With times being what they are it’s hard to remain upbeat and patriotic. Not to mention we hear so much about the founding FATHERS that it’s easy to see the 4th of July as a holiday where women just aren’t relevant. Bearing that in mind the Dames decided to look at our five favorite films (and TV shows) that make us proud to be women.
Both Karen and Lauren have detailed their thoughts on why the 2016 remake of Ghostbusters is excellent, so I won’t rehash the point. The thing is that the ’80s were an incredibly inhospitable time for women, particularly on-screen. When we talk about movies needing to be remade to rectify the slights of the past, this is a great example. This iteration of Ghostbusters allows the women who felt marginalized watching that movie a sense of catharsis. And a new group of fans who might have felt left out with a sequel – the little girls dreaming of being a ghostbuster – can now feel represented. And the movie really does up sexual harassment right showing that women understand what harassment looks at, so why can’t men figure it out by now?
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
I’m a terrible Star Wars fan who only joined in on the movies because of Oscar Isaac, but that all changed with the release of The Last Jedi. I watched tough women characters like Daisy Ridley’s Rey, Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose, and our girl, Carrie Fisher as General Leia carry the torch and upstage their male counterparts. I finally understood what it was like to be a kid who came into the Star Wars franchise and was reborn. Women take the lead in this movie because they have to; their male heroes get too cocky or they’re too dumb. Women are presented as commanding, determined, and if they’re labeled a bitch that’s a comment on the viewer, not the character. And have I mentioned Kelly Marie Tran is adorable and we don’t deserve her? Because she is and we don’t.
One Day at a Time (2017)
I don’t watch a lot of television, but One Day at a Time on Netflix is pure joy distilled into a hilarious sitcom. One Day at a Time doesn’t just make me proud to be a woman, but a Latina woman. Justina Machado’s army vet single mother is as strong as she is loving. She’s relatable though her issues are so specific. And she’s complimented by the indomitable Rita Moreno who is amazing because she’s goddamn Rita Moreno. Watching these women reminds you of your mom, your sister, the women who shaped you into who you are.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is one of my favorite comedies, but it’s also the best story about female friendships. On the surface it’s the tale of two scheming gold-diggers, but that is meant to distract you. Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) and her best friend, Dorothy (Jane Russell) understand each other far better than any male will, yet their relationship isn’t coded as sexual. They love each other, support each other, and take care of each other. When Lorelei is accused of stealing, it’s Dorothy willing to do whatever she has to in order to secure her friend’s freedom. The lengths they go to are funny (and beautifully costumed), but are also free to competition.
Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)
Anne of the Thousand Days is my favorite movie of all time and also gave us the strongest woman in history. Anne Boleyn is a feminist icon who made the King of England so stupid the only way he could save face was to kill her. I know this might all be framed by filmed depictions, but I choose to believe it. Justice for Anne Boleyn!
Wonder Woman (2017)
I’m not kidding when I say I waited for this movie my entire life and when we finally got it, the wait turned out to be entirely worth it. Gal Gadot is perfect, and the character is perfectly developed. She’s funny, kind, fierce, and full of love. She doesn’t go out and join the fight to settle an old score or prove some kind of macho point. She fights because it’s the right thing to do and because she wants the world to be a better place. If only we had a leader life that.
It makes me giddy to see the tide finally turning on this film. Lauren has a good summation in her own five, so I won’t steal her words, but I have noticed a markedly different reaction lately when I mention the “Girl Ghostbusters;” what was once met with derision now receives a bit of appreciation. (Or silence, which is significantly better than unjustified outrage.) This movie is so funny, so subversive, and so brilliantly sly about it. Plus, like I’ve said from the very beginning, it succeeds in at least one area that the original film didn’t: it remembers that these characters are SCIENTISTS. They aren’t going to be content to turn themselves into exterminators and call it a day. The fact that Holtzman is constantly coming up with new gadgets seems like a no-brainer. Dear Paul Feig: SEQUEL PLEASE.
