Women – Is our guilty pleasure holding back our gender?
I have always been conscious of the way women are portrayed in film – mainly as helpless objects of sexual desire – but until Elisa Kreisinger’s presentation I had never heard of The Bechdel Test.
The Bechdel Test asks the following three questions of a film:
- Are there 2 or more women in it and do they have names?
- Do they talk to each other?
- Do they talk to each other about something other than a man?
The Bechdel Test questions are amusing until you see realize how many movies can’t pass the test and that the movies that don’t pass the test are some of the highest grossing films.
A few days after seeing the video above I read Mindy Kaling’s L.A. Postcard – Flick Chicks: A guide to women in the movies.
I regard romantic comedies as a subgenre of sci-fi, in which the world operates according to different rules than my regular human world. For me, there is no difference between Ripley from “Alien” and any Katherine Heigl character. They are equally implausible. They’re all participating in a similar level of fakey razzle-dazzle, and I enjoy every second of it.
It makes sense, then, that in the romantic-comedy world there are many specimens of women who—like Vulcans or Mothra—do not exist in real life.
There is a lot to think about here. And as I was thinking about thinking about it I remembered a section of Sidney Poitier’s first autobiography This Life where he said he was over-conscious about the roles he took on and refused any role that played to stereotypes of the black man. At the time, he was struggling to provide for his family and his wife was frustrated that he was turning down roles when they could not afford to put food on the table. He realized the long term effect of his decision and – for better or worse – was willing to sacrifice his family’s current comfort for what he believed was a greater cause.
Do women need to follow the steps of Sidney Poitier – do female actors need to demand characters that are not cliche? Do female writers need to demand two female characters discuss something other than men? And do they need to be willing to turn down the job if their demands are not met? And what about us – the consumer – what role do we play? Is our guilty pleasure holding back our gender? Or am I just over thinking this?
Something Elisa Kreisinger said which has stuck in my head is that “your sense of identity, of self, disintegrates when you don’t see it portrayed in pop culture.” What effect do “Chick Flick chicks” have on the identity of tween girls?
The Women – a film made in 1939 and again in the 2008 – was considered groundbreaking because of its all female cast. Every person that appears on screen is female. But the entire storyline is about the women’s relationship with men, mainly a cheating husband. And although enjoyed the films, I want to see a film with an all female cast who aren’t well kept housewives, who talk about anything but men and who spend their time anywhere but a department store beauty salon. What would that story be – I can’t imagine it. Mindy Kaling, can you write it for me?