We’ve griped loudly and often that no matter how many female-fronted movies (Frozen, The Heat, Bridesmaids, The Hunger Games) make insane amounts of money Hollywood still thinks white, straight and male is the default protagonist setting for always. Well, the divine Meryl Streep has distilled the why of this infuriating phenomenon.
Last week at the sixth annual Women In The World Summit, Streep sat on a panel with Jon Stewart, Selma helmer Ava DuVernay and Pakistani documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. There she explained how the mass dominance of male stories forced generations of women to develop an empathy for characters in a way men are rarely challenged to do.
“This act of empathy, that women go through from the time we’re little girls — we read all of literature, all of history, it’s really about boys, most of it,” Streep explained, “But I can feel more like Peter Pan than Tinker Bell, or like Wendy. I wanted to be Tom Sawyer, not Becky. And we’re so used to that act of empathizing with the protagonist of a male-driven plot. I mean, that’s what we’ve done all our lives. You read history, you read great literature, Shakespeare, it’s all fellas, you know?”
She went on to explain how her challenge as an actress is to get men to empathize with her character, despite her being a woman and all. But think of this point on a wider scale, and all of a sudden things like the lack of superheroine movies, the political war on a woman’s right to choose, and rape culture in general make so much sense it’s depressing.
Basically, it’s time we take a cue from Streep, from Terry Crews, and from TED Talker John Marcotte, who said, “Gender lines are not walls. They are meant to be crossed….Putting yourself in women’s shoes does not make you less of a man. It makes you more of a person.”
On a lighter note, let’s revisit Crews embracing his feminine side. It’s good for the soul:
Kristy Puchko was once Tom Sawyer in a grade school concert, because Becky did just seem too boring to bother with.