This Year’s Stunning Female Rebellions Against the On-Screen Oppressor

This Year’s Stunning Female Rebellions

Against the On-Screen Oppressor

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With Emmy nominations boasting a whole host of praise for female-led shows this year, and the return of a female-dominant cast in Game of Thrones, we thought it only fitting to pay homage to the badass women of 2017’s film and TV.

This year, we’ve seen an overwhelming nod to the changing ways of female depictions in popular media and entertainment, from Hillary Clinton to Gal Gadot, there has been a more rounded and indeed a more accurate depiction of the modern female in the public sphere. Women are no longer the lackluster, forgettable characters on the big and small screens. Neither cardboard cut-outs nor caricatures, they are instead warriors, rebels, and leaders.

It’s an accomplishment, and indicative of a movement at large that will propel the next generation of women toward an equality unknown to us until now. We are so dependent on entertainment and media for real-life equations and for so long this went unrecognized. Now, producers, writers, directors, and actors are keenly aware of the influence they can have on the populace, and are utilizing this to affect change.

From Patty Jenkins’s blockbuster Wonder Woman, to Orange is the New Black’s inmates’ prison takeover, this year has showcased women in a truly rebellious and raucous regard and we can only expect more to come. Below we have spotlighted our favorite instances of female-forward power rebellions that everyone needs to watch.  

Sansa Stark played by Sophie Turner
Game of Thrones

Thrones is back with three women in the driving seat, working their way through the political minefield of Westeros. 

Contrary to Earth’s political scene, the Westerosi women wield a wealth of influence in this imaginary world, and indeed have earned said power over the previous gruelling seasons.

Sansa Stark, Daenerys Targaryen and Cersei Lannister have all come from pitiful or woeful circumstances to climb to the heads of armies, regions and dragons. Each has overcome an oppressor (or multiple) to gain the position they have today (spoiler) – Lannister on the iron throne, Targaryen on route to invade the mainland, army in tow, and Sansa back in her castle, reclaimed only by virtue of her foresight (and networking).

Above all perhaps is Stark’s journey back from being held captive by a sadistic rapist, to ensuring his death and her (and her brother’s) rise to power in the north. While her rape scenes last season caused outrage amongst the wider press, it is worth noting that the strength she showed to survive such treatment is most definitely the more pertinent point.

Stark now stands alongside her brother John defiant, head strong and a force to be reckoned with. We cannot imagine she’ll be anywhere else other than at the very centre of things as the plot thickens in season 6.

Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies debuted on February 19th of this year on HBO, and with a cast led by Reese Witherspoon, Shalene Woodley and Nicole Kidman, it was inevitably going to be a grand affair. 

And indeed it was. A soirée of modern feminism with real women on real issues affecting the 21st century female. Laura Dern’s character – chastised for having the audacity to be the CEO of a Fortune 500. Nicole Kidman’s character is a lawyer turned housewife in desperate need of an escape from an abusive marriage. Reese Witherspoon’s Madeline is an organized mom vilified for her post-divorce parenting.

Written by Liane Moriarty, who was inspired by a radio interview during which a woman recounted her parents’ abusive relationship, the series is entirely about women. Observing the undulating and difficult lives of women in Monterrey, Moriarty’s series was, simply put, a masterpiece.

The oppressor was indeed taken care of and the show of female companionship in doing so was incredibly powerful. Big Little Lies speaks to the movement of female revolt in a way no other has done this year, and for that Kidman, Witherspoon and Woodley must be given serious credit. Encapsulating modern women and showcasing their different facets, ideals and abilities is one thing, but to do so in a way that highlights the challenges they face every day because of ingrained or inherent sexism is a whole other ball game, and they did it perfectly. We love this show. 

The Beguiled

After Sophia Coppola took Best Director at Cannes Film Festival, The Beguiled became one of the summer’s most hotly anticipated movies. With Coppola only the second woman ever to take such a title, we were extremely excited to see the outcome.

Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, Nicole Kidman, Sofia Coppola, Colin Farrell, Angourie Rice and Addison Riecke. Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Don Siegel, creator of the original movie starring Clint Eastwood, directed a movie in which women were subservient and marginalized. In Coppola’s version, the audience is duped into thinking the same from the outset, only to understand that these women are in fact, the ones with all the agency, and the wherewithall to exact (horrifying) revenge on the man who has invaded their lives and torn the sisterhood asunder.

Instead of falling victim to the oppressor, as per the decades of female on-screen depictions previous, Coppola’s women are stunningly vengeful, intelligent, and full of personality. This one will turn your stomachs, but not as much as the pathetic way women appear in its original. Props to this lady for turning the story (and its legacy) around.

The Handmaid’s Tale

This series that takes place in a choking dystopia set in the future where men control the world – including their women – is nothing short of incredible. The oppressor is everywhere. There’s no escaping the fact that women are the worst off in this American society, and the fallout from this is indeed epic. These women have known freedom, lived, worked and enjoyed a modern life, only to have it taken away from them. So, instead of remaining the docile, infantile creatures they are meant to be, the women of course have their small rebellions, utilizing all their womanly assets to their advantage.

Rather than the series serving as a warning, it serves as a reminder, or a testament to the strides women have made within society, politics and gender identity.

Elizabeth’s Moss character could be simply viewed as a pitiful, sad character. Instead, when the action takes us out of conversation and into her internal monologue, it reveals a will that cannot be shattered, because of her ties to her daughter. She uses this strength to shove herself through the day, putting up with all manners of craziness, until she’s finally had enough in the last episode, and she regains control of her agency and spirit and the will to fight. We cannot wait for what the second season has in store – this one might end up being the most catastrophic of all for the oppressor.

Beatriz at Dinner

Heralded as one of the most thought-provoking movies of the summer, indeed since Trump took office, Beatriz at Dinner is a comedic blast between a holistic hippy and a real estate tycoon that goes real sour, real fast.

Salma Hayek as Beatriz. Photo courtesy of Athenay Cinema

Beatriz, a liberal masseuse is caught at a dinner party, underdressed and uninvited as her car has broken down on the job. Having long worked for the family, she has become stranded within their very affluent, gated community because of her old, shoddy vehicle.

Accepting an awkward invitation to a dinner with her employer’s very wealthy friends, Beatriz ends up face-to-face with a man she is repulsed by.

The oppressor in this case is John Lithgow’s Doug, representing the white, the rich, and the Donald Trump-like. He is repugnant in the face of Beatriz’s mellow spirited nature – a real estate mogul who shoots endangered animals for fun. Where Beatriz is a breath of fresh air, a liberal, outspoken, immigrant woman – he is stale, backward and very conservative.

Without giving too much away, Beatriz gets hers. If you’ve become steadily angrier at the president’s tweets, actions and mouth, watch this and LOL.

Amy Corcoran

The Associate Editor of SWAAY: Amy is an Irish writer, avid foodie and feminist with an insatiable appetite for novels and empowering women's writing. She has enjoyed calling Dublin, Paris and now New York her home.

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