Feminist Perspective on Leading Men in Hollywood

13 Nov

By Open Book

It can be said that women and men in film represent an exaggerated example of gender roles in society. Gender roles vary. Ultimately, men and women behavior is influenced by the cultural expectations of the social environment they live in.

America is the most progressive in influencing new gender roles in today’s society. The film and television industry gives us a visual example of what our society can potentially look like. The United States in the last decade has gone through a lot of turmoil regarding traditional gender roles in the home, workplace and in school. To settle the conflict, traditional gender roles in America were reevaluated and revised.

Hollywood the film capitol of the world has helped our society imagine the future. You could call some films in Hollywood, progressive social experiments on gender roles in our society.

As women in America struggle to have more equality in the workplace and at Home, Hollywood in the last decade has made movies that depict women as heroines. According to actress Zoe Saldana, she states; “Before [Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek and Halle Berry], women were just sex pots or mothers. They were never the heroes who saved the day. They’ve enabled a generation of actresses to have a bigger variety of roles … If I wanted to be part of a story that is amazing and had a lot of sexual openness, that’s fine. But I am so grateful to know that, like them, I can open different doors for women.” In Films today women are more assertive and outspoken. Women are no longer waiting to be rescued by men. Instead women are coming to the rescue of men.

So how does this impact the Leading Man today? In his book Reaching up for Manhood, author Geoffrey Canada wrote, “The old model of the “macho man” is less acceptable in today’s world than it was even three decades ago, and men are struggling to reinvent themselves. Some men are so dependent on the old roles for their identity that they find themselves at a loss when confronted with new expectations.” Canada goes on to state: “The image of male as strong is mixed with the image of male as violent. Male as virile gets mixed with male as promiscuous. Males as intelligent often gets mixed with male as arrogant, racist, and sexist.”

So how does Hollywood define the “Leading Man” in the midst of men reinventing themselves in our society? It appears Hollywood leading men are being written to cater to women outside of the traditional Romantic Comedy genre. We have seen young male characters in fantasy genres depicted as more self-aware and in-touch with their emotions than ever before. The male character most popular among teenage girls today is from the Twilight series Edward Cullen. The vampire character is romantic, intelligent, handsome and sensitive. Stephanie Myers the author of the Twilight series, created vampires that sparkle. What attributes do you think well defines a Leading Man today?

3 Responses to “Feminist Perspective on Leading Men in Hollywood”

  1. kevin November 13, 2010 at 4:35 PM #

    That might provide someone an explanation as to why those horrible Twilight films are so popular. But by the author’s assessment men don’t deserve any participation to creating this new male audience member. Basically whatever Stephanie Meyers says goes. The article author seems pretty comfortable with this! I’ll assume Open Book is a woman.

    What if men are already trying to produce this new male audience member? I saw this Sly Stallone film this summer called “the Expendables.” Jason Statham played this great character Lee Christmas. He was this bold, (in an urban British kind of way), mercenary type who was nothing like all of the more traditional male leads in the movie. But he was still tough, manly and he didn’t put up with any shit.

    Despite the article I think men are way ahead of this curve. Despite the lack of sparkles, I don’t think Queen Stephanie Meyers would have anything to complain about with that character.
    What do others think?


  2. lurkerm3 November 13, 2010 at 9:07 PM #

    Hi Kevin! welcome to the site.

    I think the men are defining the new roles as well.
    Consider IronMan recently released. Its tough gritty yet, human character and not all tough guy like the characters that Clint Eastwood embodied 20 years ago.

  3. kneon65 November 14, 2010 at 8:16 PM #

    Yeah I think that there are transitions going on with female and male roles in Hollywood. Which is to be expected since female and male roles in society are always changing also. Hollywood is just showing us what we already now.

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