4. On Screen (Mis)Representation of Women

The point  of these photos is not to pull apart these wonderful actresses for not being real, they are real women. However, their appearances are representative of the majority of female characters on screen (thin, white, youthful even in age, symmetrical features, smooth skin, big eyes), which is not reflective of the diverse range of bodies and appearances in the real world.

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Anna Kendrick was 27 at the time that she played a straight-out-of-school university student. Shannon Komorr, 20 years old, also wearing makeup, represents a real university student.
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Rachel McAdams’ character is supposed to be a normal woman, marrying her partner. Rachel McAdams is exceptionally beautiful, possessing all of the aesthetic qualities assosciated with conventional beauty (thinness, youthfulness, clear skin, large eyes, symmetrical features). Roseana is a real bride who possesses a more realistic depiction of beauty, where she fulfils some of the qualities of conventional beauty but not others.


Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 1.08.39 pmIn No Strings Attached, Natalie Portman plays a young doctor in residency, thus in her early-mid twenties. This is Emily, who is in her mid twenties, and depicts a realistic young woman.
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In Imagine You and Me, Lena Headley and Piper Perabo play a gay couple, however they both fit the narrow beauty ideals that are common to hollywood. Mary and Julia are a real couple, and fall outside these natural ideals. They are more representative of the reality for young women.

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 1.08.29 pmCinderella is perhaps the most terrifying depiction of the female character, because it’s target demographic is young children. Actress Lily James is supposed to depict a sixteen year old girl, however she was twenty six at the time of filming. Zingara is a real sixteen year old. This photograph was taken on the day of her debutante ball however she looks very different to Ella, who is also on the way to a ball. Lily James, already an extremely petite woman, wore a corset for this role, which was so tight that she could only consume liquids whilst wearing it. This demonstrates the extent to which film staff will alter an already woman to make her more beautiful on screen, intentionally making characters less and less realistic despite their undeniable influence on young women.
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In, The Big Wedding, Amanda Seyfried depicts a ‘normal’ bride. However even when these two brides possess similar aesthetic qualities, the fictional character is very different to real bride, Jen. This comparison demonstrates how actresses are generally more conventionally attractive than real women even possessing the same qualities.
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This comparison is different because unlike the other photo comparisons, the film, It’s Complicated, was directed by a woman. As discussed here, female directors tend to depict mature age female characters in a more beautiful and empowering way. However, this depiction is still detached from the reality for mature age women. It’s a complicated issue because it’s excellent for women to be depicted in a more empowered manner, however being detached from the reality for women causes self esteem issues.

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 1.07.08 pmIn, Duets, Gwyneth Paltrow plays a talented young karaoke lover. Gwyneth Paltrow is a perfect example of the majority Hollywood celebrity actress, and possesses all the aesthetic qualities that are favoured by Hollywood but represent only a narrow portion of real women. Shannen is the lead singer of Fulton Street and demonstrates the diversity of real women.

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The popular teen-targeted franchise, Hunger Games, stars Jennifer Lawrence as 17 year old, Katniss Everdeen. While this character is an excellent role model for young women, possessing qualities such as leadership, bravery and selflessness, she is still not representative of the reality for most 17 year old women. This goes to show how even strong female characters have certain standards put on them for appearances that are not representative of the diverse body and appearances of real women.
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Jennifer Lopez plays a new mother in The Back Up Plan, and while it’s great to see a non-white female actress in the lead of a film, her appearance does not at all reflect the reality for new mothers. This demonstrates the complicated nature of having a female in the lead, which is excellent as it is great just to see women’s stories in popular films, but how even this is complicated and can have negative impacts on individuals.



Films in order of appearance:

Pitch Perfect, Jason Moore, 2012

The Vow, Michael Sucsy, 2012

No Strings Attached, Ivan Reitman, 2011

Imagine Me and You, Ol Parker, 2006

Cinderella, Kenneth Branagh, 2015

The Big Wedding, Justin Zackham, 2013

It’s Complicated, Nancy Meyers, 2009

Duets, Bruce Paltrow, 2000

The Hunger Games, Francis Lawrence, Gary Ross, 2012-2015

The Back Up Plan, Alan Poul, 2010

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