‘Godzilla’: Gareth Edwards Discusses Lack Of Major Female Characters

Published 6 months ago by

Godzilla Binoche Godzilla: Gareth Edwards Discusses Lack Of Major Female Characters

In the week since its release, the 2014 iteration of Godzilla has been inundated with attaboys regarding FX achievements, and praise for giving the king of all monsters his due justice in Stateside multiplexes; the film has also received a respectable helping of criticisms for its showcase of mostly bland characters. In fairness, making human beings as interesting as a skyscraper-sized scaly gargantua with a serious case of atomic morning breath is nigh impossible, and if Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe can’t do it, then no one can.

But the critiques stand, and if they’re pedantic, they’re nonetheless difficult to ignore. More of the moment, though, are comments about Godzilla‘s dearth of female characters; despite boasting three incredibly talented actresses (Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, & Elizabeth Olsen), the movie barely gives them any screen time. When they do put in an appearance, each of them in turn wind up with little and less to do in comparison to their leading male counterparts (Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, & Ken Watanabe). Godzilla has proven itself critically and commercially, but when it comes to female participation, the monster mash has struck out.

So why does Godzilla feature such minimal involvement from its cast of gifted women? According to The Playlist, director Gareth Edwards, speaking at a recent London press conference, attested that his vision for Godzilla wasn’t always so testosterone-driven; at one time, he says, the film had a heroine positioned in its screenplay, though who that character might have been remains a mystery. Meanwhile, details on the script’s evolution from being less male-centric to more male-centric are fuzzy, though there’s little reason not to give Edwards the benefit of the doubt. Here’s the full quote from Edwards:

We had a version of the screenplay that had a heroine in the film. But you’ve got to pick a hero and we ended up with a male, and then everything supports the hero in some way.

Should we take Edwards at his word? If so, what might have led to the heroine he refers to getting jettisoned from the film? His answer to the question is evasive, frustratingly so, but after making the above remark, Edwards went on to cite Alien and Aliens as two of his influences, and both feature (the same) well-written female lead; he followed up by vowing to take the matter into consideration for Godzilla‘s sequel. (For posterity’s sake: the press conference took place before Legendary green-lit a second movie starring the Toho legend.)

Godzilla Olsen Godzilla: Gareth Edwards Discusses Lack Of Major Female Characters

Studio blockbusters are generally male-dominated, so it’s not outlandish to suggest that Edwards may have compromised on his original plan for Godzilla‘s cast as part of the process. His dancing around the topic supports this, since throwing Legendary under the bus would be a terrible career move. Alternately, the decision to reduce the impact of the film’s female characters could have been Edwards’ alone, but the truth is that we probably won’t ever know why or how Godzilla became a man’s movie; we can only wait to see if Edwards makes good on his word with Godzilla 2 (which he’ll get around to once he tackles that Star Wars spin-off he just got the directing gig on).

Of course, Godzilla isn’t the first tentpole picture to be chided for its absence of female characters; Star Wars: Episode VII found itself on the receiving end of Internet backlash with its initial casting announcement. But even if kaiju films are the last place anyone look for respectable female roles, the new conversation revolving around the film fits in snugly with current dialogues about women in cinema; put in short, this has been a point of contention for quite some time. In the specific case of Godzilla, hiring the likes of Binoche, Hawkins, and Olsen without maximizing their presence feels wasteful, especially considering that the egg-laden female MUTO Godzilla brawls with in the film’s final third gets more attention than all of them combined.

Whether or not that’s relevant to the film’s quality is one thing, but it is problematic on a conceptual level. Hopefully, Edwards will learn from this fracas as he goes forward with Star Wars and Godzilla 2.

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Godzilla is now in theaters.

Source: The Playlist

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  1. I’m guessing the lead played by Taylor-Johnson was the female in question but was changed to have more of a father-son dynamic.

    Again though, people complain about things in the film that I just never saw as problems until I read them online and even then, I don’t agree with the complaints at all. If he DID have a female lead, you can guarantee people would complain anyway.

