Coming of Age in Hollywood: Critics Choice Noms Hail The Year of Young Women

4 years ago

One of these years we're going to see a turning point in the sausage-fest that is Hollywood, right? We'll see women's lives reflected to us in movie and television roles that are just as rich, diverse and powerful as those featuring men. Equality is just a matter of time.

In the mean time we settle for small gains, and this year we got one. According to Hollywood, 2012 was the year of young women coming of age. 

Image Courtesy of Lions Gate

In a politically charged year where women's reproductive rights were at the forefront of discourse and a noted power in the election and in the boardroom, we might hope that this would be the year for women to shine on screen. It's certainly not true overall: 2012 was just as much a power boys club as ever, though with notable exceptions including director Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty.
But in one demographic, it seems that the odds are finally in our favor, says Katniss as she pulls back her bow. 
The Hunger Games' Katniss is a perfect icon for women in entertainment this year. We may have gained little ground in overall equity, but the spotlights of the year tilt heavily towards young women in coming-of-age, and even in early-reproductive-years, crises.
Of the ten highest grossing films for the year thus far, three of the ten feature strong female leads or tell female-driven stories: Brave, Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, and The Hunger Games. Bella ranges in age from 16 to 23 during the epic reproductive drama series; both Merida and Katniss are 16.
AFI and the Critics' Choice Move Award nominations (announced today) each highlighted the amazing Beasts of the Southern Wild, my personal favorite film of 2012, which starred 6-year old Quvenzhané Wallis searching for the young mother who abandoned her, so some of this years' heroines were even younger than adolescents.
Other highlights from the Critics' Choice illustrate the trend and the continuing lack of solid roles for adult women in Hollywood, let along screenwriting and directing opportunities. Two of the five Best Actress nominations went to foreign films, and one to Quvenzhané Wallis. Les Misérables has strong young female roles including Fantine playing out the crisis of a young, impoverished mother of Cosette--though Hathaway's nomination is in the supporting category. In another best film of the year, twelve-year-old Kara Hayward stole scene after scene as she played out coming-of-age angst against the pressures of her mother played by Frances McDormand in Moonrise Kingdom
Similarly, television highlights for women this year focused on high praise and yards of press for Lena Dunham's Girls which tells the stories of young, just-out-of-college 20 somethings facing coming-of-age mishaps of all kinds. 
2012 may not have been the year of women in film, but it was the year of young women coming to terms with themselves, their mothers and the world.
It certainly wasn't the year of full-grown women, though. Nothing might illustrate that more than M's storyline in Skyfall. There are movies, shows and roles to celebrate all the more because of their scarcity, though: Homeland's popularity, The Good Wife, The Sessions, Naomi Watts in The Impossible.
Did you see any trends in women in entertainment this year? What do you think we can look forward to in the year ahead?  Will we ever be able to take Hollywood equality for granted, in the way the The Avengers-Lincoln-Argo-Dark Knight-etc.-etc.-etc. speak to and for men's power, opportunity and stories?
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