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The most common narrative of mainstream films is patriachal an disadvantageous to females over male.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/3/2015 Category: Society
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 513 times Debate No: 72676
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (8)
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"narrative" - By this I mean the story line, and particularly the roles of characters in that story line and their relevant genders. This includes the effect of characters actions on the plot, and the personalities, power, depth and relateability of the characters in light of their genders.

"Most common" - I think we should focus on more recent films, but its okay to mention older films.

"Mainstream" - self explanatory, I don't have a scientific way to categorise this so we will have to go with reason. The reason that I want to leave out low budget films and ones that are made with only a small following is because these films often go in the face of the mainstream and are thus not the topic of this discussion. This is because I believe that there is an angenda to subjugate women (not part of this debate!) and this agenda is pursued by mainstream media, not everybody else, so I would like to keep this debate about box office films that are watched by the masses.

"Patriachal" - Men are typically in the most powerful positions in the story. In regards to the plot, men also have the most influence on its direction. Males also tend to be the characters that one is supposed to relate to most, and the ones that are to be looked up to, and that are the master villans. Female characters typically don't hold many positions of authority.

"Disadvantageous to females over males" - watching one film that is patriachal and lacks good female role models every now and again, is probably not very harmful. When the majority of films are this way, and the culture is so heavily influenced by what films portray, then femals are disadvantaged over males because of their lack of strong, positive role models. Also, males are effected to in that they don't respect women as much as they would if they where portrayed equally by the media.

Another note. This debate is about a cultural effect on the majority of people in the general population, I'm aware that most men admit they respect women, this effect (by the film industry) is very subtle. I don't mean one watches a film, then rapes a woman! I'm saying that the media, in the context of mainstream films, has little positive influence on women and may in fact be disadvantageous to women.

I believe there is a strong message to men to be dominant, aggressive and generally to look for violent solutions to problems more predominantly that other solutions. I think traits like altruism, intelligence and compassion, are less encouraged than toughness and social dominance. This is bad for men too, but im arguing that females get the raw end of the deal.


Thanks for the challenge, Tommy! I love debating stuff like this, as I feel the feminist agenda is detrimental to the whole of North America, and this falls under that category. However I will stick to this topic instead of bringing up feminism as much as I can, lol.

I don't want to really bring up a bunch of stuff right away, but I do have a couple points I wish to make.

The first point is addressing your final statement. You said "I believe there is a strong message to men to be dominant, aggressive and generally to look for violent solutions to problems more predominantly that other solutions." - This is a bad thing. No matter how you look at it, heading straight for a violent solution is not a good thing, and this is how men are portrayed in movies. HOWEVER... I'm not complaining about this because this is what movies are for - entertainment. If Bruce Willis and the owners of the Nakatomi Plaza in Die Hard (1988) simply negotiated with the terrorists, it wouldn't be that fun of a movie to watch. John Wick (2014) is a prime example of a "nothing movie" (a phrase I made up) - some mobsters kill a guy's dog and take his car, and he ends up killing dozens of people because of it. However there is one part in the movie that I want to point out - the female villain. John mercilessly executes and murders dozens of men, but as soon as a woman attacks him, he doesn't kill her. He fights with her, like any action movie, but he DOESN'T KILL HER. Now say this is part of the plot, to get her to come back for more later, but either way, this is a recurring theme in most action movies. Dozens if not hundreds of men are brutally murdered and/or tortured, but as soon as a woman is involved, nobody can kill her, they choose not to, or they kill her quickly, and usually feel bad about it. Most women in action movies are not killed like the men, and almost all women in action movies are amazingly strong and incredibly fighters, almost better than the men.

And let's also point out the amount of women with lead roles in action movies [1] - dozens in the last decade. So women represent strong lead roles plenty, taking away from the idea of a patriarchal narrative of most mainstream films.

Moving away from action films, box-office hits also have plenty of strong female leads. The Titanic, Silence of the Lambs, Fargo, the Alien series, and many more [2], some arguably the top films ever made, all have strong female leads, and the women are usually a lot more "put-together" than men, once again taking away from a patriarchal narrative.

I'm not too sure what else I should bring up now, but women in general aren't looked at as inferior to men in most movies. Look at Dumb & Dumber for example - two idiotic guys and an intelligent woman. Most guys are laughed at if anything bad happens to them or if they're stupid. Not a lot of women are portrayed as stupid or inferior and not a lot at all are expendable in action movies.

So on to you, so I can see what makes you think the most common narrative or mainstream films is patriarchal.



Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for accepting and I really look forward to this debate. Good luck!

