One of the many times I declare that I would 'straight up die', is during an end of the word - apocalyptic era (also see: zombies, hostage-style situation, all horror films). I'm a realist, I know that my chances of survival for something I haven't trained for, is little to none. I know that I need a rest after climbing stairs and adrenaline will only get me so far. The reason some of my favourite films are in those genres, though, is simply because I feel I can survive through strong characters.
In 28 Days Later, I effectively survived as Naomie Harris, chopping my friend to pieces, without a second thought because that's the only way I would last. In Zombieland, I was Emma Stone, second guessing Eisenberg's friendship. Trust No One - as X-Files taught me at an early age.
Why, then, did all these characters need saving?
Cillian Murphy came to Naomie's aid from the male gaze, as the intention of rape lingered over them. He bounds in, covered in blood, squeezing a man's eyeballs back into their sockets. Emma Stone made the unbelievably uncharacteristic decision to go to a theme park, where she had to be rescued. Her idiotic decision carelessly put her little sister at risk, because her silly mind wasn't thinking straight.
I could go on.
The first time I've effectively seen a change in this, in modern cinema, is from watching Mad Max: Fury Road. Here we have Furiosa, a trusted warrior, standing up to a new male driven society (obviously, a male driven society, it still seems to exist in an apocalyptic world, apparently there's no escape) by helping women who are held captive as reproductive slaves, to escape into a new world.
So, I watched this film as Charlize Theron, helping my sisters as I killed men, blew them up, did deals with other gangs, drove all night, got stabbed, shot at...I survived, and I was the hero. Max doesn't save me. Max is replaceable. Max knows this - at the end as he lets me bask in the spotlight and disappears into the crowd.
For once, a film wasn't about a man, saving everyone (see Jurassic World for awful female tropes). I walked away, for the first time, knowing that I rescued all these women, and I didn't need a man to help me. 'A woman rescuing women...?' I hear you question me, but at no point did these women show anything but pure strength and power. Their beauty overshadowed by their smarts, resilience and ability.
I need more of this. The lack of empowerment I feel when watching a film, TV...I'm not going to sugar coat it but, SIMPLY BY EXISTING, becomes it's most disheartening when you're reminded how normal it is for men to have the power.
Let's make a decision now to contest this norm. Let's make a stand to empower the women of our lives. Every story-led piece of work I create from now, will question these tropes and I hope all of yours does the same.