Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Femme Fatale. Cool Girl. The “You’re Not Like Other Girls” Girl. Nagging Mom. The “Chick that can be replaced by a Lamp.” Tough Girl. Angry Girl. Annoying Best Friend. Passive Audience.
Lots of definitions, but no defined character.
When we see movies today, there are a plethora of women who feature in the film and a massive part of the screen time. But how many times in the screen space do we see them as beyond characters walking, where the walking is the part where people fall in love with them. (Sanju in Main Hoon Na, Neha in Dostana, Tina in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, among umpteen others)
The tags are many, but the result…
Besides walking, some women feature in the background, adding to the plot, but not as fully-formed characters, but as lifeless propagators of the story. The mother (either too sacrificial or too nagging), the family member (sister with financial issues or unidimensional problems), the friend (because ladka aur ladki Kabhi dost nahi ho sakte.)
There are several films with sensitized female characters, women who are multidimensional and resemble people we meet in our daily lives, but the issue that we need to understand is that in everything that a woman does, a man is not the end goal.
So many progressive characters only have a happy ending with wedded bliss. So many “broken bird” characters are aided (if not guided) by men. If a character is too passive, she needs a man to level the scales (umm…Tamasha?), if she is too violent/ sarcastic/ obnoxious, she needs a man to level the scales (umm…)
While the Bechdel test is a good litmus paper for understanding “what women want,” there are several instances where the character may be written as a strong, independent, human force of change but the execution is questionable at best.
Think of the Black Widow with her form-fitting suit, any female detective with her form-fitting suit…where there is no mobility, there is no scope. Let’s not talk of Femme Fatales.