Let the Words of Powerful Female Characters Carry You Toward a Potentially Female POTUS
Whenever we see people in power in film, we’re likely used to seeing more male faces than female. Tall, assured-looking men willing to take on any challenge and inspire the people in the film, as well as the viewing audience, with speeches like this, and like this, and also this. However, just as is the case in real life, there have always been women in power in film; women who may have been erased by perception, privilege, or the inherent bias of history, but have been there nonetheless.
This first one isn’t even a fictional character, but a real woman who single-handedly ran a nation, led an army, and did it all as the “Virgin Queen,” never risking or compromising her country by allying herself with any man through marriage. One of the most thrilling things about watching Cate Blanchett play Elizabeth I in Elizabeth: The Golden Age is that I remember sitting in the theater thinking, Holy crap! They gave her a ‘Braveheart’ speech! So let this be a reminder to all of us that female leaders are not something that we’re only just now inventing. They’ve always existed. What we need now is to see them in greater numbers.
This next example isn’t exactly one of a woman doing good for the world. Then again, there are plenty of powerful men who maintain power without doing good for the world. As we learned from Michael Moore’s well-meaning but hugely ignorant (and sexist) tweet, feminism isn’t about putting women on pedestals and thinking them morally pure. It’s about considering them, you know, equal to men, and not forcing them to adhere to double standards based on gender.
What’s fascinating about this speech by Lucy Liu as O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill is that shows us the intersection between gender and ethnicity. In addition to being a huge sexist, Boss Tanaka also hates the fact that she’s not “pure” Japanese. And O-Ren reminds him and the rest of the men in the room who’s boss…by “collecting his fucking head.” Drastic measures? Sure. But effective.
In the film Equity, Anna Gunn plays an investment banker who loves money and isn’t afraid to say so. This speech reminds us that it’s okay for women to like power. That we don’t have to qualify our ambition by talking about how we’re helping other people in the process. Men like power because they enjoy feeling powerful. So do women. Feeling powerful is enjoyable, and addictive, and really, is a shorthand for feeling secure. Having a certain amount of power makes us feel like we’re going to be okay. That no one can hurt us.
One of the many reasons it’s so important for women to achieve positions of power is because for so long, as a gender, we haven’t felt entirely okay. Our lives have always been at the mercy of things that are out of our control. Meanwhile men, for all the problems they might face individually in their lives, are allowed as a gender to control their own destinies. They’re expected to. Most stories we hear are in film are the story of one man who did X, Y, or Z. That’s the fantasy.
Well, women want that, too. It is okay for women to like power and to achieve it. There’s room for all of us.
And speaking of the “one man” doing X, Y, and Z story, Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games shows us one woman who rises above her harsh circumstances to find it within herself to lead a rebellion against a corrupt, abusive government. In this speech, she goes from reluctant spokesperson to a young woman willing to put her life on the line for a cause, and what makes her a great leader is that her genuineness and her honesty make her someone who can inspire others to action. She’s not someone who wants power, but she has it, because of what she can inspire others to do.
Lastly, this isn’t from a film, but it’s an awesome short film nonetheless. It’s Presidential speeches from Lincoln, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, and Obama as read by women, and it goes a long way in showing us that the words that we’ve heard historically from the mouths of men have no less weight when they come from the mouths of women. Is the delivery different? Sure. But that’s the key word. Different. Not better. Not worse. Just different.
Power doesn’t have to look or sound like what we’re used to to be powerful, and Presidents don’t have to look or sound like what we’re used to in order to be presidential. As we vote today here in the United States, let’s allow these women to remind us of that and inspire us to action in the voting booth and beyond. Once we stop being afraid of what we’re not used to, we can make real changes and allow more people a seat at the table.
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