these awful female character descriptions are why we need more women writers

Ross Putman's twitter feed proves why we need more diverse women on screens — and behind them.

by Hannah Ongley
Feb 11 2016, 5:20pm

The past 12 months have been wonderful for increasing the number of strong female leads in film. Mad Max had enough female powerhouses that angry men's rights activists took to their keyboards (and closed their wallets) in ill-informed protest. And indies like Mistress America prove women characters don't need guns to be game-changers. Sure enough, just this week, a new report by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University showed that female characters comprised 22% of leads in the top 100 grossing films last year, an increase of 10% from 2014.

It's an improvement, certainly, but identifying badass female protagonists is still far more difficult than identifying characters that don't bother to challenge stereotypes. Then there are all the characters who haven't yet made it to the screen, half-baked stereotypes that haven't been sharpened or somewhat diversified by unfortunate actresses obliged to make them somewhat palatable for mass consumption. Imagine how feeble some of those characters are. Well, you don't have to. These are the ones described on a new Twitter account run by producer Ross Putman, whose feed is quickly comprising more unsurprisingly sexist and hilariously depressing tweets than Donald Trump's. "These are intros for female leads in actual scripts I read," Putnam writes on @femscriptintros. "Names changed to JANE, otherwise verbatim."

It would be interesting to see how these scriptwriters envisioned the race of these women. The account is amassing followers as we're gearing up for one of the most white-washed Oscars yet. And as San Diego State University points out, the percentage of women of color characters in 2015 remained largely unchanged compared to previous years.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon isn't just limited to the big screen. Misogyny is as alive and well in real life as it is on Twitter or Netflix. At least there women have the option of browsing by "Strong Female Lead," a category which has never seemed more essential. And until more women are working behind the scenes, not just acting them out, it will probably remain so. 


Text Hannah Ongley
Film still from Girlhood, by Céline Sciamma