Elle Fanning: Women Don’t Always Need A Love Interest In Films


Attention Elle Fanning, you are our next gen feminist hero!

The 16 year old accomplished actress and younger sister of Dakota isn’t exactly well-known tabloid fodder, nor does she make a lot of headlines. Not that she needs them, because her resume is already impressive enough, and doesn’t need any extra additives by way of the media.

Not only has she appeared alongside Brad Pitt in ‘Babel’ and ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ but she also played the lead role in a short film tackling eating disorders. This summer she will star alongside the other Brangelina half, Angelina Jolie in the hit Disney film ‘Maleficent’ and spoke to Fashion magazine about her views on Hollywood and what she doesn’t want to see anymore.

Being a teenage girl, she is not exactly happy with the representation of her generation on screen, saying there needs to be more accurate and varied portrayals.

“That condescending thing gets me. The ‘you’re young now but you’ll know in a couple of years what life is about’ kind of thing. I don’t think in a couple of years I’m going to have this huge revelation. I’m still going to be the same person,” she says.

“When you are an adult not everything changes. Teens are who they are. Trying to change us to be older before we should doesn’t make sense. I always want to have a free spirit—I don’t want to be strict with life.”


Elle has been acting since the age of 4 and counts Marylin Monroe’s performance in ‘7 Year Itch’ as the catalyst for wanting a career in film. When asked who her ideal love interest in a movie would be, she named Ryan Gosling (obvs!) but don’t go thinking Ms. Fanning is always on the lookout for roles which require a boyfriend.

“There are still a lot of movies where women are dependent on the guy. We don’t always need a love interest. We can stand on our own,” she said. This statement echoes exactly what the Bechdel test is all about, which serves to show women in film as independent and capable of carrying s storyline regardless of a male love interest.

The 3 questions which determine whether a film passes this test, are (1) Does the film have at least 2 female characters in it? (2) Do those female characters talk to each other? (3) Do they talk to each other about something other than a man? Almost 70% of the top grossing 250 films on IMDb cannot pass this test.

“There are so many movies where guys are alone, doing their own thing, so I don’t see why we can’t have that too.” She makes a very good point. A point that transcends the stereotypical teenage thinking (yet another example why stereotypes are so damaging) and actually shows up a lot of adults who think women have to be categorized alongside a male onscreen to even be relevant to audiences.

The more Hollywood can show female characters who aren’t dependent on a man onscreen, the less we will see young women in society fall prey to the “prince charming” syndrome where we are told from a young age to aspire to marriage, and that having a partner is the key to happiness. Portraying young female characters in films who are strong, funny, inspiring and smart will go a long to way influencing a generation of girls who are crying out for positive role models in the media.

Hey Elle, here’s lookin’ at you girl!



  1. Pingback: Dakota Fanning: Women In Film Don't Need Male Validation

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