Considering the current social climate of #MeToo and the scandals that have taken the headlines as of late, there was a lot to unpack at this year’s “Women Who Kick Ass” panel presented by Entertainment Weekly. Chloe Bennet (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Regina King (Watchmen), Camila Mendes (Riverdale), Amandla Stenberg (The Darkest Mind), and Jodie Whittaker (Doctor Who) took the dais in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con to talk about female representation in Hollywood and tearing down barriers.
The panel, which included a British woman, two Black women, a half-Chinese woman and a Latina woman, dove deep into the current climate for women in Hollywood and beyond. The amount of thoughtfulness and wisdom from this panel was incredible as they spoke about their experiences in the industry and growth of opportunities as well as the obstacles that still exist for women.
Whittaker, who plays the new Doctor Who, said: “All the parts I wanted to play were played by men.” She adds “Now, we can see ourselves in those parts.”
Emmy-winning actress King, who stars in the forthcoming Watchmen, adds “There weren’t many like me kicking ass. I was a Lynda Carter fan.” She says that even though Wonder Woman was wearing a skimpy outfit, she had ownership and confidence that exuded female strength.
This brings us to the term “strong female role”, a debatable term that gets thrown around.
Bennet says that she has been in interviews many times when she was asked “How is it like playing a strong female character?”
“Why don’t you ask a guy how it is to play a strong male character?” said Bennet. She adds that there are different kinds of strength and a difference between “strong female” and “strongly written female.” She would like the question to be posed the question: “What’s it like to play a complex and authentic woman that isn’t a catalyst for a male on the show?”
Stenberg, who is an oracle of woke wisdom, says that the topic of “strong female roles” is tricky. There’s an awareness I have,” she says. “I create representation because of the accessibility I have” When it comes to these roles there is a give and take game. “We continue to sacrifice in order to see the representation we want,” she said.
Whittaker says that the importance of female representation on TV and film isn’t just to inspire young women but young men as well.
“We want to inspire and tell little guys that you can look up to women,” she said. “We can do the same things…and even more.”
Stenberg says that it creates empathy and Bennet says being inspired by women can make young men see them as equal rather than instilling a “we are better than them” mentality.
The panel discusses that they have received opportunities, but also have been marginalized by not receiving substantial roles, working on projects that Bechdel test, or working with a female director.
King, who recently directed the Insecure season finale, points out in the thirty-plus year she has only worked with four directors.
Stenberg points out that she says that when a man is in charge they think power is dominance while when a woman is in charge, power allows a space of trust.