The recently released “Ocean’s 8” contains one of the biggest ensemble female casts in recent memory, particularly for a film that isn’t a romance or comedy. The women in “Ocean’s 8” take on roles as female criminals — a position still considered relatively unconventional in Hollywood — and are more than able to hold their own against their male counterparts as they attempt to pull off a difficult heist.
These badass women aren’t acting in isolation; female criminals seem to be a trend in the world of cinema as of late. The film industry has always been interested in showing people what they want to see, and given society’s current feminist climate — what with women fighting for equal rights and movements like #MeToo — it only makes sense that moviemakers would try to appeal to the public’s love of female victory.
The formidable women of “Ocean’s 8” appear to be at the vanguard of a burgeoning trend of female dominance. Female criminals as leads are featured in the trailers for the upcoming films “Peppermint” and “Widows,” both set to premier in the fall. Both movies depict women taking the law into their own hands to serve their personal agendas.
“Peppermint,” starring Jennifer Garner, follows a woman whose quest for vengeance falls in line with plots the likes of “John Wick” and “The Crow.” Her husband and daughter are killed, driving her to go on a murderous streak to seek revenge against those that robbed her of her family.
Like in “Ocean’s 8,” the cast of “Widows” also dare to take on the law. A group of women’s husbands are killed by the police after they attempted to pull off a heist. After their deaths, the widows decide to finish the job their husbands started.
The common thread throughout these films is the relationship between the crimes these female criminals commit and their families. Rather than senselessly going on killing sprees or becoming criminals in a professional capacity, the women in these movies have a more personal connection to lawbreaking.
This personal touch makes the movies resonate more with the current audience. Many people feel as though women have been treated unfairly for many years now. Watching films where they take revenge can be a very satisfying experience for those that would like to see this happen more in reality.
Revenge-based satisfaction is what these films deliver on, and it leaves you wanting more. For example, although many are satisfied that men such as Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein have been called out for their crimes against women, there are still even more men who get away with little more than a slap on the wrist. Imagine if a film was made about someone getting revenge against Brock Turner, the student-athlete who sexually assaulted a young woman at Stanford University. Many would feel that his punishment was well-deserved, and would flock to the theaters to see it on the big screen.
“Peppermint” is the story of men getting away with crime and a woman being ignored as she attempts to get the men apprehended for said crime. The trailer features a scene with the protagonist, Riley North, on the stand in the courtroom giving her eyewitness testimony against the men that gunned down her husband and daughter. The vengeful mother is blatantly ignored and gaslighted by the men in the courtroom, and ultimately, the judge rules in favor of the gunmen.
The scene is reminiscent of the vast number of women that are ignored in today’s society when they speak out against men that have wronged them. Too often, one hears about a scenario just like this in the news when it comes to cases of rape and sexual harassment.
In real life, society often rallies around these victimized women. “Peppermint” seems to be very aware of this, as shown in the part of the trailer where one man notes that “social media is lit up with support for” Riley and that the public does not view her as a criminal because her violent actions can be viewed as righteous.
In contrast to the mother turned criminal in “Peppermint,” the four women in “Widows” commit crimes that do not ring with same sense of righteousness. Given that their husbands were criminals and died on the job, their entire situation seems less sympathetic and heartrending than that of a grieving mother.
Still, their story represents another age-old societal practice that women have been claiming to bare the responsibility of: cleaning up after men. This does not simply mean cleaning up messes in a Clorox and Windex sense. No, these women instead have to finish a robbery job started by their husbands before the people their spouses owed money to come after them for it.
Of course, all of the female criminals represent an exaggerated version of struggles that women are facing in real life. Even so, these movies are especially attractive because they relate to modern-day subject matter and make people feel empowered in a wish-fulfillment sense.
The making of these films also represent Hollywood breaking typecasts that once constrained the variety of roles women could play in films — particularly women of an older age. Looking at “Ocean’s 8,” “Widows” and “Peppermint,” one would discover that most of the leading women in these films — Jennifer Garner, Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Viola Davis and more — are over 40 years of age.
For much too long a time, women of this age would be relegated to more mundane roles as someone’s mother or a school principal. On the other hand, men over 40 still have a very large variety of exciting roles to choose from. The release of these new films involving female criminals are a clear attempt to end this double standard in Hollywood.
There is no denying that there’s simply something exciting about watching others partake in criminal activity. Audiences always get a kick out of it, and it is refreshing to finally see some female-centric films within the genre delivering on these thrills.
Hollywood seems to be taking a step in the right direction with their new releases for older female actresses. Although it may just be them taking advantage of a trend, it is still opening up more doors for women and giving audiences a broader selection of female portrayals to enjoy.