Creed III and The Rising Role of Women in Film
Released on 3 March 2023, Creed III represents the compelling story of a recently retired and highly successful boxer struggling to reconcile his difficult past. Starring Michael B. Jordan (it is also the star’s directorial debut), the film delivers a striking narrative from the male-dominated world of boxing. But unlike in years past, there are three meaningful roles for women, roles written and portrayed with depth.
Not so long ago, a film about boxing would have likely featured no compelling female characters. The women that did appear were barely more than cardboard cutouts, thin characters meant to spur on the leading man as he fought his way to victory. This approach meant that “guy movies” were entirely uninteresting to most women, and they provided very thin entertainment for the “guys” they tried to cater to.
As Hollywood moves to be more inclusive, it presents audiences with stories that take advantage of a more diverse cast. That means filmmakers can draw from the rich kaleidoscope of backgrounds that fully expresses humanity. The result makes movies interesting to more people, but it also makes them more interesting in general.
To make this work requires great talent. And the casting for Creed III brought plenty of that to the set. The main actresses include Tessa Thompson, veteran Phylicia Rashad, and newcomer Mila Davis-Kent.
How Creed III Benefits From Strong Roles for Women
Tessa Thompson plays Bianca Creed, wife to lead Adonis “Donnie” Creed. Their daughter Amara, played by hearing impaired actress Davis-Kent, is deaf. The entire family communicates using American Sign Language, and they enjoy a happy home-life.
Bianca and Donnie’s relationship has heightened importance, as it has held together this trilogy of boxing films beginning with the first Creed, released in 2015. The development of their partnership tells us so much about the values of Donnie and Bianca.
In Creed III, Donnie leaves the world of boxing to focus on the world of his family, which is a nurturing place where he is asked to act as caretaker. That creates a stark contrast to the world of boxing, which he will be drawn back into when a friend from his past gets out of jail and convinces Donnie to mentor him in the sweet science.
At the same time, Amara begins getting in trouble at school for fighting. It seems Donnie’s daughter wants to walk in his footsteps.
In the background to all of this is the slow physical demise of Mary-Anne, played by Philicia Rashad. She is the adoptive mother of Donnie. This creates a sense that it is time for a generational handing off of the torch. With Donnie’s retirement, he is shifting from a time of action to a time of mentorship and fatherhood. All-too soon, he will have to be ready to lead his family without the help of elders like Mary-Anne.
The Success of Diversity in Film
Creed III comes from a lineage of movies that begins with the 1976 classic Rocky. So many viewers would be forgiven to expect a totally male-driven film, one that spends little time developing its women characters. Yet this film does take that time, and it creates a much more well-rounded and rewarding viewing experience.
Hollywood has struggled in the past decade to bring a wider range of stories to the big screen and to integrate more perspectives into every film on offer. This has come in fits and starts, and not all attempts are successful. But Creed III shows that, when done artfully and with genuine interest in a wider range of characters, narratives become that much more rewarding.
When initiatives for more inclusive stories are taken seriously and implemented with care, the outcome is a win-win. Films become better and appeal to a wider audience. At the same time, more perspectives are portrayed on screen, bringing them into the greater cultural conversation.