6 Female-Centered Movies That Don’t Revolve Around Love
Romantic movies can be a mixed bag. Some days there’s nothing better than sitting down and watching two beautiful people fall in love. Other days I want nothing more than to see a female protagonist deal with any facet of life but relationships. It’s hard to find female-driven movies, much less films not about women and love: the female protagonist is looking for love, she lost love, or she doesn’t want love.
While there’s no shame in liking romantic films, there needs to be a balance of options to choose from when selecting a female-driven movie to watch. Often the market for movies with multi-dimensional, non-romantic female-leads falls short. Where are the women whose lives include men but don’t revolve around them? Where are the females who are mercilessly climbing to the top like The Wolf of Wall Street, where are women who have raunchy filled nights like The Hangover, the women who are getting beat down by life, the women who are saving lives? Too often, even in female-centered films, the women play second fiddle to the male as he defines her through being in love with her or not.
This list provides 6 films that revolve around females where love is last thing on their mind. This list is for those who want a female-driven movie that isn’t driven by love. Some spoilers ahead.
6. She’s the Man (2006)
This comedy follows Viola (Amanda Bynes) as she pretends to be a man so she can play soccer after her old school cut the funding for the women’s soccer team. Viola’s true passion is soccer and she will stop at nothing to compete: soccer comes first, even before boyfriends. When Viola’s boyfriend refuses to stand by his comment that she is a better player than the boys, she declares “end of relationship.” Viola refuses to be constrained by the relationship and immediately frees herself from it once it’s clear that her boyfriend doesn’t support her athletic passions. Afterwards, Viola barely looks back on her relationship. There’s no emotional breakup scene, feeling of emptiness, or plot for revenge. Viola is happy with her decision and moves on with her life.
Sure, Viola falls for another man and they end up dating, but this is because Viola wants a man. While boyfriends take a backseat to soccer, Viola having a relationship shows her multiple interests. It doesn’t have to be a choice between soccer or a boyfriend, Viola can have both. She also doesn’t need a man to complete her because she’s secure in her own abilities and so, the film is really about Viola stopping at nothing to pursue her true love: playing soccer. She isn’t dissuaded when her brother says the chance of her becoming a pro-soccer is low because Viola believes in herself and proves herself to anyone watching. She doesn’t need accolades from her brother, her boyfriend, or even her teammates. Viola knows she’s good and lets her playing do the talking.
5. Fargo (1996)
With Fargo resurfacing on television, it’s pertinent to look back at the movie that started it all and brought to life Marge Gunderson. Marge, portrayed by Frances McDormand, is a tough, persistent police officer trying to solve a suspicious ransom case. On top of that, Marge is pregnant. Marge is a respected police chief and she investigates the case without hesitation. Her determination isn’t portrayed as lonely or depressing like the male detectives seen in True Detective or Detective Benson in Law & Order: SVU. Marge is happy and satisfied with her life. She has a successful family and a successful career.
Marge’s optimism isn’t her downfall. It makes her a better cop as she willingly jumps on cases and not only wants to solve them, but believes she can. She is a wise character, one who knows that money isn’t the answer to everything. By not making Marge bound by love the viewer can see that the possibilities available for portraying a character like Marge where the case doesn’t take over her marriage or life, but is just another facet of Marge’s existence.
4. Gravity (2013)
Sandra Bullock plays medical engineer Ryan Stone whose first decent into space goes horribly wrong when her shuttle is destroyed. Ryan is left alone in space, grasping at air to save her life. Bullock’s counterpart is a male astronaut, portrayed by George Clooney, but the two are not romantically involved. Instead, the focal point of the film is about courage. Bullock’s character must find both the mental and physical strength insider herself in order to survive. Ryan has no man or family waiting for her at home on Earth: her only reason to survive is for herself.
Ryan learns to have faith that she can make it back to Earth and surprises herself along the way as she masters maneuvering between shuttles. Gravity shows a female protagonist that is both weak and strong, one that is scared and courageous. It shows a woman that is human and dealing with issues beyond wondering if a man likes her back. The film highlights a woman who is capable of working towards her goals and achieving them through hard work. Showing a woman who is career-driven is good representation for girls who want more than a relationship, or a job in addition to a relationship. Gravity shows that women with multi-layered emotions and goals exists, and that their stories can be just as compelling as love stories.
