Women on Screen: From the vicar with ‘magnificent bosoms’ to the monotony of male-led films

For International Women’s Day, Plathoes Cave asked some of our contributors and friends to say who their favourite female leads in film were, and why. We got a great variety of responses, but partially due to the short length of one day and partially due to our questionable organisation skills, we didn’t manage to squeeze them all in. This has given us a great excuse to turn two responses, both from fab Australian gal pals, into an article which starts by highlighting a wonderful woman on screen, before going onto point out the shortcomings of the industry.

Part I by Gabbie Lynch / Part II by Isabella Battersby

Gabbie Lynch on ‘babe with a bob cut’, the Vicar of Dibley:

I know that the Vicar of Dibley isn’t a film but honestly, how could you look past Dawn French’s character, Geraldine Grenger when it comes to charismatic, influential female figures? My mum tells me that I was glued to the British T.V. show from the age of three, chuckling aloud as the ambitious female vicar, Geraldine, confidently embraces her voluptuous breasts and lusts over male celebrities whilst trying to offer spiritual guidance in her role as a Anglican Vicar in an traditional English village.

I’m twenty years old now and Geraldine Grenger remains my favourite fictional character on screen. I love her for all the same reasons as I did when I was three and what’s even better is that now I understand some of her more subtle jokes. Yet it is the overtop exhibiting of feminine qualities such as a melodramatic emotion, fiery sassiness and warming humour in a traditionally masculine role that ensures even a three year old girl can recognise that Geraldine Grenger is a woman deserving of admiration!

In the first episode, Geraldine informs the Parish Council Leader “You were expecting a bloke…instead you got a babe with a bob cut and magnificent bosoms” and suddenly any preconceived notions of a boring male vicar are extinguished as the opposing worlds of orthodox Christianity and badass feminism coincide in the form of an explosive and hilarious Vicar. But not without a sincere gentleness and allure that makes you wish she was one of your best friends. The Vicar Dibley has not only provided me with hours of laughter but more then anything else I have been blessed with a revised holy trinity- In the name of femininity, comedy and Christianity A(wo)men Geraldine Grenger!

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Isabella Battersby on female characters as ‘fillers’:

This was supposed to be a short little article about my favourite female character in a film and why. But the problem is, when I went through the list of my favourite films I came up short. Nearly every single one of them had a huge male presence, not just as the lead roles, but even the smaller characters were predominantly male. The list went as follows:

  • The Social Network
  • Holding the Man
  • Lars and the Real Girl
  • Drive
  • Night Crawler
  • Trainspotting
  • American Psycho

What scares me even more though is that woman are treated like shit in a lot of these films, especially in American Psycho, The Social Network and Night Crawler, with the female characters being murdered, sexually harassed and rated on social media and then black mailed into having a sexual relationship to keep their job. In each of these films we follow a dominant male perspective, with females acting as plot enhancers and romantic interests. In Lars and the Real Girl, the female lead character is a sex doll, which in my opinion, is illustrating just what I am saying; all these females in these big films are basically just there to be the main male character’s love interest. So fucking boring.

So after pointing out the fact that most of my favourite films are about men and a lot of those men being shit to women, I will point out one character I’ve always loved and respected from a pretty well known movie: Emma Thompson from Love Actually. She plays Karen and is married to Alan Rickman’s character, who ends up flirting with his secretary, but instead of leaving him straight away or even yelling at him, she keeps it together for her kids and pretends like nothing ever happened. The filmmakers really show how much she is hurting, but she doesn’t ever let her kids know she is sad, which shows what a fucking ace mum she is and I have always admired her character for being so selfless.

Besides from her, I am struggling to pick another female lead character off the top of my head. What I will take away from writing this is that I need to do some research and find all the films with strong female characters. I need to watch them all back to back and stop supporting films that show women just as ‘fillers’ to their plots.

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