So firstly, I say the narratives are patriarchal because overall they contain significantly fewer females, and those females are of significantly less importance. This for me, is almost the definition of patriarchy. I ask my opponent to explain why such a narrative is not partiachal.

Secondly: I will atteempt to explain why, or in what way, I think women are disadvantaged by mainstream films, as this is the main argument.

How women are disadvantaged:

1. They have less role models.
2. They have less positive role models.
3. They are encouraged to feel like looks are the most important asset they have.
4. The role models are typically beautiful and beyond the average persons physical attractiveness, effecting the self image girls have due to social comparison.
5. Do to a lack of respectable female role models, males aren't encouraged to respect women very much, resulting in females finding it harder to earn respect from their male acquaintances. This results in difficulty getting jobs/promotions, domestic violence and sexual violence towards women, which is widespread and a 'mans issue', not a women's issue.

1. Less role models: Have you heard of the Bechdel test? If I was to ask how many films had more than two male characters that talk to each other, you would rightly say every single one. Now, the Bechdel test asks three questions regarding the role of women on films: 1. 'Is there more than one female character with lines?' : 2. 'Do the two talk to one another?' : 3. Is it about anything other than their men?' Sounds extreme doesn't it? Well 42% of films fail this test (1). Writer Charles Stross noted that about half of the films that do pass the test only do so because the women talk about marriage or babies (1). This test illuminates to a degree, the extent to which females are underrepresented in films.

2. Less positive role models results in lower self-esteem. This is due to people not 'seeing themselves' in people they admire. According to the looking glass self theory, people learn a lot about who they are through observing others and essentially copying the behaviour of those they admire, whilst specifically not doing that which undesirable characters do. Having people on screen that are both relatable and courageous, encourages one to copy that behaviour to be like the person they admire-in an attempt to be admired. Women cannot relate to male characters in the same way men can, and vice versa. So when the vast majority of films have no courageous, relatable and positive female role models, and a disproportionate number of male characters are positive and relatable, you may find that females are disadvantaged over males due to lack of self-esteem though lack of positive role models. I know there are some courageous and 'good' female role modes in some films, but apart from being scarce, they are nearly always supermodels and 'tougher than men' as you put it, and so less realistic or relatable. Indeed, further distancing the 'ideal' woman from an achievable reality.

3. Most female characters and almost all 'respectable' female characters, are far beyond the average woman's physical attractiveness. The representation is incredibly unrepresentative of reality. This fact, and the fact that female characters are defined by their relationship with the male characters, further encourages the obsession with looks. 'Looks' are women's (and mens) efforts to appear worthy. Because many males in films are not particularly attractive, but still offer some positivity (e.g. 'Brains', master villain, wise old man or the funny guy), it suggests to men that looks aren't the 'be all and end all'. However for women, the picture is different. Un attractive women are very rarely used in films, unless on the contrary, to ridicule such people (not necessarily on the basis of their looks, 'low-status' representations of people are often portrayed by 'unattractive' characters). Ugly women are nearly always dopey, clumsy, no-fun and strict, or just lacking in social skills. This lack of female role-models-that are honoured for traits other than their beauty or their relationship with a special man-doesn't offer any encouragement to be good at anything, except being attractive. Unattractiveness for women, is linked purely with negativity, where for men, its not entirely the case (Ricky Gervais, countless 'hard-men', Jim Carey). For they rarely see any positive, relatable role models exhibiting, or being uniquely respected for, traits other than beauty. If we don't show females to be respectable for being wise, funny, good leaders, uniquely talented e.t.c then they are far more limited than men in their efforts to be successful. I know the T.V doesn't literally force anybody to do anything, but stories provide a cultural narrative that influences our self-image significantly. If that narrative is that women don't play any role, other than their relationship with males, then females are less encouraged to do anything else of value. This is disadvantageous to them because they are less encouraged to do anything of value, and manipulated to obsess over their physical appearance. A statistic showing that more importance is given to women's attractivness than men's is: 40% of women in films considered 'sexy attire' compared with 7% of men. (3).

4. Because the few positive female role models are unreprestivitve of normal women in respect to their physical attractivness, this can have a detrimental effect on women's self esteem. For instance, just reading a magazine for 60 seconds reduces self esteem in 80% of women (3). This is not film, but the factor effecting self esteem is considered to be the social comparison with the unreachable role model and the inadequacy felt at not reaching this standard. So those few positive female role models, may largely be detrimental to women's self esteem in some respects.

