xkcd on women in films

18th April 2008 – 2.13 pm

The journal of webcomic xkcd has a recent entry about how few women get lead roles in modern films, highlighting figures that show almost no mainstream and popular films produced in recent years that have two female lead actors. The author then goes on to write about how excellent it would be to have a generic blockbuster made with a female in the lead role for a change. But he seems to have forgotten to make a point.

He presents numbers supporting the fact that few films have females in the lead role, but the only sort of clue as to why he thinks this is bad or should be corrected is that the film industry should 'suck less in the examples it sets'. He also doesn't present any argument as to why a blockbuster with a female lead would be significantly better than with the normal male lead apart from stating it as obvious. Why do we need more women in lead roles? To create role models for women everywhere, if only to be action hero actors? To get more women to the cinema to stimulate ticket sales? So that men can see more latex-wrapped boobs on a big screen?

I have no point to make here about women in the film industry. My point is in not presenting data and superficial opinion as a controversial argument. It's one thing to present the data to argue that the film industry should better represent the strong women in society, and another to argue that there should be more women in action roles so that we get to see more pantie shots, but to try to make a point based on 'there are few women in lead roles, wouldn't it be great it there were more?' is vacuous. It's not surprising that a lack of any vigorous argument led to most of the initial comments simply providing counter-examples of films that have female leads, or agreeing with how great it would be to see more women on screen without saying why that would be so great. Indeed, it is simply style-over-substance content, which the film industry plies so well.

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