This investigation will explore the representation of women
in the films: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1 (Lionsgate Film, 2014),
Prometheus (20th Century Fox, 2012) and Passengers (Columbia Pictures, 2016).
Films usually represent women in an over-sexual and derogatory light. This
study will seek to prove that the opposing representations of women present in
Sci-Fi films are due to the struggle between the rise in modern-day feminist
& equitable ideals and the past traditional, patriarchal views on gender
roles. The investigation will explore how the various traditional female
stereotypes, like women being submissive, has changed over to time accept more
positive representations, like women having the ability to be strong and in
control. I will also analyze the possible perspectives that go against my
argument to gain a better understanding of how the female gender is portrayed
in the film industry. Judith Butler proposes the idea of Gender Performativity.
It suggests that we all put on a performance. She says ‘by choosing to be
different about it, we might work to change gender norms and the binary
understanding of masculinity and femininity’ (Gauntlett, 1997). This implies
that we all act a certain way to either

In past Science Fiction films, like the ‘Forbidden Planet’
(Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1956) the female characters are portrayed in a
stereotypical fashion. For instance, the female character in Forbidden Planet,
Altaira (Anna Francis) wears revealing clothing and is considered a very naive
girl throughout the movie. Steve Neale’s Genre Theory suggests that ‘much of
the pleasure of popular cinema lies in the process of “difference in
repetition” – (i.e. recognition of familiar elements and in the way those
elements might be orchestrated in an unfamiliar fashion or in the way that
unfamiliar elements might be introduced)’ (Brading, 2011). This means that
stereotypes and conventions might still be carried out and portrayed but
through unconventional ways to add a sense of intrigue and excitement. In more
modern Science Fiction films, women have begun taking the lead and asserting
their presence. However, like the previous quote suggests, these films likely
contain hidden, encoded stereotypes and traditional conventions.

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     The Hunger Games,
directed by Francis Lawrence, is about empowering women and showing how the
lead female character is strong and independent enough to survive and take
charge. Additionally, the movie Prometheus, directed by Ridley Scott, is about
a woman that has to be protected by a group of men from an alien monster. These
case studies are perfect as they show how the media portrays women in different
ways. One is shown as a strong independent warrior and the other as a helpless
girl. However, the third movie, Passengers, directed by Morten Tyldum, shows
how a man takes control and forces a woman to do something against her will for
his own personal needs, which relates to Propp’s Character Theory as it places
the female as the princess.

     The female only
‘exists as a goal’ (Wilson, 2011) according to Propp’s theory which is clearly
seen in Passengers as the male desires the female.  The main character is a male with an agency,
he has a goal. The only named female character is a supporting character with
no agency. She only reacts to what the male does because she doesn’t progress
the plot. Now, this has been chosen due to the fact that the main Actress,
Jennifer Lawrence, also starred as the strong, independent warrior character in
the Hunger Games. Furthermore, this has been included to show another
perspective so that the investigation can be analyzed critically.

     Through the use of
Stuart Hall’s Representation Theory, these texts will be analyzed from a
constructivist approach. Stuart Hall’s Representation Theory suggests that ‘the
word “representation” refers to
the production of knowledge (rather
than just meaning)’ (Acosta, 2012). This means a representation is a figure
crafted by the creator’s inner values rather than the actual meaning.
Therefore, the productions of the film industry reflect the misogynistic and
derogatory values of the directors and Harvey Weinstein, the man that has been
the perpetrator of several sexual assaults, who also governs the film industry
in Hollywood. These sexist beliefs are a result of the quondam traditional
values created by men. It is reasonable to believe that some people would have
been raised with such values and not having been taught ethics and moral truth
in that: women are not an inferior species for men to abuse.

