Growing up I watched a lot of movies. Didn’t matter what the movie was about or genre. I've enjoyed watching films at a very young age. Often you could find me sitting on my small white rocking chair, decorated with gold painted leaves and grapes. The perfect princess throne. On my throne you would find me directly in front of the television rocking back and forth totally immersed in whatever was happening on the screen in front of me. I would get pulled into the fantasy of the characters, the storyline and drawn into who they were and what they were doing. For me it wasn’t just watching television, it was all about the fantasy and I would imagine myself as one of the characters and begin playing a role.
The roles I was most drawn to were of course the female roles. And no other female had me drawn in like the rebellious females of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. Maybe we'll get into the '80s and '90s at a later date but for now, we will start here at the beginning. If you've been reading my stories you know how I love to provide a backdrop. So back to what I was saying. There are two types of females portrayed in films. The Femme Fatales and the female protagonists. The Femme Fatales were full of mystery, seductive but also a little bit crazy. The female protagonists were full of confidence, loyalty and headstrong. Both were beautiful, smart and cunning. They embraced being female and all what being a female entails. They were feminine. But these weren’t girls. These female characters were all WOMAN!
Watching movies from the 1950s still in black and white I found I had a fascination with the females of that era. But not just any female in any movie. I loved the females on-screen that slithered around all day in nothing but a silky white slip, with a martini in one hand and a cigarette in the other. The female that spent her days leisurely lounging around in slips and loungewear and spent her nights dressed in beautiful dresses always adorned with diamond brooches. There she sat perfectly coiffed and dressed, still holding a martini in one hand and cigarette in the other as she listened to her husband talk about his day. Often out of boredom and frustration, being too much to bear, she would lash out against her husband's self-admiration and preach about her own angst. Sometimes she even took in a lover and began plotting that husband's demise to free herself from the pain of marital subjugation. What did I find so fascinating about her?
Then I moved into the movies of the 1960s and 1970s where the female roles were even more fascinating. In the 1960s these brazen females were no longer housebound, needing a martini, or a few, to get through their boredom and tedious days. These women were out and about living life. They were no longer at home in the suburbs waiting for the husbands to arrive and chatter about their day in the office. These women worked in the office. Some of them were even bosses. They traded in that slinky white slip for a feminine power suit with broad shoulders and even broader minds. But they still kept that ultra-feminine style with form-fitting skirts and blazers, a delicate silk blouse and still adorning that gorgeous broach. The 1960’s female characters were the new singletons. They were career girls and they made their own money, lived in their own apartments and gave men attitude and a hard time. You could catch her, but you’d have to chase her first and the first to keep up won. The 1960’s female had swag-her!
Then came the 1970’s females and these chicks changed the entire game. Everything about them was different. Their hair was different. Their makeup was different. Their clothes....oh my gosh the clothes! While, yes they still wore a slip, that slip was worn underneath the new female power suit. These power suits were different from those worn by their 1950 and 1960's counterparts because it was no longer a suggestion of rebellion. The new female power suit was a sign of an outright takeover. These females not only did they wear pants but they also wore pantsuits and jumpsuits without a broach in sight. They discarded the femininity of the past and branded their own new way to be sexy, feminine and powerful. No longer would they wait to be conquered because they now felt the power to do the conquering. And powerful these females were. With Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, Alice Walker and Hilary Clinton in the backdrop shaping the women's movement we now saw on the screen a female that was different than any female before her. She had come full circle. Gone the days of slinking around waiting for the husband to get home while she drowned her submission with martinis and cigarettes. Sure she still had martinis and cigarettes but she smoked and drank them at the bar whilst sitting alongside the men.
So you can imagine me as a young girl being confused by all the images and types of women on the big screen playing out in front of me. Not knowing what was real and what wasn't real. My scope of the world had not yet been fully realized. I had not yet had the chance to see for myself what the real world looked like for females. At this point in life I was too young and it would be years before I would even have to think about what type of female I would be or needed to be to survive the world I was still being protected from. But nevertheless, my fantasy and role-playing continued while I sat on my throne pretending to be every female character from the tragic housewife to acting out scenes of the strong woman demanding respect in the boardroom. But then I grew up and there came the time when I could no longer pretend to be a female character but had to become a real female in the real world.
Part of our development comes from the circumstances around us. We learn from our families and siblings. But we all have our own individual personalities. As we are exploring the world we are also exploring how we want to fit into the world. Do we want to dominate or be dominated? Or is there somewhere that lies more in the middle? For me, I took cues about being a woman from my mother of course. But I also had a badass group of women in my arsenal to pull from. Those female protagonists and Femme Fatales I had spent hours and hours pretending to be. The bits and pieces of them shaping and forming parts of me. I found I loved slinking around in a white slip and having a cocktail just as much as I love dressing in either a power suit or evening dress adorned with a jewel-encrusted brooch. But maybe it wasn't them forming me. Maybe, and probably more to the truth, these females were always a part of my individual personality. More than likely this is truth and the reason why I was always so drawn to these characters on the big screen. They were already me! I was already them. I just needed time to grow from a little girl into a woman to truly understand it all.
So growing up from a little girl protected from the world and into a woman that had to learn the world and her place in it, I had to decide where to fit in. How do I fit in? Where do I want to be? Who do I want to be? I had to decide what type of woman I wanted the world to see. But eventually, and I think maybe every woman gets this, I began to learn and understand we are all these female characters. There isn't one answer for who we want to be because actually as women we are all these women rolled into one. We are strong when we need to be strong. We can be unapologetically fearless but become vulnerable with a simple touch. We can lead but we also can be led, but only by those that make us feel safe. We need to be comforted at times and the tears wiped away with a gentle hand. But we also know how to kickbox and we can be warriors. We know the key to our femininity is to be soft while also being strong. We love to slink around feeling feminine and pretty in a silky white slip, even if that slip is under a power suit. So, in the end, I really never had to decide which female to become because I am all of them. I embrace every female that exists inside of me, however strong or weak she may be. Because they all make up who I am as a woman. Well, maybe not the femme fatale plotting with her lover to do off with the husband. As I said, she's a little cra-cra.
(Femme Fatale is not a phrase I hear much about anymore. In university part of my studies/degree was in film studies and we often referred to the Femme Fatale during character discussions. The Femme Fatales where often the most interesting characters due to their complexity. I still enjoy films and exploring the characters. Particularly the complicated female characters.)