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MethSaferThanTHC
 
  -1  
Reply Sun 2 Jul, 2017 01:43 pm
@tsarstepan,
Women tend to laugh at/with male actors than female
0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  0  
Reply Sun 2 Jul, 2017 06:24 pm
@tsarstepan,
Quote:
How important is gender parity to you in the grand scheme of culture?


Not in the least.

If the character need not be gender specific then I don't care which gender the director chooses, but that's rarely the case.

The "Jack Reacher" films, "300," "Logan," "Brokeback Mountain," (to name but a few) would not have worked with a female lead, just as "Thelma & Louise," "Norma Rae," and "Elizabeth" would have worked with a male lead(s).

Forcing some identity political goal on the creative process is, in my opinion, a terrible idea.


0 Replies
 
Thomas33
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Jan, 2018 08:54 am
It isn't supposed to matter, but in actuality movies with female leads lend themselves more to intellect and meaning.

A current popular trend is to attack female leads as tokenism, or as PC culture, but if it's a male lead then it's just natural.

When Daisy Ridley was cast as Rey, it goes without saying that all or most of her critics were inevitable. The criticisms against the character aren't sincere, as lots of moviegoers were going to attack the character no matter what
0 Replies
 
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Fri 5 Apr, 2019 06:49 pm
@jespah,
jespah wrote:

This is why I write female characters who are almost always the leads, and the books pass the Bechdel test within the first five chapters (the most recent one from last year took until the third but it was due to the plot; usually I hit Bechdel within chapter 1).

Most junky middle of the road films and TV shows could be written as well for one gender as another and would suffer no loss of quality and probably wouldn't even change that much.

That is probably true of at least some star vehicle shows. Did Gregory House really have to be male, for example?


Have you by any chance read any of David Weber books with special note of the Honor serial of books that he had written to date?

Strong female character indeed as in a space age female Hornblower on super steroids.

Military science fiction have an ever increasing number of strong females over the last 20 years or so.
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Mar, 2020 11:45 am
@BillRM,
https://imgur.com/Cm38tLx.jpg
Here's the Batman and Robin slapping meme for Context.
Primary Source for the meme generator
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Mar, 2020 01:13 pm
To me, gender doesn't matter. It's imitating and stereotyping that irritates me.
0 Replies
 
 

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