When we turn on the TV or go to the movies, it is as a means of escape. It’s a simple way to forget about our problems for a little while and become invested in someone else’s story. Entertainment is meant to make us laugh and cry about the characters we see on the screen. It’s certainly not supposed to make us feel bad about ourselves.
Unfortunately, today’s entertainment industry thrives on projecting unrealistic body and lifestyle standards on young women. Women are supposed to be young, thin, sexy and successfully able to juggle love, work and family.
How many times have you watched this movie? The lead female is unsuccessful or unpopular because she’s considered “dowdy.” Or, she doesn’t want to be alone, but her single-minded passion for her job prevents her from finding love. And so the character changes her body or her attitude, and suddenly she’s able to net the handsome guy. Roll credits.
I can think of several movies off the top of my head. And all of them were marketed to a female audience. There are so many “chick flicks” written with young women in mind…but how many movies actually portray real women?
Next time you have some friends over to watch a DVD, check out some great movies the Communities In Schools national office recommends for a “women’s empowerment movie night.” All of these movies are rated PG-13 and under, and are great to show young women you may be mentoring. It’s Women’s History Month, so why not help a young woman develop a better sense of self-esteem through the magic of the silver screen?
In this 2002 comedy, British teenagers Jess and Jules struggle against their cultures’ standards for beauty and femininity while playing in a women’s soccer league. Bend It Like Beckham is a fantastic standard for teenage girls because it accurately portrays what many teenage girls are going through. Jess and Jules are trying to forge a career in sports; but in a society that values how the girls look and who they marry over their athletic prowess, it’s an ordeal.
When Ana, a bright and ambitious 18-year-old Latina who has just graduated from high school, says that a man can be romantically interested in a woman’s brain, her mom sarcastically replies “A mind? Thoughts?” Ana dreams of going to college all the way across the country, but her mother would rather she stay in Los Angeles, work in the family business and lose some weight. This is a wonderful film about accepting all types of beauty, both inner and outer. Young women should strive to be healthy, but they should understand that they don’t need to strive for the media industry’s narrow standards.
Okay, so Lindsay Lohan isn’t the best role model for girls today. But back when Mean Girls was on the big screen, her character in this film was the voice of teenage girls across America. Cady struggled to fit in and got sucked into the coolest clique in school, known simply as “The Plastics.” As Cady found herself torn between friends and losing her sense of self, she discovered that each of the girls within The Plastics struggled with their own insecurities. Cady’s fight to fit into “girl world” revealed that every young woman in high school has common desires and fears. And we have no reason to hold each other to impossible standards.
Mean Girls is a double-whammy for women: the movie script was written by comedy powerhouse Tina Fey and inspired by Rosalind Wiseman’s book Queen Bees & Wannabes. This work of nonfiction fundamentally changed the way that adults look at girls’ friendships and conflicts. A highly recommended read!
Some other movies worth watching:
* Iron Jawed Angels
* The Young Victoria
* Legally Blonde
* The Cheetah Girls
Did we miss a movie you absolutely love? Share it in the comments section!