Everyone hungers for something. And it seems that in the gilded sphere of the film industry, haters hunger for any occasion to attack women.

One of the most anticipated movies of the year was surely Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, which brought many fans back to the 2016 dystopian movie era. However, it was  difficult to truly enjoy this exciting next chapter in the franchise  when so many people were  criticising the film without even having seen  it. Indeed, actress Rachel Zegler -who portrays Lucy Gray Baird in the adaptation- has been receiving an excessive amount of hate over the last few months since she spoke up about her role in the Snow White live action in which she plays the titular role. 


In September 2022, during an interview for the D23 Expo, Zegler described Snow White as a story in which her character “is not going to be saved by the prince, and she’s not going to be dreaming about true love; she’s dreaming about becoming the leader she knows she can be.” Since then, detractors constantly attacked the actress, calling her a “walking PR disaster for Disney” and even stating that she “ruined her career.”


It is exasperating seeing the hate she receives all over social media. Snow White’s plot is outdated. And Rachel Zegler is not responsible for the change in the plot, she is just an actress, doing her job and promoting the movie. 


When male actors criticise their movies, outraged reactions are few and far between. People still find it funny how Robert Pattinson openly hated his character throughout the entire Twilight franchise, and how he did not miss any occasion to tear it apart during interviews. The same phenomenon happened recently, when Jacob Elordi expressed his opinion in a GQ interview on the Kissing Booth franchise, to which he owes his fame, calling the movies  “ridiculous”. However, neither of them faced backlash to the same extent as Zegler.


It is obvious that social media users seize any occasion to attack her, not for her words but for what she represents: a young outspoken Latina woman. She is everything that patriarchal society hates. She is confident and knows what she wants. Indeed, sociological research has shown that women who show a personality different from gender stereotypes, i.e. soft spoken, warm and somehow always smiling, are seen as less likeable. Successful and confident women, like the Hunger Games star, are scorned by society.


And this phenomenon is not uncommon in Hollywood. Brie Larson, the star of the latest Marvel movie, The Marvels, has also encountered a wave of disapproval since she took the role of Captain Marvel in 2019. The Marvel fanbase is largely composed  of  men, many of whom are not open to the idea of a strong female superhero. It took twenty films for Marvel to finally introduce a solo female lead and when it happened, critics were harsh. Brie Larson was blamed for the poor quality of the dialogues and plot, as if she were responsible for writing it. Larson’s Captain Marvel was labelled as “too cocky” and “egotistical” to be a superhero as if the beloved Tony Stark did not exist. 


The Marvels appears to be the straw that broke the camel’s back as some fans actively wished for the film to fail: it was unfathomable to watch a film directed by a woman with an all-women team. The film was funny, and the battle scenes and costumes were great. But of course, if the plot is not focused on a man, it is not worth watching.  


Representing confident and independent women in the film industry often fails to pass muster . In the beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Widow was just relegated to the status of a “femme fatale”. In a Collider interview, Scarlett Johansson, who played the superhero, talked about how she was portrayed in Iron Man 2 : “Tony even refers to her as something like [a possession] at one point. What does he say? ‘I want some.’ Yeah and at one point calls her a piece of meat.” It shows how undervalued women heroes were for a long time, as they serve just as wingwomen for male protagonists.


Accurate and diverse representation, the gender pay gap, sexist questions during promotional interviews… Having to navigate through all those issues, it seems that equality on and off screen still has a long way to go until it is eventually achieved. In an industry where the workforce in the biggest productions is 75% male, it is difficult to impose changes. Most only take place in times of scandal, like when producer Harvey Weinstein’s assaults on several women were revealed. 


Improving this industry is particularly difficult given that thousands want to be a part of it. Women are constantly reminded that they are replaceable. There is always younger, prettier, more desirable. To make the cinema industry a better place for women, both genders must team up. The well-being of their counterparts should be a concern for men. 

If all the hate that women keep getting were redirected towards those issues, and if haters would attack those guilty of crimes with the same vehemence they employ against  Zegler, Hollywood would surely cease to be a place in which problematic men swarm and thrive.

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