By Phoenicia Schwing
Between social justice issues and a global pandemic, there is plenty going on right now. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed or helpless.
What better way to lift your spirits and fill your life with some hope and empowerment than sitting down to screen some feminist-forward movies to envigorate your mind and challenge your worldview? Let’s take a look at some of my favourite femme films.
Set It Off
Directed by F. Gary Gray and released in 1996, Set It Off is packed with a cast of strong, leading women -Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Kimberly Elise. Set It Off deals with sexism, racism, and classism in a fierce and unapologetic way.
You can’t help but empathize with, and get angry along with the four main characters as they struggle their way through challenge after challenge, growing up as marginalized women of colour from a low-income neighbourhood. After facing discrimination and violence, these women take back their freedom and power through robbing banks. Despite its age, this movie will challenge everything you thought you knew about society today.
The First Wives Club
Based on a book originally written by Olivia Goldsmith, The First Wives Club was produced by Scott Rudin and released in 1996. An anthem of female empowerment, The First Wives Club is full of catchy music and relatable characters.
While a little over the top — because sometimes you just need to be — the three women guide us along on their journey through heartbreak and moving on from toxic situations. They teach us to be true to ourselves, address our personal issues, and prioritise self care.
A League Of Their Own
No list of feminist-forward movies would be complete without mention of A League of Their Own. Released in 1992, A League of Their Own was directed by Penny Marshall and is iconic to this day. Full of strong feminist actors like Geena Davis and Madonna, this film unapologetically challenges general roles and stereotypes.
Strong themes of independence, freedom, female comradery and equality saturate this femme film classic. A League of Their Own addresses key issues facing women like objectification, gender roles, and lack of respect during the WW2 era. It demonstrates and proudly reinforces the idea that women can do anything men can do and should be free to feel what they feel, say what they want to say, and do what they want to do.
Directed by Gretta Gerwig and set in 2002 Sacramento, LadyBird’s feministic core has been deeply discussed and analysed since it came out in 2017. Essentially, Ladybird is a coming-of-age story following a highschool student in her senior year.
This movie addresses relationships, sex, and self worth in ways totally contrary to what we can come to expect from Hollywood. It delves into the complexity and importance of strong female bonds like mother-daughter relationships, close friends, and classmates. It reclaims virginity and sex not as something that defines the protagonist, nor as a target to be achieved. It focuses on self determination through self discovery and independence. As LadyBird tackles many of the same hardships and issues many women have been faced with, we find a real and raw intensity in their portrayal.
If I had to describe the movie Widows in one word, it would be “fierce.” Everything about it — the plot, characters, writing, and acting — is nothing short of fierce. Widows, which came out late 2018, is about a group of widows who team up together to complete their late husbands’ failed heist attempt. Adapted from an 80s TV show by Gillian Flynn and directed by Steve McQueen, this movie is written and executed in a way that challenges current politics, biases, and typical Hollywood tendencies.
What stands out to me the most about this movie is the strong characters. The storyline itself — a group of women successfully carrying out a seemingly impossibly task that their husbands failed to complete — has strong feminist ideals, but the complexity of the characters deepens that reach even further. The main character, Veronica, demonstrates an immense depth and complexity of emotion and drive. Each of the other three team members hold their own as well, not falling into typical troupe roles, but challenging the stereotypes at every turn. If you’re looking for an empowering film full of strong female leads that’s not afraid to break the mould, Widows is what you need to see next.
Whether you need something to do while you’re staying inside or are after some female empowerment inspiration to fight male-dominated power, any of these movies might be exactly what you need. Hollywood has a long way to go as far as female equality is concerned, but it has also come a long way. To me, watching the progression of feminism in Hollywood encourages me that the same progress can be made with other issues as well.