7 Films, TV Shows & Books This Year To Prove Women Are Much More Than ‘Mere Muses’

Posted on January 27, 2016 in Havells, Lists, Respect Women, Taboos, Women Empowerment

By Amrita Singh

Remember the time when movies used to glorify stalking and sexual harassment? When women were portrayed either as helpless, dependent or the hero’s arm candy? Thankfully, the depiction of women as inferior damsels-in-distress is reducing, albeit slowly.

With movies like ‘Queen’ and ‘Mad Max: Fury Road‘, 2015 took a huge step forward in raising awareness about gender issues and empowering the marginalized, especially on the pop culture front. A plethora of movies, books, and TV shows promoted equality and successfully integrated a feminist perspective in many. This year looks even more promising with more releases with strong female characters and relatable stories.

Here’s what 2016 has lined up for us!

1. Shonda Rhimes’ The Catch

Shonda Rhimes took the world by storm by being the first African-American woman to have ever created and executive-produced a Top 10 network series – ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. Her new production ‘The Catch‘, is the story of a professional fraud investigator (Mireille Enos) whose fiancé robs her. Like all other tough and professional leading ladies of Shondaland, what follows her betrayal is the story of her revenge and not just heartbreak. With shows like ‘Scandal’, ‘How To Get Away With Murder’ to her credit, we can safely expect a perfect combination of drama, unexpected twists and absolute brilliance from ‘The Catch‘.

2. Fuller House (Full House sequel)

Full House‘ -a popular TV show of the late 80s and 90s- was about a widower, Danny Tanner whose brother-in-law and best friend move in with him to help him raise his three daughters. In a time with nearly negligible understanding of gender equality and careless stereotyping, the TV Show had three men taking care of children and performing household activities that were considered by most as “duties of a housewife”—and in doing so, flipping gender roles. Fuller House is a time-leap into Full House but with a gender-flip. Danny Tanners’ eldest daughter DJ Tanner, a veterinarian will bring up three boys after being widowed. So we have a girl brought up by three men, raising three boys! Nostalgia, humour, and fun can be expected in this family show which will hopefully also question gender stereotyping.

3. My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

lucy barton elizabeth stroutPulitzer Prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout’s new book has multiple underlying themes, in the backdrop of a complicated mother-daughter relationship. Lucy Barton’s long-estranged mother comes to visit her in the hospital where she’s slowly recovering after an operation. During this period, Lucy reflects on her life: her impoverished childhood, her marriage, daughters and much more. Strout’s powerful narrative will weave through a complex and emotive journey from a troubled childhood into adulthood. Will Lucy Barton be able to shed the baggage and make peace with her past?

4. Innocents And Others by Dana Spiotta

innocents-and-others-Much like Spiotta’s last book Stone Arabia, ‘Innocents And Others‘ revolves around relationships and emotional conflicts. Meadow and Carrie, childhood best friends grow up in LA to be successful filmmakers. Both have contrasting views and methods in life, and one important similarity that overshadows their differences- their unconditional love for one another. Everything starts to fall apart when Jelly, a 41-year-old woman who seduces famous men by listening to them over the phone, enters the scenario. Set in the tumultuous film industry, the story revolves around the identity struggles of three very different women. It highlights the importance of accepting one’s limitations and recognizing ones strength.

5. Queen Of Katwe – Directed by Mira Nair

Internationally acclaimed director Mira Nair, who has been lauded for her depiction of the obstacles faced by those living in the fringes of society, is back with an upcoming biographical drama film, ‘Queen Of Katwe‘ —based on the life of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan chess prodigy. The plot follows Phiona’s journey from the struggles of living in a slum in Katwe to becoming the first titled chess player in her country’s history. Madina Nalwanga will portray Phiona and Academy-award winner Lupita Amondi Nyong’o, will play the protagonist’s mother. The intense plot coupled with a cast of immensely talented women, this film is sure to be a treat for all!

6. Sarbjit

Sarabjit Singh was an Indian national accused of being a spy and jailed by Pakistan’s Government. Omung Kumar, of ‘Mary Kom‘ fame, is directing a biographical movie on the same. Despite Sarabjit being the lead actor, the plot will revolve around his sister, Dalbir’s, various struggles to get him back home, her relationship dynamics with Sarabjit and his wife. The movie stars, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as Dalbir, Randeep Hooda as Sarabjit and Richa Chadda as his wife.

Omung’s impeccable ability to exhibit the strength of a woman and distinguished actors is likely to make this film a hit.

7. Neerja

Even with Sonam Kapoor, notorious for her controversial statements, playing the titular role and veteran actor Shabana Azmi portraying her mother, the highlight of this movie is its inspiring story.

In 1986, Pan Am flight 73, with 306 people on board, was hijacked by four terrorists. Upon hearing about the hijack, the cockpit crew escaped, leaving Neerja Bhanot, a senior flight attendant, in charge of the flight. Though Bhanot ultimately lost her life at the hands of the hijackers, she succeeded in saving all the passengers and posthumously became the first female recipient of the “Ashok Chakra”, India’s most prestigious gallantry award. Neerja exemplified bravery not only professionally but also in her personal life. She got married at the age of 22 to a businessman living in the Gulf, and immediately after marriage, Neerja was pressurized for dowry. She refused to succumb to the demands of her in-laws, left the Gulf and became a flight attendant. Even though the trailer doesn’t mention her dowry case, it’s pretty enthralling and has further increased our already high expectations from the movie.

Women still, in majority of cinematic representation, continue to be portrayed as mere aesthetics and muses whose primary aim in life is to settle down with an “ideal soulmate”, who cares for them – implying the inherent need for protection. However, courageous women who battled sexism and refused to conform to gender roles are responsible for the ongoing shift in paradigm which has led to some refreshing changes that reflect the slow but positive transformation of our society. Recent movies like Gulab Gang, Mary Kom, English-Vinglish, Queen, Mardani, Dam Laga Ke Haisha, NH 24, Kahaani etc have portrayed women in lead roles covering the entire spectrum of genres – Cheers! As we see light at the end of the tunnel, there still are more glass ceilings to be shattered. One hopes that the increasing no of women writers, directors and producers will accelerate this transformation as well as challenge the inequitable status of women working within the male-controlled industry.

So there you go – 7 (and hopefully even more) reasons to look forward to 2016- with tough female protagonists, brilliant creators and goose-bump-inducing stories that promise to entertain!