When Shivani Gorle was scrolling through Netflix one day, one category caught her eye: "Featuring a strong female lead."
"I thought it was both exciting and kind of sad," the Mumbai-based illustrator told A Plus. "The good thing is that female actresses are finally getting recognition for the bold, powerful roles they play in both Indian and Hollywood films. But the sad thing is that women still need a separate category in films to prove that they can play a character as successfully as their male leads. So, I decided to celebrate these women by featuring them and their inspiring dialogues in my illustration series."
That's when Gorle started Queens OnScreen, an artwork series that shows some of Hollywood and Bollywood's leading ladies coupled with a famous quote from one of the characters they've portrayed. The quotes share more about who she is and why she's powerful.
Gorle only illustrated heroines from movies she's actually seen in her series. She made this choice because she wants to better understand the leading lady's "thoughts, interests, fears, and dreams."
"I choose women that have wholeheartedly entertained their audience, but also touched their hearts in one way or another," she said. "They have a thirst for life, the desire to break conventions and the ability to inspire." She draws the heroines she selects in circles to evoke the symbolism of a camera lens.
You may have noticed that there's been a rising trend of people calling for female reinterpretations of male characters recently. Many people, particularly on social media, want to see some of their favorite characters played by someone more diverse, whether it be a woman, person of color, or member of the LGBTQ community. However, instead of trying to change a male's storyline to fit a woman, we may be better served by focusing more on stories written specifically to share the stories of strong women.
"America is one of the most ethnically and socially diverse countries in the world, but I feel like that hasn't yet translated to the big screen," Gorle said. "I don't want to see a Black, lesbian woman in a movie because she adds 'diversity' to the cast, but because she truly reflects the demographical variation in the population. So it's time to do something about the predominantly White and heterosexual cast in contemporary films because that's just how the world works. The world is enjoyed and inhabited by many more kinds of people."
Gorle hopes that when people see her illustrations they'll realize positive change is on the horizon, but we must continue to write stories about diverse characters with dynamic and well-rounded personalities. "I want them to appreciate that the art they consume holds a mirror to real communities, and that they can always look up to characters that are relatable, if not harbingers of social reform," she said.
You can check out some of her illustrations below.