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How have women changed over time in American cinema?

From the “maiden in trouble” to the “strong heroine” - our colleagues from Time-out They tell us where Western society is moving in the perception of the role of women and the prescription of her image on the big screen.

Early last week Glenn Close, a Hollywood veteran with dozens of professional awards and an 45 experience, earned her 7 an Oscar nomination. Over the bad luck of the actress, already several decades going to the well-deserved recognition of the American Film Academy, the industry has been joked about for a long time, remembering the fate Peter O'Toole. However, this time the actress has a very big chance to carry, finally, the cherished statuette home. What is especially significant, given the plot of the picture, for which Close is so diligently lead to the pedestal.

Having been in production for long 14 years, "Жена»Talks about aspiring writer Joan Archer (Glenn Close), who, during her student years, sets up an affair with a literature professor (Jonathan Price), and after marriage, he unwittingly assumes the role of his “literary Negro”: he writes successful novels, which are published under the name of a spouse. The truth comes out only many years later, when the already elderly husband Joan is declared the Nobel Prize in literature, and the faithful wife suddenly begins to feel that life and the beloved have wrapped her around her finger.

“While playing this image, I thought of a mother who devoted herself entirely to my father, and then confessed that she had not achieved anything in life,” Close will say at the last Golden Globe ceremony, receiving an award for the best female role. After a couple of seconds, she adds, appealing to all women in the hall: “We are the keepers of the hearth, we have children, husbands, partners, but we must feel realized and follow our dreams.” Hall will answer her standing ovations.

With these words, Close did not only very clearly formulate the message underlying her new screen image, but also expressed the current mood of the liberal public in the West, of which the American film industry is an important part. The talk about women's representation and equality both in the frame and outside it has been going on in Hollywood for more than a year. You can recall the controversy that went around last year around the widespread recognition Greta Gerwigwhose "Lady Bird"Took two Golden Globes", an Oscar nomination "Hidden figures"In 2016, as well as endless studio studies on the amount of female screen time compared to men's. But where did this feeling of lack of implementation actually come from?

Since ancient times, a woman has always been an important engine of any story (remember the role of Helen the Beautiful in the Iliad), but the plot often took the place of a weak-willed martyr, designed either to suffer herself or to condemn the suffering of others. The idea of ​​a woman as a passive object, requiring a strong shoulder and adoration from men, was actively supported both in the Middle Ages and in Modern times thanks to the so-called chivalry and adventure novels (from “Tristan and Isolda” to the works of Walter Scott). From there, it migrated to the cinema. Suffice it to recall the famous finaleBirth of the Nation» Griffithwhich clearly demonstrated: a woman is a weak being whose destiny is “to be in trouble” and wait for salvation in the face of a handsome man.

The second type, offered at the mercy of women on a movie screen and, over time, even squeezing the “virgins in trouble” in terms of their popularity, is an extremely objectified image of a fatal beauty. Cinema women vamp originated in genre literature (read the tabloid novels), which was actively filmed in the period when the cinema was dumb. Another pioneer of this art Georges Méliès stripped his wife in front of the camera in the movie “After the Ball” (1897), and in “The Dance of Fire” (1899) made the heroine entertain sinners in hell with something like a light striptease. In 1915, the successful screen version of the famous poem “The Vampire” by Kipling marked the first appearance of the femme fatale in the movies. As a result, having performed the main role in the film, Ted Bara became one of the first universally recognized sex symbols in history.

Rita Hayworth

Rita Hayworth

The fully classic “femme fatale” flourished in 40-50's noirs, bringing to prominence such famous actresses as Barbara Sténvik и Rita Hayworth. However, to say that these characters were much freer than their weak-willed predecessors - an exaggeration. The fatal women (and other classic heroines of those years) never appeared on the screen alone, their very existence was determined by a man next to him, who acted as either the love interest of the female character, or her inevitable patron. What can we say, even if such an icon 40-x, as Ilse Lund (Ingrid Bergman) from the greatest romantic film of all time "Casablanca", had only to choose between two men - to be the engine of the plot, but not its independent element.

After World War II in the United States, as well as throughout the world, an economic upswing began, which led not only to an increase in childbearing, but also to the image of an obedient housewife on movie screens. In fact, such heroines personified everything that the American dream seemed to the generation of men that had passed through the war: a well-paid job, a private car, cozy apartments, a green lawn in front of the house, and the ever-waiting wife with a ready-made dinner. The place of the woman here is mainly in the kitchen, and the heroine’s life success is measured solely by the achievements of her husband.

"Alice no longer lives here."

"Alice no longer lives here."

