People often ask me what I mean when I say my biggest passion when it comes to storytelling is “redefining the narrative for women through Film and TV”.
A young couple walk hand-in-hand along the beach. They’ve both managed to sneak a beer from their older siblings and are no enjoying the effects of being drunk for the first time. It’s a wonderful feeling. As they stumble along the beach, the young man keeps pulling the girl in for kisses and caresses, to which she happily obliges. Young love.
The girl pulls away and wanders closer to the water’s edge, stumbling-dancing away, unaware of judgment. She gets to the waters edge and appears mesmerised by it. She turns around to look at the young man and smiles before turning back to the water. She lifts her arms above her head, swaying her hips, twirling around in her own world. It’s all for him. Because she’s a teenage girl and wants nothing more than his love, affection, admiration. Because that’s what all teenage girls want…right?
I consider myself a feminist, but I recently saw this very scene playing out in front of me while overlooking the Thames when the tide was particularly low, and I attributed the young girl’s dancing and movements as totally self-aware actions for the benefit of the young man because that’s just what 16 year olds do. Showing off. And I was delighted cause it was a beautiful expression of young love. Catching myself in this train of thought, though, I suddenly realised that I was filling in the blanks and my interpretation of the scene could be completely wrong. I was not a boy-chasing teenager myself. I was much more interested in building a career at that age.
She could have been so tipsy she didn’t know what she was doing, she could have been using the dancing to get away from this guy, she could have just been so comfortable in herself and her world that everything she did was for her own amusement – none of it for him.That is redefining the narrative.
So why did my mind fill in this story of a young girl doing everything for the benefit of the guy?
Society. I blame society entirely and all the movies I watched in high school about self-conscious girls and women trying to win the heart of their love. Society (as seen through and shaped by film/tv/books) has told us so often that a woman’s chief aim is to get a man that we have subconsciously come to believe it.
What to do about it? Redefine the narrative. Go back and tell stories of women in Jane Austen’s time who were desperately interested in science, who wanted to be engineers. Go back even further to the time of King Henry VIII and explore the lives of women who enjoyed hard work and had no interest in marrying off their daughters to the richest duke. Retell the stories of what women were, so that we can fully embrace all that women can be. I also don’t think that the best way to redefine the narrative is to simply remake old movies with female leads (The Mask, Ghostbusters) or change the gender of well-known characters from male to female (Bond). Let’s create fresh, brand new stories that can give women a voice that is all their own and has always been all their own.