Maybe it’s true. Maybe we don’t know what we have until we’ve lost it. But, maybe it’s also true that we don’t know what we’re missing until we find it.A.A. Milne
It’s a moment that isn’t soon forgotten. You are watching a show or a movie and suddenly you come face to face with – yourself.
Let me back up. I’ve loved movies, books, fantasy worlds, and escapes from reality since day one. These stolen golden moments when I could pretend I was someone else, put myself into a different pair of shoes, and experience a different perspective, painted my childhood.
The heroes in these stories were all wonderful – and they were all something I could never be. They were tall, I was short. They had lustrous dark hair, I had frizzy red hair. They were well liked, I … wasn’t. They tended to be boys, I’m most certainly not. They had sharp cheekbones and clear skin, I’ve got more freckles than some people have hair.
Finding a female role model in a great story is hard. Women are rarely the main character. When they do appear they often are reduced to furniture for the main character to use, think about, and rescue. When a strong female character does enter a story, she is almost always dark haired, long-limbed, with clear skin. Anything different is a notable exception, not the norm.
The most recent Wonder Woman captures the hearts of mothers and daughters around the world because she is strong and good and real. But she matches the formula: she’s dark haired, with long legs, and clear skin.
I loved Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One in Doctor Strange because she breaks the rules of what a strong female character should look like.
A few weeks ago, for the first time in my life, I finally had my moment where I too felt represented in fiction.
At the end of Solo: A Star Wars Story, the masked Enfys Nest does her big reveal. Throughout the movie we’ve been led to believe she is a man. She wears a large disguise and hides her voice. She is tactical, ruthless, efficient, and has made things hard for our hero – so we aren’t sure if we should like her.
When the mask falls to the ground we see this stunning powerful woman with a mass of red curly hair and freckles.
And, ohmygosh ohmygosh ohmygosh, I finally get it. I had never encountered a powerful redhead in film until now. This is what representation means and why diversity is so important. Until recently entire populations of people have been excluded from being cast in powerful roles. This has got to change.
Until this moment I didn’t know what I was missing, because I had no idea there would ever be someone like me portrayed in film. Because of this moment, I intend to strive for greater diversity in future projects.
Everyone deserves a hero they can see themselves in.