In this modern day and age, the world finally seems to be starting to understand that female stereotypes are offensive and not really entertaining — but not everyone in Hollywood has gotten the memo yet. In movies as recent as Jurassic World, Bryce Dallas Howard’s character of career-driven Claire Dearing inspired groans with her cold heart and frosty demeanor — just like all women who care about their jobs more than men, right?
Actually, wrong. Contrary to what decades of film would have us believe, women are so much more than whatever neat category men of one era or another have assigned them: the trophy wife, the ice queen, the manic pixie dream girl. When it comes to options for women of color, categories narrow even further: over and over, Black women are relegated to play the “sassy friend,” while Latina and Asian women have a history of being hypersexualized on-screen.
Things are getting better — for one thing, we’re calling some of these stereotypes out on screen, as Rosamund Pike did so memorably in her “Cool Girl” monologue from Gone Girl. But more importantly, we’re seeing more and more empowered female characters in films who actively defy these stereotypes. You’ll find plenty of people ready to tell you these stereotypical depictions of women (scattered allll across classic film) aren’t a problem, but movies and TV absolutely work to reinforce and suggest ideas about the world — and when stereotypes are put in action in real life, they can and do cause real harm.
In celebration of movies and TV that move the needle forward, here are some tropes for women on-screen we’re ready to leave behind.
A version of this article was originally published in April 2015.