Thursday, April 17, 2014

Option 5 blog 5

The Bechdel Test is a simple way to measure the activity of female characters in Hollywood films and how well rounded  or lack of being well rounded those roles are.  It was created by Allison Bechdel in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in 1985. The Bechdel test asks if the film has at the mimum of two women in the film, furthermore, it asks if these women talk to eachother about something other than men. The studies on the Bechdel test have found that many of the films that make it big in Hollywood actually fail this test. In fact, on average the movies that fail these tests are have said to profit much more even when they have comparable movie budgets of those who pass the Bechdel test.

For this blog, I decided to watch the “Black Swan”. This has been one of my favorite movies since it came out early 2010. “Black Swan” is a thriller directed by Darren Aronofsky. The main actress’ in Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis. The movie is essentialy about the auditions and production of the Swan Lake, a ballet written by Tchaikovasky, that takes place in New York City at a cutthroat and high-status ballet academy. After seeing in class all of the movie that didn’t pass the Bechdel test I was slightly skeptical if the Black Swan would pass or not. To my surprise, the movie actually did pass the Bechdel test. It passed because the main character Nina Sayers (played by Natalie Portman) has many conversations with her strict and cruel mother Erica Sayers (played by Barbara Hershey. These conversations are not abut men, they are about how Nina will perform in her next performance, how she did during practice, and how much weight she needs to loose for a certain role. Although the movie passes the Bechdel test I would still consider it to be gender biased. Nina is the film is portrayed as weak and timid she works relentlessly to earn the approval of her male coach her also plays on her weaknesses and tried to pursue her sexually. To gain his approval, she flirts back with her coach to try to earn a spot in the academy. The outcome of the test surprised me since the leading female is actually very weak and scared for the majority of the movie.

Blog 4

            There are no situations that I can personally relate to from our texts, however a close friend of mine did tell me a story of a summer he was abused in his own home at a very young age. Similar to Bone’s story in Bastard out of Carolina, a friend of mine was physically and sexually abused by his caregiver, which happened to be a very close friend of the family’s. His parents hired the daughter of a close neighbor to be their nanny over the summer while they worked. To the parents, she appeared to be a lovely girl: She went to church every Sunday with her family, was very well mannered, got accepted to a good college, and the parents were extremely respectable. However, the only one to see her true side was my friend, only 10 years old at the time. Over the summer while she was watching over him, she would make various sexual advances towards him whether it be in the pool, on the playground, and just while he was playing with his toys in the playroom. When he would try and resist any advances she would physically punish him. While the injuries were never severe enough to leave evidence, ranging from slaps to kicks and hair pulling. She told him that if he ever said anything to his parents or anyone he would get in “so much trouble.” Consequently, he didn’t say anything for the next 5 years. This summer nanny has affected his life forever and there is not a day that goes by that he does not think about it. This is not unlike Bone’s story. She was molested at a very young age by a person she trusted and later in her life was abused by that same person. And it effected her entire life.

