In the midst of the Toronto Film Festival this past week, I couldn't help but notice that Whip It! fever was in full swing in my home town. Everywhere I went, I would catch glimpses of young girls in that signature plaid with Whip It! buttons on their bags, or I would see posters for the comedy lining the walls of university notice boards, and I have to tell you, it does my little feminist heart proud. If movies are a big part of your life, then you know how much they can change who you are, and I can't help but notice a lack of truly cool role models for girls. Seriously, there is only so much Megan Fox we can take, and that's why it makes me happy to see girls getting into the image of a young woman defying expectations and trading in her pageant sash for the rough and tumble sisterhood of Roller Derby.
As any movie geek of the female persuasion can tell you, it isn't easy finding films they can relate to that don't reside in the 'rom-com ghetto'. Just because you are a girl doesn't mean that you don't want the same kind of escapism that boys do -- I mean, who doesn't want to save the world? But sometimes I crave a movie that's not straight out of the fan boy factory of hot chicks with guns, but can still make me fly my girl flag high. Because when I watch that kind of movie, it's a rare chance to watch a woman on screen do something other than run from a monster or into the hero's arms. So in honor of us girls, I've put together a list of five flicks that I like to watch when my girl-power reservoirs run a little low.
After the jump; they are women, hear them roar...
1) Muriel's Wedding
I'm not going to waste too much time on this, but I don't like chick flicks -- for the most part, anyway. But one night some friends dragged me to see Muriel's Wedding and I finally saw a movie that had all the trademarks of a what we call a chick flick, but for once, made you feel good about being a girl. Not to mention, there are very few films that ditch the traditional romance to show a girl tossing over the boy of her dreams to stand by her best friend. Toni Collette brings lovable strangeness to a new level in this one, while still remaining a real person -- and if you want to see what happens when this character goes wrong, look no further than All About Steve.
Growing up with the movies, I had seen plenty of women needing to be saved, or in a best-case scenario she could help out, but would inevitably await a rescue -- like the Marion Ravenwood's of the film world. But Aliens was my first time watching the chick be an action hero, not the victim, not a helper, but an honest to goodness hero. Whenever I want to watch a girl kick a little ass, I can always count on Ripley, plus it never fails to elicit a laugh when I hear Vasquez's comeback to Hudson (played by Bill Paxton) when he questions her femininity: "Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?" Vasquez: "No, have you?"
My female friends and I are a varied group. We may have different tastes, opinions, and styles, but there is one thing we all agree on: Cate Blanchett is 'the man'. Blanchett took the legend of the bloodless and chaste Elizabeth that the history books remember, and made her into a compelling and awe inspiring figure of self-sacrifice. The concept of women and power in the movies is one that very few actresses can carry off beyond playing with stereotypes of the dreaded dragon lady. But Blanchett through just the virtues of her skills as an actress shows you every emotion and sacrifice that a woman makes when she chooses to lead.
Warning: this clip is a little long, but too awesome to be missed.
4) The Women
This might seem an odd choice, since George Cukor's The Women shows the very worst about our gender: our cruelty, our manipulations, and our competitiveness with our 'sisters' -- but at least it's honest. Real equality onscreen means showing the best and the worst of us, and a soft-soap treatment isn't going to cut it. As any girl knows, we have our moments, and there are times where in the same breath we can be catty or generous, or proclaiming our independence while craving a romantic partner. The Women shows those gray areas, and in the end, I'd always much rather watch a woman with her claws out, than her mouth shut and her breasts out.
5) Little Darlings
Once you get past some of the truly embarrassing haircuts, the coming of age story of girls in a race to lose their virginity at summer camp is a stand out in a sea of run of the mill 80's sex romps. There are some dark currents running in the story of Ferris (played by Tatum O'Neal) and Angel (Kristy McNichol), and you don't have to look hard before those somewhat twisted elements emerge from all that 80's camp. But the reason I love the film is that it isn't a sad-sack morality tale about the perils of losing your virginity, and makes Darlings a stand out. We don't often talk about young girls and sexuality, unless it's of the Lolita variety or the aforementioned cautionary tale, but Darlings finally let us girls in on the gross out jokes and life lessons.
So now it's your turn out there ladies, what movies do you watch when you feel like a little empowerment?