Tag Archives: film

Smurfette the Superhero

First of all, I loved the movie! The Avengers is delicious sci-fi candy for a dork like me. As always, Joss Whedon delivers.

I especially liked Scarlett Johansen’s character “Black Widow”. She is tough and smart and she saves the day just as often as her male counterparts. I walked out of the movie excited that they had included a female superhero in the line up – a very rare thing.

By the time I reached my car, I was annoyed at myself, for being so pathetically grateful to be represented at all. The sixth movie in this series and the first one with a female hero, well, one of six heroes anyway.

I had been explaining the “Smurfette Principle” to my daughters just last week. Essentially, it describes the tendency in media to assemble a cast of male characters with one token female, usually the love interest or sexy sidekick.

If outsiders were to look to Hollywood to understand our society, they would be unlikely to believe that women make up MORE than 50% of the population. That’s right men, we outnumber you. But a trip to the theatre does not reflect that.

I recently heard about something called the Bechdel test. In order to pass, a movie must have:

  • 2 female characters
  • with names
  • who speak to each other for at least 30 seconds
  • about something other than a man

Honestly, this is not asking much; half a minute of dialogue in an entire movie. Hardly the framework for a raging feminist flick. But the puny number of movies which actually pass this will BLOW YOUR MIND!

It doesn’t mean much in and of itself; it doesn’t measure whether it is a good movie, or even respectful of women. But it does make you think about the representation of women in media.

In movie world, it seems that women’s lives often revolve entirely around men. We exist only as the prize; the prop for smarter, more interesting and more important characters. You know, the men.

They say media reflects real life, but it also influences it. I fear that all of us, men and women, may come to believe that it is true.

That women play the bit parts in life. That we aren’t crucial to the plot. That we are merely decorative. That the size of our boobs (or our size, period) and not the strength of our intellect is what matters most. That how we look is more important than what we have to say.

I don’t think women need to butch it up and take over the “world of men”. More women playing soldiers and assassins and action heroes is missing the point. We shouldn’t need to act macho to be the protagonists for a change.

We are daughters, and sisters, and wives, and mothers. We are friends, and co-workers, and artists, and thinkers. We are interesting. We are smart. We are funny. We are not scenery. And our stories matter too.

So here’s me, and this is my feminist rant for the day. In case you were wondering, more than 50% of movies fail the Bechdel test.

What is the last movie you saw? Does it pass the test? The answer may surprise you.

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