On the one hand, what could one possibly expect from the entertainment industry. Its “product” serving as the servile public relations arm of the financial/industrial complex. And its been that way since the Hays Code of the 1930′s which coincided with the Rockefeller and Morgan investing in the large studios and the first junior Frankenstein of this laboratory in Shirley Temple. Poor Shirley was a proxy for the wealthy and their unwillingness to part with misered and hoarded cash to help the destitute in the Depression. Shirley was charity. She loved everyone. Ingenious, but that template got rid of the Mae West’s, the Tod Browning of Freaks and most anything else that held the odour of the transgressive. How on earth, could Weimar Germany be transposed into something like Cabaret? You get the picture. …
The Bechdel test is a kind of measure of female presence in film and more broadly in popular culture. The template can be applied to theater and other dramatic performance arts as well. But more than presence, its a measure of engagement within the scenario that is both meaningful and respects the dignity of the gender. That is, women as active participants on equal footing which have concerns that go beyond drivel, brain dead consumerist impulses and an attention span that can hold broad and profound views on issues important to the viewer. Women not as an accessory object and an object of idealized desire found in the glean of the male gaze. It is true that the male characters are more developed in the movies, but is it saying all that much?
…Since to achieve the economies of scale to make a picture economically viable, the level of sophistication, naunce, insight, sublimity has to be basically pitched to the scrap heap. The way to the heart of the masses often lies in the path of least resistance. Modern art like Picasso’s Filles D’avignon realized that mass communication would just exasperate patriarchy and misogyny and the themes of sickness and death that pervade the work would stand as an indictment of the hyper-consumerism that would dope the masses into beating on the most vulnerable members of society in order to have an extra portion of porridge. …
So, since the financial interests placed Louis B. Mayer and jack Warner types in the role of eager pubic shapers of opinion, ideological pitchmen, movies became a commodity: deeply sentimental, diluted, purified and totally fictitious brimming with transcendental and irrational insignificance. Everything about as raw and real as a Rockwell cover illustration. Everything becomes as highly finished an object as a shiny Christmas tree ornament with dissent channeled to a reformist and apologetical lackey role to the most extreme canons of conservative ideology. Formula. The innocuous. Soft food easy to swallow.
No more hungry children in tattered clothes looking through store windows at food. A new perversion of Charles Dickens and the “purity of the middle class.” The vulgarity of this long running charade was based on politicians Hoover and Roosevelt knitting and sewing an ideological argument that the economy, America’s prosperity, is fueled, powered, by money and finance and not labor. Hence, protecting the rich was patriotic. Not surprisingly, the unions, AFL , Sam Gompers etc. were complicit in this. With the IWW, Wobblies, destroyed, there was no institutional threat just the blah blah rhetoric of the working class that post-modern puppets like Obama, a walking, talking Sambo garden gnome can master in an articulate cross of Walt Disney and skilled screenwriters.
But then you have to ask whether feminism is complicit with capitalism in the furthering of this pop culture monster. Reinforcing through dissent advocates the values of strengthening the structure through what at best is liberal reform replete with all the normative neo-Platonic bourgeois values encapsulated, incarnated in essentially the white middle class. The really poor, the destitute, the outcasts, the people traipsing the halls of the mental institutions, the men on death row, the marginal, the peoples starving of hunger, the rock throwers on the West Bank, the Moslem brotherhood, the Taliban dismembering and dancing over our dead soldiers, the pious jew studying the torah, the nomadic Inuit, the Sufi desert hermit, All of them don’t give a rats ass about these shitty movies that are built to be obsolete in 24 months. When Judith cut off Holoferne’s head what she thinking about Third Wave feminism and an evening writing an essay about sexism in Glee? Do the Syrian rebels have the luxury over pontificating Stieg Larsson’s misogyny?
Feminist Frequency:First up the Descendents. It’s a story of a father pulling his family through a crisis. The mother is basically fridged before the opening credits even finish rolling to provide the catalyst for the father figure’s growth. This film does pass the test because of a handful of brief interactions between female characters, including between the two daughters, Alex and Scottie….Read More:http://www.feministfrequency.com/
Feminist Frequency: …Tree of Life is a more experimental film about a boy and his family. It fails the test because the only brief scene where two women talk, the conversation is about the death of the family’s son. While it’s true there’s very little dialogue in the film as a whole, the father and the son do speak to each other on multiple occasions….
…Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close also fails the test. It follows the story of a boy dealing with the trauma of losing his father on 9/11. Two women never talk to each other about anything other then the boy.
In classic Woody Allan style, Midnight in Paris is about a man struggling to discover himself and while there’s a handful of women in the picture, they never really discuss anything other then men and men’s influence on their lives. Some critics have argued that this brief scene between Inez and her mother constitutes a pass….Read More:http://www.feministfrequency.com/
…Finally, we have the The Artist, which it’s true, is a silent film. So you might be asking how we can apply the Bechdel Test to a film without any spoken dialogue? Well in classic Silent movie style characters do communicate with each other via title cards, mouthing words, facial expressions, physical gestures and pantomime. So for this one I’ll accept any non-verbal communication between two women that has any significance to the plot that’s not about a man. And amazingly… it still fails.
It looks like out of the 9 best picture nominees in 2011 only 2 clearly pass the bechdel test, while 2 others are questionable about one line. And notably only one film nominated is female centered. …
…The three 2010 films that DO pass the test with women who speak to each other for more then 60 seconds about something other then a man are all actually female centered films. And if you haven’t seen Winter’s Bone yet, put it at the top of your list. In addition to being a beautifully shot and well acted film, I highly recommend it for its complex presentation of gender and poverty in rural America…. Read More:http://www.feministfrequency.com/