Ever wondered why almost all the popular item numbers in movies are performed by female actors? Ever thought why was the display of valour and patriotism of a great queen in the movie Padmaavat subjected to attacks, but people keep mum about the brazen objectification of women in some of the most popular songs and raps? From a stigmatized widow living in darkness to a helpless lady awaiting a hero to have herself rescued from the bad guys, it is no secret that females have, for long, been portrayed as a governable commodity, a vulnerable ‘species’, as objects meant for gratification of one’s pleasures, in the mainstream cinema.
The introduction of the fictional character of Black Widow in 2010, to a large degree, brought a change in the way actresses were earlier featured in the thriller genre. The character, one of the most powerful in the MCU, came as a respite from the usual ‘not-so-heroic’ manner in which female actors have generally been depicted in action-packed movies. Thappad, a critically acclaimed film, threw light on the wretched status of housewives in Indian households who, at times, are even subjected to physical and mental abuse. The protagonist sought to change the tolerant and absorbing behaviour our society expects from women. From Kahaani to Naam Shabana, from Maleficent to Mardaani, there are countless examples from the pop world which not only aim at putting an end to the centuries-old unfair customary roles and responsibilities created for women but also present before us a variety of unexplored characters, breaking the conventional image of women which has been ingrained in our minds from time immemorial. However, it is not a secret that these noble intents are often overpowered by a section of the audience which fancies for objectification and blatant sexualisation of women and prefers a male-dominated cinematic world.
For some, it might be nothing more than a medium of entertainment. In fact, it would have been much better if it was circumscribed to the boundaries of showbiz, but in reality, it isn’t. What we see on the silver screens is not merely a reflection of our thoughts and ideas. Our actions are manifestations of our observations. In simpler words, while the theatrical content continues to be influenced by reality, it is also simultaneously influencing the reality. Cinema has a deep-seated impact on our minds. A frail portrayal of women in movies does nothing but colours the few blank spaces left in the falsely fabricated painting of an ‘ideal’ woman, which, by all means, is unacceptable. Combating weak female representation in the cinema will automatically eliminate a multitude of gender-related issues in the society, be it the widened pay gap or the much-needed eradication of toxic masculine mind-set. We, as the audience, have the privilege to choose the right message and the power to boycott the wrong ones. Our preferences matter a lot more than we think. The changes we envision in our tomorrow must be displayed through our actions and words today.