From the computer screen to the silver screen, young girls are taking the world of TV and film by storm. From Millie Bobby Brown’s unsettling role as ‘Eleven’ in the Netflix original Stranger Things to Dafne Keen’s vicious and mature portrayal of Laura in James Mangold’s Logan, young girls don’t need a prince to save them anymore. They’ve climbed down out of their towers and trust us, they’ve got this.
According to Mary Celeste Kearney, the director of gender studies and a professor of film, television and theater at the University of Notre Dame, young girls appear much less frequently than boys as the heroes of programs made for media audiences. In an interview with The Associated Press, she said, “When they’ve looked to mainstream stuff and what their brothers and their dads and boys are watching, those girls are never there. And now they are, and that’s huge.”
While it may seem simple, what those characters represent are strong, competent role models for girls everywhere who are at a critical age in their development. What Princess Leia did for women everywhere, these pint-sized action stars are doing for little girls. Young heroes give their audiences a sense of agency; the confidence that even if they may not have superpowers, they can have incredible adventures without having to wait for puberty.
In an interview with The Associated Press discussing his blockbuster film Logan, writer-director James Mangold explained that his decision to move away from the storyline of the Marvel comics and cast the role of Laura as a child rather than a teenager was a deliberate, stylistic choice. The daughter of X-Men bad boy Wolverine, Mangold wanted her to be just as powerful as her father, “I did think the shocking nature of Laura’s ability to kill savagely would be all the more shocking, in a really wonderful way,” Mangold said, adding, “that that lethalness would be exhibited by this little girl.”
While Kearney feels that this shift reflects more “progressive gender attitudes,” she believes Hollywood still has a long way to go. While these girls may be empowered, the crux of the matter is that they all still exist within the realm of fantasy. “It’s not in our reality; it’s in some other reality, and that’s really disheartening if you think about it in that way,” Kearney explains, “Like girls are great as action heroes, but not as President of the United States, not in real life.”
But despite any negativity, one cannot deny that these girls are kicking butt and taking names all the way to the top of the box office. “They have a powerful, powerful cultural impact,” Kearney explained. With more films in the works featuring young female protagonists, there seems to be no stopping them.
Read the full story at The Associated Press.