It was precisely against this rigid picture of the world and the impossibility of escaping beyond the framework outlined by society that the screen heroines of the next decades fought, largely spurred on by a new wave of feminism and the universal struggle for civil rights of 60-70's. Of course, at first it was just careful attempts made in a light comedic style (“From nine to five"), In which, nevertheless, a quite obvious allusion to the desire to emancipate was read. In parallel, such outstanding directors as Martin Scorsese и Sydney Lymein the picturesAlice does not live here anymore"And"Network"Before others began to bring the complex inner world of women to the fore. The “Unmarried Woman” stage for this period has completely opened up for the heroines the possibility of self-realization outside the institutions of family and marriage.

Thelma and Louise

Thelma and Louise

Perhaps the most radical to the problem of emancipation came the heroines of the cult road movie "Thelma and Louise", Filmed Ridley Scott at the beginning of 90-x and who had resonance glory among the female audience. According to the plot two girlfriends performed Gina Davis и Susan Sarandon go on a small trip for the weekend, leaving the bored men at home. Plans change after the heroines are forced to kill the rapist who sticks to them: out of the meek housewives, women instantly turn into winged vindictive avengers who run away from the police, simultaneously punishing the entire male population for being guilty of them. With this emotional statement, both actresses, as well as Oscar-winning screenwriter Callie Khury, not only paved the way for a new type of buddy movie in which girls took the girls place, but also expressed all the despair of the female population of one-story America, tired of the fact that women perceive only in the living room interiors or as an object of sexual desire (thanks Marilyn Monroewhose images convinced more than one male generation that women simply would not survive without their close attention).

Sarah Connor

Sarah Connor

In order to somehow brighten up the growing discontent with the same type of female characters on the big screen, at the beginning of 1980, the American film industry gave birth to a new type of woman - the so-called badass heroine, who would stop the alien and gallop from the future. As a result, Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley became role models for a new generation of spectators for many years and simultaneously muffled separately sounding feminist voices, clearly showing: now the woman is waving her fists on a par with the man. However, on closer examination it becomes clear that the type of female daredevils has become another way to drive the female image into a simple and understandable framework, where it can again be used for the needs of the male audience. This became especially noticeable at the beginning of 2000's, when such successful franchises like “Lara Croft»S Angelina Jolie and «Charlie's Angels»S Diaz, Берримор и Lew. Women in these films seem to have only one obvious function: to wear tight-fitting uniforms and beautifully kick ass bad guys, while invariably remaining in submission to the peasant boss.

Such a deplorable state of affairs in big cinema, fortunately, began to change after a couple of years, when the industry gradually realized the dramatic potential of more independent and complex female characters. One of the authors who launched the process was Doug Lymanwho shot a successful comedy fighter in 2005Mr. and Mrs. Smith"In which the stars are A-class, Bred Pitt and all the same Angelina Jolie, not only acted on equal terms, but at the decisive moment united to fight back the corporations that substituted them. After almost 10 years, Lyman will give out another powerful female character in "The Edge of the Future"- Sergeant Rita Vrataski, nicknamed" Steel bitch. " In spite of the fact that the centerpiece in this picture is the salaga Tom Cruiseexactly heroine Emily Blunt becomes his guide in the ruthless world of war, transforming the plot is not in the love interest of the hero, as was customary before, but in his full-fledged comrade in the struggle for the fate of humanity.

Even more spectacularly entered Alfonso Cuaron in his monumental fantastic allegory "Gravitation"In which the main role played Sandra Bullock. Having only two characters in the frame, Cuarón already in the 20 minute, gets rid of the male hero (played ironically, as a recognized sex symbol George Clooney), leaving Bullock alone with the silence of the cosmos and his own demons. The change in the representation of female characters and the growing popularity of studies on gender inequality were reflected in a seemingly compromised genre such as young adult. And if Bella from "Twilight"Still reflected the old romantic stereotype of a girl in distress, then Katniss from"Hunger Games"And Tris from"Divergent"Could boast not only a more detailed psychological portrait, but, finally, the long-awaited opportunity to lead their own destiny without looking at men.

Amy Dunn from The Disappeared

Amy Dunn from The Disappeared

Mildred Hayes from The Three Billboards on the Border of Ebbing, Missouri

Mildred Hayes from The Three Billboards on the Border of Ebbing, Missouri

So, by the middle of 2010, the on-screen heroines evolved into a completely new type of character - a strong woman who retained many of the features of the old role models, but at the same time brought new and realistic features to the cinema: moral integrity, dedication, internal independence and possibility of choice, whatever it may be. Moreover, these heroines do not seek to outplay a man in his own field, because throughout history (real and cinema), they have repeatedly proved that they can be better than him. They understand that the only way to survive in an ever-changing world is to find a compromise and strive for partnership with a man. Furios from “Mad Max: Fury Roads, And Amy Dunn fromDisappeared", And finally, Mildred Hayes from"Three billboards on the border of Ebbing, Missouri". By the way, who played the last Francis McDormandA year ago, when she received her Oscar, she actively urged the industry to listen to female voices, since many women directors never find producers for their projects. Considering that this year Glenn Close will almost certainly hit the bottom for “Wife”, it seems you can breathe out: the ice has broken.

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