Every year there grows an increasing demand for representation in media, specifically the film industry. In 2020 a good handful of films will feature plots with female leads, and even predominantly female-led casts. While the general concept of representation is always welcomed, hopefully these upcoming films will embody feminist ideologies and work to rewrite and complicate the role of women in media.
This upcoming horror film, directed by Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz, stars Janelle Monae as Veronica, a successful author. Through supernatural circumstances, she’s thrown into an alternate reality within the film and must unravel the mysterious circumstances of her predicament before it’s too late. The film is set to release on April 24th, 2020.
From the same producer of Get Out and Us, Antebellum offers a mostly black cast and, based upon the short trailer, deals with racial politics in the context of the horror genre. With a black female lead, the film seems to be promising in regard to the scope of its social commentary, which will hopefully discuss the concept of misogynoir.
Promising Young Woman
Set to come out on April 17th, 2020, Promising Young Woman chronicles a revenge story against men, exacted by a woman who was traumatized in her youth. Directed by Emerald Fennell and starring Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, and Laverne Cox, the plot presents feminist ideals in the context of a crime drama.
According to the trailer, protagonist Cassandra Thomas lures men back to her apartment by acting as though she were nearly blackout drunk and then forces them to face the consequences of attempting to take advantage of an incapacitated woman. Whether she resorts to killing the perpetrators is not explicitly clear, but it is fairly obvious some kind of violent fate awaits the ill-willed men. This destructive plot incorporates feminist ideals in an interesting and refreshing context.
Birds of Prey
Fully titled Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, this film follows the path of Harley Quinn after her break up with the Joker post-Suicide Squad. Along with a girl gang composed of female superheroes Black Canary, Huntress, and Renee Montoya, Quinn embarks on a journey to save a young woman from the influence of crime lord Black Mask.
This majorly female-cast film is set for a February 7th release date, so it’s just around the corner. Despite the trailer’s heavy emphasis on “girl power,” it’s unclear whether the film will work to make a real feminist statement, or whether it will just fall back onto the unfortunate stereotype of feminine empowerment that lack dimension. With fingers crossed, Harley Quinn will be afforded some depth in her post-breakup destruction.
Wonder Woman 1984
Following up the success of the first Wonder Woman, this sequel continues the Amazon Princess’ journey, only in the context of the 1980s, rather than WWI. The trailer clearly emphasizes the temporal context of that era, featuring extremely stylized graphics as well as economic themes. The modern rendition of an 80s superhero film is an interesting take for Diana Prince’s journey.
What makes Gal Gadot’s role specifically interesting in this film is her established antagonist, Kristen Wiig’s Barbera Minerva (i.e. the Cheetah) and billionaire mogul Maxwell Lord. The former will be refreshing as a more diverse type of villain, rather than the constantly recycled concept of super woman versus evil man. This common battle of the sexes always also requires the heroine to defeat some sort of bias or sexism, which is quickly growing into a tired plot point for female heroes. It’s currently set to release on June 5th.
The Woman in the Window
This psychological thriller, based upon a novel of the same name, follows an agoraphobic woman (played by Amy Adams) who’s repeatedly scared to leave her home. Eventually protagonist begins to watch her new neighbors through the window to pass time and inadvertently becomes a witness to a violent crime. From the same producers as Gone Girl, the crime drama unfolds as Adams’ character attempts to solve the mystery of who done it.
The Woman in the Window, which comes out May 15th, interestingly situates the protagonist as both a helpless bystander and a player in the action. In this way, Adams’ character seems to embody an interesting dimensionality that female characters often lack in thrillers. Both her character and the narrative seem to be engaging and promising as a female-led film.
The Assistant, which will premiere on January 31st and was written and directed by Kitty Green, tells the story of a secretarial assistant to a high-level executive. Throughout her time at this job, Jane (Julia Garner), is made aware of the abuses of power and corruption that threaten her throughout the work place.
This film is interesting for how it takes place in the mundane context of an office job without situating the woman as a stereotypical “boss lady.” This trope, like so many others on this list, complicates the way in which women are so often portrayed as “feminist” renditions of corporate America at the expense of actual character development. Having already received lots of critical acclaim, The Assistant seems to be a promising entry in terms of female representation and the overall quality of suspense narratives.