Monday 28 June 2010

A simple test and a challenge

The New Zealand Film Festival is on soon and in the spirit of women movie making I propose a challenge to you, dear readers. Whether you'll be seeing films within the festival or outside of it, whether you are seeing them in New Zealand or elsewhere, I challenge you!

Challenge #1: The Bechdel Test

One of my dear readers (Thank you Melody!) posted an interesting video on this blog's facebook page recently. Here it is

The Bechdel Test is the application of certain criteria to films, allowing for a study of representation of women in films. The criteria are the following:
  • Does the film have two or more women in it who have names?
  • Do these women talk to each other?
  • Do they talk about something else than men?
From now on when you go to the movies keep an eye out for these criteria. You'll be surprised (or maybe not) just how many films, old and new, do not even pass this simple test. In the 21st century, kinda astounding.

Challenge #2: Find films to watch that pass the Bechdel test

Pretty straight forward that one. Once you have watched a few of these Bechdel-films, ask yourself are these films feminist films or just films in certain cinematic genres that happen to pass the Bechdel test? Are they good films? Would they be better films if the same story had been told with male characters?

Then ask yourself, why are there so many films that get produced that do not have more than one female character (criterion here simply being a female with a name)? And why on earth do female characters when there are more than one of them often only talk about men?

I find this cinematic reality absolutely devastating! What does that say about women? What does it communicate to women (and men) about women, our place in storytelling, in the context of a film's world and the real world? Are women not worthy of an equal presence in stories, in cinema, in the arts? Are we not as interesting, challenging, funny, dangerous, brave, mischievous etc as male characters?

Why is it that in the 21st century it is still the most difficult thing to achieve in storytelling to get a male audience to identify with female characters and therefore watch them on screen, read about them in books, listen to their song? How come women are allowed and expected to identify with male characters on screen (and therefore buy movie tickets) but men do not seem to be?

Maybe, just maybe, when we start to be aware of the reality of a cinema without an equal female voice, be it through a film's characters, through story-writing or directing, we will start to demand that this voice be heard. I challenge you to be a part of this change. Women and men, go and write about about women, seek women's stories! We have a right to tell them, we have a right have them told - as equals of men. And our stories are just as beautiful, exciting, gut-wrenching, devastating and hopeful as any man's story. 

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