Female roles have long been portrayed as weak or voiceless in local Malaysian films or shows, but it’s the year 2019 and these four ladies are here to prove that change can happen!
Better late than never! The role of women on Malaysian TV has certainly evolved from merely love interests or damsels in distress to strong heroines (or even villains) today. During an intimate media engagement session hosted by Viu Malaysia, I had the opportunity to pick the brains of four talented female actresses to see what they really thought about how women were being portrayed on the small (and big) screen.
On the biggest change they’d like to see for women in the Malaysian content landscape:
Julia Farhana: “We have so much talent in Malaysia, I know of peers and friends who write good scripts but were never given an opportunity, especially if they’re females because they are perceived as weak or they are automatically thought to be not able to work under pressure. All we want is the same opportunity as men.”
Tehmina Kaoosji: “I want to see women portrayed beyond sexualised characters. That is not all we are regardless of whether we dress modestly, whether we berhijab or wear a skirt. Regardless of how we look, what shape our bodies are, what orientation we are, if that game changer could happen then I think we are already on our way to having equitable opportunities.”
On the worst role offer they’ve received:
Julia: “I’ve been in the industry for three years, and I can tell you the amount of times I’ve got offered to get ‘raped’. This has to stop! I’ve rejected all offers that required me to get ‘raped’ because that meant we, as women, were becoming subjected as weak individuals, that we need another man to come in to save our day and get us out of misery.”
Lisa: “Yes, I’ve had this conversation before and it was interesting for me to hear that as the argument they use. That because sex is not allowed on TV, to make it okay and to have some form of sexual intercourse, it had to be rape.”
Tehmina: “May I just clarify that rape is not sexual intercourse.”
On the message they’d like to send to aspiring actresses:
Lisa: “When you get offered a role and you’re reading your character’s journey, if you think it’s stupid and silly, it’s okay to say no out of principal. I think you can put your foot down and say no. I have before in the past taken up roles which in hindsight made me wonder what I was thinking back then. We’re going to have to not expect for the windows and doors to be opened for us, we have to knock on those doors and barge through kalau boleh.”