Why is it guilty of a huge, unjust and unjustifiable distortion of the representation of women… in their very existence?
Because indeed, we have studied a certain number of famous and technically very well written works: films that an overwhelming majority of people have seen and appreciated like Pulp Fiction and The Godfather, a series that has become a worldwide phenomenon like Game of Thrones, one of the most successful music videos in history like Michael Jackson’s Thriller, or even songs and comedy.
And it turns out that in these masterpieces, women are rare, as an invisible minority, sometimes even totally absent.
And apparently, in the operation of representing the world by giving roles to characters, these great works prove to be rather effective for…
representing women and men equitably eliminating women from the narrative field and depriving them of any personal involvement in the story.
An objective representation of the world would give a male / female ratio close to 50/50 on average.
However, when analyzing famous works in various fields, we can see role distribution ratios with 95% men and 5% women, or 70% men and 30% women at best.
|Artwork||Number of actantial roles||Actantial roles held by women||% of actantial roles held by women|
|The Godfather||100||4 (2 for Kay, 2 for Connie)||4%|
|Pulp Fiction||30||1.5 (Mia + the role of Yolanda as Hero in a duet with Ringo)||5%|
|Game of Thrones (Seasons 1 and 2)||174 (approximately)||49 (approximately)||30%|
|The little Prince||54||1 (the rose)||2%|
|Thriller||13||1 (1/2 role + 1/2 role for Michael’s girlfriend when she is Heroine with him)||8%|
Among this corpus of works we analyzed, it is hardly except in the songs that one can find stories with important or even central female characters.
But often, these female characters are once again male fantasies, idealized or allegorical figures, like the woman who commits suicide in C’était l’hiver of Francis Cabrel or the little girls including a Jewish victim of the Shoah in Comme toi by Jean-Jacques Goldman.
In the end, beyond their diversity, a large number of works make the female half of humanity disappear from the screen, the page, or the text.
Authors genocide women in silence since they do it by abstention: they attribute dozens of major and minor roles to male characters, and do not give any role to women: the rose of the Little Prince will remain wisely rooted under her bell, Kay will not do more than hinder Michael Corleone’s ascent to the power inherited from his father, Mia will only try to make Vincent betray his boss, the girlfriend of the Michael Jackson’s Thriller will only suffer the fantastic transformations of her boyfriend etc. It is the same every time: a beloved woman, who remains silent (because she is not the one who lives the story).
Only the series Game of Thrones is a little closer to gender equity, featuring frequently some characters in the foreground, involving women in major roles in many plots:
- Catelyn Stark with 14 roles is the most active character in the whole series!
- Even her husband Ed Stark has fewer roles than her in the first 2 seasons : 8 roles. (But in the first season alone, he dominated.)
- Queen Cersei with 7 roles is tied for 3rd with the Lannisters (as a collective character), and 3 men: Tyrion Lannister, Joffrey Lannister, and Robb Stark.
- Daenerys, who starts from a secondary role in a minor plot, is doomed to become and remain for a long time a major character in major plots.
|Ed stark||H||8 roles|
|The Lannisters||7 roles|
In total, these 14 characters (less than a quarter of the total) combine 83 roles (or half of the total).
However, in all those artworks we do not observe any explicit misogyny. Massacres of women, we do not see some in Pulp Fiction, The Godfather, Game of Thrones or Thriller, we do not read some in The Little Prince.
Even if we see in Thriller a charming boyfriend having fun cruelly terrorizing his girlfriend, we see in The Godfather a husband dismissing his wife from affairs and lying to her without scruple, and another husband beating his wife with a belt, we see in Pulp Fiction the women being seductive, infantile, criminal or useless while the men fight among themselves, we see in Game of Thrones women being prostituted or raped (but also being admitted as knight or exercising their power as Queens), we read in The Little Prince that the rose, as if locked up on her tiny planet, will not be part of the hero’s fabulous journey.
Why are our cultures so outrageously dominated by
- the stories of men with male characters
- told only from the point of view of men
- written by male authors ?
We really have to react against this more or less implicit sexism.
React concretely by writing about all kinds of female characters when you are producing stories.
The fiction must show a minimum of citizenship and realism, and integrate women in all kinds of stories with all types of roles, including the most important ones.