Male Perspective on Leading Ladies in Film

22 Nov

By: Sunnie Elliot


In 1997 Marylaine Block interviewed 56 men and asked them to list multiple qualities about the women they fell in love with and cared for. Surprisingly, many of the men did not list appearance as one of the main attractions. Instead they listed qualities like;

“a friend, a truly loving and caring person–now that’s totally irresistible.”[1]

The article entitled “Survey of Men 101” was inspired by a TV news magazine survey called “What Men Want in Women.” The results of their survey showed men preferred women with 48% beauty, 36% brains and 16% preferred a combination of both.  Now, the 500 men in this TV news survey only had three categories to choose from beauty, brains and combination of both.  So it’s not possible to get a clear picture of what men prefer based on these three limited options.  Simply put, many of the surveys I came across in researching this topic were similar to the TV news survey, which reduced women to beauty and brains. The 56 men interviewed by Block had many more selections to choose from, these men stated they were attracted to women who are, “pleased with her own femininity, but not obsessed by it” and who, “at least as smart as me, hopefully smarter, and with a sense of humor that tends toward the dark side.”

The nineties was the decade women dominated the box office in Romantic Comedies, Dramas and Action films. Men and women were big consumers of these films during this period. However, ten years later in 2007 Nikki Finke a writer for Deadline Hollywood an online column for LA Weekly reported the story Warner Brothers was going to stop green lighting female driven films.

The story caused such uproar in the blogosphere, Warner Bros. had to issue a statement dismissing the rumor. [2] Claiming they had four films in the works that were female driven. Those films included “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” “Justice League,” “Watchmen” and “Wonder Women.” Sense that time only two out the four movies were realized. “Justice League” and “Wonder Women” have all but now come to a halt.

So what happened during a ten-year period that caused Warner Bros. and other studios to pull the plug on female driven films? An article in EWIs Hollywood no longer in the leading-lady business?” wrote, A couple of high-profile flops featuring name actresses, and studio execs seem to think all female-driven movies are box office poison.”

However, in 2004 statistics show from Video Game Industry Stats more than 248 million computer and video games were sold and the average game buyer was 37 years old. In 2007 the US entertainment software industry made 9.5 billion dollars and grew 6% tripling industry sales since 1996. Also, the stats show in 2007, 60% of the consumers were men and 40% were women.[i] The film industry started to see a decline in box-office numbers because of this trend. Men and women were no longer communicating the same way they did ten years ago. Instead video games took the place of dinner and a movie. The female characters in video games depicted women as pin-up heroines like Lara Croft. The stereotypical female character painted on costume, large breast and guns strapped to her thighs are common traits for women in video games for men.  Of course the ongoing argument between men and women today!  When will the video gaming industry begin to portray women more respectfully and realistically in video games?

Needless to say, the film industry wanted a piece of the multi-billion dollar gaming industry pie and a number of films in 2000 onward featuring female leads as violent, pin-up heroines include Kill Bill with Uma Thurman, Lara Croft, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Wanted and Salt all starring Angelina Jolie, all did very well at the box-office. All these films were an attempt to lure men back into movie theaters and away from video games and it worked. The formulaic repetitive scenarios featuring women in tight painted on costumes, carrying a gun strapped around their thigh has become synonymous in action films aimed at men today. Will Hollywood continue this trend? Will female characters in film made to appeal to men, ever reflect the humanistic qualities described in Blocks “Survey of Men 101” ten years ago?


[2] http://popwatch.ew.com/2007/10/10/women-in-movies/

[i]http://www.grabstats.com/statcategorymain.asp?StatSubCatID=101&submit=Submit&StatCatID=

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6 Responses to “Male Perspective on Leading Ladies in Film”

  1. lurkerm3 November 22, 2010 at 5:39 PM #

    Your last paragraph about how women are portrayed on film -there is yet another direct example from one of this years blockbuster movies. IronMan2 – Scarlet Johannsen plays “black widow” same visual you describe!
    And I recall how all the men in the theatre were falling all over themselves when she took down Jon Favreau in the ring.

    Think your on the right trail here!

    • Open Book November 23, 2010 at 6:07 AM #

      I suppose if the video game industry went by or used the same surveys that reduce women to beauty or brains, than it’s not a surprise women are reduced down to their physical attributes in video games. I remember in 2000 how violent some of these video games directed at men were.

      So I guess the video game and comic book industry are dictating what movies Hollywood will make so they can lure men and their dollars. Since Twilights success with women, now Warner Bros. is planning to make Buffy The Vampire into a movie. Can u believe that?

      • kneon65 November 23, 2010 at 3:13 PM #

        Please!!!! I am so sick of vampires. I wish I could figure out the next big thing so I could cash in out.

        Personally I think they have run the vampire theme into the ground and it maybe to late for Buffy movie in my opinion.

        But, back on the topic. It does seem that video games and comics are running Hollywood right now and both mediums don’t put women in a good light. All looks and no brains usually, or the looks are more important than the brains at the best.

        • Open Book November 24, 2010 at 11:21 PM #

          LOL! Vampires movies are really getting tired. However, this bit of information will really unnerve u!!!

          They are planning a re-boot of another vampire series Underworld. Have u seen the original movie with Kate Beckinsale?

      • lurkerm3 November 23, 2010 at 4:26 PM #

        Yes, but its really hard to ignore the sales numbers for all the recent video game releases. Call of Duty Black Ops was just released and it’s blowing out all previous sales records. So Hollywood in cashing in on these popular stories. A movie based on HALO would blow the doors off ticket sales. Halo and Call of Duty are two HUGE games.

        • Open Book November 24, 2010 at 11:11 PM #

          I absolutely agree Lurker. Hollywood is just following the video game money trail! I don’t think u will see an end to the trend anytime soon.

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