Last night I saw the Amazing Spiderman. For me, it feels too soon after Raimi Trilogy to reboot. The unfolding of the story is too close, just given a look more like The Dark Knight, with none of its intellectual aspirations. However, that’s not what bothered me about the film.

** potential spoilers below **

There are just two female characters in the film of any significance, who are only there to kiss Peter Parker/Spiderman and say “you’re great!”. Without giving too many plot points away, Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone, is supposed to be a feisty young science student. However, the majority of her screen time is spent immobilised. In fact, they may as well have called her Rapunzel, since she spends most of the time trapped in her bedroom, in an apartment, 20 stories high. Even though the fire escape is right out side her window, it appears she’s never used it to gain her own freedom, while Peter slips in an out with ease.

On one of Peter’s visits, Gwen’s father approaches her room, and the young lovers are scared of being caught. What excuse does she give to stop her father entering the room? Is it that she’s got really difficult homework, because after all she’s a fledgling scientist who’s won an internship with Oscorp? No, it’s because it’s her time of the month. Cramp. Sickness. Yes, let’s remind all those teenage girls in the audience that every month you’re going to be next to useless for a week for the rest of your life because you’re a woman.

Still, her position as an Intern does’t seem to be all that demanding. The only task we see her do is take another group of interns around the lab; she’s simply there to practice her mothering skills, not to actually do any science. I’ll note here that when Dr Connors asks two questions of the interns, both are answered by male characters. I mean, of course, one significant question has to be answered by Peter, but you’d think the other line, about three whole words, could have come from a girl.

Gwen features in two combat sequences with the Lizard, with little impact. The first time she tries to join in, but after one hit Spiderman takes her out of action, removing her from the scene of the fight and leaving her dangling, restrained in his web. She literally can’t move.

In the second, she hides in a cupboard. The Lizard finds her, she fends him off with an aresol used as a flame thrower. He takes one look, grabs the vital piece of kit that she’s been protecting and he’s on his way. After all, he obviously thinks, she’s a girl; she’s not capable of disrupting my plans. Which proves absolutely right.

The one pivotal action point she has in the whole film film is to make an antidote (yes, she’s allowed to do that because it’s about nurturing and mothering and kissing things better). Does she get to be the one to put this into action? No, she hands it to her father. He literally tells her to “go wait in the car.” Which as a good, obedient, passive, non-challenging girl she does. Why she couldn’t have been the one to get the anitdote to where it will actually be of use is beyond me. Oh, but then, it seems actually saving the world is a man’s job.

Sally Field plays Aunt May, very much a misnomer, since it appears she may do very little. Her only action key to the plot is making her way home, walking 12 blocks then taking the subway by herself late at night, because Peter forgot to pick her up (he’s been too busy doing scientific man things). Uncle Ben puts all the blame on Peter, with no argument that Aunt May should be able to walk the streets alone without fear of assault, simply that a woman must know her place as something that has to be contained and protected and restricted for her own health and safety. And at the end of the row, Peter, just a scrawny teenager as far as they’re concerned, gets to walk out onto those same streets. Aunt May says “Let him go.” Yes, because it’s fine for a foolish, angry teen boy to go walking the streets at any hour, it’s only the women who must be chaperoned.

When can we have some decent female characters in films? Are there so few women working in Hollywood with enough clout to make rounded female characters who are tough, decisive, ambitious, creative, brave, feminine, funny women? I know women like this: Elle who runs a design agency, or Kate who works in communications, Bonnie who is launching a food product line, or Sara the interior designer or Una, an massage therapist and entrepreneur. Let me see women like them up on the screen, they’d be a damn sight more interesting. And I know if I was in a fight with a giant lizard/human hybrid, I’d rather have one of them backing me up than Gwen Stacy any day.

If you’re a woman working in film and television, do use this great resource, which includes a mentoring scheme:

http://wftv.org.uk/wftv/

And also check out Feminist Frequency:

http://www.feministfrequency.com/


Gavin Ricketts is a Producer/Director with twenty year's experience. His book on writing CVs for the creative industries has helped Film and TV Crew win more work.


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