Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Women in Film (or Not)

Alone in a Movie Theater
Photo credit: Sarah_Ackerman
So some movie theaters in Sweden are going to start rating movies based on whether or not they pass the Bechdel test. What's the Bechdel test, you ask? 

To pass the Bechdel test, a movie has to have two (2) female characters, who talk to each other, about something besides a man. These characters do not even have to be named.

You know what movie fails the Bechdel test?

Almost all of them.

Even though it's not that hard. This past weekend, HA and I watched Iron Sky, a Finnish satire about Moon Nazis, for fuck's sake, and it passed the Bechdel test. 

Only one of the eight Harry Potter films passes the test. The books pass, but when things get cut between book and film, women get cut first. 

I was discussing this with His Awesomeness, a filmmaker himself, and he pointed out that the Bechdel test is problematic. 

HA: Look at Gravity. Sandra Bullock is on screen the whole movie, playing an astronaut, but it fails the test.

Me: Movies with two characters aren't the issue. We don't get pissed off that Waiting for Godot has no women in it. It's the ones with a cast of thousands, but none with boobs.

HA: What about Star Wars? Princess Leia goes around kicking ass.

Me: And they couldn't cast a single woman to run around in the background to climb into an x-wing. Or be support crew. Are X-wings piloted with penises? The rebellion is so inclusive (as opposed to the all white Empire) that they even include clumsy, annoying Jar Jar Binks in the party. But still no girls?

It isn't the only thing that we should be measuring films by, but representation matters. I just read in Entertainment Weekly that they deliberately decided to make the new elf character they created for the latest Hobbit movie a woman because otherwise, it's a complete a total sausage-fest.

Back when we were dating, HA subjected me to Lawrence of Arabia. All four hours of it. It's a beautiful movie, don't get me wrong. But it wasn't long before I was wondering where the hell the women were. Not a single one. Not in the background. Nowhere. When the Arabs rode  off into battle, I finally yelled at the TV, "Where the hell are the ululating women?! You cannot ride into battle without ululating women!" And then they appeared, way off in the distance, completely covered so they could've been the male extras from other scenes dressed differently.

Lawrence of Arabia is a boy movie.

Not because it's about war and battle and stuff like that. But because there are no women in it.

Now, I love Star Wars. I even found a way to love Attack of the Clones. (I decided that it was a short film about Yoda and Christopher Lee having a fight and blocked out the rest.) But come on, guys. Girls can fly space ships too. Having a teenaged girl running a planet is more plausible than having no women in your air force.

If a movie with fucking Moon Nazis can remember that women exist, then it shouldn't be that hard for everyone else. 


  1. Yes. Exactly. Here's one of my very favorite quotes ever - I'm sure you've probably heard it but it bears repeating:

    “When people say to me, 'Why are you so good at writing at women?' I say, 'Why isn't everybody?' Obviously there are differences between men and women - that's what makes it all fun. But we're all people. There's a lot of good writers who are very humanist, but still manage to kind of skip fifty-five per cent of the race. And I just don't get that. Not to be able to write an entire gender? To me, the question isn't how do you do it? It's how can you possibly avoid doing it?”
    ― Joss Whedon

  2. This is hilarious...aside from a little depressing. I may just have to share this one :)


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