The Token Female

You can agree with DickFlicks’ postulations about women in the movies or you can tell us to stick it where the sun don’t shine, but this one’s a gimme.  Everyone knows what a token character is, and everyone knows they run rampant in Hollywood.  They have little to no impact on the actual plot and are inserted in the story precisely for one purpose:  to be Black, to be Asian, to be Girl.

There’s a string of popular (and by that we mean common) Token Female characters, including but not limited to:

  • The Wife/Girlfriend/Love Interest, by far the most common
  • The Ex
  • The Hooker/Slut/Morally Questionable Hottie
  • The Mother (sometimes doting, sometimes a minion from Hades)
  • The Nagging Mother-In-Law
  • The Aggressive Bitch
  • The Rape Victim
  • The Sister
  • The Evil Witch
  • The Hormonal Pregnant Chick
  • The Bimbo

We could go on.  We won’t.  But notice how many of them have to do with sex (Love Interest, Hooker, Rape Victim, Pregnant Chick) or harsh and unpleasant qualities (Nagging, Hormonal, Evil, Aggressive)?  This is not to say that male stereotypes don’t occur; they do, and often.  But with the sheer preponderance of male versus female roles, there simply aren’t a lot of fleshed-out female characters loitering around.

Take “American Gangster,” an excellent film from director Ridley Scott.  In a cast of over one hundred credited actors, approximately 37 are female.  That sounds impressive until you realize that about 20 are mostly-naked strip club entertainers with no lines (Hooker category).  Of those remaining, a number are throwaway roles for which female anatomy is a prerequisite: a bevy of fully naked drug workers, several sex toys for one of the leading men, someone simply named “Tango’s Woman, all of whom fit the Morally Questionable Hottie type.  To Scott’s credit, there are also a couple of throwaways that could easily have been Male-Unless-Otherwise-Specified but aren’t (Real Estate Broker, Social Worker, Assistant Prosecutor, Proctor).

The handful of women that actually have a hand in the plot, then, are Mama Lucas (Doting Mother), Eva (Loving Wife), Laurie (Angry Ex), and Redtop (Aggressive Bitch and Morally Questionable Hottie in one).  Hmm.

Thirty-plus women in a massive cast.  Perhaps Ridley Scott should have taken a lesson from the director of “Gladiator,” who efficiently packed all those same Token Females into just three roles.  Who was that director again?

Share this page with your friends!