“Men talk and women show skin.” This statement sadly shows the misconceptions that have existed when defining the roles of women in the film industry. Most of these roles have their roots in the understanding of gender in cinema. The concept of gender in cinema refers to the portrayal of female roles in cinemas. The importance of understanding the portrayal of gender roles in cinemas manifest in its potential to influence ideas about gender in society. For example, past surveys of female roles in the American film industry show that female characters have a higher likelihood of wearing sexy and provocative clothing, as opposed to males. This finding has an implication on young girls who start to believe that they are supposed to be “eye candies”.
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However, depending on the context and nature of the movies, gender roles vary in the film industry. For example, some traditional movies have always branded women as subordinates of a male lead, while others have portrayed women as romantic partners of a male lead. Some films have also used women as symbols of power, authority, and success. These representations of female roles in cinemas show the consistent effort by filmmakers to use cinemas to emphasize the mainstream ideologies of female roles in the society. Most of these mainstream ideologies reveal the gender misconceptions and female under-representation that exists in not only the film industry but to the society as well. Certainly, albeit half of the world’s population is women, films and cinemas continue to under-represent their roles in the industry.
This paper explores the concept of gender in cinema further by analyzing the contributions of Angelina Jolie as a successful female actor of modern times. This assessment explores her personal life, contributions to the society, her involvement in charities, respect for different cultures, and her growth in the film industry. Moreover, to have a deeper understanding of gender in cinema, this paper further explores the work of Angelina Jolie in her 1999 film, The Bone Collector, where she stars as a detective. The analysis of her works, contributions, and growth provides an insight into the development of the female gender in the film industry.
Evolution of Female Roles
Until the late seventies, filmmakers portrayed female actors as sidekicks of male characters. However, as demonstrated in most 1970 movies, female roles changed to be more dramatic and empowering. About the same time, the cinemas started to show women in “combat” roles. Through this empowerment, the filmmakers gave women more protagonist roles, where they used guns, swords, and similar weapons that were once a preserve of men.
Nonetheless, some critics see the change of women’s roles in films as a way to re-engineer traditional female stereotypes in a new guise. For example, some of the highest grossing films in the late nineties and mid-2000s, which portrayed women as violent characters, showed women in a more submissive role (usually to a male character). In fact, some film theorists say that about half of these women had a romantic link to their male partners (in the films). To this extent, there has been some prevalence of traditional gender roles in the film industry. Therefore, while the films started to shift from the traditional perception of women as homemakers, they have remained true to mainstream ideological perceptions of female subordination.
Many modern films have tried to eliminate sexuality when defining women’s roles in films. This has occurred through the portrayal of women as tougher and violent characters. Nonetheless, while recent films may be a departure from past films, women still take a less-dominant role in modern cinemas. Indeed, most films still reinforce mainstream ideologies regarding the role of women in society.
However, with the introduction of more powerful female actors, the debate still goes on regarding if female actors have completely dissipated female gender stereotypes. The role of mainstream actors such as Sarah Connor, Lara Croft, and Angelina Jolie gives a more insightful dynamic to this understanding.
Women’s personal lives have consistently been an issue of public debate, more so in conservative societies that still regard women as homemakers. Such is the public attention that has surrounded Jolie’s personal life. Angelina Jolie is married to another well-known actor, Brad Pitt, and both of them have only six children (three children are biological). Initially, Jolie was married to two other public figures, Jonny Lee Miller (1996-1999) and Billy Bob Thornton (2000-2003). Jolie’s relationships have received widespread media attention.
Angelina Jolie is a celebrated American actor, with a huge success in the film industry. She is also a movie director, screenwriter, and a humanitarian in her right. Her success in humanitarian activities manifests through her appointment as a UN special envoy (she is also a former goodwill ambassador for the UN). Jolie developed a special interest in humanitarian activities when she was filming one of her most celebrated movies, tomb raider, in Cambodia. Since then, Jolie has traveled to many countries in her capacity as a humanitarian activist. She has also adopted three children from her visits.
