Women in movies: where are they?

May 27, 2010 at 11:00 pm | In arts, guerilla_politics, ideas, media, social_critique, women | Comments Off

Last night, while I was scribbling away on my “-ectomy” post, the spouse and son popped My Man Godfrey into the DVD player. We’ve all seen the movie multiple times, but it has such great dialogue that it’s a cinch to watch often.

Tonight, I’m not writing the blog post now in my (imaginary) “must-write” queue (namely, a follow-up to Salim Jiwa’s presentation at Social Media Club Victoria) because I went to PechaKucha Night Victoria Vol.2. Instead, tonight’s post is a quickie about movies.

So I’ll just leave you with a short video I watched this afternoon, The Bechdel Test for Women in Movies (only 2minutes 2seconds long). It made me wonder how well My Man Godfrey stands up to Bechdel’s test.

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Even though My Man Godfrey is a classic romantic comedy where everything revolves around the girl-gets-guy story, I’d say it passes the test. Cornelia and Irene (sisters) talk to each other – often enough it’s sibling rivalry and they fight about men, but they also talk about other things; Angelica (mother) converses with her daughters; and Molly (maid) talks to Irene – albeit about Godfrey. Godfrey certainly does, as per the film’s title, dominate many of the conversations, but at least the women have personalities and can talk to one another about different topics.

Then what’s with the slew of more recent films that fly by in feministfrequency‘s video – all of which fail Bechdel’s test?  Have men become more immature in recent decades and lost their balls (or are we – all of us – too culturally adapted to “swallowing” cartoonish men)? Even Princess Bride – a wonderful film – fails the test. Sure, it’s tongue-in-cheek, but let’s prick the fairy-tale balloon for a sec. It’s as if Buttercup is a proto-mommy, a mother in waiting, on the cusp of taking care of the boy who ran away to become a pirate.

Women don’t have conversations amongst themselves on topics not related to the little boys who are the apples of their mommies’ eyes (stuck in some strange mirror stage)… It’s segregation, a mono-culture (one-dimensional), over-processed (like Wonder Bread) – comfortable, goes down easy, practically digests itself.

Possible solution? Go to film festivals and watch movies outside the Wonder Bread mainstream.

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The mirror stage describes the formation of the Ego via the process of identification, the Ego being the result of identifying with one’s own specular image. At six months the baby still lacks coordination (see Louis Bolk); however, it can recognize itself in the mirror before attaining control over its bodily movements. The child sees its image as a whole, and the synthesis of this image produces a sense of contrast with the uncoordination of the body, which is perceived as a fragmented body. This contrast is first felt by the infant as a rivalry with its own image, because the wholeness of the image threatens it with fragmentation, and thus the mirror stage gives rise to an aggressive tension between the subject and the image. To resolve this aggressive tension, the subject identifies with the image: this primary identification with the counterpart is what forms the Ego. (Dylan Evans, op.cit) The moment of identification is to Lacan a moment of jubilation since it leads to an imaginary sense of mastery. (Écrits, “The Mirror Stage”) Yet, the jubilation may also be accompanied by a depressive reaction, when the infant compares his own precarious sense of mastery with the omnipotence of the mother. (La relation d’objet) This identification also involves the ideal ego which functions as a promise of future wholeness sustaining the Ego in anticipation.
The mirror stage shows that the Ego is the product of misunderstanding – Lacan’s term “méconnaissance” implies a false recognition – and the place where the subject becomes alienated from itself: the process by which the ego is formed in the Mirror Stage is at the same time the institution of alienation from the symbolic determination of being. In this sense méconnaissance is an imaginary misrecognition of a symbolic knowledge that the subject possesses somewhere. It must be emphasized again that the Mirror Stage introduces the subject into the Imaginary order.
The Mirror Stage has also a significant symbolic dimension. The symbolic order is present in the figure of the adult who is carrying the infant: the moment after the subject has jubilantly assumed his image as his own, he turns his head toward this adult who represents the big Other, as if to call on him to ratify this image. (source)

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