I love inviting my psychotherapy clients to watch movies as homework between our sessions. I believe in the power of stories well-told to inspire and teach. Stories meet us where we are and invite us to take what we need at each telling.
I have turned to certain films over and over in my own life to infuse me with the courage to get up again.
As women, I believe we are immensely more powerful that we realize. Even as the film industry is deeply culpable for sustaining a powerless narrative for girls and women, particularly women outside the narrowly defined scope of idealized womanhood, yet some films manage to get some things right.
Here are 12 of my faves in no particular order…
Hidden Figures is fantastic for two reasons. One, women, particularly women of color, are the ones who get it done. Two, math and the space program.
I love Frida because she dared to break out of conventional norms by being immensely talented and she insisted on living in her sexuality on her terms, even as her body and her heart were broken. Plus, the cinematography is beautiful.
Elizabeth is the first of a couple films on this list that tell the story of women on the cusp of great leadership who are threatened by patriarchy. The future great queen had to hold on to herself and her own heart and mind in the face of deep betrayal and manipulation.
Moana is Disney really trying to get it right. Wonderful female lead character who must break free of convention to follow her heart and go on her great adventure, which, notably, does not include romance. I also love Moana as a therapist working with trauma. This tale is a lovely narrative about heading the call to face hard things in order to restore the heart. I find this mirrors the journey of trauma healing beautifully.
Wonder Woman is fun and empowering without explanation. I loved it because it was all strong, courageous women, all the time, directed by a woman, and respectful of women. The director went old-school by implying great violence (and some sex) without any gratuitous depictions of violence (and sex). The story had to carry the film and it carried it fabulously. This film is fun to watch with your girls. And you'll want to start working out afterward - not to lose weight, but to kick ass.
I love this film because it's clever and fun and what's not to love about Emma Stone? And there's great references to 80's high school movies. This is movie about standing up for female sexuality and sexual narrative belonging to women and turning sexual stigma on it's head. Oh, and Lisa Kudrow plays the worst school counselor EVER.
The Color Purple
The Color Purple is by far the heaviest film on my list. This film honors the deep horrors that women of color have endured, the hard choices that have to be made, and ways in which women create power for themselves and each other, even in the direst of circumstances. This is a film about courage and survival.
Out of Africa
This is a personal favorite. A true story about repeated betrayal and loss, Karen Blixen "had a farm in Africa" where she must find a way to build a life on her terms, even if it is a different one than the one she'd imagined.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
First of all, Star Wars. Second, Rey is a fantastic female character. They don't apologize for her. This is a film for believing in yourself, courage, and showing up no matter what.
Another great film for inspiration for navigating male dominated cultures. This is a film about knowing who you are and holding your ground, no matter what. As women, we are taught to submit to what others say we are, to be nice, to compromise. This is a movie about not that.
This is a total, just-for-fun, mindless-entertainment-yet-inspiring movie about being talented, coming back from injury and hooking up with the hot quarterback. Yes, she gets the guy, but it's her and her girls that get her to the competition.
As a female entrepreneur, I LOVED this film! Joy is about being smart, courageous, and believing in yourself and your mop.
There are many more films with strong female characters who show us how it's done. What are some of your faves?
As a therapist, mother, daughter, partner, and seeker, I am always on the journey toward a more peaceful, authentic life. I hope to share knowledge, insights, and the ongoing unknowns I find along the path...