Option #1: Bechdel Test for Dirty Dancing

Alexandra Smith
            I’ve seen Dirty Dancing a dozen times, but last night I watched it with the Bechdel test in mind. The result, you beg to know? *drum roll please* It passed! There are actually quite a few female characters and they did talk to each other about things besides men. Among the female roles is the lead, 17-year-old Frances Houseman, who mainly goes by “Baby” majority of the movie. The main supporting characters are Baby’s sister, Lisa, their mother, Marjorie, and the female head dance instructor, Penny Johnson.
 In terms of dress, the movie is set in the summer of 1963 at a plush resort, Kellerman’s, so the dress in general is much more modest and conservative. Baby, in the beginning, is very modest with sleeveless, knee-length dresses with high necklines paired with over-sized cardigans, natural hair, and no makeup. But when she becomes the new dance partner of heart-throb Patrick Swayze’s character, Johnny Castle, she gradually wears more revealing, sexier clothes and makeup. Granted, it is summertime and they are rehearsing for numerous, consecutive hours in non-air-conditioned cabins. Plus, dancers are typically made up for performing. I have reconciled Baby’s transformation of dress in my own head (Patrick Swayze is so hot, how can you not be tempted to dress a bit sexier around him?) and feel that this was a necessary demonstration of her coming-of-age/transformation. The mother dresses very classy, feminine, and always put together, as does Lisa, but she is a bit more sexualized in some scenes to be captured as superficial, vain, with a pretty face, and big rack (watch the last scene for the Kellerman’s talent show, in which she is wearing basically a supportive swim suit top). Penny is definitely the most “sexy” out of these four women, but she’s typically only over-exposing one part of her body at a time, such as her featured backless dress or leotard. I think the most she exposed was her shoulders and legs in an off-shoulder peasant top paired with high-waisted short-shorts.
Now what did these ladies talk about? Honestly, the dialogue between Baby and her mother is limited to a few quick lines and she has probably two real conversations with her sister. Baby interacts the most with Penny, starting with Baby admitting her admiration and envy for her and following with the scene that reveals that Penny is knocked up by Robbie, a college-aged waiter at Kellerman’s that Lisa is currently seeing. At this point, Penny sees Baby as well, a baby, and tells her she doesn’t know jack about her problems and to just go back to her playpen. Eventually, Penny becomes a mentor figure to Baby and the two become friends while Baby learns Penny’s routine for her scheduled performance at the Sheldrake with Johnny.
Are they “normal” women? I’d say each woman is unique her own way, but believable in their characters to be real women. Marjorie is a mother and wife, a bit superficial in some aspects, and not as involved in her daughters’ lives as she should be, in my opinion. But certainly her spunky personality is shown in the last scene when she tells her husband to sit down in order for Baby to be free to go on stage with Johnny. Plus, it was cute when she turned and whispered to her husband while Baby was dancing on stage, “I think she gets it from me.” Lisa is very vain, superficial, and spends most of the movie discussing things like clothes, where her “base iridescent lipstick” went, honeymoon locations, and her plans to “go all the way” with Robbie. Lisa is competitive with Baby for their father’s attention and is certainly envious of her. She softened towards her sister when the family finds out Baby had slept with Johnny and her father forbids her from seeing him again. It really was a sweet scene where Lisa just sensed Baby’s emotions, sat on the bed beside her, and held her. She even offered to do her makeup and hair for the show, but then admitted that Baby was beautiful in her own way. Baby’s mother and sister become characters with some depth by the end of the movie. Penny Johnson was not necessarily a “normal” woman, as much as a “real” woman from the very beginning. Part of her appeal as a dance instructor is that she used to be a rockette, but when Baby admits how she envies her, Penny lets her know that she was kicked out of the house at sixteen by her mother and has never gone back since, shattering the glamorous, surreal image Baby saw prior. Now for the main character, Baby (especially since I am at almost 800 words now, sorry about that. I clearly got carried away with this blog due to my undying love for this movie). Baby is seventeen and not the typical young woman for the time due to her aspirations to attend university and major in something other than English. She plans to attend Mount Holyoke in the fall and major in the economics of underdeveloped countries then enter the Peace Core. Her innocence, privileged, and sheltered life is still obvious at the beginning of the movie, despite her compassion for the poor and suffering. But she is a “normal” woman due to the very relatable transformation she goes through from not only the obvious reason of falling in love for the first time or losing her virginity, but also through tapping into her free-spirit through dance. I don’t think the character Johnny necessarily was the key to her transformation, as much as following her curiosity, desire, and heart to try new experiences that summer outside the norm and her parents’ expectations.
In the past year, 24 of 50 movies have passed the Bechdel Test. But what does that mean? The Bechdel Test is an assessment of movies to represent the multitude of major roles that female characters can tackle, instead of the usual girly and sometimes overdone, male obsessed roles.

While thinking of various movies that pass the Bechdel Test, I immediately thought of A League of Their Own. Set in 1943, during World War II, sisters Dottie Hinson, played by Geena Davis, and Kit Keller, as played by Lori Petty, decide to take a leap of faith and join the female baseball league. Leaving the homely duties behind, they leave to embrace the hard work and limelight that comes with playing on the Rockford Peaches and Racine Belles.

