Drama queens: why it’s all about women and power on screen right now5 months, 6 days ago
From George RR Martins Game of Thrones to Margaret Atwoods The Handmaids Tale, fantastical narratives with women centre stage are everywhere. Feminist? Misogynist? Thats not the point
Fictions set in alternative realities have enjoyed huge popularity recently, which is perhaps unsurprising in a post-truth world. For the past decades or so, Hollywood appeared to have almost given up producing any cinema that was not about a comic book superhero opposing a CGI apocalypse: Thor , The Unbelievable Hulk , Captain America , Iron Man , Superman , Batman , Spider-Man , X-Men , even Ant-Man . Some might wonder if Hollywood was over-compensating: if you want to know what a crisis in popular masculinity looks like, appear no farther then all those super, super men. Even groups of superheroes, such as Guardians of the Galaxy and the Fantastic Four, rigorously preserved the culture statutory maximum of 25% female population for any group of leaders. The most realistic part of superhero movies, in fact, is that all the power is generally in the hands of white humen; physical laws might get overturned, but not political ones.
Gradually, however, females are pushing their way into the cultural tale on terms other than those defined by humen. Last summertime brought an all-female Ghostbusters , followed this summer by Wonder Woman , who leapt off a cliff and landed squarely, bow depict, in the centre of this masculine ground. From The Hunger Game to Game of Thrones , audiences have demonstrated a growing appetite for allegorical tales about women with political and moral authority: after more than 50 years and 12 incarnations, even Doctor Who s Doctor is ultimately about to become a woman.
Superhero movies are conspicuously allegories about power: they are preoccupied with its sources, how to control it, how to justify it. They are the fantasies of superpowers. What made Wonder Woman seem so different, and such a pleasure to so many spectators, was that its narrative remained focused throughout on the question of womens relationship to power. Induced by and starring females, the cinema has been a global blockbuster, dedicating the franchise commercial power, which is the only kind Hollywood pays attention to; but the cinema itself has provoked a debate over what this allegory of female power is actually saying. Meanwhile, one of the years most-discussed television series was also about women and power, albeit in a much less celebratory mode. The Handmaids Tale asks explicit questions about what happens in a totalitarian patriarchal society that denies girls access to all economic, legal and political rights. And now Game of Thrones , which is equally very interested in women and power, has finally premiered its seventh series to its tenterhooked fans.