The 37-year old actor has done a tremendous job in advancing the role of women in society by becoming a role model for other actors and filmmakers. She has equally used her influence to not only advance the humanitarian cause but also help to give abandoned children a decent life. Her influential position has helped her to lobby lawmakers, in Washington, to pay close attention to humanitarian interests. Consequently, she has visited Washington at least 20 times in the last few years.
In her humanitarian visits, Angelina Jolie visited Syria and Jordan to draw global attention to the forgotten Iraqi refugees who still reside in these countries. During her visit, Jolie managed to draw the world’s attention to forgotten children and victims of the war. As a sign of respect and appreciation for the Arab culture and religion, Jolie dressed in the traditional Hijab (during the visit). She did so, not only in her visit to Syria and Jordan but also in her subsequent visits to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
By doing so, Jolie showed a lot of humility and appreciation for the locals. Moreover, she was also able to demonstrate that her mission was not about displaying her celebrity status to the rest of the world, but rather, to divert the world’s attention to her mission. This way, she was able to conceal her looks by wearing the Hijab and focus on the main mission that brought her to the Middle East (charity). Jolie’s commitments to humanitarian activities show a lot of humility and self-respect for her career and her role as a role model for other female actors in the industry. Through her position, she has been able to have a positive impact on society.
The Bone Collector
The Bone Collector is a 1999 Hollywood detective movie that Angelina Jolie stars, alongside Denzel Washington. Jolie plays the role of a police officer who tries to apprehend a serial killer who kills his victims and removes a piece of bone from them (hence the title, the bone collector). Since Angelina Jolie plays the role of an intelligent detective who solves a complicated series of crime, the bone collector is a departure from the traditional roles most women have played in Hollywood films. Indeed, unlike the traditional roles where filmmakers portrayed women as romantic partners of a male lead, Jolie depicts the role of a woman as an intelligent detective who is able to piece together important pieces of information that leads to the arrest of a serial killer. Furthermore, her role as a police officer is also a departure from the traditional portrayal of women as the “weaker sex”.
Therefore, Jolie signifies a tough and serious demeanor that is often associated with male figures and police officers. In other words, Jolie’s role as a detective elevates the role of the woman to an “almost equal” footing with male roles in films. Jolie’s involvement in the film may not have had a huge success in America, but the movie was a critical success internationally. It grossed more than $151 million in the global movie charts.
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After a careful analysis of this paper, it is crucial to say that there has been some commendable progress in re-defining the role of women in society, especially through film. Indeed, there is a shift from the traditional portrayal of women as homemakers and subordinate members of male actors, to a more empowering role of women as intelligent and confident characters. The role played by Angelina Jolie as an intelligent detective, who is able to solve a complex crime, is one such example.
The empowering nature of women in the film industry has a significant implication in society because as more women become empowered, they also return the same favor by empowering more people in the community. This paper demonstrates this phenomenon better through the humanitarian actions of Angelina Jolie in many parts of the world. Through her activities, she has been able to empower poor communities around the world and draw the world’s attention to global issues surrounding humanity. Therefore, she has been able to stand out as a role model of female empowerment, not only within the film industry but also in the global stage. However, even as female roles continue to change in the industry, there is still a persistent intention among filmmakers to remain true to mainstream ideologies regarding female actors as less-powerful figures, especially when they act with male characters.
Therefore, through a careful analysis of the roles played by female actors, it is crucial to say that the femininity of most female actors do not compliment them, but rather, stand out as their weakness. Albeit some prominent female actors like Angelina Jolie are making significant strides in disseminating traditional gender stereotypes, many female actors still find it difficult to operate outside the traditional boundaries of gender stereotypes. Instead, a highly socialized and stereotypical environment (characterized by male dominance) binds most of the female actors. Therefore, through the roles played by most female actors, gender stereotypes still re-articulate in films.