During the movie both Dottie and Kit face their own dilemmas. Dottie, the all-star of the Rockford Peaches, contemplates leaving baseball for her housewife duties back home. On the other side of the spectrum, Kit sets out to prove herself as a strong-willed, determined woman, capable of achieving anything.

Instead of focusing on men, all women on the various baseball teams choose to concentrate on themselves. The most memorable quote from the movie states, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great”. 

A League of Their Own is a movie that in my opinion gracefully passes the Bechdel Test. It represents hard work, determination, and self-belief. Dottie, Kit, and all of the other characters allow women and girls everywhere to see that achieving great things can be possible.

Relating to females today, A League of Their Own still resonates. In the wise words of Oprah Winfrey, “It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you came from. The power to triumph begins with you. Always”.

Blog Option #1

         The Women is a movie featuring a very prominent all female cast. The movie came out in 2008 and is an adaptation of a play set in the 1930’s by Clare Booth. The main character is Mary Heins played by Meg Ryan. Mary seemed to have the perfect life. She was married to a renowned Wall Street businessman, she balanced her job as a designer at her father’s company and she was mom to a thirteen-year-old girl. Mary had a core group of best friends (Annette Bening as Sylvie Fowler, Debra Messing as Edie Cohen and Jada Pinkett Smith as Alex Fisher), who were considered high society women that filled their time gossiping and partaking in a very luxurious dress and lifestyle. Everything seemed to going great for Mary until she finds out that her husband is cheating on her with Crystal Allen (Eva Mendes), a promiscuous woman who works the perfume counter at a department store. This surprising discovery is what the rest of the film is centered around. Sylvie is Meg’s best friend since college and is the person that finds out first that Mary’s husband is cheating on her. She hesitates to tell Mary and so confides in her manicurist who ultimately ends up telling Mary one day after getting a manicure herself. Like all good friends they ban together to help Mary. However things get messy when in fear of losing her job as a top fashion editor, Sylvie tells a celebrity gossip columnist about Mary’s failing marriage in exchange for favor that will help her magazine. Upon finding out about Sylive’s betrayal Mary decides to end her relationship with Sylvie. At this point of the movie Mary decides to take control of her life. She gets a makeover, starts her own clothing design firm, and makes an effort to bond with her daughter more. She starts figuring out what she wants in life, how she can make things happen for herself, and ultimately learns from the parts she played in the cause of her own problems. By the end of the movie Mary is in the process of mending her relationship back together with Sylvie who has quit her job and potentially repairing her marriage with her husband but as a strong new woman.

           I had a hard time deciding if this movie passed the Bechdel Test. It wasn't surprising to me The Women did not to pass the test on the grounds it did fail to meet the main requirements that there is suppose to be a focus on something other than men and in a visual sense they dressed to represent their role (i.e sexualized home wrecker, flashy fashion mogul etc). And while the movie did start out as just another melodramatic comedy about a group of stereotypical gossipy women, I was surprised that in some aspects it did come very close to passing the test.  I realized as the movie continued you cannot help but become intrigued by each of these women’s lives. Although the movie does focus on Mary and her marriage problems each women has a very relatable storyline and they are all portrayed as having very successful careers, being wise, funny, and articulate. They also all seem to respond to situations and have feelings that I would characterize as "normal" for an average woman. This film is meant to be humorous and brutally honest, and while most of the time the women are planning revenge against each other and their conversations are centered around men it is not in a whining or desperate way. Overall I came to the conclusion that this movie did not did pass the Bechdel Test but it did a great job of showing the heartache and uniquely special triumphs of being a woman, proving that a movie can be entertaining and empowering without having men appear much in a film. 

