I went to see The Expendables 2 yesterday. It was okay. There was a lot of shooting, a lot of things exploding, and a lot of not-very-good dialogue. (You are probably thinking: so what you’re saying is that it was an action movie.)
But I really want to talk about the previews that played before the movie even started. Because there was not a single example in the five or six previews we saw of a featured female character who was something other than
b) a villain;
c) a sex object; or
d) a side-kick.
But it was an action movie and its associated previews, you’re probably thinking. Go see a romantic comedy if you want a female lead.
But romantic comedies are often no more empowering to women than are action movies. Ever hear of the Bechdel Test, developed by American cartoonist Alison Bechdel? In order for a movie to pass the Bechdel Test, it must
(1) have at least two women in it
(2) who talk to each other
(3) about something besides a man.
So, romantic comedies often fail the Bechdel Test just as completely as movies of other genres. They, generally speaking, feature female protagonists who are searching for fulfillment and validation through a relationship with a man. Now, don’t get me wrong: I enjoy me a good romantic comedy every once and a while. But not all the time. Romantic comedies are the movie equivalent of junk food for me. The kind of story I am hankering after is the cinematic equivalent of a hunk of free range chicken. Or else a big bunch of kale. Do you get what I mean?
And it is, quite frankly, absolutely shocking how few movies actually pass the Bechdel Test. (For more on the Bechdel Test, check out this great article and video.) It is also surprising how many of the stories in general that we know and share fail to pass this test. Sometimes, I get really angry and frustrated about the lack of people telling women’s stories in mainstream media. In another sense, however, this anger, this impatience, this drive to change the status quo becomes my rocket fuel. So you won’t tell my story, Lionsgate films? My story’s not good enough for you, huh? Well, then. I’ll tell it myself.