So for instance, a family might watch Star Wars: the little boy dresses like a Jedi and see's himself (somewhat unconsciously) as a person capable of saving the universe. The girl however might be considered strange if she dressed like the Jedi, but the only woman is the queen who essentially is the Jedi's 'prize' for saving the universe. What can she play? I know its not scientific, but I ask the readers to consider for a moment what they would do if they where this girl.


First text : I think you make two points here: the first is about the necessity of the inclusion of violence for 'entertainment', but this is not relevant to the debate (I don't think you meant it to be so, I was just pointing it out because I would absolutely love to debate this with you another time and I would love to debate more with you about your views on feminism, but il talk to you in comments). It was however relevant to the point I made regarding men, but this was not really relevant anyway I think (if you think it was just say next round and il respond). The second point, and I think your only intentional point (correct me if I'm wrong), was that women are treat less violently than men and so are more revered.

This may be true, but it does not necessarily encourage female respect. It may encourage the idea that hurting women is bad, and this is good. But consider the other people who would not typically be violently killed: the elderly, children and invalids perhaps? All these people are not necessarily spared out of respect, I think it's more likely because they are considered less capable of defending themselves. They are considered 'to fragile', for it to be fair to treat them equally. One should instead be honourable and 'feel sorry' for women, and have mercy on the weak. It's good to encourage non-violence towards women, but it also encourages a feeling of superiority over women, in that they (men) should 'go easy' on them.
You say "most women are not killed like men in action movies": I agree, this suggests that this idea of 'going easy' on women is widespread.

Your next point is that in recent years there has been loads of positive female characters. I agree that some films break the mould; but I'm arguing that their is even a mould, and that its shaped thusly! Haha. But check out this headline: "Films that pass the Bechdel test plummet in 2014". According to the Guardian, only 54% of films in 2014 passed this ridiculously simple test(2). So yes, Frozen and some more films might be better, but half the films made didn't have two proper female characters in. I don't know if I need say more. Does this not shock you?

Your next point is that many box office films (Alien, SOL, Titanic) have positive female role models. I don't agree that 'many' box office films do, but some clearly do, but is this not too few? According to Mark Harris of Entertainment Weekly, "if passing the (bechdel) test were mandatory, it would have jeopardized half of the 2009 Academy Award for Best Picture nominees" (1). My argument is not that there is no positive female role models at all, its that there are significantly less than male ones and they are of less calibre.





Thanks, Tommy.

Having fewer of something does not mean much of anything at all. However, I'd like to see what genres you're talking about where females aren't represented nearly as much as men. Action movies I can understand men usually making up the majority of the cast considering it's mostly men going to see action movies, and men tend to be more physically fit to be able to perform some of the extreme stunts involved in these movies. And keep in mind, the directors and Hollywood and the movie industry in general makes movies to appeal to the general audience of that genre. It's understandable that action movies contain more men than women, this has nothing to do with a "patriarchy" or something showing that men are superior or anything degrading to women. I'm sure Hollywood would rather make money than make arguably boring movies by representing every single group of people equally.

Regarding other genres, romance, horror, comedy, crime, fantasy, etc... women are actually represented quite well.

Romantic films [1] - Women play the lead role in most of these, and almost all have a strong female cast. That is because women are the target audience for romance films.

As you can see from here [2], men and women have a pretty different taste in movies. For the men, five of the entire list of 25 movies are not action movies, whereas the first five movies of the women's list are not action movies. This tells us something; men like action movies more than women. So it would make sense for the producers of action movies to have a mostly male cast, so the male audience can relate.

Same for women. The movies geared toward females - The Devil Wears Prada, The Notebook, The Princess Diaries, etc, have a mostly female cast.

I think the main thing to keep in mind regarding cast is that the narrative of the movie is not "patriarchal" if the cast consists of mostly men. Men simply fit the roles of the movie more than women, and people in general still end up liking the movie. Action movies are just very popular, and the demographic that watches action movies are mainly men, so it makes sense to have a relatable cast. This is not, in any way, reflective of a patriarchal narrative. And if you watch most of these movies, the women in these movies tend to be smarter and better combatants than most (if not all) of the men. So if anything, being a minority only shows that it takes one woman to outsmart and outfight the men. This is pretty much the exact opposite of what you're trying to point out.

Now let's get to business.

