These days, the term "feminist" gets thrown often — it seems like every other day, another celebrity announces her conversion to feminism or gets called out for her beliefs. Yet despite the word's popularity, it's rare to see a movie or TV show fully embody the term. One major film this summer, though, is just about as pro-women as it gets; the Meryl Streep-starring Ricki and the Flash, whose feminism is as major a part of the movie as that braid in Ricki's hair.
Penned by the Academy Award-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno), the film follows the familial misadventures of the titular could've-should've-would've rock star, played by Streep. In one defining scene of the movie, Ricki is performing a gig at her regular hole-in-the-wall bar after a less-than-desirable visit with her estranged children, who are angry at her for leaving them years ago to pursue her dreams of stardom. Distraught, Ricki starts talking to the crowd about her frustration with the fact that when men make mistakes as fathers, it's not considered nearly as bad as when women make mistakes as mothers. When a woman messes up, Ricki says, it makes her a monster, and the double standard often gets overlooked. It's an incredibly poignant speech that is shown to resonate strongly with many of Ricki's female audience members, but — surprise — produce eye-rolls from the men.
Watching the film, it was at this incredibly feminist moment that I realized that, after four movies and a TV show, Diablo Cody is one hell of a writer when it comes to creating smart, strong, and wonderfully feminist female characters. The women she writes are not beacons of hope or superheroes with glowing halos hovering over their heads; often, like Ricki, they're anything but role models. What they are is real, human beings who can be both terribly flawed and hugely likable, often at the same time.
As a longtime fan of Cody's work, I don't know why it took me so long to notice this, but it's a common thread among all of the writer's characters. From the start, she has been creating this Diablo-verse of women who stand for something more than their quirks and the snappy dialogue they speak. Her women present a new brand of feminist: the anti-heroine. Their flaws actually make them more relatable, because there's something supremely refreshing about seeing on-screen characters who aren't perfect, or even close.
With Ricki as the latest addition to her collection of feminist characters, let's take a look back at Cody's awesome anti-heroines.
1. Juno (2007)
The movie about a teen who had the confidence to do exactly what she wanted to do with an unexpected pregnancy made Ellen Page a star and put Cody on the map (and also won her an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay).
2. Jennifer's Body (2009)
The cheeky commentary on the dynamics of the relationships between teen girls wrapped in a campy horror flick didn't really get the love it deserved. I guarantee, the more you watch it, the more you'll enjoy it.
3. The United States Of Tara (2009-2011)
The Showtime TV series about a woman with dissociative identity disorder was a brilliant representation of all sides of the psyche — in both men and women.
4. Young Adult (2011)
Not many people took too well to the bitter and toxic YA author Mavis (a highly underrated performance by Charlize Theron), but if the same character were a man, my guess is that the masses would have eaten it up like candy.
5. Paradise (2013)
Cody's directorial debut received a modest reception, but the protagonist had all the greatness of one of her signature characters: she was rebellious, outspoken and, of course, gloriously flawed.
Cody's movies prove that feminism can take many forms, from women with strong moral values and no chips on their shoulders to women who binge on donuts, make scenes in public, and do whatever they want, regardless of consequence. There's no "perfect" heroine in the Diablo-verse, but rather just women who are as realistically flawed and complicated as their real-life counterparts. I can't wait to see what she gives us next.
Image: Sony Pictures