The new trailers for Wreck-It Ralph 2 and The Lego Movie 2, released yesterday and today, respectively, featured extremely similar jokes regarding how their female characters are pushed to the side. Despite the writers' apparent recognition of this common trend in action and adventure movies, they still chose to push a male lead in each movie.
The Wreck-It Ralph 2 trailer features a scene which involves Vanellope von Scheetz (voiced by Sarah Silverman), female sidekick to protagonist Ralph, getting dropped in a room of many of Disney's most beloved and iconic princesses.
The group of highly-recognizable characters -- Belle, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Elsa, to name a few -- start to ask Vanellope what kind of princess she is. Vanellope responds in the negative to questions like: "Do you have magic hair?" "Do animals talk to you?" "Were you poisoned?" and other circumstances that were critical to the iconic princess' respective storylines.
But the final and ultimately determining question that allows the other girls to accept that Vanellope is a princess is: "Do people assume all your problems got solved because some big, strong man showed up?" When Vanellope answers with an enthusiastic "Yes! What is up with that?" the other princesses instantly relate, and exclaim "She is a princess!"
Meanwhile the Lego 2 trailer, released just a day later, made an awfully similar joke. While protagonist Emmett (voiced by Chris Pratt) and female sidekick/love interest Wyldstyle (voiced by Elizabeth Banks) encounter a villain, the duo's antagonist questions, "This guy is a fierce warrior?" Wyldstyle replies with, "Okay technically, I did the warrior stuff?" The villain's response echoes the sentiment of many a woman in the audience when she asks, puzzled, "So you fought, and masterbuilt, and kicked butt, and then the hapless male was the leader?"
While the the writers of both movies recognize that by using a highly competent and clever female character to help further the storyline of their chosen male protagonist, they are playing into a trend which frustrates female viewers -- yet they choose to make light of the trope rather than simply make a movie with a female lead.
A study done by The Hollywood Reporter found that only 3 percent of action films made in 2015 featured women as a lead character. Meanwhile, a study from Variety showed that 24 percent of films in 2017 featured female protagonists, a five point percentage drop from the previous year, and that that major studios are more likely to back comedies and dramas with female leads than they were action, horror, or animated movies.
Female side characters Vanellope and Wyldstyle consistently display the skill and competency necessary to move the plots of their respective films forward -- why couldn't they have been the protagonists?
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