9 to 5 (1980)
I mean, sure, they kidnap a guy and repeatedly threaten to kill him (or worse), but he totally deserves it. You’ve got three incredible ladies and they are hilarious, which is great but they’re also smart, a little bit scared, and ultimately determined to fix things themselves. Women taking control. What’s not to love?
Erin Brockovitch (2000)
There are a few things this biopic definitely doesn’t get right. The real Erin Brockovitch insists she never dressed the way Julia Roberts does in the film, for instance. But the story of a single mom who simultaneously works to provide a decent life for her kids while also ultimately saving a community and helping exact justice against a corporation is something to celebrate. Even if it isn’t perfectly accurate, they showcase Erin as being someone who is both book smart and street smart, a hard worker, and a real life superhero. Just take a drive through the real Hinckley, California sometime and you’ll get an even better sense of what she was up against.
Working Girl (1988)
In many ways, Working Girl is just as relevant now as it was in the ’80s. You have a woman who manages to work her way up in the corporate world, constantly being overlooked. She works hard, educates herself, and is still shunted aside by better connected men. When she finally has a female boss and starts to build some trust, she gets double-crossed, because women can be super mean when they’re trying to elbow others out of the way. But Melanie Griffith’s Tess doesn’t give up when everyone thinks she should. Yeah, she turns the tables and gets a bit devious herself. Good. She should. Sneakiness and deception aside (I think?), Tess is a pretty honest representation of the female experience trying to break through in a world that has been dominated (unfairly and unnecessarily) by men.
I maintain that if Ghostbusters had been released post-election and #MeToo, it would have been a massive hit. Regardless, the film didn’t deserve the man-child rages it provoked, or the snarky dismissal from “objective” straight white dudes. It is just as good as the original (this is from someone who loves the original so much that she got a big old tattoo of the logo on her shoulder), and far less reactionary. The film showcases the talents of four comediennes who brilliantly complement each other’s styles without dominating the frame. The villain is a whining man-child who believes that the world has not given him his due, and so decides to destroy it, which is far more on point than perhaps the writers even knew. The women represent a spectrum of femininity that, while not perfect, are also a far cry from the requirements of the patriarchal male gaze. But the moment when Holtzmann busts out her guns and begins attacking ghosts legitimately had me tearing up. For a moment, I was the eight-year-old blond girl who was told that girls can’t be Ghostbusters. And there, on that screen, a girl was a Ghostbuster.
The Avengers (1961-1969)
OK, so I’m cheating with a TV show, but The Avengers really does make me proud to be female. Specifically, Emma Peel and her predecessor Cathy Gale make me proud to be female. They’re badass ladies who routinely laugh in the face of patriarchy, stomp on some balls, and achieve things like multiple advanced degrees, black belts in judo, and a male partner who thinks they’re awesome. The Avengers reminds us that male feminists do exist, and that sometimes the best they can do is just let the women be awesome. And these women are so goddamn awesome.
This is likely due to the new season just coming out, reigniting my love of a TV show that deals with female friendships, toxic relationships, sexual harassment, motherhood, and good, old-fashioned discrimination and stereotyping. The relationships between the women of GLOW make the show—they’re complex, not always healthy, and there’s rarely a clear-cut side of right and wrong. But this is a show primarily written and directed by women, with women as the main characters, varied and crazy as they can be. It’s always nice to see different body types and personalities represented without any one of them becoming the butt of a joke and nothing more. The main relationship arc is between Debbie and Ruth, handling their friendship and the man that comes between them, and how important they are to each other. It’s a moving and complex depiction, and very true to the realities of female relationships.
