Both of these articles are slightly old, but are new to me. Jon passed them along to me knowing I’d want to use them for this portion of my blog, so here you go!
First up, “6 Insane Stereotypes that movies can’t seem to get over.” This article is a great dissection of a whole host of problems in the film industry that intersect with feminism: racism (“Everyone in Africa is Uncivilized or a Warlord,” “White People are Better at Being Asian Than Real Asians,” “In Fantasy Movies, Everyone Has to Be White”), sexism (“Women Can Only Talk About Men”), homophobia (“Non-Heterosexual Characters Either Die or Are Murderers”), and ableism (“Anything (Including Death) is Better Than Being Disabled”). Each heading also offers a dissection of why this problem exists. Definitely a worthwhile read. Also, you’ve now fallen down the Cracked.com rabbit hole. Have fun.
Next up is an article that was linked in the Cracked.com piece, entitled “Why film schools teach screenwriters not to pass the Bechdel test.” The title is, sadly, pretty self-explanatory. When Jennifer Kesler was in film school, she was taught not to pass the Bechdel test, and this is still a problem today (and unfortunately, I can’t say I’m surprised).
Kesler describes her experience as such:
I had to understand that the audience only wanted white, straight, male leads. I was assured that as long as I made the white, straight men in my scripts prominent, I could still offer groundbreaking characters of other descriptions (fascinating, significant women, men of color, etc.) – as long as they didn’t distract the audience from the white men they really paid their money to see.
My scripts had multiple women with names. Talking to each other. About something other than men. That, they explained nervously, was not okay. I asked why. Well, it would be more accurate to say I politely demanded a thorough, logical explanation that made sense for a change (I’d found the “audience won’t watch women!” argument pretty questionable, with its ever-shifting reasons and parameters).
At first I got several tentative murmurings about how it distracted from the flow or point of the story. I went through this with more than one professor, more than one industry professional. Finally, I got one blessedly telling explanation from an industry pro: “The audience doesn’t want to listen to a bunch of women talking about whatever it is women talk about.”
According to Hollywood, if two women came on screen and started talking, the target male audience’s brain would glaze over and assume the women were talking about nail polish or shoes or something that didn’t pertain to the story. Only if they heard the name of a man in the story would they tune back in. By having women talk to each other about something other than men, I was “losing the audience.”
Kesler ended up leaving film, deciding to “fight the system from without,” and I don’t blame her. As admirable as it can be to fight something from within, sometimes, there’s no point in staying in an institution, industry, or situation that’s dragging you down and making you miserable.
Kesler believes the men of her generation are better than Hollywood thinks they are. I have to agree. Although I see sexism on a daily basis, I also have a community in which men aren’t the juvenile, sexist zombies Hollywood claims are their target audience. The film industry can do better, and the sooner they realize that, the better.