    Besides, Binoche was critical to the plot because her death gave Cranston’s character a reason to become what he was, which in turn gave a reason for Taylor-Johnson’s character a reason to get involved in the plot. Hawkins too managed to play an equal to Watanabe’s expert and while Olsen’s character didn’t get to do much, she was still right there in the middle of the action as someone that those not in the military would identify with if we were caught up in a similar situation.

    I still maintain that all major players in the film had a crucial role to play in proceedings, whether they got to deliver a 30 page monologue or not.

    • Dazz…nice job, agree 100%.

    • Yes, but a female character who is in the movie for all of two seconds and who’s death serves only to give two of the film’s main protagonists some motivation isn’t exactly a revelation. I think the main complaint is not that the female main characters had a role to play in the proceedings, but that the role they played was tired and unoriginal, especially for actresses of their calibre.

  2. Aren’t there enough checkmarks to be ticked already before a scripts gets the green light? Does story-telling have to be compromised even more by a restrictive corset of politically correct requirements? Do people want writers to tell an organic story as they saw fit, or do they want them to assemble an artifical construct with predeterminded building blocks in order to satisfy any group of people in existence?

    It’s not that easy. Adding a female character just for equality’s sake would completely change a story, the whole dynamic. Despite what people like to believe, men and women are quite different in the way they think, in the way they approach problems and in the way they interact with other people. If those differences don’t work in the context of the story that the writer has in mind, why should he shoehorn a female character into it, just to cater to a certain demographic, compromising his vision in the process?

    • I’d give you a chocolate peanut butter cookie if I were next to you.

    • Very well said. If we must have this many female characters, what about this many black, Asian, Hispanic, or other characters? What about this many Greek, Irish, Russian, or other characters? What about this many athletic, disabled, or just physically unfit characters? What about this many attractive, plain, or ugly characters? The complaints could go on and on and on.

      So much of this political correctness is just absolute nonsense.

  3. Who says there HAVE to be lead female characters in movies?

    • The same people that says the Human Torch has to be black?

      To soon?

      • Ummm…Taychon, I think you got it backwards. If you were going to make the equivalent argument you should have said, “The same people that say the Human Torch SHOULDN’T be Black”.

    • Are you being serious??

      So all you ever want to see in the leads are men, how boring.

  4. Dont bother gareth, this is literally a complaint at every movie that comes out now, even if it means nothing to the plot.

    Shes already a nurse with a family but no she needs to be stronger, whatever that means. More screentime I guess, more dialogue, maybe scenes of her saving someone, but is all that necessary.

    Or she could just stay a secondary character she was made to be.

  5. Also, last time there was a godzilla film with a strong female lead(zilla) it was a disaster of a movie, womp womp.

    • Um that was simply because Emmerich and Devlin are not good writers, not because a female lead in a Godzilla-film cannot work.

  6. Rather than worrying about adding female characters how about adding characters that people can care about, regardless of gender?

    The lead in this movie was a complete and utter bore and his relationship with Cranston ultimately had no bearing on the plot or characterization.

    • His relationship with cranston was the entire reason hes the main character.
      Also, if being a dutiful soldier and good husband/father means youre boring then oh well.
      If you want more jokes and humor from characters, go watch ’98 godzilla

      • Actually, MERELY being a dutiful soldier and good husband/father does make you pretty boring. Can you name any other characteristics of the lead other than what you already mentioned? I can’t think of any specific character detail of any interest. Does he have opinions about anything? Hopes? Dreams? Likes? Dislikes? Any kind of animating philosophy? A favorite food?

        Isn’t it obvious that this character is dumbed down for the lowest common denominator? He has absolutely no dimension. Absolutely every soldier who ever lived in the history of the world is more interesting than this guy. Why? Because they actually have characteristics that go beyond their occupation. The character reads as some sort of basic casting call description.

        MALE LEAD (20′s to 30′s): Dutiful soldier and good husband/father.

        That’s as far as the movie goes. I find it insulting how lazily this character (and the movie as a whole) is written.

