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What I’m Watching: Ocean’s 8

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Here are the facts:

  1. Ocean’s 8 has a star-studded, female-focused cast.
  2. Ocean’s 8 hit #1 at the box office, bringing in $41.5 million domestically opening weekend.

Most of the other things you will read about the film are based on opinion, and so is everything else I am about to say.

My personal review is positive—I loved the movie and didn’t want it to end. I loved seeing the eight lead women come together from such varied film backgrounds to deliver on the ‘heist’ genre that we have rarely seen women in previously. Not only do the actresses come from different backgrounds, but their characters all vary wildly from one another. A recently released criminal, a failing fashion designer, a lowly jewelry appraiser… all coming together to work as a team to accomplish an extraordinary feat (albeit, an illegal one). The one thing they have in common is their gender, which Debbie Ocean, the lead character of Ocean’s 8, points out: “Hims get noticed. Hers don’t,” flipping the challenge of the overlooked female into an advantage for the task at hand.

In the same way, the movie itself and the characters in it provide an example that we so rarely see in film and television: exceptionally talented women working together (not tearing each other apart) to get something done—successfully, efficiently, and deliberately. Perhaps that is why they only needed eight, compared to the original male-focused films with 11, 12, 13… ;)

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When I think about it from a more critical perspective: why does it matter that we see this type of female representation in film? A 2017 study from USC found that in assessing 900 films, only 31.4% had a prevalence of female speaking characters, and this number hasn’t been increasing in recent years. In the top 100 films of 2016, only 34% had a female lead or co-lead and within those women of color or over the age of 45 were minimal.

In the documentary Miss Representation, the core challenge with this lack of representation, and the type of representation is outlined: “The media is selling young people the idea that girls’ and women’s value lies in their youth, beauty, and sexuality and not in their capacity as leaders. Boys learn that their success is tied to dominance, power, and aggression. We must value people as whole human beings, not gendered stereotypes.”

Debbie Ocean states that “somewhere out there is an eight-year-old girl lying in bed, dreaming of being a criminal. Let’s do this for her.” While we aren’t aiming to create criminals, I think we can all focus on the impact for 8-year-old girls and 58-year old women who are seeing this film and identifying more with strong, smart, and supportive leads that they so rarely get to see. We need more of this representation, and the good news for everyone is that it sells.