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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Column: Our View

Movies and vaginas, they go together like bread and butter. Megan Fox, Angelina Jolie and Cameron Diaz are just a few of the lovely ladies that grace movie screens across the world. But they have something else in common. They all failed.

They failed the Bechdel Test for women in movies, that is.

Originally presented in Alison Bechdel’s comic strip, “Dykes to Watch Out For,” the system now dubbed the “Bechdel Test” is comprised of three simple premises. One, the movie has to have two women with names. Two, these women must talk to each other. And three, they have to talk to each other about something other than a man.

Though it’s tempting to say that Bechdel’s test describes the quality of the movie or how feminist the movie is, the test only really provides information on the presence of women in movies.

Don’t believe me? Then just remember that Mean Girls 2, which never even made it into a theater, passed the Bechdel Test. But it still failed at life.

At first glance, the criteria seem like they’d be easy enough to fulfill. But as a very insightful Youtube video by Feminist Frequency informed me, it’s a surprisingly difficult task to find movies that pass.

To my horror, the more I thought about it, the more I realized my favorite movies didn’t pass the test. Obviously, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Fight Club weren’t going to pass, but it worried me when even Disney movies and rom-coms failed the test.

I mean, come on, there’s no way that The Lion King can be sexist. It is giant Disney animated cats reenacting Hamlet. That’s like the holy grail of awesome things.

Unfortunately, the only premise the movie passes is that it has multiple females with names. The story itself revolves around Simba’s journey of self-discovery, Scar’s evil plot, Mufasa’s untimely death and Timon’s willingness to “dress in drag and do the hula.” Well, maybe not that last one.

So, does Benchel’s test prove that such movies are evil and sexist things that women should protest against and burn at the stake?

No, the test just sheds a light on an inequality in storytelling, and provides an important jumping off point to investigate the role of women in film.

The vast majority of screenwriters, directors and producers in Hollywood are men, and through no fault of their own, their work inevitably ends up representing the male point of view. That’s not to say that this work is somehow unworthy because they’re men.

I wouldn’t want to live in a world without the badassery of 300, either.

But the female perspective of writers and directors is the compliment to the male perspective. Men can make sensitive and accurate films about female issues and women like Kathryn Bigelow can create Oscar winning films like The Hurt Locker.

Since I’m talking about women in film, I’m pretty sure it would be a crime if I didn’t mention the newest media darling, Bridesmaids.

Written by SNL alumna Kristin Wiig and her partner Annie Mumolo, Bridesmaids features an extremely talented female comedic ensemble.

More than any other movie I’ve ever seen, Bridesmaids portrays real female relationships and the problems all women face. Like how we can’t eat a cupcake without socially instituted guilt, or the way men think that offhandedly grabbing your boob is as arousing for us as it is for them.

Although the raunchy, outlandish humor in Bridesmaids is one of its best elements, the accountability to real life is the movie’s real beauty. It reminds women, like me, that we’re not alone; that our personal experiences are worth sharing with the world.

The sense of value fostered from sharing female stories from real female perspectives doesn’t solve all of the problems women face. However, it’s a solid start and a safe haven in a world full of inequality.

While I’ve used the female perspective to visualize the problems in film, the same problem of value and viewpoint applies to every marginalized group.

It’s easy for me to have righteous feminist anger since I’m a twenty-something female. But the struggles that face all minority communities, whether racial, sexual, economic or religious, are just as important and deserve to be told with equal truth and creativity.

So, it’s time for us to support minority viewpoints by watching movies on Megavideo. Or not, you choose.

KATE ZARRELLA would like to hear if your favorite movie passed the test. E-mail her at kazarrella@ucdavis.edu.


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