In order to understand the importance of representation of Women in film; as in any other medium, we need to consider the role it plays in the dynamic of society today. David Gauntlett points out in ‘Media Gender and Identity’ (2008) that there is an important interplay between our reception of media texts, and our most basic understanding of the world around us. Importantly, he notes that ‘gender and sexuality remain at the core of how we think about our identities’ (pg1). Although he notes that it would be ‘unsatisfactory’ to simplify the issue entirely or to pinpoint our understanding of gender identity as having come solely from the media; we cannot, he says, simply ‘assume that people somehow copy or borrow their identities’. However it is also in Gauntletts opinion ‘highly unlikely that these (media representations) would have no impact whatsoever on our sense of identity’.
Today we live in a world where we constantly receive an onslaught of information through the various media outlets (magazines, billboards and television as well as film) though Gauntlett notes this is not necessarily understood to be an ‘information source’ by those receiving it; ‘(there is) a lot of information going into peoples heads – even if they dont see it as information (…) it seems obvious and inevitable that we will be affected by these experiences somehow.’ Between these two statements we can understand a basic flaw in the general understanding of media and communication; those creating media texts are able to use it as viable means of conveying information, whereas many of those receiving it do so passively with little recognition of what they are consuming, or indeed the potential affect this can have or not only their sense of identity, but also their basic understanding of the world around them.
The success of the film industry Gauntlett holds relies on an ‘eternal fascination’ created through an impossible reality – where we are able, sometimes first hand, to witness ’how the world works in lives other than our own’. Gauntlett gives particular emphasis to situations and relationships; he states the behaviours we witness in film ‘could hardly fail to affect our own way of conducting ourselves and our expectations of other peoples behaviour’. It is easy to see then why the representation of women in films, ought to be under scrutiny.
Arguably in its ‘heyday’ in the 70s, the film industry was a notorious “all boys club” where the representations of women remained extremely limited. According to the Women and Film account (Cook and Dodd 2011) much film theory that came about during this time is now dismissed as having come from a time of ‘cultural pessimism’, whereby theorists ‘seemed to allow little space for women to position themselves as active producers or consumers’ and furthermore can even seem to demote them to being mere ‘hecklers from the sidelines’ rather than being able to critically understand meanings and even pleasures to be found within the context of films.
Unfortunately, this ‘hecklers from the sidelines’ analogy could easily be reapplied to the role of women working in the film industry at the time, with the majority of women in films appearing as little more than a spectacle, designed by male film producers for a largely male audience.