[Photo via cantgetenoughtattoos.com / Pinterest]
Ever since I was a little girl, my mom was skeptical about me growing up with Disney movies. The princesses we all know and love are beautiful and sweet and docile and often submissive to the man they’re almost always waiting for. I watched them anyway, and because I was young and impressionable, I fell in love with them, and I’m not going to lie, I was definitely Belle for Halloween, like, five years in a row. However, as I grew up and started to find my voice, I began to recognize the factors that made my mom nervous. I’ve always been loud; loud and strong-willed and independent, and these were traits that Disney movies, the original romantic-comedies if you will, didn’t necessarily display or encourage.
Times are obviously changing, and so is cinema, and with that, female leads. There’s a new type of romantic-comedy female lead that’s becoming more and more common. The kind of woman I’m talking about is sort of like a Kat Stratford from 10 Things I Hate About You type. She’s abrasive, strong-willed, and rude, and essentially radiates, for lack of a better word, “cool.” Honestly, this is the type of woman I wanted to be. Her type is sweeping TV screens and the nonchalant, couldn’t-care-less attitude looks really appealing. 10 Things I Hate About You was the first rom-com I actually remember loving, and I think it was because my insecure, prepubescent self felt like these were the traits I needed to feel sure of myself. Kat gives off a vibe that just screams, “I don’t care, I feel nothing, and because of this, I’m confident,” and not only do the writers make this look incredibly alluring; it also attracts the seemingly perfect, brooding male (Heath Ledger himself). As time went on and my affinity for romantic-comedies grew, I noticed this type of character popping up more and more, and every time, I caught myself spending a few weeks after watching a movie like this, trying to be her. Needless to say, it didn’t last long, because it’s really just not who I am, but we’ll get into that later.
A more current favorite of mine is The Proposal. Aside from it being hilarious, Margaret Tate (played by Sandra Bullock) is the ultimate aloof, badass female…but of course, she’s not looking for love because obviously a strong woman would never be sensitive and sweet enough to actually want ~to love~. Margaret was another one of these characters that had me feeling like, for me to be as independent, powerful and essentially as cool as she was, I had to get rid of that sensitive part of myself that really did (and does) want to be loved. While it might be a little ridiculous to say this, much of my self-contemplation came from movies. But, as I’ve written about before, media is really important to me. It always has been. And I think as much as we try to ignore it, the characters we see on screen have a significant impact on who we are and how we see ourselves, as well as how much or how little we see of ourselves in these characters. It’s transformative.
And now we get to the infamous Summer from 500 Days of Summer. For the longest time, this was my favorite movie. This was simply because I was completely enthralled with Summer’s character. She’s cynical and carefree, and she doesn’t believe true love exists. Her role was written and performed in a way that made the whole concept of the movie insanely captivating. She found a boy who was completely in love with her, and she didn’t love him back. This was glorified and romanticized because there was another strong female lead who just didn’t want love, and this was so badly who I thought I wanted to be.
I mentioned earlier how I’ve always been loud and independent, and while this is true, I’ve also always been extremely sensitive and extremely open to love (both platonic and romantic). The female leads I found myself falling in love with? I didn’t see myself in them. Belle was sensitive and loving, and Kat Stratford was brave and outspoken. Cinema was teaching me that these two sets of traits were mutually exclusive. I was in a relationship for a long time that always had me feeling like I was half of myself, and I was always looking for ways that I could change into the person that the boy I was with wanted me to be. Because of this, I was looking everywhere for some clue of what I was missing. I’m not saying every female-lead is like the ones I’ve described, but these were the ones I was drawn to, and this is why I’m writing about it: because I can’t be the only one.
I became obsessed with needing to be a “cool girl,” and at times, I’m still wrestling with who I am and who I feel like I need to be. Now, though, I’m aware and am actively growing into myself, instead of away from myself. So, while Kat and Summer and Margaret are all beautifully written characters, they aren’t me, and they aren’t a lot of girls out there. We’re sensitive and emotional and we really, really love being in love. And guess what? We’re also strong and outspoken and bold and very powerful, and just because we feel things, doesn’t mean we aren’t independent. Just because we want love doesn’t mean we need it. I’m learning that it’s okay to want to do life with someone else, and that some people are just more comfortable handling the tough parts of life with another person. That doesn’t make me (or you) weak or fragile; it makes you human. Needing people is okay. Not needing people, but wanting them, is okay. Openly and honestly loving is not only strong, but it’s a gift. So go ahead and share it.
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