His Girl Friday (1940)
The best idea Howard Hawks ever had was switching the male character in The Front Page to a woman in His Girl Friday. Roz Russell’s performance as the fastest of fast-talking dames is still one for the ages—Hildy thinks she wants a typically “feminine” life, but she really would chafe under the restrictions of suburban living. The film celebrates the idea that a woman can be a great newspaperman and still be feminine, that a man might even love her for being a great newspaperman. Russell talks everyone, including Cary Grant, under the table; her wit is quick, and she gets the hottest man in the room in the end.
Ocean’s 8 (2018)
It was between this and Wonder Woman, with Ocean’s 8 edging out Diana Prince mostly because I have long waited for a heist movie featuring nothing but women. Again, it is thrilling to see a spectrum of femininity being represented on the big screen, and the film’s unabashed celebration of female friendships is enough to put it among my favorite films of the year. While some male critics laid into it for not having enough conflict, Ocean’s 8 is great for not trying to trade on the old stereotype that women can’t work together. Not only can these women work together, they can trust each other, remain friends while doing it, and exact beautiful revenge on douchebag dudes. Mmmmmm.
Honorable Mention: The Bletchley Circle (2012-2014), the first few episodes of which is about female codebreakers banding together after World War II to catch a rapist/serial killer. The show falls off precipitously in the second and third series, but the first series is truly awesome, another celebration of female intellect and friendships.
Okay, I’m cheating, so sue me. When thinking of my favorite female characters, as well as the ladies that have most inspired me, I find myself venturing over to television. While there are some great examples of female awesomeness in cinema, my personal picks come primarily from the realm of TV.
Agent Carter (2015-2016)
Agent Peggy Carter initially established herself as a goddam delight in Captain America: The First Avenger. However, we saw the character find her wings and truly take flight in the depressingly short-lived ABC series Agent Carter. While the cult-classic only received two seasons, we need to be glad we had Peggy on-screen for as long as we did. Hayley Atwell brings a fun, fiesty and independent character to the series, and I found her truly inspiring. Here’s to more Peggy Carter on screen in the future.
Firefly is the show I was obsessed with when I was coming into my own as a writer. This show crafts four absolutely stellar female characters and makes me want to be each and every one. Kaylee, River, Inara and Zoe are unique, relatable and fun. I have looked up to and girl-crushed on them, and Firefly is one of the few shows I’ve legitimately thought about cosplaying. That must mean something.
Miss. Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012- Present)
Strolling into international television territory here. If you haven’t watched the delightfulness that is Miss. Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, you are sorely missing out. The Australian series follows the amazingly awesome Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) as she solves murders in 1920s Melbourne. She’s fiercely independent, indulges in a lavish lifestyle most of us can only dream of, and also enjoys one of the hottest “Will-they-or-won’t-they” relationships with the adorable Detective Jack Robinson (Nathan Page). To make a long story short: I want to be Phryne Fisher when I grow up.
Murdoch Mysteries (2008-Present)
On the surface, Murdoch Mysteries might look like a bit of an (adorable!) sausage fest; however, don’t underestimate the plucky little (but uber-popular) Canadian, period police procedural. The series follows Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) as he solves murders in turn of the twentieth century Toronto.
The series features Helene Joy as Dr. Julia Ogden, who stands as one of my favorite characters to ever grace a television screen. She’s a woman who’s worked her way up to be a doctor (and a coroner) during the 1890s, which says everything you need to know about her. Through this character, the show makes powerful statements about abortion, women’s rights and above all, gender equality. She’s one of the most forward thinking characters on television and we need more women on screen like her.
Little Women (1994)
I’ve spoken a great deal about my love for this movie, and I’m doing it again. I saw this in theaters when I was eight-years-old. This was an important film for me at a formative time in my life. If Firefly came to me at a time when I was shaping myself as a writer, Little Women came to me at a time when I was shaping who I was as a person. Between Meg (Trini Alvarado) and Jo (Winona Ryder), this film gave me female characters who I could relate to and above all, idolize. I can really say I am who I am because of Winona Ryder’s take on Jo March.