Well, that’s the end of our movie watching. Over the course of this experience, we’ve discovered several things:
Nearly every “chick-flick” we’ve watched has had a female protagonist that is an archetypal figure, as described in Mindy Kaling’s article. In Breakfast at Tiffany’s we saw the “manic pixie dream girl,” in 27 Dresses we saw “the sassy best friend,” and in An Unmarried Woman, we saw “the woman who works in an art gallery.” Why are female characters being subjected to these pithy stereotypes? Should these characters be turned into caricatures for the sole purpose of making money? We don’t think so. We need real women in these movies, not perpetuated stereotypes that degrade our gender as a whole.
Women’s participation in film making
As seen in previous posts of ours, women’s participation in film making has been increasing over the years. More and more women are becoming involved in directing, writing, and producing films, especially in the “chick flick” genre. However, men still dominate the film industry. It wasn’t until a few years ago that a woman director won the Academy Award for Best Director (Katherine Bigelow for The Hurt Locker.) The rate at which women are becoming involved in film making is so slow, that hardly any progress is being made. Women need to become more and more involved in the writing, directing, and producing of movies. The more women who work on films, the more likely it is that a greater number of strong, female protagonists will emerge. Until the gender ratio in the film industry is 50/50, or close to it, we don’t believe this will happen.
As we applied the Bechdel test to each movie we watched, we noticed something. Most of the older movies passed the test easily, while the more recent films had a harder time. All About Eve passed the test with flying colors, with every single conversation between female characters pertaining to something other than a man. Breakfast at Tiffany’s was the exception to the older movie rule, as it did not pass the Bechdel test at all. An Unmarried Woman passed the test easily, with an entire conversation in the film actually revolving around women and their representation in movies. The three newer films all passed the test, but just barely. They all had plots heavily centered around men or relationships with men, and the dialogue that allowed them to pass the test was not essential or necessarily relevant to the plot. So, what’s up with this pattern? Have films regressed over time in terms of feminism and women’s roles in movies? It would seem so.
What we’d like to see is an entirely new genre of movies, where the female protagonists have their own storylines that are about their lives, and not who they’re dating. In order for this to happen, we believe that women need to have a greater presence in the film industry. If strong, smart, independent women start making these movies, surely that will be reflected in the characters. So, ladies, let’s get to it! I bet we can even come up with a new name—“chick flicks” is getting old.