by Nikki Idelson ’22 A&E Staff
In a society that continues to be dominated by white men, female success in film is often overlooked. However, in the past decade, women have started to gain recognition for their accomplishments. Hopefully one day, society will reach a point when women are honored every day, rather than just one month a year. The film industry boasts talented women in all roles which deserve to be celebrated no matter the time of year. In the past couple of years alone, female directors have not only entered the picture but have dominated the scene. One of these directors is Olivia Wilde.
Olivia Wilde is an up-and-coming director in addition to being a seasoned actor. In 2019, her big directorial break came from her film Booksmart. The film centers around two friends, Molly and Amy. They are in their senior year of high school and at the top of their class. In the beginning of the film, they criticize their classmates who spent their high school years partying. However, they soon come to learn that these classmates have actually done well in school and are still attending good colleges. Molly and Amy realize that they missed out on much of the social aspect of high school, leading them to go to a party with their fellow classmates. They end up having an insane night that results in learning and coming to terms with various truths about themselves. Although Booksmart appears to be another coming-of-age tale about self-discovery, its impact is much deeper.
For one, the film features two female actors as leads. Typically, in all types of films, especially coming-of-age ones, the leads are men. Molly is a fiery young woman who has no fear of telling any person, especially men, exactly what she is thinking. According to BuzzFeed, in one of the early scenes in the film, Molly has “photos of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Michelle Obama plastered on the walls of her room.” The incorporation of these two influential women is essential to the movie’s message, as it helps to bring positive awareness to women in politics, which is a field where women are not always taken seriously. By incorporating these powerful women into the film as individuals to be looked up to, the film helps to show that young girls and teenagers can, and should, look up to leaders such as these.
Amy’s character is much quieter, yet she is still a leader. According to film critic Monica Castillo, the film goes much further than simply showing two women in lead roles: “it was just as refreshing to see it set in a high school that’s full of diverse students, different sexual orientations and gender expressions.” Amy represents the much needed acceptance and normalization of LGBTQ+ characters in film. This representation can be seen in her crush on a girl named Ryan and then her later hookup with a character named Hope. Amy’s crush and eventual hookup are never made a major deal and are depicted as normal. In a way, Booksmart celebrates the LGBTQ+ community with the same passion as LGBTQ+-genre films, albeit with an extra push towards casually integrating it into mainstream cinema.
Overall, Booksmart is a film that every person must see. It not only shows two powerful women as leads, but also touches on the true realities of growing up. It incorporates a diverse cast, which in prior years has typically not been the case. This film has helped to break down barriers in the representation of women in lead roles. However, these advances are just the start. Film needs to not only represent the voices of white women, but also the voices of women of color. Women belonging to the BIPOC community need to not only be cast in side roles, but also given voices as leads.