Feminism at the movies

I love the Oscars – their glitz, glamour, and short moment in history honoring the movies of the past year.  As always, we’re having our annual Oscar party tonight (with recipes to follow).

In the lead up to this year’s Academy Awards, my office’s chatter has drifted away from recipe puns and toward something with much bigger consequences: the Bechdel test.

From Feminist Frequency, “The Bechdel Test or the Mo Movie Measure is a type of litmus test to assess the presence of women in movies.  It originated from Allison Bechdel’s comic “Dykes to Watch Out For” in 1985.”

There are just three requirements for a film to pass:

1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man
 

Looking at that list of requirements, you’d think that this isn’t a hard thing to accomplish.  Women with names, talking to each other about something other than a man.  Flip it around to be about men and it would describe nearly every blockbuster of the last 50 years.  And yet, some great movies fail.  How do yours stack up?

But let’s let bygones be bygones – surely in 2014, studios are doing better at realizing that women are people – fabulous, talented, multi-dimensional people – right?

Kind of.

Of the nine movies nominated for best picture tonight, here’s how they stack up:

  • “Gravity” — FAIL (though we can give it a little bit of a pass, since there are so few characters to begin with)
  • “Captain Phillips” — FAIL
  • “The Wolf of Wall Street” — FAIL
  •  “12 Years a Slave” — FAIL
  • “Her” — FAIL
  • “American Hustle” — PASS
  • “Philomena” — PASS
  • “Dallas Buyers Club” — PASS
  • “Nebraska” — PASS

Beyond the awards, we’re starting to see a shift – a review of the highest grossing films of 2013 showed that the biggest blockbusters cleared the bar.  Yet the majority of films still fall extremely short.

As movie lovers, let’s support films – and the individuals that make them up – who are committed to showing women as people and not just decoration.  Here’s hoping that by the next Academy Awards, we’ll have made more progress to celebrate together.

Additional reading:

 

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