When it comes to favourite female characters on-screen, what Hollywood insiders, both male and female, are looking for appears to be very much the same. If we are to go by a recent online poll conducted by The Hollywood Reporter, industry professionals like their leading ladies strong, passionate and a little quirky.
Recently, THR ran an industry poll, with editors asking 1,800 Hollywood professionals — including actors, writers, directors and producers — to select their favourite fictional female characters in film and television.
Perhaps not surprisingly, it was a character who embodies all three aforementioned qualities who came out on top. Playing off Daniel Radcliffe’s blankness, Emma Watson’s Hermione Granger brought some much-needed personality to the Harry Potter movie franchise. With her take-charge attitude, intelligence and sense of adventure, Hermione resonated with industry men and women, who both viewed her as the true star of the film series.
While the poll was skewered towards more modern fare at the top end, certain classic performances found their way into the top 50. The feel-good fun of the Hollywood musical was represented by Julie Andrews, who featured twice in the poll for her starring turns in Mary Poppins and The Sound Of Music. But pollsters were just as taken by the zany antics of Julia Louis-Dreyfus (the only other performer to feature twice in the poll) who, as Elaine Benes in Seinfeld and Selina Meyers in Veep, has none of Andrews’ patented sweetness and light, but copious amounts of chutzpah and wit.
An interesting find was that when it came to obvious ‘star’ characters, these didn’t necessarily outshine their on-screen peers who were often positioned further left of field in the grander picture. For example, while Courteney Cox’s ‘Monica’ of Friends came in at 47 and Jennifer Aniston’s ‘Rachel’ at 29, it was Lisa Kudrow’s irony-laden ‘Phoebe’ who won the higher number of votes, only just missing out on making it into the top ten.
Looking at how the industry voted in crunched numbers is rather interesting. Hollywood agents, for example, generally loved the character of Phoebe Buffay; producers picked Selina Meyers; executives had a thing for down-on-her-luck superhero Jessica Jones; and in regards to how the sexes voted, men admired Meryl Streep as magazine mogul Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada while women rooted for Emily Bett Rickards’ as Felicity Smoak in Arrow.
A quick skim through the list reveals the extremes of characters who have either made us laugh lots or had battled a host of life’s problems, as if it’s either all fun and games or doom and gloom in real life, which of course is not the case. Some ‘middle ground’, while it might sound boring, would actually paint a more realistic picture.
Going forward, let’s hope industry professionals will do more to show their support for female performers than by just taking part in an online poll. Like Hermione (and to be forced to use a fantastical analogy) Hollywood must face down evil forces and take action.
It’s also worth noting that many of the roles highlighted are set in an historic environment (egs: Mad Men, Game Of Thrones) or fantastical to the point of being, well, not very credible (The Hunger Games, Star Wars). It would be nice to see more substantial roles for women where credibility plays a part, so as to allow for a new stream of positive role models for the next generation. After all, while Lena Dunham’s lead in Girls, and Ellen Page’s turn as titular Juno might represent ballsy chicks taking on life’s growing pains and the tribulations that come with adulthood, there’s got to be more to the post-feminist movement than possession of a sassy attitude and a foul mouth. Chris Prindiville and Antonino Tati
For the full list of which fictional female characters made into THR’s Top 50, click here.