One is a typical house wife who takes care of her children and stays home while the hubbie goes out to provide for them. The other spends her time running after a man and throws tantrums when he leaves her back. One is a 40 year old single woman who moves alone to a new place and erects her own business from scratch, despite the town’s strong opposition. That opposition is formed by another woman. She commands burly men of thick moustaches, who shake at her feet.
These characters show how Hollywood has evolved over the years and changed its portrayal of women. Two of these characters starred in a feature film from the very distant year of 1954, more than a decade before Jo Freeman was giving the first steps towards the Women’s Liberation Movement. The other two appear in two of 2013’s harvest of blockbusters. The gap between these characters is understandable.
There’s a social and cultural background we need to take into account before judging something as anti-feminist. Featuring black men as doormen or butlers in a contemporary movie would be rightfully criticized as racist. If the same happened in a silent movie of the 20’s, you could hardly get offended.
The problem is: the powerful independent women I described were the stars of Nicholas Ray masterpiece “Johnny Guitar”, released in the 50’s. The two ladies of the house were cardboard cut-outs, embellishing World War Z and Now you See Me.
It’s a sad affair to have women portrayed as kitchen dwellers in 2013. Even 2010’s supposedly female empowering blockbuster starred an ass-kicking, neck-strangling, window-climbing, Angelina Jolie, as a Russian-American secret agent. She was named Salt, in honour of a seasoning.
And what’s the best the film industry has to offer to discriminate chauvinistic films? A simplistic test, simplistic formulaic movies should pass, so they can proudly display the Feminist Approved Badge. It’s called the Beschdel Test. It goes like this:
- A movie must star at least two women,
- They must talk to each other,
- about something other than a man.
In WWZ Brad’s wife waits at “home” for her knight in shiny armour to save the day. She leaves the room when a conversation about the faith of humanity ensues, to protect their kids, but… still passes the test.
If feminists were babies, and Hollywood was their parents, and WWZ was the If feminists were babies, Hollywood was their parents, WWZ the house, and this analogy any good the Beschdel test would be a single piece of plastic covering one of the dozens of electrical sockets in the house. That’s how meaningless it is.
The test only useful purpose is to bring attention to an issue otherwise ignored. It is a useful purpose.
As a test, it’s a mere checklist, much like test screenings. This one needs 12% more laughter. This one needs an ending 23% happier. This actress needs to show 24% more breasts and 100% less vagina.
Even the TV show GIRLS , innovative in so many ways, is an example of how a show can surpass all the chauvinistic trademarks of TV and cinema and still get criticized for not filling the racial quota.
Algorithms for success and crowd pleasing formulas. Again and again, we continue to miss the point.
Take a look at a few movies who didn’t pass the Bechdel Test:
- Run, Lola Run;
- The Lord of The Rings (the WHOLE trilogy);
- Star Wars (the original trilogy);