In 2023, Women Ruled At The International Box Office. Why Is Bollywood Still Peddling Toxic Masculinity?


This year’s pop-culture recap should be written in big, bold letters in Barbie pink ink. It’s not every year that women-centric movies or female pop stars are pulling in a billion-dollar crowd globally. This year’s true trailblazers were supremely talented writers, actors, pop stars, and filmmakers like Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie, who not only brought the crowd back to the cinemas but did a fabulous job, setting the box office ringing with $1.38 billion business. It became the highest grossing Warner Bros. movie of all time. Director Greta Gerwig made history by becoming the first female director to enter the billion-dollar club with a female lead. News portals called the Barbie era the #BillionGirlSummer, which is quite apt for the movie’s significance for women in the entertainment industry. Movies like Barbie were undeniably success stories for women’s ownership and creative ability. Western cinemas were packed with squads of women and many men in goofy pink outfits, enjoying Barbie’s quest to make things right.

I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in — MARGOT ROBBIE as BARBIE Barbie (2023)

These numbers are not only great because they are achieved by women in a male-dominated industry, but also because sure we had the testosterone-laden movies, but these won on merit. Barbie‘s had direct competition with cinephile favourite Christopher Nolan, who helmed the biographical drama Oppenheimer, based the invention of the atomic bomb. The clash was named the Barbenheimer, sparking a debate on how men and women consume different media differently, even though none of those movies came with a gender preference label on them.

gibberish — “From District 12, Lucy Gray Baird.” The Hunger...

Apart from Barbie, we also witnessed The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes bringing magnificent numbers (approximately 300 million) making the franchise cross the three billion dollar landmark. And the movie is still going strong across the globe. Written by the best-selling author Suzanne Collins and brought to life on screen by actress Rachel Zeglar, it proves how women written stories are important to tell and now they are bringing in the monies as well.

Beyonce Taylor Swift GIF - Beyonce Taylor swift Beyonce and taylor swift - Discover & Share GIFs

Moving on to the pop music industry, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Taylor Swift proved to be the biggest hit-making superstars, transcending their previous records to reach new heights. Miss Swift’s The Era’s Tour movie has touched the $249.6 million mark and this is while we still have to wait for the actual numbers of the on-going tour. And while we are talking about concert tours, Queen B earned a whopping $579 million worldwide, witnessed by 2.7 million fans across 56 dates in 39 different cities.

Made for the female gaze

There are multiple takeaways people can have from Barbie’s success. But one stance that deserves everyone’s attention is to share more stories written by and about women. All of this gives hope to young female artists around the world to follow their little dreams, which society often undermines with sexism.

Barbie Margot Robbie GIF - Barbie Margot Robbie Cry GIFs

But while Barbie was creating wonders one country at a time in the West, she couldn’t manage to grab the attention of the Indian audience. There is no denying that the reason had to be the movie’s feminist undertone, talking about things a lot of men would rather throw under the rug than face. The movie didn’t only perform averagely here; it also had to face wrath from fragile men for talking about real issues.

Human Boys Are So Fragile Emotional GIF - Human Boys Are So Fragile Emotional Disgusted GIFs

Different opinions or hidden misogyny

In sharp contrast, and despite being the year women made the money, India continues perpetuate misogyny in its movies. The media Indian men consume, especially Bollywood, objectifies and sexualises women’s worth- a formula so woven into the fabric of the industry, that it causes a flurry at the box office with theatres running full everywhere. This film industry still promotes sexism, patriarchy, and gender inequality. If the woman on screen doesnt fit the male gaze, men in the audience would rather have her disrespected. In Bollywood movies, the degradation of women has become so common that it is difficult to envision a movie without women’s roles being frequently limited to their physical attributes and sexuality.

The more misogynist the movie is, the better business it’s going to do. And there’s no denying these movies influence and mirror society. These misogynist movies’ target audiences don’t want to believe or listen to female issues. And it’s not just about a character being dark and sexist; such lowly written characters influence men who love to watch women suffer, giving them representation.

Don'T Ever Go There Ranbir Kapoor GIF - Don't ever go there Ranbir kapoor Rashmika mandanna - Discover & Share GIFs

In movies, because they are fictional and this often warrants the use of creative liberties, some characters represent misogyny, but there is a huge difference between a misogynistic character in a film and a misogynistic film. And in filmmaker Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s universe, love finds expression in women hating. In addition of being problematic and full of tone-deaf alpha male characters, the film is a one-line plot that is overdone and badly written to witness. The cheers this film received in the the hall when the female lead is dehumanised says a lot about the average Indian male moviegoer and his intention to glorify such male leads, with lack of consequence. In the end my question is why are men in audience not uncomfortable with such mockery of women?

Also, read: From BTS To Barbie, Here’s Why Men Love Hating On The Things Women Enjoy

- Digital Writer


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