Cinema is all about portraying realistic and unrealistic human fantasies. The depiction of women in cinema is also a representation of the roles imposed by the society on women. Until the 1980s, women catered to domestic roles in a patriarchal society and had no life outside their homes. A majority of the cinemas depicted this universalised concept. However, as the feminist movement gained momentum, Hollywood slightly altered its view and portrayed women as independent and strong individuals. In the west, Alice Guy-Blache was the first female director and the only one up until 1906.
Portrayal of Women by the Film Industry
Women were not even considered to have a career as an actor in Bollywood. Male actors played the roles of female characters on screen. In 1982, Arth portrayed a woman who set out to make a life of her own after her director husband had diserted her. A woman character took on a primary role for the very first time in the movie industry. Fatma Begum was one of the first women directors in India in the year 1926. Women in cinema have gained a much larger foothold in the last decade with movies like ‘Erin Brockovich’, ‘The Piano’, ‘North Country’, etc. In Bollywood, we have movies like Chak de India!, Zakhmi Aurat, Swades, etc that has incorporated positive aspects to celebrate womanhood. In India, ‘Mary Kom’ and ‘Queen’ has won the the praise and appreciation of an audience which craves similar women-centric movies.
Gender Equality in Cinema
But does this mean that cinema provides an equal space for women? Statistics show that top paid actors make upto 2 ½ times more than the top paid actresses. A woman’s career in cinema as the lead role is much shorter than that of a man. Men continue to showcase their impeccable charm in their 50s. On the other hand, old age often proves to hinder women to pull off a lead role, as dictated by the society. Studies show that female movie stars are at the peak of their film career at age of 34, while male stars earn the most at the age of 51. Since 1998, women’s representation behind the screen has gone up by a marginal 1%, other than the rise of female directors. It is truly shocking that films still incorporate gender bias and stereotypes in the portrayal of women.