The film industry has been a male-dominated realm for too long and have proven time and again how men do not know how to write women. They have always inherently sexualised female characters or presented them as mere love interests that perish under the searing male gaze.
With the advent of increased female representation, both behind and in front of the camera, gender roles and stereotypes have been subverted. Women have reclaimed their agency and managed to work in collaboration with men to write female characters who are complex, layered, strong yet vulnerable.
After years of lack of recognition, this talented legion of women is finally taking control of their creative agency and creating masterpieces, leaving an indelible impact in the industry. Gifted, bold and proud, their feminist voices rage for representation, diversity and inclusivity across all genres.
Netflix has a fair share of representation and has constantly emphasised the importance of paying importance to the growing talent across all genders and spectrum. They have tried relentlessly to be diverse and inclusive and that has resulted in some brilliant films and shows.
To celebrate the spirit of International Women’s Day, here we take a look at five women who have objectively made the Netflix viewing experience better:
5 women who made Netflix content better
An acclaimed director, producer and writer, Rhymes is the first-ever Black woman to have executive produced a Top 10 network show. She is also the first woman to nail three hit shows with more than 100 episodes each. Known for shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, Station 19 and more, Rhimes became a phenomenon on Netflix with her multi-project deal with the streamer. She is known for her bold and unabashed portrayal of families, relationships, love, sex and her fixation with salacious murders and true-crime stories.
In 2020, Rhimes produced the Regency-era masterpiece show, Bridgerton, on Netflix that amassed a whopping 82million viewership in the first month of its release. The show is coming back for a second season this month and has already been renewed for a third and fourth season. Recently, Rhimes served as the showrunner for the riveting limited series Inventing Anna and is gearing up for other releases. Known for advocating gender and racial rights, she called out the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in 2021 for the lack of diversity and representation in the jury who decided the Golden Globe Award winners.
Ava DuVernay is a creative force to reckon with. An acclaimed director, filmmaker, producer and writer, DuVernay is the first-ever Black woman to direct a $100million budget film and the first-ever Black female filmmaker to receive a Golden Globe nomination. She is celebrated for her works like Selma, A Wrinkle in Time, Queen Sugar, When They See Us, 13th and Mudbound, of which 13th and Mudbound are now streaming on Netflix. Vocal about the gender and racial disparity in the industry, she, too, spoke up against the lack of diversity in the HFPA.
DuVernay’s latest 2021 limited series on Netflix, Colin in Black & White, traced NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s career trajectory towards greatness while dealing with race, class, and culture issues. Her works are essential in understanding the African American experience, and she is a formidable voice in the film industry.
A well-known actor and producer, Sandra Oh, created ripples in the industry as Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy, celebrated for its brilliant inclusivity in diversity and representation. Besides her upcoming release Umma, Oh played the titular character on Killing Eve, followed by her brilliant performance in the Netflix show, The Chair. Oh, played the first female and non-white chair of the English department at the fictional Pembroke University. This led to dissent from the inherently patriarchal and white seniormost colleagues and detailed the Asian American experience.
Oh is celebrated for serving as an inspiration to young Asian American men and women. She has paved the way for herself in the industry and has received critical acclaim for her brilliance. She is admittedly excited about the opportunities for representation her roles have opened up. She said, “Come see the characters that I’m playing that are much more deeply integrated in the Asian American experience.”
American actress Maggie Gyllenhaal has established her legacy in the film industry with films like Secretary, Donnie Darko and other movies and shows. However, with her directorial debut, she proved her true genius. The 2021 Netflix Original film, The Lost Daughter, stars Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson, Peter Sarsgaard and others. Helmed by Gyllenhaal, the film is based on Elena Ferrante’s eponymous novel. Gyllenhaal subverts the tropes related to motherhood and presents a poignant and heartwrenching tale of an “unnatural mother”.
While Colman and Buckley revel in their brilliance, Gyllenhaal’s creative vision helps bring forth unsettling truth via sublime cinematography and intimate lens angles. Gyllenhaal has received a lot of praise, awards, and accolades. She redefines the female gaze and uses silence and disturbing tension to reexamine the societal expectations burdening mothers.
Korean filmmaker and writer, Park Heyon-Jin is known for Like for Likes, Lovers of 6 Years etc. However, her latest 2022 Netflix endeavour, Love and Leashes, has been groundbreaking in S&M films. Films that depict power play and BDSM usually end up sexualising the characters (especially women), objectifying them and creating dangerous environments that encourage harmful non-consensual sexual behaviour. However, Park’s audacious foray into the BDSM genre has garnered praise online due to the brilliant championing of consent, limits and kink negotiation.
With the power play being subverted and different from films like Fifty Shades of Grey, the characters in Park’s film understand the meaning of consent. Given how conservative Korean society is, Park’s courage shines through her seductive dabble in this genre. She presents an educational film that does away with the stereotypes surrounding BDSM and emphasises the importance of contracts and consent.