Last month after Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar victory, I cited a 2008 statistic from Melissa Silverstein's Women and Hollywood blog, indicating that only 6 of that year's 50 highest grossing films were focused on women. I had a few people ask me what I meant by "focus." Yes, the majority of box office hits probably feature women, but who do these films revolve around? A few weeks later, I came across a great test via GABblog to determine whether there is a focus on women in a film.
The Bechdel test, developed by artist and scholar Allison Bechdel (although she credits Liz Wallace for the test), involves three simple questions.
The Bechdel Test
1. Are there at least two women with names in the film?
2. Do they talk to each other?
3. Do they talk about something other than a man?
If you answered yes to the those three questions then you have a film with a focus on women. And you might be surprised to learn that the following films, which are favourites among young girls, failed the test: Shrek, Wall-E, Pirates of the Caribbean 1, 2 and 3, the Princess Bride, Up, Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings 1, 2 and 3--all films that I have watched with my 7-year-old daughter. No wonder she thinks it would be cool to be a boy. For a more complete list of blockbusters that flunk the Bechdel test, watch this 2-minute video by Feminist Frequency.
Another blogsite, Angry Black Woman, posted this test for people of colour (POC) in media. This test and subsequent analysis caused a stir, generating 159 comments.
1. There has to be two POCs with names.
2. They have to talk to each other.
3. They have to talk about someone other than the white person.
If you still need some more compelling evidence of just how underrepresented women in film are, I suggest that you read this article by Jennifer Kesler, a former screenwriter in Hollywood. Kessler states that although she moved to California from a state that still held Klu Klux Klan rallies, she found a more insidious form of bigotry there in the film industry.
I have to admit that I was taken aback when I saw the list of films that didn't feature at least two women talking about someone other than a white guy. But I am more concerned about the impact this will have on my daughter. I decided we needed a test for young girls and came up with this:
The Girl-Positive test
1) There has to be two girls with names.
2) Two girls discuss their hopes and dreams.
3) These hopes and dreams do not ultimately lead to the attention of a boy.
I think that it's time to start compiling a list of movies for young girls and adolescents that reflect the rich lives of girls and women.
Here's the start of my list:
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
Parents, please help me build my list. Can you think of any other films that pass the Girl Positive test?
Mexican doll artist Norma Andreu created Frida Kahlo- and Remedios Varo-inspired dolls currently on display at Artistri, 5319 Park Avenue, Montreal. My next post will be on this artist and two of her other collections.
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Image de femmes 2010