(Artwork courtesy of Abigail L. Dela Cruz, collage by Anya Thakur)
Liberty High School

Op-Ed: Championing equality and continuing to advocate for women in film

We see potential on screen, both in the wistful starry-eyed and castle-confined ingenues and the cynical, world-weary realists, to blossom, to shine, and to succeed. Whether iconoclastic influences or time-tested archetypes, films and their characters allow us an escape, a dream, and a fantasy.

And we see potential leaders, artists, activists, and advocates everywhere. It’s time for women and girls to see it in themselves. Representation and portrayals of women in film and media have the power to not only urge their characters on a journey of self-actualization, but to empower and encourage women and girls everywhere.

Through my writings, I have the power to share the stories of women and girls everywhere, advocate for underrepresented minorities such as Asian Americans, South and East Asian women, and diverse voices and enact change. Through emboldening women, we have the power to effect positive change within their communities and globally.

When equipped with a vehicle that allows them to be seen as multidimensional, strong and meaningful characters, films with female leads and women at the helm have proven their ability to be equally successful. The vibrational luminosity of personal connection and seeing ourselves reflected in immersive storylines ripe for rampant imaginations to run wild shows girls everywhere they are more than an “other” — they have the potential to lead and succeed.

Recently, we’ve had Moana, who saved her people on an adventure sailing across the open ocean and took on the mantle of chief. She defies stereotypes and yet embraces the best the Disney princesses have to offer, channeling Ariel’s (“The Little Mermaid”) free spirit and yearning to explore, Merida’s (“Brave”) mettle, and Mulan’s courage. Rather than rejecting its origins, Disney attempts to fine tune the formula and expand its horizons across cultures to tell new stories.

DC Films was quick to follow, giving its audience the film they’ve been awaiting and Wonder Woman her tryst with the big screen. Amazonian princess and warrior Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), who radiates beauty and charisma in “Wonder Woman,” uses both her compassion and strength in battle. Convinced she can help, Diana fights alongside men in a “war to end all wars.” It is ultimately Diana’s unique brand of empathy and effervescence that keeps the film fresh and ensures it never loses its charm, as she embraces her emotions and femininity which only help to make her stronger.

Likewise infusing its heavy themes with genuine emotion and sharp wit, linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams), who must find a way to communicate with extraterrestrial visitors, provides a unique lens in sci-fi drama “Arrival” that is intelligent and invokes a sense of wonder as she races against time to unravel the mystery.

Judy Hopps fights against stereotypes to become the first bunny cop in animated film “Zootopia,” a stunning examination of societal prejudices made palatable to younger viewers in much the same way as folk tales are used to teach lessons, yet far more multi-layered and nuanced. When she arrives in the metropolis of “Zootopia” only to find it is not exempt of discrimination, Judy does not become disheartened and instead finds an unexpected partner in smooth-talking and street smart fox Nick Wilde. Together, they unravel a case far larger than anything they expected. Judy is yet another example of a female character given a chance to shine through smart writing and a compelling story.

Distrait yet effortlessly charming blue tang Dory in “Finding Dory” takes the reins from her counterpart Nemo and we get to see her side of the story as Disney grapples with difficult subjects such as loss, disabilities, and stigmas. Cruz Ramirez in “Cars 3” tackles industry barriers and comes out on top in more ways than one over fellow racer Storm. Emma Watson’s Belle in “Beauty and the Beast” gives the tale as old as time a feminist twist and it never feels dated.

Women and girls have powerful voices. As I fight to lead the way for representation in film and media through my work, women and girls should be empowered to use their voices, urged on by the indomitable spirit inside of them, and people encouraged to listen.