Places in the Heart - blog 5

     I have loved this movie since I was 8 years old, and I am very happy to announce that it passed the Bechdel test – just barely - but it passed!! Number 1: there are three major female roles, including the main character. Number 2: they do speak to each other. Number 3: there is one conversation between two of the women in which a man is not mentioned:

Margaret: “I’m here, I’m comin’. Start out an hour early, I always end up half hour late.”
Viola: “Okay, what can I do to help?”
Margaret: “Want to get the cards on top of the chest of drawers? That [dish] looks good. “

     And that was it. The saving grace of the movie! I was actually surprised that it passed. It is set in Waxahachie, Texas during the great depression and tells the story of Edna Sterling, a housewife and mother whose husband is accidentally killed. When her husband dies, she must find a way to pay her mortgage and keep her home and children, a nearly impossible task for a woman alone in the 1930’s. Because Edna was so alone in her struggle, I expected Places in the Heart to fail the Bechdel test.

     Most conversations between Edna and the other women involve her husband, which is to be expected. The above conversation was between Edna’s sister Margaret, and Margaret’s best friend, Viola, both of whom play a large role in the film. All three ladies are middle class. They wear typical 1930’s dresses, cardigans, aprons, stockings, and sturdy, low-heeled shoes - nice dresses, jewelry, heels, and makeup for dances and such. Their outfits are always tasteful and modest. The hemlines fell below their knees and the necklines can still be called necklines – again typical 1930’s fashion.

     Despite the modest apparel, however, the movie still shows each woman in some manner of undress: Viola in a chemise, Margaret in her bra and underpants, and Edna nude. The scenes with Viola and Margaret are somewhat understandable as they involved romantic escapades pertinent to the story. Edna’s bath scene, on the other hand, does absolutely nothing to enhance the plot. It was obviously contrived and really has no business being in the film. I guess if the lead had to be a woman, she had to get naked to make up for it. It's absolutely infuriating! Even one of the movie posters shows Edna with her clothes plastered to her body in the wind. SEE?!?

     There is NO reason to sexualize this character at all, but apparently someone thought it had to be done...


     Other than that, this is an incredible movie, and I recommend everyone see it. The women are all believable. Viola is depressed and unhappy, which leads her to be jealous of her friend’s happiness. Margaret is likable, both light-hearted and dependable and always right where she is needed most. Edna is easily the best character. She is sweet-tempered and loving, but also courageous and indomitable. Even when she is reduced to tears and can barely put one foot in front of the other, she never stops working to keep her family together. What makes her truly remarkable, though, is that through all of her hardships, she herself never becomes hardened. Most female leads “man up” in order to overcome adversity, but Edna never thinks or acts like a man. Instead she acknowledges the challenges before her, accepts them, and meets each one with grace and unwavering determination. She faces them not like a man, but like a woman.

blog5 prompt 1

I have chosen the movie “Frozen” directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee to take the Bechdel Test. As you know this test consists of three requirements in order to fit the criteria of a Feminist movie. The three requirements are: It has at least two women in it, who talk to each other, and talk about something besides a man. Although these requirements may seem simple to achieve many movies in today’s age and in the past do not pass them. Luckily, the movie that I chose did. Frozen is a 2013 animated film recommended for younger kids, yet has clearly shown to affect the lives of individuals of all ages. This movie has even become a huge hit with our fellow TCU students ages 18-22. Because of this vast impact on our society I thought it would only be right to investigate it further. First, this movie has two strong female characters, Elsa and Anna. These two characters also happen to be sisters, and interact with one another in the film. Surprisingly the women in this novel are also shown as the “bad” and the “good” throughout the story as Elsa is known as the snow queen and Anna is seen as the woman who is trying to save her town. And finally, these women both converse about something other than a man. Their main focus of the film is for Anna to find her sister Elsa who has transformed the kingdom into an eternal winter, and to save the town. 

This film passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. I was surprised to have found a passing film so easily in my search and one that is so recent. This discovery is a huge accomplish for our society and for years to come. Although films in the past (and present) have shown degrading female roles, one of the main films of 2013 has shown to be a huge step forward in the view of gender equalization. This is a film that many young kids and even younger generations in the future will see and will grow up believing that women are equal to men.