How women are not disadvantaged:

1. "Less role models" is both wrong and irrelevant. There are over a million on IMDB alone, and although there are over two million males, with numbers like these, and taking into consideration of the types of popular movies (action/adventure) there are plenty of each, and I can guarantee there are enough female role models and male role models. Having more male characters in movies does not make the movie industry or movie narratives "patriarchal." Also, women talking to each other or not does not automatically make the movie's narrative patriarchal... Take Edge of Tomorrow [3] for example - there's pretty much only one woman in the whole movie (there's more than one), but she's right away shown to be far superior both physically and mentally than all the men in the entire movie. Last time I checked, having a woman be superior in pretty much every way to every single man is not really part of the patriarchy at all.

2. Same as before. Less does not mean patriarchy. It simply means there aren't as many female roles in movies, and again, seeing as the most popular movies are action movies, it makes sense that there aren't. Female movie-goers still have plenty of female role models to choose from, and if we take action movies out of the picture, something that isn't top priority to most women anyway, I can guarantee that number balances out pretty quickly.

3. This is just wrong, and the exact same thing could be said about guys. Most male characters are ripped, have a chisseled jaw, and are more physically fit than most men in general. Two of the top three movies mentioned in your (extremely biased) link are The Dark Knight and Iron Man. I would say these are not "chick flicks," so this is Hollywood's way of attracting the attention of males, who are the leading movie-goers to these types of movies. And regarding Twilight, whatever his name is has his damn shirt of every five seconds, and there's no real reason he has to do that other than getting the attention of the female audience. Face it, either way, men and women in movies are attractive, and in some cases unrealistically attractive. Considering this happens to both men and women, it is not disadvantageous strictly to women, and therefore not patriarchal.

4. Taking into the simple fact that men are also portrayed as "overly attractive" in most media sources, it would make sense to relate the two. Women's self esteem is shown to drop when she sees the attractive woman, well so do men's when they see the attractive man. Once again, this is a aspect that "affects" both men and women, and is therefore not patriarchal.

I suck with Star Wars, but look at what you said. You bring all your attention to the girl, saying she can't dress like the male Jedi. Then you go on to say the only character she can dress as is the queen, because it fits her "gender stereotype" per se. You completely leave out the boy's side. What if he wants to be the prize, rescued by someone? He can't dress up as the queen just like the girl can't dress up as the Jedi. It's equal, and once again, not patriarchal. One more thing - if you look at the newest Star Wars movie, [4], you'll see there's several more female cast members. And let's not forget that chart I brought up a while ago, [2], where was Star Wars on the women's side? Tied for number eleven. Where was it for the men? Number one. So once again, it makes sense to have a few more male cast members, considering it's males that tend to like this movie.

5. Unfortunately I fail to see a correlation between women in film and a lack of respect from their male acquaintances. However the points you brought up, domestic violence, sexual violence, and difficulty getting jobs/promotions, is definitely not a "man's issue," as it's basically plastered on every major media outlet that women make 77% of what men make, that there is help hotlines and hundreds of women's shelters to very few (if any at all) men's shelters. So no, it's not a man's issue, it's listed as a women's issue, when it should just be an issue in general, not specific to one particular gender. However I fail to see how the media, or lack of female representation in movies, plays a role in this.

Rebuttals to your rebuttals!

The reason I brought up violence and entertainment is to just point out that violence is entertaining to men. And most violent films are watched by males, and therefore have a male cast (asides from Kill Bill, Divergent, Lucy, Salt, The Hunger Games, Colombiana, Tomb Raider, Charlie's Angels, The Heat.... you get the idea).

You make good points, showing how it may seem like the lack of violence against women may show that men are "going easy on the weak," but then you have to ask yourself a question... which is it? When women are killed in movies, it's a horrible scene, and people are outraged (I know this isn't a movie, but take a look at GTA5 being banned in Australia for having the option to kill females...), and if they aren't killed, then men are "going easy on the weak." However, I think it's reasonable to believe the common narrative to movies which involve a man and woman fighting is not that "women are weak, therefore go easy on them," but more along the lines of just "it's generally wrong to hurt a woman." ...Even if she's trying to kill you. Which may sound ridiculous, but that's the feeling I get whenever watching a movie where a man has the option to kill a woman and he doesn't.

Movies in general not passing this test is (in my opinion) irrelevant to a patriarchal narrative. What exact movies did not pass? Django? The Expendables? The Last Stand? Machete? In other words, mindless action movies that men tend to like? I wonder what the results were to be if I found out how many romance movies have male cast members only for eye candy or for women to fight over? Once again, men like action movies, and having more of a male cast is more relatable, therefore drawing in the target audience. If you take out every action movie, I can guarantee you that percentage of movies that pass the Bechdel Test would skyrocket.

Although I do agree there are less female cast members, they are not of less calibre than the males, and this is shown in the movies I've listed above (Salt, The Hunger Games, etc).

