Cate Blanchett is in negotiations to play the evil stepmother in a Cinderella movie. If the negotiations are successful, she will join fellow Oscar winners Julia Roberts, Rachel Weisz, Angelina Jolie and Charlise Theron in playing evil female fairy tale characters on the big screen. It is well known that as women get older in Hollywood, the well written roles get scarcer. The recent Hollywood Reporter Actress Roundtable has a frank discussion about this exact subject. Rachel Weisz talks about pursuing the role of the one of the evil witches in the Sam Raimi prequel to The Wizard of Oz, Oz: The Great and Powerful because it was a great role that gives her the freedom to create a unique character. These talented actresses who are in their late 30s/early 40s are actively pursuing the only roles in town. Those of evil witches. Is this how we want women over 35 to be identified as?
This article at Policymic.com about the portrayal of women in US media, talks about a study that came out in early 2012 from the Women’s Media Center in the US. The article quotes that “in the 100 top grossing films of 2007, 2008, and 2009, women represented only one-third of speaking characters for all three years. When there was at least one woman involved with directing or writing for a film, there were more female characters on screen.” There is a test for movies, called the Bechdel test, it asks if a movie has all three of these situations in it:
1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man
Go and see which movies actually pass this test at www.bechdeltest.com. An interesting note from this website is that the test was popularised by Alison Bechdel’s comic Dykes to Watch Out For, in a 1985 strip called The Rule. Back in 1985. That is nearly 20 years ago. Things have not changed much have they? Let’s have a look at these actresses and what roles their male contemporaries are doing.
Jamie Foxx is the co-lead and good guy in the latest Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained. He plays a slave-turned-bounty hunter set out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.
Leonardo DiCaprio is Jay Gatsby in Baz Lurhman’s The Great Gatsby, and the brutal Mississippi plantation owner in Django Unchained.
Joaquin Phoenix co-lead in the scientology-like, The Master. Phoenix is a naval veteran who arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future - until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader.
Matt Damon is the lead in The Promised Land, the latest Gus Van Sant. He is a salesman for a natural gas company experiences life-changing events after arriving in a small town, where his corporation wants to tap into the available resources.
Christian Bale is the latest Batman and he has three movies in post production (one with Terrence Malick) and one in pre-production (with David O Russell).
Although Leonardo Di Caprio and Joaquin Phoenix have not won Academy Awards, they have been nominated a couple of times, but that hasn’t stopped them from playing well-rounded characters. Neither of them are playing the evil wizard in a fairy tale movie, maybe that is something they can aspire to, once they have finished with all the lead roles they have lined up.