Tomboys on Film

The female nerd who becomes a “real woman” [“ugly” duckling turned swan] is such an over-used trope when it comes to scripted entertainment, as if a woman has to blossom or transform, transmute herself into some other form of womanly-ness when the one she already is, is just fine.

How many times have we seen this? The female character is not ‘male-gaze’ approved until she resembles some clone of the queen bee, an overemphasized feminized characterization of usually male writers, producers, directors.

Where are the characters like Watts played by Mary Stuart Masterson or Winona Ryder’s Dinky?

Here are some reviews, summaries of these two projects with the word “tomboy” in them:

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From IMDB, a grown male reviewer:

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“Adorable” is used to describe this woman. “Ryder’s allure here is reduced to that of a messy, misfit tomboy dressed in black.”

Reduced? I don’t think this reviewer understands the appeal of a “misfit tomboy dressed in black” all on its own. Let’s think about that.

Please send me examples of modern day cinematic or television tomboys who stay that way. What do you think of the notion of tomboys in film and television and how they’re pegged against or made to conform and change into a different kind of woman in order to “win” at life?

3 thoughts on “Tomboys on Film

  1. Despite playing this exact trope in “The Duff” Mae Whitman’s character in “Parenthood” stayed pretty tomboy-ish. In fact, I think the character hers was based off of from the film version that Martha Plimpton played stayed tomboyish and was still seen as desirable.

    Lane from “Gilmore Girls” never really got “made over”. Trying to think of others … not easy. I remember the first time I noticed this trope. I was fairly young, 10 maybe, and watching the “Facts of Life” and before the Jo character arrived in season 2 there were a lot more girls, including Molly Ringwald, and one of them was a tomboy. That was her main identifier. The episode I was watching at about 10 years old had some former students including the tomboy come for a reunion. She had since become some kind of super model. Very girly if I recall and I thought wtf? Or the equivalent for a 10 y.o. to think. This trope has convinced me ever since that I can’t be myself and be attractive to dudes.


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