It is no surprise that the film industry is plagued with stereotypes of women. Never the main characters; always needed to be swept off their feet by a man, usually not the smartest one.
In recent years — perhaps since the ‘legally blonde’ era — there has been a however-very-slow shift in the way women are portrayed in movies. Yet, our feminist superheroes were still conspicuous by their absence.
However, change does not stop. Newer films depict a female character with bold features, empowering, strong, wise, breaking away from the traditional Hollywood tropes.
But for Julie Taymor, the first woman to win a Tony Award for best director of a musical in 1998, it’s time to showcase flesh-and-blood feminist superheroes and tell their stories so they can continue to inspire generations to come.
Her latest film, The Glorias, is a “non-traditional biopic” of Gloria Steinem, the pioneering American feminist and political activist, a key champion of the women’s liberation movement who spoke out on everything from civil rights to violence against women.
As reported by The Guardian, in The Glorias, Julianne Moore and Alicia Vikander are among the actresses who play Steinem at different stages of her life, intertwining with each other as different feminist superheroes. The cast also includes Timothy Hutton and Bette Midler, and much of the cinematography is based on archival footage.
Based on Steinem’s 2015 memoir, My Life on the Road, Taymor’s film premiered last Sunday, in the lead-up to International Women’s Day.
“Women’s equality in film recently has been about women kicking ass,” Taymor told the media. “It’s about women in skimpy clothes, but being able to fight, to do karate, use weapons, to be a superhero.”
The director admitted to having “struggled” during the film production, with many independent producers turning it down. The problem, she says, is that the industry ‘pigeonholes’ everything, “In Hollywood, they ask are you a thriller? Are you a chick flick? Are you a Quentin Tarantino shoot-em-up? What are you? This just doesn’t go with The Glorias.”
Even after approval, she struggled financially until funds came from anonymous philanthropies for women’s causes.
In closing, Taymor said she loved everything about the film. “How often do you do a movie about a living hero? Working when your lead character is alive means that you get to call up and ask questions … She gave me more material than has been in any other book. It was phenomenal.”
Steinem, now 86, was inspired by Taymor’s handling of her story. In contrast, she dismissed as “ridiculous” last year’s glossy TV account of 1970s feminist history, Mrs. America – in which Rose Byrne played her.
Taymor, for her part, knew it was time to change the narrative around women, and what better way than by telling the stories of feminist superheroes?
“Almost every movie about women has to do with either a boyfriend, wannabe husband, wannabe lovers, abuse this or that. It wraps around the man,” Taymor concluded. “This is a love story about women loving women – and not sexual. It’s about women who get together, enjoy sharing their work together, their dreams and also their mission in life.”