Are there enough well-crafted, strong roles for women in films, and are films with women at the centre “niche”? These are some of the questions Hollywood’s key players have addressed – rather tiresomely – over the years. Last year in her Oscars acceptance speech, Cate Blanchett made it clear that there needs to be more films with women at the centre of the storyline. “Audiences want to see them, and in fact, they earn money,” she said. “The world is round, people.”
But in an industry that’s starting to address problem areas such as the gender pay-gap and the discrimination female stars regularly face, it’s welcoming to see that it’s not only women speaking out. Star of the cult favourites Spaced and the “Cornetto” trilogy, as well as Hollywood favourites Mission Impossible and Star Trek, Simon Pegg has now also voiced his concern that not enough is being done to reflect real women in movies.
Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Pegg said that although the film industry is recognising the lack of well-written female characters, the problem is not being addressed fast enough. “I personally don’t feel there are enough female voices in film,” Pegg said. “I hope that the recognition of the lack of well-written female characters will be followed by change.”
Pegg said that one of the problems was that film genres are often split into gendered categories. He singled out romantic comedies as being a genre that is often misunderstood by many as being “for women”, and that people should go and see films written by women, not to avoid them because they think they’re films “for girls”.
“Romantic comedies are about the dynamic between men and women – or men and men or women and women, depending on what the movies about. To say ‘oh I don’t want to go and see that because it’s a girls film’ is shutting yourself off from some big laughs,” the British star said.
Pegg said that this was part of his decision to star in the new romantic comedy Man Up and that he was thankful the film writer, Tess Morris, had written a female lead who was “honest and true.”
“Often in rom coms written by men, the female character will be some unattainable manic-pixie character, some male fantasy of what a woman is or should be… I like Tess’s voice, and I like she was writing a female character [Lake Bell’s role as Nancy] which has such a strong personality. There’s a rawness to it. She’s not a male fantasy.”
Pegg admitted that this was a problem he had faced with his own writing in the past. In Shaun of the Dead, a film Pegg wrote and starred in, he played the role of Shaun, a man who was struggling to revive his relationship with his girlfriend while battling a zombie uprising. When writing the role of Liz, played by Liz Ashfield, Pegg said that despite their intention to make her a “positive and strong” woman, he and Edgar Wright struggled to “step into the skin of a different gender” to write a convincing character.
“Me and Edgar [Wright] always said that our Achilles heel was writing women. I think with Shaun of the Dead, we worked so hard not to make Liz the voice of reason, or a drag, or an obstacle to Ed. Ultimately, the romance in Shaun of the Dead was about Shaun and Ed and not Shaun and Liz.”
Man Up is released in UK cinemas on 29th May.