During Variety and Kering’s Women in Motion talk at the Cannes Film Festival, “Money Monster” director and Oscar-winning actress Jodie Foster spoke out about a common storyline for female characters in film. One of her biggest pet peeves as an actor, she said, is that male writers would “go to rape” to provide motivation for women.
“‘I wonder why she was a box of tears?’” asks Foster, speaking as a male writer. “‘Oh, she was raped.’”
Foster provided more examples, such as when women are having trouble with their bosses or superiors in a story. She came to the same conclusion: “Well, it was because she was raped and you’re going to find that out in the end.”
The actress called this trend “ridiculous,” stating that this background to female characters was embedded in many movies she watched.
“If you really got to what was the overriding motivation that that woman that you found out at the end, it was always rape because for some reason men saw that as — they did — they saw that as this incredibly dramatic thing,” she added. “‘Well that’s easy! I can just pluck that one out of the sky and apply it to her.’”
This is actually a trend I had been noticing with some consternation recently, and it’s not just in film, but television as well. It’s as if a female character can’t be motivated in life without experiencing violence from a man. Maybe I have some heightened sensitivity to the trend because I’m the single father of a daughter who is about to go out into the world on her own. I would like to think there are motivating factors that mold a young woman that aren’t horrifically violent.
Foster seems to be implying that males creating female characters are just being…lazy:
Foster also mentioned that it’s because men have not been interested in any “complex merging” with a female character. “They were unable to put themselves in her shoes and her body and say, ‘She was competitive with her mother’… They were unable to make that transition.”
Maybe I inferred too much from that. Maybe she’s just very nice.