Discussion on the stereotyped female images portrayed in film—an investigation of the movie “Marry A Rich Man”

In today’s society, gender stereotype is prevalently shown in all walks of life. It is not uncommon to notice that structured sets of beliefs about the personal attributes are being imposed on men and women in our society, reinforcing stereotypical gender roles. (Ashmore & Del Boca, 1979) These beliefs become ideologies, which make gender not only a cultural construction imposed upon identity, but also in some sense a process of constructing ourselves. (Butler, 1986) Of all sources of gender stereotype, the media are considered as the most powerful and pervasive tool. (Basow, 1992) Film is, for example, one of the significant means contributing to the stereotyped gender images. The film “Marry a Rich Man” (嫁個有錢人), starring renowned movie stars Sammi Cheng and Richie Jen, will be analyzed to reveal how stereotypical female image is constructed and perpetuated through film.

In the first place, the image of Cinderella is depicted in the film. The imagery of Cinderella suggests that a woman is assigned to do various kinds of jobs like spinning, sewing, cooking or housekeeping (Dutta, 2011). She needs to suffer from a lot of setbacks and humiliation and to be very patient until she encounters a man of higher social standing who discovers her virtues and beauty, and rescue her. (Lazar, 2011) She can then be transformed from a dutiful and submissive girl imprisoned in a domestic world into a beautiful and enviable young woman. (Baker-Sperry, 2007) From the film, it can be seen that Mi, the female protagonist, is like Cinderella. First, she is the daughter of the owner of a local liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) company. She needs to assist the family business and do a lot of laborious work like transporting the LPG tank to the customers. She also endures the scorning and humiliation from her primary classmates that she was impoverished and unmarried. She then longs for an affluent man who can marry her and change her life. Her life resembles Cinderella’s one and this reinforces the female stereotype that women are responsible for some home-oriented jobs or trivial work and women can lead a blissful life when they marry a wealthy man, which become a goal for many girls.

Apart from the above, women are portrayed as proactive pursuer of love and marriage. It is stereotypical that love and marriage are the lifelong pursuits of woman. Women are considered to be the followers of romanticism and they fantasize a romantic love in their whole life. It is also traditionally viewed that marriage and motherhood are the greatest success and fulfillment of women. (Lindsey, 1997) It is also assumed that woman is made for bearing babies. (Connell, 2009) The film further reinforces this image of woman. For instance, the entire film is pertinent to how Mi seeks a romantic love like what was depicted in fairy tales. She dreams herself to be the Cinderella who can marry the prince. She also attaches primary importance to marriage and it seems that this is the greatest accomplishment in her life. At the end of the movie, after she gets married with the male protagonist, she then wants to have babies and builds up a family. All this constructs the female stereotype that romance is a necessity for women and being a wife and mother is their responsibility and target in life.

Last but not least, women are treated as commodities in the film. In our society, women are intensively commodified and women’s bodies have become marketable assets in modern consumer culture. (Pienaar & Bekker, 2007) The female body must be marketed to others, and therefore must be as conventionally attractive as possible to maximize its exchange value. (Lupton, 1996) Connell also once said that “a sense of desirable, of having an attractive or at least presentable body, is an important part of our culture’s construction of womanhood.”(Connell, 2009) In this way, women need to beautify themselves to be more valuable in order that they can be more appealing to men. They treat themselves as if they were the commodities of men. The female protagonist and other minor female characters also fall into this stereotypical concept of female. Mi, in an

attempt to allure the rich men, buys a lot of fashionable clothes and accessories to make herself more charming. She equips herself with speech skills, classy manners and academic acquaintances in a bid to approach to the men of higher social status more easily. The minor females like Mi’s primary classmates also justify the view that women are commodities. For instance, they put much emphasis on the status of their husbands. They love to brag about the fact that their husbands are the owners of the transnational companies and how well-off are their husbands. This creates an image that women are like commodities bought by the rich men and the film further perpetuates the stereotyping of this female image through the portrayal of woman.

The mass media has profound impact on the gender concepts as it occurs without our conscious awareness through the process of socialization. (Lindsey, 1997) Socialization refers to a set of mechanisms and lifelong processes through which individuals are trained to be the functioning members of society and take their place as full-fledged social beings. (Lipman-Blumen, 1984) When the film conveys the stereotyped gender messages, we will internalize these socio-culturally constructed concepts and attributes, and adhere to the social norms. With these ideologies implanted in our minds, we will behave the way that is expected by our society. The abovementioned female stereotypical images portrayed in the film will somehow exert some consequences on some social phenomenon.

To commence with, the image of Cinderella may make women more home-related. For example, women are considered to be homely like Cinderella. The trifles like house chores are assigned to women. No matter how successful the career is, marriage and motherhood are considered to be the most important achievements of women’s lives. This gender stereotype makes women less dominating in business field and more home-oriented. Therefore, it is common to have housewives but it is a bit awkward to have househusband because it is supposed that housework is for women but not for men. In this way, the Cinderella image portrayed by the film further reinforces the homely female gendered role in our society.

In addition, the concept that women are submissive and subordinate to men is proliferated by the film and this makes women try whatever means to please the men. Nowadays, it is prevalent that a myriad of advertisements are pertinent to the slimming programmes and cosmetic surgery. In those advertisements, you are bound to notice that after women undergo those artificial beautifying operations or participate the slimming workshops, they will be able to marry an affluent husband and have a better life. All these suggest that women are like commodities and they try to enhance their exchange value to attract the rich men to “buy” them. This shows that women are conformed to the patriarchal society. The film further strengthens the submissive role of women in our society through gender stereotyping.

As Simone de Beauvoir once said, “one is not born a woman, but rather become a woman.” (Beauvoir, 1953) Gender is itself learned and not immutable. (Lindsey, 1997) It is through the process of socialization that we learn how to become a man or woman, thereby imposing certain stereotypical roles to men and women. The mass media, especially films, is an influential means to inculcating the gender stereotypes to the public and further reinforcing these ideas. The film “Marry a Rich Man” is a good example to show how female gender identity is constructed and what its influences are on our society. It is high time that we woke up and became more sensitive to the gender stereotypes and confront them squarely. In this way, hopefully, gender inequality can be vanished through the transformation of the social organization of gender. (Chodorow, 1979).


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