“The world is round,” Cate Blanchett observed, accepting her Best Actress Oscar Sunday night.
She addressed “those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films, with women at the center, are niche experiences,” saying: “They’re not! Audiences want to see them, and in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people!”
The night’s theme was movie heroes — one of those sticky words, like “actor,” that come in two endings.
One of those things Hollywoodlanders are forever saying, especially on awards nights, is that movies are our dreams (in which case we need to stop listening to ukulele music and talking to Siri right before bed, because “Her” was strange. And don’t even get me started on the implications for “Inception.”) They also point out that movies teach us how to be human– that’s why I spent years riding majestically around on a camel extinguishing matches with my fingertips. The images onscreen tell us what’s a romance, what’s a hero, what’s a villain, what’s an acceptable thing to say to your AI paramour the morning after.
What is a hero?
Can a heroine be a hero? Can an actress be an actor? Of course. Of course. Let’s get on this! The imaginative world will be a lot less flat once women start to occupy more space in it.
Women aren’t a niche audience! Yay, look at the year it is! Take off that hair shirt, stop illuminating that manuscript and come learn how to work the YouTube!
This has been a long time coming. As we learned from that montage of Heroes in Film, there were decades and centuries when you could use “man” and “human” interchangeably. Everyman was a man, usually white, often bespectacled. Now it doesn’t have to be. Human could mean anyone. And it even sells!
And, as Blanchett also demonstrated with the movie she won for, a female hero doesn’t have to ride a horse and shoot things with arrows. We are good on those for the moment. In fact, we can’t seem to get that tap to turn off. If Hollywood insists on giving us another empowered lady archer character, we have no idea where we’re going to put her. Please, give us more heroes, but not of the same. There are options that do not include any archery at all, and we should explore them. Plenty of heroes don’t shoot anything other than the breeze and don’t ride anything other than the subway. And some of them are women! Start building more movies around them and suddenly you have twice as many characters to work with. It’s like what Woody Allen said about bisexuality — double your chance for a date on a Saturday night.
On the official hero montage introduced by Captain America himself, I counted all of seven ladies, floating in a giant sea of spandex-clad testosterone. There was no denying the men on the list deserved to be there — Luke Skywalker taught me how to be human, after all — but it did make me excited for a future where a Leia could be an equally powerful proxy for our dreams. Bogart? Frodo? Neo? Indiana? (Who names these people?) They’re us. No disputes there. These are our heroes, and we love them. We can’t hop back into the past and insert female heroes where there weren’t any. That’s not how this works.
But the future’s what counts. So listen to Cate. The world is round, people!