Just wrong: business women in movies


Women in movies always seem to get the short end of the stick. The depictions of strong females within movies are often false and biased. Women who have a clear motive for success are depicted to be antagonising, bitchy and unlikable.  Business women are portrayed as monsters or ditzes who just got lucky on their career path.

This year, out of the eight films nominated for best picture at the Oscars, not one featured a story about a woman – and the UN has has criticised the global film industry for its under-representation of females. Problems regarding dialogue and female sexualisation need attention. Lawyers, doctors and business leaders are roles that male actors constantly dominate on the screen.

Female characters are less likely than males to have identifiable goals or to be portrayed as leaders of any kind,” researcher, Martha Lauzen states based on her studies about women in the entertainment industry.

Sure, there are a scant few movies that do allow females to shine alone in the spotlight. Sandra Bullock’s ‘Gravity’ and Reese Witherspoon’s ‘Wild’ are evidence that films with strong lead women roles can be successful. However, in most of what is pumped out of Hollywood, it seems like every supporting actor was cast to hate the female wanting success. Essentially, career women are largely cast to be domineering bitches, dumb airheads or just waiting to be controlled by a man.


Fifty Shades of Grey

Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is a bright young girl determined to progress in her career however; this is disrupted by the emergence of the domineering Christian Grey, (Charlie Hunnam). The message becomes clear; the male character disrupts the anticipated female success story through the ultimate form of manipulation — a relationship that is the opposite of strictly business.

‘Lose control’ is a slogan written on one of the posters for the movie. This ‘control’ is subsequently being handed to egotistical men like Christian Grey. Women become easily seduced and submissive in this film, despite their personal goals. The portrayal of women in movies as nothing more than a mere sex object for a man isn’t new, however this movie seems to overstep new boundaries. Its wide success can be accounted for from the facade of empowerment it elicits among women. The movie attempts to imply that there is happiness in sexual slavery. What is empowering about being a submissive woman in need of a rich CEO to save her? How come Anastasia couldn’t have been successful in herself without feeling the obligation to submit herself to an overbearing, psychopath who is truly fifty shades of disturbed?

The Proposal

Sandra Bullock plays Margret Tate, the passionate book editor who is at the peak of her career. The problem is that every member in her office hates her. Her success is disrupted when she is told that she will be deported. She convinces her assistant Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) to help her stage a marriage proposal to prevent exile. This stereotype of a woman who needs a knight in shinning armour is the underlying theme of the film.

The main issue is that a strong woman at the top rungs of her company is depicted to be a control freak who is feared by her employees. She is so hated that employees have an instant message system that is sent around the office warning of Margaret’s arrival: “it’s here”. We witness Andrew’s father mocking him for having a female boss while his grandmother and mother present minimal leadership qualities.

As if the idea of a damsel in distress who needs a man to save her wasn’t thought of before? It’s highly unoriginal. Why couldn’t Margret’s happy ending be a better career opportunity in Canada?

The Devil Wears Prada

The Devil Wears Prada is a movie disguised as a success story for newly employed assistant Andy. She overcomes various obstacles that her tough boss Miranda Priestly tests her with. If Andy were working for a male boss with a similar outlook on the business at hand he would be nothing but determined. We all make the assumption that Miranda is a nightmare to work for, with her entire office referring to her as a witch. Miranda is carrying the weight of a multi million-dollar company. She is going to be far from soft and friendly. She is a true businesswoman only there for the success of her magazine.

The male director’s overall message is clear. To be successful in business a female boss must give into the unrealistic stereotypes. If you look closely however, she becomes the perfect boss. She maintains high working standards, she is direct, she has earned the respect she deserves, she plays the part of a mentor and she separates her personal life from her job. She is everything the successful businesswoman embodies. Why she is presented in a way that makes us all think; “wow, she would be a bitch to work for?” How come Miranda’s management style can’t be considered humorous, yet seen for what it truly is? What Miranda produces is professionalism and pride in her business.

Legally Blonde

Proud in pink, Reese Witherspoon plays the typical blonde Elle Woods. Elle has the entire world in the palm of her hands. She’s has what is considered to be the perfect life and is impatiently awaiting a wedding proposal. However, her boyfriend leaves her heartbroken claiming she isn’t ambitious enough for their relationship to continue further. To prove him wrong she follows him to Harvard and pursues a career in law. She essentially encompasses every stereotype that the professional businesswoman wants to avoid. This movie had the potential to challenge these ideals, so what happened? A boy happened.

Her pink, scented resume is taken for what it is. Dumb. Elle is playing the submissive woman who applies to one of the most prestigious schools in the world to win back the boy. She is motivated for all the wrong reasons. Elle eventually does present ambition to succeed for her own personal gain, however she is made a mockery off when she discovers she is passionate about success in this field. Her own father states; “Law school is for people who are boring, ugly and serious, and you button are none of those things.” In the final courtcase, Elle’s male counterparts are the true victors. Yet, Elle wins the case, all thanks to her knowledge about hair perms. Why couldn’t she win the case in a way that would highlight her law knowledge? Her male classmates are viewed to be superior.

The true businesswoman is diligent, professional and working towards her personal definition of success. She is respected by her colleagues and is deserving of her position she maintains within her career. This is the real businesswoman. Movies offer some truth, but over exaggerate and contribute to stereotypes we want to eliminate.

Movies may be a great way to relax on a Friday night after a long week of work, however movies such as these offer incorrect stereotypes of what the true businesswoman is striving to achieve. What if a movie were made where successful women weren’t made out to be domineering bitches? I for one would pay to see that movie over ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ any day!

About Lauren Robinson

A Journalist at The Business Woman, Lauren has a solid passion for the world of writing. Previously working with Fairfax Regional Media and Bauer Media Group Lauren loves beauty, entertainment, lifestyle and human-interest stories.

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