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   1 Exploring the ways in which the representation of women has changed over the years in contemporary films, focusing on the 1950’s to present day. The representation of women in film has altered, from the 1950’s to present day,  due to the ways in which society’s expectations influenced a reform in gender roles  as well as due to political and cultural impacts. During the 1950’s, females were provided with the ‘house wife’ stereotype, positioned in the kitchen, cooking majority of   their time, whilst males were represented as masculine characters, having most superiority. The 1950’s was the era of post war, therefore society’s expectations of women were to carry out actions of a ‘typical house wife’; cooking dinner, doing the cho res, spending majority of their time in their household. As men were known to be more dominant, social impacts had provided females with a representation of being rather insignificant genders. The Hollywood film,  A Street Car Named Desire (1951 Tennessee Williams)  presents women with the ‘typical house wife’ stereotype. Stella Kowalski (Kim Hunter) illustrates this stereotype as she demonstrates society's bias view of femininity during the period in which the text was written. Stella is represented as a dutiful housekeeper and an obedient wife, in this case, a symbol of femininity. This is a prime example of how women were represented during the 1950’s as her status of being a woman was belittled due to the ways in which Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando), her husband, was portrayed in the film. A key scenario supporting this is when Stanley huskily mentions “ Stella Catch!”  1 . Rather than asking her to ‘catch’ the meat politely, he delivers his dialogue in a highly demanding tone. This connotes that women in the 1950’s were objectified as they had least authority within  their house hold as Stanley orders Stella to ‘Catch’ the meat instantly . Whilst doing this, he heaves the packet of meat to Stella which supports the representation of women in film during the 1950s was fairly inequitable. As well as this, it could symbolize a dog and its owner playing catch, Stella’s character reflecting on the dog whilst Stanley being represented as the owner, connoting that Stella is instantly degraded and that men had the most dominance within that period whereas women were seen to have no value. In addition, in the 1950s, women were expected to be accountable housewives as they were dependent on their 1 A Streetcar Named Desire, American Film, (Elia Kazan 1951)   2 husbands to bring home the meat for their evening meal that the women would cook as women had no authority during the 1950’ s due to the social impacts, such as post war. Alongside the portrayal of Stella’s representation within the film, Blanche (Vivien Leigh), Stella’s sister, is raped atrociously on scene. This instantly provide s audiences with a negative representation of women.  Ann Kaplan, a feminist film theorist   published a book Women and Film; Both sides of the camera (2002) stating “being a woman, her desire has no  power”  2 . This supports my thesis as Blanche has no power in this particular scene as   Stanley was able to rape her, due to her role as a woman being illustrated on scene for male desire, illustrated by Stanley as he “picks her up and carries her to the bed” 3 . By ‘picking’ Blanche up as well as ‘carrying her to the bed’ portrays that women had no say towards their body in opposition to men as they had the view of being a man’s ‘sex toy’ in that period.  She fails to argue against his actions, as, carrying her in to the bedroom with sexual intentions, depicts females had a very minor position in film whilst the men had the leading roles, as they were constantly presented as having a lot of authority, muscular physicality, having a much more respected yet stereotypical representation in Hollywood films overall. In addition, the objectification of women as subject of male pleasure was also represented in films during the 1950’s to early 2000’s . Women were valued by men depending on their physical appearance and were only shown during sexual scenes or when trying to present male satisfaction. A chapter in the Film and Theory anthology (R.Stan, T.Miller 2000) mentions the launch of a journal, Women and Film, stating “women are ultimately refused a voice, a discourage, and their desire is subjected to male desire” 4 . The film The Handmaid’s Tale (1990 Volker Schlondorff) is a prime example of male satistfaction as Kate, the female actress is on scene positioned between Serena Joy’s legs forcefully whilst having sexual intercourse with the commander to produce a child for him and his wife. This scene clearly shows she is conforming to the female stereotype of being a sexual object, for male pleasure. As she is forced to lay between another’s legs to produce a child for the commander illustrates her level of rights being very low and that there was major i nfluences via social and political factors,such as the rights to vote, impacting a female’s 2  Cook Pam, Bernink Mieki, The Cinema Book 2 nD  edition, Bfi publishing 3  Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire, Penguin Modern Classics 2009 4  R.Stan, T.Miller Oxford,Blackwell, Film and Theory Anthology Representation of Gender In The Past, 2000   3 status at the