This is NOT “Ten Feminist Films”, because that’s a wee bit subjective. And it’s also NOT “Top Ten”, because that’s a way bit subjective. Instead, these are just ten films that bring up interesting discussions around gender. If you ever want to have a real downer of a movie night, you can show these and then make people discuss. Feel free to add on your own options both for films and discussion questions in the comments!!
If the film is on youtube, I put in a link, some of them are also on Netflix and I indicated that. I added on discussion questions at the end of each of these entries. I honestly don’t have an answer or bias for the questions, I just thought they were interesting ones to discuss related to these films. Definite “no right answer” type of things. Just for funsies!
Laage Chunari Main Daag
I’m gonna start with a movie that is worth watching as much for how it fails as how it succeeds. Our heroine goes against society because she has no other choices and in the end she still gets her happy ending, no punishment. But then on the other hand, there is also no true punishment for the people who drove her into that situation. Is it feminist if it merely raises up the female without punishing the patriarchy?
The classic feminist film example from India! The narrative is driven by a central female character, an actress gets an amazing role, and the happy ending does not involve a man at all. But if you really want to start a discussion, here’s the question, is it still feminist if it is directed by a rapist? In a larger sense, what does it mean for auteur theory that the director of a film that ends up having a feminist message is a rapist?
(It’s on HotStar)
A movie in which the heroine is an action hero, her love interest is barely there, she is all about the bravery and the fight scenes. And the second hero is another woman, an intelligent female cop who works within the system. And the villain is a corrupt misogynist cop, the perfect representation of the patriarchy. And if that weren’t enough, there is also a plot that revolves around silencing voices and gaslighting women. And a strong representation of a trans character. But it all happened because they just flipped the genders for the Hindi remake. Is it truly feminist if most of the narrative message was accidental, originally written for a male hero which would give it a totally different message?
A movie in which the heroine is not perfect, at all. She is struggling and failing and making mistakes and misunderstanding situations. She isn’t a hero, she isn’t someone to look up to. And the film surrounds her with other human self-deluding women. A different kind of feminist film, one which makes the feminist statement that women get to be just as messed up as anyone else. Better or worse than an Akira which gives you a heroine to look up to?
A movie that goes through sexual assault, women in prison, and violent revenge. And throws in some commentary about sexual shaming along the way, and voluntary sex for money. Question for discussion, does it simplify social issues by making it all about rape-revenge?
Seeta Aur Geeta
An old-school classic film with a female lead. Really two female leads, just happen to be played by the same actress. One is traditional devout passive heroine, the other is the complete opposite. A commentary on gender tropes? Or just a coincidental idea of two characters as different as they could be?
And a remix of an old classic! This time one of them is a devout passive heroine who is a little bit silly with her brother, and the other is an extremely sexual and sexually aggressive heroine. Is that more or less feminist than the original version that didn’t hit the sex button as hard?
A movie that centers around a traditional romantic conundrum, to pick the nice arranged husband or the sexy dangerous one. But then flips the script by letting the heroine be the one who pursues the sexy dangerous one, running away from the arranged husband, instead of the other man needing to “win” her away from her natural instinct to be obedient. But is that still truly feminist since it still sells the narrative that all a woman needs to be happy is the right man?
A Tamil classic, Sridevi’s first full-fledged heroine part. One which either presents a stereotypical world in which the woman is always suffering, or presents a sensitive view of the real world in which a woman is truly always suffering. And also the plot is INSANE. Question: is it feminist because it tells the reality of all the ways women are oppressed, or anti-feminist because it only gives hope by working within the structure?
(It’s on Netflix)
Vidya’s big film! Hard to talk about without spoilers. A woman who goes on a long quest to find her husband. Along the way she evades and maneuvers and tricks various men. And it ends with a great scene of her discovering her Durga-power. But can a movie that is about a woman finding her husband really be feminist?