Grrrl on Film: From Page to Screen: Can Book Adaptations Bring Greater Visibility to Women Protagonists?

Last week many of you contributed enlightening responses to my two part post on women directors and provided useful suggestions on we can do to ensure that Hollywood supports women producers, screenwriters, and directors. Thank you!

Since then, I’ve been thinking about what can we do to get Hollywood to do a better job of representing women in film as leading characters. And I’m curious – as consumers of culture, do we, in general, read books more than we go out to watch movies (at least mainstream movies)? And if this is so, wouldn’t Hollywood be wise to make greater efforts to adapt books to film?

Should we help them out by making a list of books featuring women we admire, women who have inspired and moved us, and made us think about the world differently? I mean, though I can’t speak for everyone, and I do occasionally loves me some gratuitous explosions, I’m fairly certain that an adaptation of Eat, Pray, Love is going to get more women in theater seats than say, G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra.

Many books with one or more female protagonists have found varying degrees of critical and financial success in the translation from page to screen. I’ve included a few below, in no particular order, and I’m listing them here without opinion of the book or the filmic adaptation. I just want to get you thinking about the possibilities. Check them out and meet me down below!

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Book by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) - 1865.Film adaptations: 1951, 2010 – among many, many others.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Book by L. Frank Baum – 1900. Film adaptation The Wizard of Oz - 1939. Starring Judy Garland.(Among others such as the Oz-inspired mini-series, Tin Man – 2007. Starring Zooey Deschanel and Kathleen Robertson.)

Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy

Book by Frances Mayes – 1996. Film adaptation Under the Tuscan Sun - 2003. Starring Diane Lane.


Book by Shirley Conran – 1982. Adapted to a television miniseries - 1984. Starring Phoebe Cates.

Out of Africa

Book by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) – 1937.Film adaptation in 1985. Starring Meryl Streep.

Babette’s Feast

Story by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen).Film adaptation in 1987.

Memoirs of a Geisha

Book by Arthur Golden -1997. Film adaptation – 2005. Starring Zhang Ziyi and Michelle Yeoh.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Book by Ann Brashares – 2001.Film adaptation – 2005. Starring Alexis Bledel, Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrera, and Blake Lively.

Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice - published in 1813.Film adaptations in 1940, 1980, 1995, 2003, 2005. Sense and Sensibility – published in 1811.Film adaptations in 1981, 1995, 2008.Emma – published in 1815. Film adaptations in 1972, 1995 (Clueless), 1996, 2009.

Mrs. Dalloway

Book by Virginia Woolf – 1925Film adaptation – 1997. Starring Vanessa Redgrave.


Book by Stephenie Meyer – 2005.Film adaptation – 2008. Starring Kristen Stewart.

The Mists of Avalon

Book by Marion Zimmer Bradley (1982)Television miniseries – 2001. Starring Julianna Margulies and Anjelica Huston.

The Clan of the Cave Bear

Book by Jean M. Auel – 1980.Film adaptation – 1986. Starring Daryl Hannah.


Book by Marjane Satrapi - 2000. Film adaptation - 2007.

With the understanding that original screenplays are just as important as adapted ones, do you think we can convince Hollywood that drawing scripts from best-selling books with female protagonists will continue to be a win-win for them? What memoir, novel, or graphic novel would you like to see made (or perhaps remade) into a film or mini-series, and why do you think it could be a meaningful adaptation? Do you have a favorite adaptation we should know about? And if so, why do you think the transition from page to screen worked?

I think together we can easily come up with many stories by, about, and featuring women that reflect a diverse range of experiences both real and imaginary.

Screenwriters, check out the responses and start your creative engines!


by Jennifer K. Stuller
View profile »

Jennifer K. Stuller is Co-Founder and Director Emeritus of Programming and Events for GeekGirlCon -- an organization dedicated to the recognition, encouragement and support of women in geek and pop culture and STEM. Stuller is a writer, scholar, media critic, and feminist pop culture historian. She is an author and contributor to multiple publications, including Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology, and the editor of Fan Phenomena: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She has spoken at national and international conferences and regularly appears at the Comic Arts Conference, the Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses, and San Diego Comic-Con International. She is a frequent presenter on the topics of media literacy, geek activism and community-building, ever endeavoring to use her powers only for good.

Get Bitch Media's top 9 reads of the week delivered to your inbox every Saturday morning! Sign up for the Weekly Reader:

4 Comments Have Been Posted

I would love to see a Tamora

I would love to see a Tamora Pierce novel (or series) adapted to the screen. Everyone of her 20+ books feature a strong female lead.
I think _Abarat_ by Clive Barker would be fun too, especially in the hands of Tim Burton or some such fanciful director/producer.

Sometimes a favourite book

Sometimes a favourite book should stay a book. I absolutely love the Mists of Avalon, and the mini series misses so many points that it was more frustrating than enjoyable.
I would rather see more original screenplays featuring strong women, so I could enjoy books and movies separately instead of the constant comparisions.

Poisonwood Bible

Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. I loved this book and it featured many main female protagonists. It teaches history of Congo and it's interesting. I would love to see how a movie would turn out!

Add new comment