Does Strong Equal Masculine and Other Questions to Ponder at the 2014 DC Shorts Festival Festival

One of the biggest things I pay attention to whenever I watch any film is the portrayal of women. At this year’s DC Shorts Film Festival there are many great shorts featured that also explore this topic.

Whenever a woman needs to display strength in science fiction it is always through the lens of maleness.  Not only do these women possess the physical traits normally associated with masculinity, like budging muscles, they often possess the emotional and psychological attributes as well. They typically lack the ability to be nurturers and are usually full of rage. Does a woman have to be these things in order to be strong? Can’t there be strength in empathy, intuition, agility, speed, beauty? I mention beauty because, even though women in SciFi are highly sexualized, it is not usually through the definition of beauty that most would identify with femininity, such as softness, grace (not that these are ideal traits either).

I was thinking about this as I watched “A Special Day.” When the bride to be turned into her green, hulk-like, alter ego, the petite, thin, actress playing the role is replaced by an obviously male actor, who is significantly taller and (you guessed it) extremely muscle-bound. I don’t know if this was an intentional poke at the portrayal of women in Sci Fi but let’s hope so because that is all I could think about while watching the short.

DC Shorts Film Festival 2014

With so much attention being paid to the portrayal of women in media, it’s very easy to forget about the portrayal of men.  This is dangerous though because the only way women can be boxed in is if men are too. There must be a definition of maleness if there is a definition of womanliness.

The film “2:43” definitely stretched the gender boundaries. In this film, you get to see a man in pain, a man who is heartbroken and totally distraught because of betrayal. This is an image you almost never see. It was refreshing to see a man vulnerable and crying. It made me a little homesick for Colombia. I really miss the passion of the Latino culture, and the appreciation of that passion that emanates from Colombian society is addictive. While I was watching this short, I felt like I was instantly transported to the land I love.

Sometimes the social commentary on gender is obvious while other times its a bit hidden. Then, there are those that accidentally trip over a myriad of gender faux pas by seemingly being totally ignorant of the last century of female progress.

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