October 26, 2014

Scrolling Headlines:

UMass defense can’t stop late Toledo surge, Minutemen fall 42-35 -

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Michael Kimmel speaks to UMass students about ‘Guyland’ -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

UMass football looks for third straight win against Toledo on Saturday -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

‘Love is Strange’ is beautiful, painful and groundbreaking -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

White supremacy and settler colonialism at UMass -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

UMass hockey hopes first win will propel them past Hockey East rivals -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

UMass’ second line playing and succeeding with young talent early in the season. -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

‘The Good Wife’ returns as strong as ever -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Professor receives grant to cover massive election survey panel -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Unions rally over recent concession proposals -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

NFL Pick’em games return to the Massachusetts Daily Collegian -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

UMass celebrates Campus Sustainability Day -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

“Fury” falls just short of greatness -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Minutewomen look to continue their season in weekend game against Saint Bonaventure. -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

New meal plans receive mixed reviews from students -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

ISIS’s magazine is good for the West -

Thursday, October 23, 2014

UMass women’s soccer controls its own destiny as conference tournament approaches -

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

UMass soccer deploys new formation with Keys, Jess -

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

UMass calling on young swimmers to continue strong start to the year -

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

WMU, Ohio, NIU pick up wins in busy MAC weekend -

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hollywood misrepresents women

In her 1985 comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For,” Alison Bechdel created a litmus test for female characters and their positive representations in movies. There are three simple rules that a movie must follow to pass “The Bechdel Test”: there is a minimum of two named female characters in the film, these two women must speak to one another and they must speak to one another about something that is not a man.

Courtesy Rennett Stowe/Flickr

Courtesy Rennett Stowe/Flickr

While it may come as no surprise to you that movies such as “Fight Club” and “The Godfather” do not pass these three rules, it is alarming to note that “Toy Story,” “Up!” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two” also fail to meet these criteria. The test does not intend to say whether a movie is feminist in nature nor whether it is even a good movie: it simply ventures to show the female presence, or the lack thereof, in film.

The first standard in the test refers to two female characters being present in the movie. Their presence can be limited to them simply being there and referred to by a proper, given name. This criterion is important because at a given moment in reality, there are more than two women present. Assuming that most movies made nowadays can even meet this condition would be erroneous. Recent movies such as “Dear John” and “Bruno” do not portray two named women.

The second standard implies that these two (or more) named female characters are significant enough that they get a dialogue between one another. They must exist as stand alone characters who are not simply serving a male protagonist or accessible as a person solely in his social world. Movies who fail to achieve this status include “The Hangover,” “(500) Days of Summer” and “Slumdog Millionaire.”

The final standard insists that two named female characters talk about something other than a man. This is important because women do not simply sit around and talk about men all of the time. Giving two women dialogue outside of talking about men and sexual relations places them outside of the sphere of a sexual object, limited to finding ways to be being pleasing to men. The radical idea of portraying women outside of the terms of the male gaze is where many movies fail “The Bechdel Test.”

It is important to note that the struggle for women to be seen outside of relationships with men is at the crux of feminist theory. The far-reaching idea that women are not merely objects in male society has been asserted since Mary Wollstonecraft published “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” in 1792. In this pamphlet, Wollstonecraft calls for women to be educated so that they can be companions to their husbands and not simply items to be traded through the institution of marriage. Hallmarked as one of the earliest feminist works, it is clear that from the beginning women needed to be seen as independent, fully functioning human beings.

Bringing up Wollstonecraft’s 1792 text here is not an attempt to shove early feminist theory at you and claim that women are still confined to corsets and motherhood, but to illuminate how Hollywood undermines the great leaps and bounds feminism has achieved. As a generation, it is hard for us to remember a time when a woman was not allowed to be a full-fledged doctor or lawyer or when women went to college merely to get their MRS (going to college exclusively to get married and become a Mrs.) degrees. So why has the movie-making industry, one of our primary sources of popular culture, erased women and their stories from the main stream? Why are so many movies failing when it comes to having women talk to each other about something other than a sexual or romantic relationship with a man?

The film industry is motivated by one factor: money. Based on recently released films, female protagonists and female-driven stories are not cost effective. The president of Warner Bros., Jeff Robinov, went so far as to say that the company will “no longer be doing movies with women in the lead” after Jodi Foster’s “The Brave One” and Nicole Kidman’s “The Invasion” failed to bring in as much revenue as expected. It is important to note here that both movies passed “The Bechdel Test.”

When examining movies that have a strong female protagonist, such as “The Brave One,” it is easy for movie executives to blame the female element for the failure of the film. In regards to the film’s failure, it isn’t noted that men Neil Jordan and Roderick Taylor both directed and wrote the piece, respectively. The female protagonist narrative is getting attacked simply because it’s the easiest aspect to scapegoat when certain members of Hollywood are searching for a reason to eradicate women’s presence in film in the name of profit margins.

It is hard to argue with the fact that most movies churned out by Hollywood do not meet three simple criteria for female characters. These criteria give any female character a name, a role in society and an existence beyond her interactions with men.

Allie Connell is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at aconn0@student.umass.edu.

Comments
One Response to “Hollywood misrepresents women”
  1. Mike says:

    The target audience for most action movies are men, and frankly since people live vicariously through movies a lot of the time, they want to see men be the action heroes…

    There have been successful movies that pass this test, for example The Hunger Games.

    Mike

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