We all know that entertainment is largely about human connection. Sure, we all like a little escapism too, but mostly I think we want to see a character in a book or on the screen and recognize something in them that we know about ourselves. Unfortunately, some people might get caught up in the whole gender thing, and leave their empathy at the door for the opposite sex. More specifically, according to Beauty and the Beast's Emma Watson, men won't watch female-led films because they can't relate. And while that makes loads of sense, it's also relatively unacceptable.
Watson said in an interview with Marie Claire Australia that she believed it was hard for men to empathize with female protagonists in movies because they weren't able to identify with them:
It's something they're not used to, and they don't like that ... Anything that deviates from the norm is difficult to accept. I think if you've been used to watching characters that look like, sound like, think like you, and then you see someone [unexpected] up on the screen, you go, "Well, that's a girl, she doesn't look like me. I want it to look like me so that I can project myself onto the character."
If you're searching for a possible example of men struggling to empathize with a female lead, look no further than the Ghostbusters reimagined all-female cast. Fan boys everywhere may as well have started a "He-Man Woman-Haters Club" à la The Little Rascals. Before the movie was even released, many men took to social media to pan the remake as a failure, refusing to even give it a chance.
While men might be struggling to empathize with female-driven movies, Watson doesn't believe women have the same issue. She pointed out in that same interview with Marie Claire:
We see whoever is on screen and recognize the human qualities in the man that we relate to, and there's not such a gap. But for some reason, there's some kind of barrier there where [men] are like, "I don't want to relate to a girl." I think it is inherently part of the problem.
Watson is absolutely right — I've seen it in my own home, to be honest; I won't even attempt to watch a movie featuring a female protagonist when all of my sons are around. Which is absolutely not okay, I'm just now realizing. Encouraging the next generation of men to empathize with women needs to start at home. Because all of this compromising we do as women, whether it's adjusting our movie expectations or something more, isn't helping.
Luckily, there are men like Watson's longtime costar Daniel Radcliffe out there. The star of the Harry Potter series spoke to Stylist magazine about the need for more strong female characters in movies and pointed to another issue; Far too many female parts are being written by men:
On more than one film I’ve persuaded people to build up the female roles… There are certainly more female writers now than there were but the fact remains, most female parts are written by men. At least there are so many more female directors, producers and directors of photography [DOP] now. I worked with an amazing DOP last year, Reed Morano, who did "Kill Your Darlings," and what she did for that film was amazing. I think — I hope — the film industry is becoming a lot more balanced.
As women, perhaps we need to take the lead here. Stop choosing movies with male leads simply to placate them boys and men in our lives. Encourage empathy for women in movies. Because let's face it, we've got to start somewhere, don't we?