What we’re watching…over and over and over again.

November 28, 2013

It has recently become more painfully apparent, that there is a common thread to what we consume when watching a screen – whether large or small.

Stories of boys and men. Males.

Please understand that I have no problem whatsoever with these kinds of stories – many of my favourite movies fall in this category – but over the last 10 years, it’s become a tad tedious.

Endless stories of boys coming of age – men fulfilling their destinies – older man taking younger man/teen/boy under his wing etc. etc. etc.

Screen shot 2011-02-14 at 10.31.15 AM

But where’s the female equivalent?

I recently asked my husband why he doesn’t watch women’s sport and he answered: 
“I only want to watch the best.”

I was dubious of this answer because I thought: ‘Women are the best of their sports too.’
 To explain, he used a sport he doesn’t watch – Boxing.
 He said that if he were to watch a boxing match, he wouldn’t watch a featherweight fight, he’d want to watch the biggest and strongest men battling it out. The best.

I actually understood. I even think most people would agree with that logic.

OK. Soooo…

Question #192: What do we worship about women on an equal level?

And it IS worship. Sportsmen with flames superimposed behind them on TV snippets, slow motion footage, both males and females equally celebrating them and what they do. Worship.

If men are physically strong and we honour that about them – what do we honour about women?

We can’t have a world where one half of our human race is continually watched, nurtured and guided to feel they can achieve ANYTHING and not have that same respect for the other half.

But that’s exactly what we have.

So what is there? 
I asked this of my husband but he had no answer or chose not to.

The only thing I can think of – is porn; there is nothing else.

Now, let’s have a squiz at what’s happening up on the movie screen.

The Bechdel Test comes from a cartoon strip by Alison Bechdel from 1985, in which ‘The Rule’ for evaluating films was explained:

In order to pass, the film or show must meet the following criteria:

  • It includes at least two women;

(Some make the addendum that the women must be named characters)

  • who have at least one conversation;

(Because of quibbles regarding what length of time makes a valid conversation, some have proposed the addendum that it last at least 60 seconds)

  • about something other than a man or men. 

(The exact interpretation of this can vary; some feel that it’s okay to mention a man or men so long as they’re not the primary subject of the conversation, while others will demand a conversation where men aren’t mentioned at all. Some make the addendum that the conversation also cannot reference marriage, babies, or romance)*

Most films – sadly – fail this test.

Have a look for yourself. TV shows too.

In her 1929 essay A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf wrote what she observed in regards to the literature of her time:

‘All these relationships between women, I thought, rapidly recalling the splendid gallery of fictitious women, are too simple. So much has been left out, unattempted. And I tried to remember any case in the course of my reading where two women are represented as friends.  They are now and then mothers and daughters. But almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men. It was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen’s day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex. And how small a part of a woman’s life is that; and how little can a man know even of that when he observes it through the black or rosy spectacles which sex puts upon his nose.’

How fascinating…and depressing.

Nothing. Changes.

So what is it with us?

Why do we find it so hard to watch women in equal (but different) representation to men and boys?

Deep Breath.


* http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/UsefulNotes/TheBechdelTest?from=Main.TheBechdelTest

4 Responses to “What we’re watching…over and over and over again.”

  1. lamehousewife said

    Steel Magnolias, Fried Green Tomatoes, Saint Rita, Bones, the X-Files…it just depends on what kind of female personality and story you are looking for. There are great movies and stories out there with women. Woolf had sort of a narrow view because of the material she had available; in addition, her experience was far different from what American women were experiencing at the same time. Half of the top ten best selling novelists in the U.S. were women from 1900-1950. She also seemed to have no access to female authors like Anna Barbauld, Eilzabeth Browning, Christina Rossetti, Willa Cather, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Edith Stein, Teresa of Avila, etc. The most published magazine by 1900 in the US was the Ladies Home Journal written primarily by women. That said, half of the population of earth is men, so there will almost always be some reference point to them as women are a reference point for men. Thank you for the post! Hope that you are well.

    • questionsforwomen said

      Hellooooooo Juliet! It’s so nice to hear your ‘voice’. 🙂
      I LOVE Steel Magnolias – but that and Fried Green Tomatoes are quite old. As much as it’s been a problem for a while (Star Wars – my all time favourite – only has one woman) it really is in more recent times that it seems we’ve reached saturation point. Same story lines.
      It’s not saying women’s roles aren’t there but they’re sprinkled. Dana Scully is one of my faves – equally to Mulder.
      I just feel that movies now are predominantly stories that follow a formula guys like – mainly the block busters – Wolverine, Superman, Iron Man, blowing stuff up in space or in the future, then the ‘comedies’ – Hangover, Daddy parent movies, sex obsessed movies that just paint relationships like frat houses…
      The last movie – for me – that passed the Bechdel test was the kids’ movie, BRAVE. I think it’s the only kids movie *ever* which has a sole mother/daughter focus. ONE.
      The rest are all boys sprinkled with girls. The hero is always a boy/man.
      Again, it’s not to say we not have these stories – it’s just me crying out for something more balance.
      Did that make sense?
      Hope you’re well too, darlin!
      How are your studies going?

      • lamehousewife said

        Hi Paula. Yep. Makes sense. I am pretty far behind as far as recent material. I think one of the great things about today is that we can go back and watch older films. We don’t necessarily have to consume what they are giving us. I love older films! The film industry, I think, is showing its desperation in trying to keep audiences. With the internet and DVD’s, films are not doing as well as they once did.
        As to my studies…they are going fine. I was able to take a little breather this week with the Thanksgiving Holiday. That’s why I actually was able to read one of your posts AND make a response:) I am so happy to be able to talk with you again. God bless…

      • questionsforwomen said

        I think you hit the nail on the head with the ‘desperation’ to keep audiences. *sigh*
        I hope you’re having a lovely holiday. 🙂 x

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