     Harvey Weinstein’s
inner misogynistic and abusive intentions promote a certain negative,
representation of female stereotypes which has become ingrained in the
traditions of Hollywood. An example of where these values have an effect would
be the film Prometheus (Dir. Ridley Scott. 2012). The film Prometheus
represents women as weak and inferior. This can be seen through the scene where
Elizabeth Shaw (played by Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan
Marshall-Green), as well as other crew members, are woken from a cryogenic
sleep. Shaw is sat hunched over for the entire scene vomiting into a box, while
Holloway and the other male crew have quickly recovered and are slightly more
relaxed (Figure 1). This scene portrays how women aren’t as strong and
conditioned to adventure as the male gender. While the male characters are able
to move on and get to work, the only female in the scene is still in pain. This
allows us to see how the director and writers view the female gender, in that
women are frail and delicate. This relates to the Codes of Gender Documentary
in that ‘femininity is superficial and weak’ (Jhally, 2009). This is further
reinforced in a different scene where Holloway is explaining their scientific
findings and conclusions to a group of men (Figure 2). While this is taking
place, the character Elizabeth Shaw stands by his side nodding along in
agreement. This shows how the man has taken control of the situation and the
woman is supposed to be submissive. This links to Laura Mulvey’s theory of the
Male Gaze in that the audience watches from the male’s perspective and denies
the women a human identity. In the same scene, when Shaw finally speaks, her
ideas and theories are dismissed as “bullshit” by one of the men as
the rest laugh. This highlights the stereotype of women being the inferior and
foolish gender.

     However, in the
Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1 (Dir. Francis Lawrence. 2014.)  the main character is a powerful woman who is
in control. One of the ways this is shown is through the props. In the movie,
Katniss Everdeen’s (played by Jennifer Lawrence) favoured weapon is the longbow
(Figure 3). Not only does it represent an element of danger, but it also shows
strength, accuracy and speed. These are usually elements that are
stereotypically masculine showing how the film subverts traditional feminine
stereotypes. This can also be seen through the costume of the main character.
Jennifer Lawrence’s character wears fully black armour (Figure 4). The armour
shows how that she encounters precarious situations frequently and the fact
that the costume covers her whole body without exposing anything portrays
Katniss as a respectful character who isn’t over sexualized. This completely
dismisses the theory of the male gaze, which says that women are portrayed as
sexualized objects for the man’s pleasure. Furthermore, the colour of her
costume is black, which connotes power and confidence, traits usually seen as
masculine. Moreover, the quote “Nobody told her what to do”, said by
Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), is said regarding the way Katniss makes her
decisions. This quote implies that she is smart and independent enough to make
her own judgment choices. Usually, decisiveness is a trait of men but here they
use it for a woman to go against the past traditions. This all links to the
concept of Modernism. Modernism is a philosophical movement of altering and
rejecting tradition. However, this does beg the question, can women be strong
and break tradition without exchanging all their feminine traits for masculine?
Additionally, the simple fact that the female characters pass the Bechdel test
shows how the increase in feminist ideals has allowed the empowerment of the
female gender. To pass the Bechdel Test, ‘films need to satisfy three
requirements: #1 It has at least two women in it #2 who talk to each other,
about #3 something besides a man'(Friedman, 2015).