I see a recurring point - the Bechdel Test. This test states that only a little more of half the films of 2014 have two females who talk to each other about something other than men. There's a couple things I don't like about this test.

1. It does not state a single movie that failed the test. Looking at the top films of 2014 [5], I can guarantee the first page (50 movies) only have a couple that failed, and that's because they're mindless action movies geared toward men. I don't watch a lot of chick flicks, but I can guarantee plenty of those don't have two hot guys discussing something other than women.

2. Movies geared toward men won't have dialogue like this just like movies geared toward women won't have two men talking about something other than a woman.

Well thanks for a good first round, looking forward to the rest!





Debate Round No. 2


Tommy.leadbetter forfeited this round.


Mister_Man forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


Tommy.leadbetter forfeited this round.


Well considering nothing has happened other than in the first round, I'll quickly summarize my points. I've also been really sick for whatever stupid reason and don't have the energy to care enough about typing up a thought-provoking response or concluding argument.

1. Although there are more men than women in the film industry, this does not imply a "patriarchy." Having more of something is neither advantageous or disadvantageous, it's simply quantity.

2. Speaking of quantity, the female roles in movies tend to hold more quality over quantity than the male's roles. Although there aren't as many female roles in most box-office hits (which are usually action films, something men like to watch more than women), the female characters in these movies tend to be overall more put-together than the men. The men are usually expendable, whereas the women are not. The women tend to be smarter. The women tend to be better people in general. So sure, there are more men than women, but the women tend to portray a "better" persona than the men.

3. Speaking of box office, let's take a look at 2014's lineup [1]. American Sniper (sigh) was number one - and surprise, it was an action movie, geared toward men. The Hunger Games was number two, also an action movie, however the lead role is played by a girl, and I'd say the ratio of male:female cast is pretty even. #3-#17 are basically all action movies. Gone Girl is #18, and although there is pretty much just one lead female character in the whole movie, she outsmarts all the guys. My point is that primarily men like action films, which is why it's primarily men that make up the cast of action films. If you took the action/adventure category out of your poll, the ratio of men:women in movies in general would even out a lot more.

4. Eye candy. Everyone in movies is eye candy. There's attractive women and attractive men, that's how hollywood works. I'm not too sure what they were thinking with Bella from Twilight, but hey I never liked that series anyway so I couldn't care less. The main thing I'm trying to say is that attractive people are picked for roles in movies more than unattractive people, so to focus on the women over the men in this aspect is ridiculous and biased and whatever else.

I'd keep going but I'm tired and would like to go to sleep without having to work my brain too hard first. The Canucks beat the Flames in an awesome game so I'm still happy from that, so I shall thank you for this debate while I'm still in a good mood. So thanks.

Debate Round No. 4
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by Mister_Man 1 year ago
No worries man, I've been busy and sick and not feeling like getting on this site much anyway. Shoot me a message and maybe we could figure something out in the future. Good luck with whatever's going on.
Posted by Tommy.leadbetter 1 year ago
im very sorry for forfeiture, a lot came up all at once. I would love to take this debate up with you again once this is sorted (a month or so). I apologize and hope to debate with you again soon.
Posted by Mister_Man 1 year ago
Thanks for the challenge, I'll accept in a couple hours. Don't worry, I haven't left lol.
Posted by Tommy.leadbetter 1 year ago
I have changed the opening statement slightly, only the final paragraph and a little on the second to last one.
Posted by Mister_Man 1 year ago
You act as if you aren't the instigator lol, third person is cool too though. Go check out a couple of the feminism/patriarchy debates I've done, I'm serious about this and I find it detrimental to the whole of society to consider most mainstream movies to contain a patriarchal narrative which is disadvantageous to females. This is not portrayed in very many movies at all, and in fact women are "worshipped" to a degree, considering women aren't injured as much as men, and men can even be considered "disposable" in most movies. Rape scenes involving man on man are sometimes even laughed at or joked about in movies, whereas rape scenes involving man on woman are taken extremely seriously and are actually hardly ever depicted in general.

I don't want to go too far into detail here as I'd just give away my arguments, but I'm serious about taking up this debate :)
Posted by Tommy.leadbetter 1 year ago
It's just an intended barrier to stop just anybody accepting. Many people do it on this site, just say a few things in the comments and the instigator will choose the most worthy opponent based on their philosophies and basically just who will give the best debate.
Posted by Mister_Man 1 year ago
I would love to accept, it won't let me accept though for whatever reason.
Posted by Himans45 1 year ago
I would accept, although I don't meet the criteria.
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