In a lot of movies, especially those directed by men, directors will try to show that a female character is vulnerable or has reached a new low by having a scene of her taking off her makeup or otherwise stripping away her "feminine" qualities.

Take for example this scene from the movie "Sweet Sixteen."


Sick of creepy men, a Chinese woman takes off her makeup in public | Clip from 'Sweet Sixteen' www.youtube.com

While it makes for a good dramatic scene, a girl proclaiming everything men find attractive about her isn't real, it just isn't a true sentiment. Women don't take their makeup off at night and go "wow, this is a new low for me."

Showing vulnerability is often important to the plot and storyline of a film, but when you start reverting to film school tropes, your movies loses power.

I'm not saying that this never works or never leads to a powerful and moving scene. Sometimes this works, like in "How To Get Away With Murder," Viola Davis's character strips her makeup off, and takes off her wig. However, the reason this scene worked was that it fit into the storyline, we had a reason as to why this act would be important (and because it was Viola Davis doing it.)


Annalise takes off the wig www.youtube.com

Most movies, however, shove it in almost like an afterthought. Like they couldn't think of anything else, so they just went with the most basic thing.

When men are shown in movies to be vulnerable, they are usually portrayed at first as angry, throwing things and yelling, and then quickly unravel into a crying mess on the floor. This is also a popular trope, but can be done many different ways and can fit into a storyline better. It also is more true to losing one's sense of self and becoming vulnerable.

one of the best male breakdown scenes is Brad Pitt at the end of "Se7en." At first, he is very aggressive with Kevin Spacey's character. He is yelling and pointing his gun in his face, but when he realizes what is in the box, he starts to break down and lose it. He starts sobbing and we can actually see the internal debate he is having. We can actually see him become vulnerable.


SE7EN Scene - "The Box" www.youtube.com

In order to make this trope work, you have to work in the importance of the makeup to the character throughout the film. In "Se7en," we learn the importance of Brad Pitt's character's wife throughout the movie, helping the audience to feel his pain and his vulnerability when it happens.

If women's vulnerability in movies was treated less like stripping away a forced sense of femininity to become vulnerable and more like stripping away a sense of identity or having an outside force change you, it would become more powerful and moving for the audience to watch.