Women characters in films have frequently been reduced to supporting roles or love interests for leading men – the women of the James Bond franchise are a prime illustration of the male gaze at work. Even the most self-assured, ambitious, and powerful female characters have been depicted via the male gaze. These are typically associated with the term “girl boss.” These stories create new stereotypes while subverting previous ones. Because these women are ambitious and competitive, the assumption is frequently that they are wicked and envious of each other.
Internalised sexism is presented as a generational issue. They’re shown as bystanders from a bygone period when the few women allowed into the men’s club were the ones who were willing to betray, disregard, or punish other women. In Bollywood films, women characters are often seen fighting for the man’s approval while the audience is made to judge them by the sanskaar scale. Case in point, Cocktail which had two women (played by Deepika Padukone and Diana Penty) contesting for the love of male lead and his mother. The sanskaari one won while the modern, wild woman was left feeling lonely. Here is a list of five such films.
Films Which Had Women Fighting Each Other
Although Kill Bill has received praise for subverting established gender norms, it has also been chastised for portraying the Bride via the “male gaze.” Several male characters complement the Bride on her beauty throughout the film. Bill “would have to be a mad dog to shoot a goddamn good-looking female in the head like that,” the cops say, even as she lies in a pool of her own blood.
It is a brutal bloodbath of a film that follows a former assassin named Beatrix Kiddo – as The Bride – as she seeks vengeance on Bill and her women ex-colleagues who slaughtered the guests at her wedding party before attempting to murder her. Kill Bill, however, is not the most obvious example of female empowerment in popular culture. Kill Bill falls prey to an all-too-common stereotype in cinema about women, particularly in the action genre, in which female characters are judged primarily on their physical appearance.
Beatrix Kiddo is portrayed as a vengeful, sadistic female assassin who dresses in masculine garb (sweatsuits, sports shoes, jeans, leather jackets, boots), fights flawlessly, knows far eastern fighting techniques, wields weapons (especially knives and swords like a samurai), ride motorcycles, and escapes from a nailed coffin in a grave, killing dozens of O-Ren Ishii’s The list could go on and on. In this way, Beatrix’s empowerment is determined by her ability to do practices that are historically designated for men, rather than by her tactful and competent fighting talents.
Dil Toh Pagal Hai
Dil To Pagal Hai was the presumed coolest movie to hit Bollywood and our soon-to-be millennial hearts 20 years ago. Nothing has changed in the last 20 years, except that the film can no longer escape the modern-day scanner, which has been appropriately employed by the continuing debate about the portrayal of women in Indian cinema. With its body-hugging sweatsuits, aerobics gear, and Shiamak Davar’s dance troupes, the film is still regarded as the OG pop culture film.
The dance number between Karisma Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit is also very unforgettable and has been imitated by all of us. The Dance of Envy was the name given to it. Never forget that Karisma behaved out right because she felt compelled to seek approval from a man (Rahul) who was too full of himself to notice that he was endangering a woman who had been abandoned before. He did it while casually pitting her against another woman who, strangely, was also dealing with “abandonment issues.”
Student Of The Year
Apart from the overt homophobia and classism, the women in this film despise each other and continually drag each other down. Instead of condemning Rohan for his behaviour, Shanaya and Tanya continuously make crude remarks about each other. Audience is expected to choose between the two women on-screen while one is supposed to the good kind, the other is made to seem like a villain. Bollywood has often operated with the same lens time and again as if the two female leads in the film cannot be likeable together. We have to choose?
Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani
Naina is paralleled with Lara at times, highlighting the disparity again and time again. “Girls like you aren’t designed for flirting,” Bunny tells Naina during one of the film’s “romantic” sequences. “You were born to love.” Bunny stumbles across a “strange” woman during their Manali trip and is seen casually peeking at her rear while she walks away in a very brief clip. There is no shortage of sexist jokes that are supposed to be funny.
“Not a single mountain girl should be spared,” Bunny and Avi say as they prepare to leave for Manali. In the movie, it is obnoxious that Lara is portrayed as someone who ‘enjoys’ Bunny’s sexual attraction toward her which leads her to mock Naina whom she thought unfit for his attention. The layers of sexism in this film are so problematic that one ignores how Bunny likes to think that two women are fighting for him in the movie. One dialogue that highlights this problematic aspect about the film by the male lead, when he is sitting with Naina, defeated by her, he says, “Tumhari jaisi ladki flirting ke liye nahi ishq ke liye bani hai.” Girls like you are not made for flirting but for love.
Suggested Reading: Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani Turns 7: Naina-Aditi Give Us Friendship Goals
The Devil Wears Prada
Anne Hathaway’s character, Andy has no female coworkers for most of the movie. Emily (played by Emily Blunt) frequently insults her and with Miranda continuously criticising her, the only person who appears to care about her achievement without having his own purpose is Nigel (Stanley Tucci). To be honest, it is frustrating that a man wants to help her succeed while she is surrounded by women, which only serves to reinforce the film’s message that women can’t support each other.
The views expressed are the author’s own.