time in Hollywood films as well as portraying her as a “sex toy” in numerous scenes. In another scene, Ofred’s body is be ing examined by a male surgeon. However, he abruptly whispers that he could ‘help her’  and that nobody would ever find out. She then realizes that he is offering to impregnate her. By mentioning impregnation to her, this illustrates the ways in which women were objectified in Hollywood films as the ways in which the females are treated in  A Handmaids Tail   exemplify. This clearly demonstrates that the representation of women in contemporary film has changed in comparison to the 1950’s as there is more equality in gender roles. Similar to the objectification of women in previous years, supported by British feminist, Laura Mulveys’ theory,   the ‘male gaze’ was also a large influence towards the negative representation of women in Hollywood films. Laura published an essay 1975 Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema , introducing the concept of ‘male gaze’ as a trait of gender power in Hollywood films. In her text Representations of Gender in the past, she mentions “the role of a woman in a film almost always revolves around her physical attraction” 5  in which, the film Thelma and Louise 1951  presents. In one scene, Thelma reveals the bite marks on her neck, which is followed by Louise mentioning “Thelma what happened?” 6  This emphasizes that female characters in films were partially on scene for a male visual pleasure as they were valued for their physical qualities as Thelma illustrates. The marks also illustrate that women were only good for male satisfactions as the marks may indicate a form of enjoyment of the male. As well as this, she mentions, “If you’d ever met my husband, you’d understand why”. As Thelma mentions her husband, this signifies the inequality of gender roles as females mirror the male gaze during the 1950’s as she’s referring to her husband, which illustrates that she is there to fulfill his needs. Furthermore, Thelma and Louise are controlled by the male gaze as mentioned in a book written by Isabelle Fol 2004, The Dominance of the Male Gaze in Hollywood Films “  The male police officers are viewing the tape of Thelma robbing the store. One of the officers is eating a hamburger which indicates the entertaining aspect of male gazing ”  7  . This interpretation of male gaze in Thelma and Louise supports the sexual perception of women in Hollywood films, which provided women with a negative representation in the 1900’s.  This is clearly 5  Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema 1975, Laura Mulvey 6  Thelma and Louise, Ridley Scott 1975 7  The Dominance of the Male Gaze, Paperback book, Isabelle Fol, 2004     4 shown as the man is eating a hamburger, suggesting that he is being entertained by the actions of Thelma robbing the store. As well as this, he is watching the clip for entertainment rather than doing his job, providing women with a less respected view in the 1950’s. However, in recent years the rate of the objectification of women has altered in contemporary films. Unlike T he Handmaid’s Tale, the modern Hollywood film Kill Bill (2003 Quentin Tarantino) supports the change of how women are represented in Hollywood films. The bride (Uma Thruman), is the leading female protagonist, providing a dominant and active role in the film. Thurman not only plays the heroic role, her characteristics and physicality are represented in a more superior form compared to the representation Kate provides of women in The Handmaid’s Tale. Thurman’s character has an essential, vigorous leading role, and depicts characteristics of a killer partially due to her ensemble of weapons. There is a scene, which shows her defeating a number of male assassins independently without relying on the opposite sex for safety. The bride is a female assassin out for revenge and has no mercy on the individuals who have wronged her. As she manages to kill a number of them connotes that women in contemporary films are able to complete tasks independently as they are represented with more advanced skills. As a result, women are no longer conformed to a particular stereotype, as there is an alternative representation of women in Hollywood films nowadays. Therefore, there is a major difference between the representations of women during the era of 1950’s to present day. Thi s is because; the equality of gender roles in present film has increased, no longer providing audiences with a passive stereotypical view of women. Although the objectification of women may still occur in Hollywood films, there has been a reform of female representation over the years. For example, in the film Kick Ass 2010, Hit Girl (Mindy McCready) who is a young assassin, carries out similar qualities as her father. Although she is very young, she defeats male assassins much older than her. Therefore, this shows that women are no longer allocated in scenes just for male pleasure as they have a purpose for the narrative of the film, not just to satisfy the opposite sex. As well as this, Hit Girl ’s age in Kick Ass also highlights the change of female representation in films, as Hit Girl’s age defies the stereotype of women. Men are usually seen as constantly overpowering a female, which Hit Girl defies as she manages to kill the antagonists showing
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