Gender equality is a hot top in Hollywood at the moment and 2019 has had several films already tackle the topic. One of 2019’s best films is Hustlers, starring a Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, and Julia Stiles. It is a powerful reminder of the constant struggles — objectification and stereotyping, among others — women face, and how they can rise above these challenges. Hustlers is a fight against gender inequality, and it is one you need to watch (if you haven’t already). After seeing it you might also want to catch these four feminist films too:
Molly’s Game (2017)
This Aaron Sorkin film chronicles the life of Molly Bloom. After being an Olympic hopeful in the early 2000s, Bloom infamously made it big in the male-dominated world of high-stakes poker. Time Magazine’s interview with Jessica Chastain notes that the film “examines how a woman survived and thrived in a toxic boys’ club culture.” Then Chastain explains how Bloom did it: By using female stereotypes to her advantage. “Everything about Molly was groomed,” says Chastain. “Molly learned early on that if she presented herself in a certain way, rich and powerful men would pay more attention to what she had to say.” And indeed they did pay attention. Everyone from Hollywood A-listers to business moguls, wanted in on what Bloom was offering — high stakes poker rooms for the rich and famous.
These poker rooms rode, in part, on the social aspect of the popular card game. They became high society’s preeminent social clubs, where only a privileged few could get in. While the clubs in the film were exclusive, they ultimately set the groundwork for the online poker industry that is popular today, where players from every background can create their own digital version of poker clubs. Nowadays, players can communicate and play together just as if they were at one of Bloom’s events. PPPoker’s Twitter feed shows how players are willing to share tips on how to improve each other’s game through online examples of different hands. This creates a real sense of community amongst players. While these communities are popular today, both online and in poker rooms, it does show how far ahead of the curve Bloom was. It may not have been all above board, but she was a true pioneer in a male dominated industry.
Erin Brockovich (2000)
Steven Soderbergh’s Erin Brockovich starring Julia Roberts is also based on a real life woman. In this case it is Erin Brockovich, a former legal clerk turned renowned author and environmental activist. The Oscar-winning 2000 film tells the story of Brockovich’s powerful fight against corporate greed. Looking to move past a traffic accident she helps the town of Hinkley in California take on Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), whose irresponsibility caused the contamination of Hinkley’s drinking water. Years after causing corporate comeuppance for PG&E, Brockovich continues to be an embodiment of woman empowerment. “Today, I am 57,” Brockovich told Nandita Ravi of Indulge in a 2017 interview, “The same things are happening. And yes, I will continue to speak up.” As Erin Brockovich showed, Brockovich has a way of making everyone listen when she speaks up.
Born in Flames (1983)
Lizzie Borden’s indie magnum opus weaves together a fascinating and empowering narrative of girl power. Born in Flames begins with the death of black feminist Adelaide Norris while in police custody. It then turns into an allegory about female militancy, the crux of which is to fight oppression. At the heart of this fight is Phoenix Radio DJ Honey who implores on-air: “Black women, be ready. White women, get ready. Red women, stay ready, for this is our time and all must realize it.” Borden speaking to Dazed about her acclaimed film admitted her desire to create multiple voices for feminism. “I’d come to the conclusion that there was no singular voice in feminism, which I actually believe today,” explains Borden. “The only way for women to work together is side by side not to try to work as one unified group.” Three decades after the release of Born in Flames Borden has been proven right.
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels (1975)
Chantal Akerman’s 1975 art-house film is a masterpiece. It follows the circumscribed domesticity of the titular character’s life. It is both a glimpse of and homage to homemakers around the world, whose lives are stuck in a metronome of household chores and tasks. The genius of Akerman’s film, according to Anna Whealing’s review for Take on Cinema, is its lengthy running time, which allows audiences to better appreciate the main character’s slow descent to emptiness and irrelevance. That is, until she decides to do something drastic about it in a shocking, tense climax.