This summer, women are almost nowhere to be seen on movie screens. Manohla Dargis pointed out their absence several weeks ago in the New York Times, noting that Bridesmaids and Bad Teacher are among the few summer blockbusters with female protagonists in a season filled with masculine action heroes (X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern, Captain America). Significantly, she notes, Cameron Diaz “at one point washes a car in slow motion while wearing a midriff and hot pants” in Bad Teacher.  Similarly, Bridesmaids’ wedding setting isn’t exactly unfamiliar territory for women-targeted movies.
If you enjoyed Bridesmaids, Dargis asks that you consider seeing it again, letting Hollywood know that you want more women in leading roles. But do we care what kinds of roles they’re given? Will more women just mean more midriffs, hot pants, and weddings? When we go to the movies, do we care more about visibility or quality?
Maybe we are headed in the right direction: next summer, we can look for Pixar’s Brave. The studio’s first film with a female lead, Brave is set in medieval Scotland and follows Merida, the rebellious archer-daughter of a king and queen. Personally, I think Pixar is about twelve films [way] too late with the female protagonist (and I think they’re trying a bit too hard to make up for it with a title like “Brave”), but I’ll give them points for finally getting there. Also, by making Merida an archer, Brave seems to jump us from the hyper-femininity of weddings and, say, Sex and the City: The Movie straight to tomboy-ish masculinity, keeping women within two longstanding film extremes. Still, the trailer doesn’t give much away yet, so I will hold off my judgments until next summer to see if Brave gives us a unique, complex girl. More importantly, will Pixar (and other studios) keep them coming?