What Do Women Want? (Video Essay)


When David and I started on this video project, knew we wanted to work with Girlfight. We weren’t sure what exactly we wanted to say. Neither of us particularly liked the movie. I found the writing and structure to be extremely weak, and the characterization fell completely flat.

At some point I said: “It frustrates me that just about every movie featuring a lead woman feels obligated to introduce a romantic interest at some point, even if it’s completely superfluous to plot and character or even contradictory.” (I wasn’t that eloquent, but let’s pretend.)

And our video essay was born. We decided to cut the romance with scenes of Diana training, growing stronger, going after the thing she really wants: to fight. David made the brilliant suggestion of cutting in scenes from Real Women Have Curves — whose throwaway romantic plotline also left me confused and frustrated, because why was it necessary? Ana wanted to prove she’s not like her mother, she’s not going to subject her subjectivity to a man (via marriage), because she’s an independent woman — so she turns around and “breaks” with the mold by pursuing a guy? Inverse relationships don’t break the mold. All it does is assign power (in this case, female subjectivity) to the same indicators (in this case, sex).

Sex and romance are not the only popular indicators of femininity (there’s also proper dress, address, carriage, etc. — the way a woman signifies to the world), but they are the most potent. Frustration and desire is the main conflict in our final video essay. Desire, and the right to be and act accordingly, is a marker of subjectivity. If the question of desire is, “What do women want?” then the romantic subplots in Girlfight and Real Women Have Curves only frustrate the issue. Romance is not what Ana and Diana want. Yet it’s what they get to work with, in their movie narratives — and it’s also what we have to work with in a pop culture held captive by the idea that romance is central to a woman’s being.


2 thoughts on “What Do Women Want? (Video Essay)

  1. Pingback: #TeamKatniss: Deconstructing the Centrality of Romance to Female Characterization | Girlpower

  2. You know, I often thought about why the makers of RWHC would even include a love story. It seemed completely irrelevant to her success story. I guess it was included to show her journey of becoming a woman (whatever that may mean) but then that just makes matters more complicated because it assumes that becoming a woman means having sex or something (I’m not really sure about this point). I did like that at the end of the movie, Ana just casually breaks it off with the guy, even after he insists he’ll keep in touch with her.

    Why do we insist on adding some random romantic plot to all these movies? I think it’s because the idea of having a woman who isn’t at all romantically interested in someone else is just uncomfortable for us? It’s as if not being in love is unnatural or something. I know it sounds crazy, but maybe that’s why we keep including these romantic plots? Even with movies that don’t really have a romantic subplot (think of Sandra Bullock’s The Heat) we still have some other character that’s supposed to fill in for that romantic interest (in this case, Melissa McCarthy would be that person for Bullock’s character in that movie).

    Interesting perspective on romantic subplots. Thanks for posting!

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