By Apurba Roy
Movies can leave a big impact on us. They teach us lessons that can change our perceptions about life, love and politics, and they can even shape our morals and beliefs. Because of the power that film holds and the lasting impact it's capable of, it is even more meaningful when movies are teaching valuable lessons that can help us learn about real issues in the world. Here are some of my favourite feminist movies that confront harmful stereotypes and misogynist tropes. Spoilers ahead, so beware.
1. Wonder Woman
Movies have typically depicted men fighting to save women from danger. This age-old trope makes it seem as if women are fragile beings who cannot get by on their own, but Wonder Woman breaks this stereotype. In Wonder Woman, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) is the one who saves people’s lives. She protects men, instead of the other way around. This film is also notable because it was the first big-budget film in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), as well as in the Marvel universe, that was both directed by a woman and centred the story of a woman.
2. Legally Blonde
Our misogynistic society teaches us that if a woman fits the traditional definition of “girly” then she cannot be intelligent. Legally Blonde is a film that so perfectly challenges this idea. The protagonist of the movie, Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is a woman who unapologetically embraces her femininity, loves fashion and takes her pet dog, Bruiser, with her everywhere. The other characters of the movie assume that, because of these traits, she does not belong in Harvard Law School. They doubt her capabilities, but by the end of the movie, Elle proves everyone wrong when she wins a big court case and graduates at the top of her class.
3. The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement
Many fairy tale movies show us that a princess needs a prince to become a queen. Like a standard mathematical equation, each budding young princess was simply incomplete without her knight in shining armour. But The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement challenges this norm head-on. Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) cannot be given queen status until she is married. She tries her best to make this happen and even forces herself to fall in love. But deep down she knows she can’t abide by these patriarchal standards. By the end of the movie, right as she is about to get married, she decides that she can’t follow through with it. She points out how her grandmother, the queen, has governed the country for years without a husband, and so can she.
4. Kill Bill series
Kill Bill is the iconic movie in which Uma Thurman’s character, the Bride, is known as “the deadliest woman the world.” Throughout the movie, the Bride does everything in her power to get revenge on those who tried to kill her and her unborn child. Since the film’s release, Uma Thurman said in an interview that women have come up to her to tell her how much the film has impacted them and that it helped them “release some survival energy” when going through difficult times.
5. Hidden Figures
Set in the 1960s, this movie stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe as highly skilled mathematicians. The plot focuses on how Black women are undermined and undervalued in the workplace no matter how intelligent they are. It portrays the constant struggles of sexism and racism that took place in the 1960s and which are still prevalent today. These women are constantly questioned, overlooked and not treated equally by their white counterparts. People around them act surprised by their intelligence and often try to prove the women wrong. Despite all of this, the women keep their heads up, do their jobs, and speak up against the injustices they face.
6. Girls Trip
Mainstream media often pits women against each other. Films that depict women who are constantly envious of each other’s success is something we’re all too familiar with. The film Girls Trip touches on these subjects by showing how damaging female rivalry is, and displaying the importance of women supporting each other through the good and the bad. In the movie, we see female characters who are always there to lift each other up. They are not perfect, but they don’t judge each other for that. They talk about their problems, protect each other from harm, and make sacrifices for one another. Overall, the film shows the nuanced realities of friendship.
7. 9 to 5
The legendary 9 to 5 stars iconic film industry figures Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton. Released in 1980, this movie shines light on workplace sexism that still takes place to this day, including the undermining of a woman’s abilities, sexual harassment, name-calling and rumour spreading. It shows instances where women are encouraged to assume the worst of each other, but how overcoming this toxicity can lead to comradery and success in a male-dominated world.