Like it or not, 2017 is basically the year of women. Starting from the phenomenal Women’s March protest in January, inauguration of the first-ever female president of Singapore, up to The Silence Breakers gracing the cover of TIME’s Person of the Year edition, the world has witnessed women’s power and influence surging like never before.
The voices of women were then further celebrated this year through the release of Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year, Feminism. In some way, this acknowledgement at the same time also encapsulates the big-screen dominance by some charming fictional heroines. Yes, moviegoers have been instilled with an implicit yet interesting notion about feminism throughout the year thanks to brilliant scenario and stunning performances of the cast in several consecutive female-led films.
A little more than a month after Indonesia’s own Women’s March held on March 4, national gender equality movement once again surfaced after “Kartini” hit theaters in April. Surrounding the incredible life of the most famous Indonesian heroine, R. A. Kartini, this highly-anticipated biopic by Hanung Bramantyo has charmed many not only with its depiction of early female emancipation against patriarchal society but also with beautiful reconstruction of Javanese traditional aristocratic setting.
The force got even stronger in May when it was the time for our beloved sexy goddess Wonder Woman to show up and save the world. Played handsomely by Gal Gadot, the Amazonian warrior princess swiftly turned from being a 76-year-old DC comic book character into the utmost epitome of contemporary feminism after single-handedly wiping out a German battalion and super villains like Ares and Doctor Poison (cheers for another badass woman again!)
The right timing of the eponymous movie release – which is when global awareness of gender equality was still at height – also resulted in a win-win situation: the story of Wonder Woman inspired female millennials to realize their full potential, while gaining massive audiences made it one of the highest-grossing superhero film franchises of all time.
After the said box-office sensation, feminism advocacy in movies did not just end there. Some Hollywood filmmakers even adopted different approaches to portray how women power should never be taken too lightly. Because when a fierce, smart, and determined woman turns evil, she can be a very tough cookie to deal with, just like the cursed Princess Ahmanet from “The Mummy”.
Those who are familiar with this famous horror-adventure blockbuster must have known that the whole monstrosities in previous “The Mummy” trilogy were caused by three formidable male mummies. However, as feminine vibe is tough this year, the recent Universal’s reboot of the series (released in June 2017) felt like an indirect symbolism and support for the rise of women. Starring Sofia Boutella as the ruthless Princess Ahmanet, not even Tom Cruise can easily defeat this seductive yet destructive main antagonist.
Coincidentally, Sofia Boutella also happened to appear in another femme fatale movie that came out last August in Indonesia cinemas. She played a relatively small part as a French spy in “Atomic Blonde” alongside Oscar-winning actress, Charlize Theron, the lead character. Although the action film itself did not score a fantastic box office figures, Theron’s gripping performance as a charismatic MI6 agent was applauded for her realistic ferocious fight scenes against a bunch of thugs. With this alone, “Atomic Blonde” has successfully broken the stereotype of male hegemony in common espionage movies and is, of course, equal to the more popular James Bond (minus his hi-tech arsenal).
Although “Battle of the Sexes” was not screened in Indonesia last September, it is still very noteworthy that this film is exactly one of the most female-empowering dramedy about American women’s liberation effort carried out in the 70’s, led by former “Queen of Tennis” Billie Jean King. In it, King (played by Academy Award’s latest best actress, Emma Stone) once stated that women should be paid and respected equally. What is more accurate than that?
After “Kartini”, Indonesian film industry once again revealed its stance on the issue of feminism through the lens of our talented female director, Mouly Surya. “Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts” is her latest award-winning drama that has been widely-praised by international audiences for its intriguing narrative and breathtaking natural landscape of Sumba.
Since its initial screening in Cannes Film Festival until it was finally available for all of us last November, this feminist arthouse film served as a reminder to the society that there are still lots of “Marlina” out there, especially in rural communities, who suffer from being victims of sexism, injustice, and violence. The courage of Marlina and her friend, Novi, to change their nasty fate is therefore something we can learn from and be proud of.
For ages and even until today, women have been seen as secondary beings to men. Women are those who should do household chores, women are sex objects, and women without equal treatment are some of the ugly truths that still exist all over the world.
However, we are not alone. While women are fighting the good fight, strong female characters in movies provide inspiration and raise spirits. A good film, after all, is not only meant to entertain but should also be something meaningful that anyone can relate to.
I believe the coming 2018 will be another exciting year for women as there will be more empowering measures coming from film industry, for instance “Ocean’s 8” movie that brings out an all-women cast and the 24th Screen Actors Guild Awards that reportedly will only be presented by women.
There is a set of brilliant analogies from the famous Muslim scholar, Prof. Dr. H. Muhammad Quraish Shihab – who is also the father of my favorite journalist, Najwa Shihab – that I think is perfect to conclude all this:
Without women, life would be like a worthless boat without the river.
Without women, life would be like a moonless night.
Without women, life would be like a guitar with no strings.