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Role Models: The Impact of Movie Heroines on My Life and Business

Film (and the portrayal of women in them) can have a huge impact on girls’ lives!

I grew up sitting in the dark (literally) on many occasions. Like Jim D’Arcangelo (sheBOOM concept creator and adivisory board member), I came from a “film family.” Watching the early 007 movies in the 1960s, I aspired to be a Bond Girl. They traveled to exotic places, had great bodies, and got to sleep with a handsome secret agent. Seemed like fun to me.

As I got older, my role models evolved. My own daughters grew up with Disney Princesses, who got ballsier every year — although they always had a love interest who made them all mushy (or they tackled a “bad guy project” — like the Beast). That seemed to change over time, however.

Because it’s movie/storytelling week at sheBOOM, I thought about the films I’ve seen over the years that I loved/remembered — not always because they were great cinema but because the women in them were inspiring in some way.  I love alliteration in my storytelling, so my picks fall into 6 main categories, all of which begin with “S” as in “Stars.”

  • Sex. Whether you’re doing the deed or not, how you view it is what separates strong independent women from the sex symbols of the sixties. Splendor in the Grass is an all-time fave. Although Natalie Wood goes insane after refusing to sleep with Warren Beatty’s character, they both end up happy. Also in the category of how women deal with sex and peer pressure are Juno and Easy A. I wasn’t really sure how to categorize this next one, and it was a hard film to watch, but What’s Love Got to Do With It was memorable because Tina finally dumped abusive Ike and continued to be a star. She’s sexy and a symbol of survival (see below).
  • Sports. Hollywood finally stopped portraying women athletes as mannish weirdos. I especially liked Love and Basketball and Bend it Like Beckham.
  • Survival. This is the broadest category. Of course I love those action flicks like Aliens and the Terminator when women beat incredible odds and stand tough, but among my other superwomen on film are Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz (who combats the flying monkeys and the wicket witch, helped the men she encountered to get their shit together, and learned to be nicer to Aunty Em), Scarlett O’Hara (who realized that real estate was more important than Rhett in the long run) and badass yet kind Katniss Everdeen, heroine of the Hunger Games, who has more sequels in her than Freddy Kreuger and looks way cooler on the red carpet.
  • Silliness. Although Tiny Fey, Kristin Wiig, and Melissa McCarthy have all made some stinkers, they make me laugh and prove that women can be attractive, talented, smart, AND funny.
  • Society. Women who go against the grain, speak up, and stand up for their rights (sometimes on a table — as you can see in the clip below) energize me. From Norma Rae to Precious (in the film of the same title) to the three math vixens in Hidden Figures, these women believe in themselves and beat the odds.
  • Sassy, Smart & Sustaining. Mildred Pierce is timeless. A woman bakes pies to support her family (including her bratty and undeserving daughter — but hey, mothers do crazy stuff for their kids). Tess in Working Girl is a smart and scrappy Staten Islander with big dreams, big ’80s hair, and a nasty-ass boss. She dumps her cheating boyfriend (played by Alec Baldwin) and sells a company on a huge idea with the help of a man who “gets” her…and winds up in the corner office without losing her soul and sense of sisterhood. All About Eve taught me that mentorship can backfire but that karma is always a bitch. Speaking of bitches, I wish the film and TV world would stop portraying women as cat-fighting, gossiping, and petty pinheads. We deserve better.  And, of course, I love watching Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren get smarter and classier every year. They stay strong as their hair turns silver.

Who are YOUR role models in the movies? sheBOOM would love to hear from women of all generations! Just comment below or get in touch about contributing an article!