Sunday, July 12, 2015

Empire: Where are all the ladies?

The British-based Empire Magazine is hands-down my favorite periodical about the film industry. With few adverts, a comprehensive look at British cinema, US blockbusters & art house indies, they always deliver to the sweet spot of my interests. Also the editorial crackles with a wry & smart sense of humor though unconventional interviews, in-depth looks at projects in production, and helpful reviews. There is also a palpable, unapologetic penchant for Tom Hiddleston. He's somewhere in every issue. Seriously.

Before, I'd only ever seen the magazine in London when I went to school there in the mid-90's. Then a few years ago, I discovered Pike Place Market Newsstand here in Seattle carried Empire so I would make the trek down there when I could to pick one up. But now as luck would have it, I was recently gifted a subscription so I can save myself some trips downtown.

The latest August edition features a compilation of the "100 Greatest Movie Characters" voted on by over 10,000 readers. I know I shouldn't put too much stock into these kinds of things. I know it shouldn't matter...but as I read through all 100 characters, and good number of which I agree with, I noticed how few female characters made the cut. Only 10 out of 100 in the history of all films. That's kinda sad, because there absolutely has to be more worthy female characters out there. Has to. One of my absolute favorite characters, Ellen Ripley of the Alien franchise, is in the top 5--as she should be. But it's a long walk to the next female character in the 20's. When I checked the list (twice even), I noticed some glaring omissions.

Princess Leia: Wow, in a list that includes Luke Skywalker #50, Darth Vader #9, Obi-Wan #51 and Han Solo #3 (& Yoda #38!) to leave out the one person who gets sh** done in the original three movies? Shameful.

Scarlett O'Hara: One of the most dynamic heroines from an era when women weren't supposed to do anything without their father's or husband's permission. Scarlett embodied a larger-than-life personality in a larger-than-life film production. Short memories, people!

Hermione Granger: So Harry Potter #67 makes it but not the person who continually saves everyone's skin every single time because she did the homework? Brits, this is one of your own. How could you let this happen?

Elinor Dashwood: Okay, this could be a little niche given that it's a Jane Austen character but this movie rates as one of my all-time top favorite movies for it's writing and acting. Everything about this character is impactful and Elinor embodies such restraint and loyalty--Gah! Pass the tissue.

Bridget Jones: A modern, funny, poignant, flawed British woman played expertly by a Texan--and she nailed it. It makes up for all the British dudes honing their American accents for roles over here.

Mulan: A truly kick-ass, non-princess female Disney character. She's a warrior in an epic tale about self-sacrifice for one's family and one's country. If you're going to include animated characters like Optimus Prime #98, Woody #82, Edna Mode #100 or even Gromit #88, Mulan has got to rate in there too.

So maybe there is a great undervaluing of work women have already done in film by Empire readers or maybe there aren't enough 'greatest-movie-character' caliber parts available to women. But if you look at it, this list is really male and really white so it probably has more to do with who answered this poll than anything else.

But these lists influence what people watch, especially when it comes to building cinematic foundations and back catalog. In future, Empire should reveal it's polling demographic data or aim for a 50/50 target representation of participants in future polls to make things really interesting.

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