Natalie Portman and Girlpower

Our discussion on Thursday about Girlpower and feminism made me think of a comment Natalie Portman recently made in an interview with Elle Magazine about feminist characters. She said:

The fallacy in Hollywood is that if you’re making a “feminist” story, the woman kicks ass and wins.

You can read more here.

Natalie Portman is describing Girlpower in this interview. She even uses language similar to that included on our Girlpower syllabus (Professor Parham describes Girlpower as a “phenomenon of ‘women who kick ass'”). Because of this, Portman is making an argument against Girlpower. What Portman says makes sense to me. It also aligns with what I thought about Girlpower before taking this class. Can someone clarify for me the argument for Girlpower?


2 thoughts on “Natalie Portman and Girlpower

  1. I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong about cinematic depictions of women as being physically able. I think the trouble comes about when these are the only depictions of women in the media, where strength becomes shorthand for physical ability minus any other characterization.

    One of my main arguments for my continued love of Buffy is the way in which women are depicted in the show, not only as strong in its most traditional sense, but also as creative, resourceful, vulnerable and complex – that is, fully realized human beings, full of flaws and contradictions, capable of great things but also of screwing things up. Sure, Buffy fought vampires and a myriad of other monsters, but she also had to deal with the issues that many people face: the death of a parent, the loss of a lover, and struggling to pay the bills, to name but three. People often dismiss season six of Buffy for this very reason: because the show was suddenly very seriously about life. But it had always been, underneath the monster makeup. It was about a young woman and her life, and all of the contradictions inherent within that life, from falling in love with a vampire when you’re the slayer, to waking up one day in season five and discovering that you now have a sister. The show was about so much more than its title lead you to believe. The character’s physical strength was only one part of her power.

    Unfortunately, we still live in a society that allows for very limited representation of female experiences. On one side, we have romantic comedies (although they are now experiencing a death) in which all a woman wants, in fact needs, is the love of a good man. The lives that are normally represented within this genre of those of white upper middle class heterosexual women, give or take a few outliers. The flip side of this? Well, you either have the woman-as-eye-candy role that many of the summer superhero blockbusters have, in which women are the smurfette – or, lesser still, you have the female action hero, in which there is still some kind of romantic plot. Of course, even in these roles, in mainstream cinema at least, the only female lives we see represented are again that of white upper middle class heterosexual women. We both have a representation problem in terms of who is being represented, as well as what types of stories are being told on the silver screen.

    A few more resources on this topic:

  2. Pingback: “Feminism Lite”, or: The Fallacy of Consumerist Feminism | Girlpower

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