New Series: Feminist Film Friday!
Each Friday (okay, most Fridays!), I’ll be aiming to share a new post about a cool movie with a feminist bent. I’ll start this from next week. I’m going to be using a couple of methods to decide if a movie will make my feminist film list.
Method 1: The Bechdel Test.
This is the baseline for feminist films and other media, as far as I’m concerned. You can read about the origins of the Bechdel test (more accurately named, the Bechdel-Wallace Test but commonly just the Bechdel test) here but the basic premise involves three simple criteria:
It’s a simple as that and yet a baffling amount of movies and shows don’t pass this test. Women are, by and large, portrayed as people that only exist in relation to a man.
Method 2: The Sexy Lamp Test.
Have you heard of this one? Read about the origins here. The premise is very simple. Could that female character be replaced by a sexy lamp without any major impact on the overall story line? if the answer is yes then the writers didn’t make any effort to write an actual female character. They should try harder!
Method 3: The Mako Mori Test.
Mako Mori is a character in a film called Pacific Rim- you can read about the origins of this test here. A relatively new test that is meant to exist alongside the Bechdel test, the criteria are, again, pretty simple. There must be at least one female character. She will have her own narrative arc. This narrative arc will not be about supporting a man’s story.
Method 4: Thinking About It.
This just means taking the first two into consideration and having a good, hard think about it. I’m as guilty as the next person of mindless indulgence. Consuming media that amuses us on the most superficial levels is a well-enjoyed form of escapism and I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with that. At the same time, however, someone that watches a lot of movies without much thought could be forgiven for a forming an unconscious idea that women are nothing more than window dressing. They have very few stories of their own; instead, they feature as characters that support the stories of the men in their lives. It wouldn’t hurt for our entertainment to be more balanced and send better messages. Plenty of women have stories of their own, after all.
I think it’s healthy for teens and tweens to see themselves represented in popular culture as people of substance- not ornaments. There are movies about teenagers that still only tell the stories of the boys. Girls are not central characters and their stories are ignored. There are some great movies for young people that pass the Bechdel and Sexy Lamp tests and they are good places to start. Much of what we watch here in Australia is American or British but it’s not always exactly diverse. I remember hearing Sampa The Great talking about what it was like being a little girl with brown skin who never saw herself represented anywhere. Not in the Barbie section or on a billboard, let alone in film. There are many so groups that aren’t widely represented in film; I want to try to find films that tell their stories, as well.
I’ve yet to see the perfect feminist film that ticks every single box. There are some movies that pass the Bechdel test, for example, that are nowhere near what anyone would consider feminist movies. That is where we have to remember the Bechdel test was initially part of a joke. That’s how low the bar is set. When you read about it’s inception, it’s hard not to imagine the creators cry-laughing as they added titles to an ever-growing list.
There’s no perfect feminist film test (and there are a couple of other spin-offs of the Bechdel out there), just ways like this to give us some indication.
I’ve got a list of movies ready to re-watch and review (I may have started the re-watching, but it’s blog research, yeah?) but let me know if you have any to add to my list!