     Although, the
movie Passengers (Dir. Morten Tyldum. 2016) contradicts my argument as this
film is a very modern film that still sticks to past traditions of gender roles
and stereotypes. These misogynistic values are portrayed through the name of
the lead female character, Aurora Lane (played by Jennifer Lawrence). The name
Aurora relates to the trivialized story of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, in which
the ‘sleeping beauty’ is named Aurora. The original is story majorly about the
theme of objectification which plays out here. This film generally comes across
as a modern Science Fiction rework of the Sleeping Beauty story. We know this
due to how the main male character, Jim Preston (played by Chris Pratt), wakes
up early from is cryogenic sleep on a space trip to a new world. After a year
of feeling lonely, he finds the sleeping Aurora Lane. He sees her as a
beautiful and interesting woman and decides to wake her up about 80 years ahead
of schedule, without her consent. This relates to Vladimir Propp’s Character
Theory and the idea of the Princess archetype. The theory suggests that the
Princess, or damsel in distress, is ‘often sought for during the narrative’
(McCarthy, 2013). This objectifies this helpless female character and
represents her as a prize to be won rather than a living, breathing individual.
Moreover, it is a clear example of Laura Mulvey’s theory of the Male Gaze is
‘where women in the media are viewed from the eyes of a heterosexual man’
(Sampson, 2015) and objectify the woman. Aurora Lane is objectified for the
pleasure of a lonely man. This is further reinforced by a clip of Jennifer
Lawrence wearing a mostly transparent bathing suit as she goes for a swim
(Figure 5). This portrays her character as an over-sexualized creature for the
male’s pleasure, again relating to the Male Gaze theory, ‘Men do the looking,
and women are to be looked at’ (Sampson, 2015). The Male Gaze Theory suggests
that women are ‘objects of male desire’ (Sampson, 2015), they only exist for
the pleasure of men and the “needs”. Furthermore, the film has been edited to
display a montage of 3 consecutive sex scenes between Jim Preston and Aurora
Lane (Figure 6). This puts the audience in the perspective of a heterosexual
man to gaze upon the female during a scene of vulnerability. Whether or not
they are a homosexual man or a straight woman, the audience is still positioned
in this way due to the actions of the director. Moreover, in a later scene,
Aurora Lane is shown caressing Jim’s face. This relates to The Codes of Gender
documentary through the quote “when women are shown holding something, it
often looks as though it is just resting there – not being held in a strong
manner” (Jhally, 2009). This shows the viewer that women are
stereotypically gentle; they only brush objects and features with their hands
they never grip or grab, when it comes to stereotyping, women are weak and
gentle. Additionally, the actors Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are known
for their stance on gender equality. For example, Lawrence has fought for equal
pay (an example being the essay she wrote for Lena Dunham about earning less than
her male costars) and brought huge media attention to the issue of the gender
pay gap while Pratt has spoken about the need for gender equity in multiple
interviews. This shows the grip of the traditional sexist values of society.

representations fortify the status quo that’s cultivated by the dominant
ideology, that dominant ideology being the patriarchy. George Gerbner’s
cultivation helps explain this idea due to the fact the Cultivation theory
suggests ‘high-frequency viewers of television are more susceptible to media
messages and the belief that they are real and valid’ (Davie, 2010). After
centuries of being conditioned and restricted, women are now accustomed to
falling into and accepting these submissive and false gender roles. The
pressure of society on gender roles as well as mass media cultivation had pushed
women to accept and follow the conventional stereotypes.

     In conclusion, it
is clear to see that the conflict between modern feminist values and
traditional patriarchal views has created a series of contrasting
representations of women in a film genre that is usually venerated for its
visionary ideas. The movie: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1 (Dir. Francis
Lawrence. 2014.) presents the emergence of a powerful main female character
that takes control and shows that the female gender isn’t weak or submissive
like tradition suggests. Whereas, the main female character in the film
Prometheus (Dir. Ridley Scott. 2012.) is represented as an object of pleasure
for the male gender. She is also portrayed as submissive and inferior. This
shows how the conventional values of objectification have created the perfect
stereotype from the perspective of the superior male. This reinforces my
hypothesis because it shows that despite the two films being made around a
similar time, they both create a very divergent set of stereotypes. Albeit, the
film Passengers (Dir. Morten Tyldum. 2016.) shows that this isn’t always the
case due to the fact that, despite it being the most recent of the three
movies, it still portrayed the main female character as part of the conventional
stereotype. Furthermore, the main female character of Aurora Lane relates
closely to the most objectified female character in fairy tales, Sleeping
Beauty. Although, the thesis applies to the majority of films in the
Science-Fiction genre undeterred by the odd exception of films like Passengers.
It is also worthy to note Jon Spaihts was the writer for both Passenger and
Prometheus, making it apparent that his sexist and traditional views are what
shaped the outcome of the two movies.


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