I concluded my analysis of Total Film’s list of the 100 Greatest Female Characters by laying blame on moviemakers for churning out the same limited roles for women over and over. I stand by that. If the movies were less sexist, this list would be too. But Total Film doesn’t get a pass. Making it through this list is hard enough on a feminist movie-lover.1 Making it through the accompanying text is a mighty challenge to the endurance of the soul. These words leave no doubt that sexism is at the heart of the shortcomings of Total Film’s list.
Here are some gems:
On #99, Cherry Darling from Planet Terror:”Rich in knowing humour and fucked-up sexiness, Rose’s Cherry is exactly the kind of girl you need in the post-apocalypse.”
Ok. I haven’t seen the film, and I haven’t had to deal with a zombie apocalypse yet, but I’m not really understanding how “fucked-up sexiness” is a survival asset.
On #86, Audrey 2 from Little Shop of Horrors: “to distinguish her oddness, male actors have voiced Audrey 2.”
To distinguish its transphobia and sexism, Total Film used the above text.
On #63, Annie Wilkes in Misery: “Folksly in manner and frightening in effect, Bates redefined the ‘hagsploitation’ model to show that women would wield as much hobbling power as the fellas.”
I have never heard the term “hagsploitation” before. Wikipedia redirects to “Psycho-biddy“, a “a dangerous, insane or mentally unstable woman of advanced years.” Kathy Bates was 42 in 1990, when Misery was released.
On #46, Blanche DuBois from A Streetcar Named Desire: “Faced both with the prospect of a cast parted from its star, and the radical Method acting of Marlon Brando, it’s no wonder Leigh’s Blanche looks genuinely unsettled.”
In other words, the actress was lucky her male director and co-star shook up so she was accidentally in character.
On #34, Ann Darrow from King Kong: “Inevitably upstaged by her stop-motion star, but it’s Wray beauty that sells Kong’s love—and her scream who sells his scariness.”
Here’s how to be one of the 100 greatest female film characters: look pretty, sound terrified, and don’t distract from the special effects.
On #15, Selina Kyle (identified as “Catwoman”) from Batman Returns: “But, for the sake of this article, it’s all about the catsuit.”
No kidding. This is one of 37 character write-ups that make note of the character or actor’s looks or sex appeal. Because that’s how you get Total Film to remember a woman.
1Or on a user of the Internet. 100 click-through slides? BOO! HISS! I feel you on the need for pageviews, Total Film, but that’s taking things too far. I hate the feeling that I encouraged such tricky web design with all my clicks made in the name of research.