  7. Maybe he should discuss, oh i don’t know…. LACK OF GODZILLA!

    • He was in the movie about as much as he was in most other Godzilla movies. That doesn’t mean it had to happen now, but at least it follows the precedent.

  8. The female MUTO played a lead. So, what are people complaining about?
    In the opening titles I saw Juliette Binoche mentioned in big letters, and thought : Wow!
    Great was my desillusion when she got killed after only 2 [good] scenes.
    And Miss Olsen seemed asleep in the few moments she was visible, so, that doesn’t count.

  9. How about a lack of any characters?

  10. I wanted to be excited about this movie, but the characters just seemed so…monotone I guess I would say, it just didn’t grab me. I feel as though a fresh new take on a classic should be just that, fresh. A female lead, more diversity, something that would show progression, and grab new viewers. I’d still like to see it eventually as it’s a genre that’s appealing, but honestly, I’m getting bored with the same ol’ same ol’ when it comes to heroes being molded from the same clay.

  11. Could have followed Cranston’s POV all the way through and have flashbacks of his wife or something. After hearing some arguments I think they did follow the wrong protagonist.

  12. To be fair, even Watanabe, Cranston and Strathairn didn’t have much to do…

  13. The problem in this movie is the lack of ANY character. Carnston is the only interesting character in the film and he dies at the 30 minute mark. They have the great Ken Watanabe and he is only looking bug-eyed to things. The protagonist is the worst protagonist I have seen in an action blockbuster in a long, long, time. There is no payoff in the human story and the characters have zero impact in the monster plot.

    • I couldn’t agree more. There have been some boring leads lately but Aaron-Taylor Johnson in this takes the cake.

  14. It’s a ridiculous question. The movie’s target audience is young men. Do the same people whine when a chick-flick is dominated by female actresses?
    Talk about your manufactured outrage.

    • People who think like this are the exact reason there’s so little progression in popular entertainment. Whether you believe it or not, action films appeal to a wider audience than just straight men, and it’s only recently that those fans have been speaking up. Other franchises are realizing the spending power a wider audience has, slowly but surely, yet there are still people with this frame of mind, and it does nothing but make entertainment blend into each other. It’s stagnate and forgettable. It’s boring. What’s wrong with asking for more variety, so other people can have representation?

      • What kind of other people representation do you want?
        An immigrant family from Africa or Indonesia that secretly practices female circumcision in their new home? Somebody of Lithuanian ethnicity that teaches Lithuanian language to interested people? A foreign student from Bhutan that’s learning accounting in college? How about a white family with say a 15-year old special needs daughter that’s born without limbs? When you ask for variety, you might just end up getting overwhelmed. And in case you’re wondering, I’m South-East Asian Chinese.

  15. At least Elizabeth Olsen was in it….hot hot hot

  16. Wasn’t the bigger MUTO a female?
    Seems to me that that is a pretty major character.

  17. It is true that so many action movies don’t feature female leads, with the thinking that only a male can pull off the “save the day” moment in a film. It would be only fair that in the second Godzilla film there should be a lead female, probably a scientist I would think. I would so hate to see it be a single mother trying to get back to her separated kids. That wouldn’t do it for me.

    Oh and please don’t start the thing about there not being a human story or actors that didn’t do anything in the film, there are enough haters out there that started other threads about that particular subject.

    The idea that the only movies a female should be in is a romantic comedy, which usually turn out lame or a slasher horror film where the female is the only survivor is ludicrous. The film Gravity showed how successfully a female could really do a role justice.
    I’m not saying that Godzilla needed a female lead this time, but Godzilla 2 will certainly be the time we see it happen.

  18. Because there can only ever be one Miki Saegusa!

  19. Even the presentation of the MUTO’s was a bit sexist…the male kills Ford’s mom, has an origin story, follows through the whole story and fights Godzilla thrice. The female had a passing nonsensical mention of a backstory and only battles Godzilla at the end. So yeah, lack of female screentime, even the monsters.