3. The Bling Ring (2013)
These characters are in love. They’re in love with celebrities and material wealth. The film follows a group of teenagers, mainly composed of women, who break into celebrity homes and steal their possessions. The movie provides an honest portrayal of the toll celebrity culture can take on the everyday life of an American teenage girl as the media pressures them to look like celebrities, dress like them, be like them. The female characters steal for themselves, not to impress boys or make them fall in love with them.
This film puts its female characters in the roles of bad guys. Are the women criminals or have they simply fallen prey to celebrity culture? The Bling Ring provides the idea that not all female characters need to be saints, that they can be shallow or do drugs and drink. This film does not shy away from showing the effects a fame-obsessed culture can have on young females, but it also does not judge its characters. The Bling Ring simply shows the viewer a story about women who are determined to get what they want.
2. Winter’s Bone (2010)
In this Jennifer Lawrence film, she tries to find her father after learning he skipped out on bail. Lawrence’s protagonist is the head of the family as she takes care of her mentally ill mother and her younger siblings. She teaches her brother how to shoot and is fearless in her attempts to track down her father. Living in the rural mountains, the character does not own expensive material possessions or much of anything as her family struggles to survive on basic needs. She chops her own wood, hunts, and doesn’t wear any makeup. Lawrence’s protagonist is another portrayal showing there’s many different type of female personalities that can be represented on the big screen.
There’s no love interest for Lawrence, and the female characters are more intimidating than the males as they beat Lawrence up to silence her and don’t blink an eye at recovering dead bodies. Winter’s Bone doesn’t follow the typical structure of a film about a teenage girl, as Lawrence has more pressing issues to deal with like her father’s absence and potentially losing her home than who her prom date is going to be.
1. The Descent (2005)
This horror film follows a group of female spelunkers who find themselves stuck in a cave and stalked by mysterious predators. There’s no time for love when your life is on the line. Where the film lacks in men, it does not lack in gore. This film broadens the scope of where female-driven films can take place. Non-romantic films can take form in multiple genres, including horror. While women in horror films is nothing new, this film breaks the mold of women serving as romantic counterparts whether it be the virgin who dies for her sexual experimentation or as the object of the predator’s desire.
The lead character, Sarah, is a widow but the film does not define her by this. In addition to being a widow, Sarah, along with her friends, are adrenaline junkies who go white water rafting and cave diving. With the women not being tied down to conversations about romance, the film explores the complications of both the friendships between the women and their fight to emerge from the cave alive. The film explores Sarah’s descent into madness that is caused both by the loss of her family and the potential loss of her life if she doesn’t escape the cave.
In The Descent, the women are not dumb. They do not run up the stairs instead of out the door, they do not forget their gear; they simply make some mistakes which lead them to entering a bad situation. While these women are strong, they’re still relatable. They do not quickly or easily defeat the predators. Instead they’re portrayed as normal human-beings who would be frightened but also fight for their lives. Sometimes they win the fight, sometimes they don’t.
What makes this movie truly remarkable is that this horror film revolves around a group of female friends, not only a sole female survivor. There’s not only more than one non-romantic female lead, but a whole group of females; The Descent shows that not all female characters are assigned to only have one friend. Therefore to defeat the predators, the women must work together.
These six films show that it’s possible to make entertaining movies that provide females with storylines that don’t center around romantic relationships. Female-driven films can portray women as athletes, friends, head-strong, sensitive, anything they want. Too often female characters are given love stories because Hollywood has perpetrated the idea that females are one-minded human beings. Hollywood perceives women as dainty people, whose only goals in life are to get a husband and walk without falling down. But women filmgoers want more than a dainty, klutzy, love-struck protagonist.
Time and time again women filmgoers have proven that they will attend non-romantic films in droves like Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Pitch Perfect. Many of these women attendees are simply asking to see themselves in a different light just as male filmgoers can see themselves as more than husband characters. To help broaden the storylines of female-driven films, audiences need to attend these non-romantic films and prove that they’re worthwhile and can be hits for Hollywood and filmgoers alike. After her Oscar win for Best Female Actress, Cate Blanchett said about female-led films, “people see them! they make money!” Audiences need to support that women characters can engage in romantic relationships on film, but they can also be defined by more than the love of their partners.
As actress Greta Gerwig said:
“I’m really interested in trying to tell stories about women that don’t involve romantic components. That’s so much a part of the way we feel about female characters and their needs that it feels like it’s built in — but I’d like to find a way that it’s not. There are so many more stories than that.”
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