Leading Lady Parts

As a young female with aspirations of entering the creative media sector, I was incredibly happy to see the release of a short film as poignant and relevant as Leading Lady Parts.

Inspired by a ‘Time’s Up’ meeting they had attended, Gemma Arterton and Jessica Swale collaborated in creating Leading Lady Parts: a short, satirical film that draws attention to the inequality that remains within the TV/film industry, and the importance of female representation within the media. Produced by Rebel Park Productions, with a predominantly female crew, Leading Lady Parts premiered on BBC Four on Monday 30th July, as part of a programme dedicated to BBC’s Hear Her series.

With lines as poignant as, “It’s not rocket science darling. We’re just asking you to be thin and curvy, sexy and innocent,” Leading Lady Parts approaches the impossible expectations of women in a comedic manner; the sad truth is that it’s oh so relatable. However, Leading Lady Parts cuts deeper, highlighting the blatant racism that exists to this day in a scene that is horrendously uncomfortable to stomach: Wunmi Mosaku auditions for the leading lady role, but is turned away for being black. “Look, it’s not that kind of film darling,” the panel says in a patronising tone, “They’re auditioning for that other film… Black Panther Returns… That’s in the next suite.”

It’s painful, but it’s the reality that many women within the industry face – according to the BFI, the number of female actors onscreen has significantly declined in the last 100 years. In 1917 over 40% of those on-screen were women, by 2017 the figure had dropped to just 32%. However, inequality is apparent behind-the-scenes too. Despite organisations like the National Film and Television School and London Film School beginning courses with an almost 50:50 gender divide, a shocking 80% of women decide to leave the industry within three years of starting work.

Leading Lady Parts has been watched by over 11 million people since its release and was met with an extremely positive reception. Personally, I think that the creation of Leading Lady Parts was remarkable and entirely important.

In 2018, it’s naive to assume that inequality has been completely eradicated; the unfortunate truth is that inequality remains rife across all industries. Furthermore, the expectations of women are perhaps as harmful as ever: young girls are growing up in the age of social media in which we’re validated by likes and fuelled by followers, encouraged to be skinnier, prettier and well connected. Thus, campaigns such as Leading Lady Parts are essential for the growth of our society, allowing the irresponsibly gruesome representation and treatment of women to be recognised.