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2010 Feminist Films + The Bechdel Test Women in Movies

A lot of feminist films came out in Fall 2010. Below is a synopsis of each to whet your interest in watching them.

Secretariat - The life story of Penny Chenery, owner of the racehorse Secretariat, who won the Triple Crown in 1973.

Conviction - A working mother puts herself through law school in an effort to represent her brother, who has been wrongfully convicted of murder and has exhausted his chances to appeal his conviction through public defenders.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest - Lisbeth is recovering in a hospital and awaiting trial for three murders when she is released. Mikael must prove her innocence. Meanwhile, Lisbeth is plotting her own revenge against the people who put her in this situation.

Fair Game - Plame’s status as a CIA agent was revealed by White House officials allegedly out to discredit her husband after he wrote a 2003 New York Times op-ed piece saying that the Bush administration had manipulated intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion of Iraq.

For Colored Girls - Each of the women portray one of the characters represented in the collection of twenty poems, revealing different issues that impact women in general and women of color in particular.

Tiny Furniture - About a recent college grad who returns home while she tries to figure out what to do with her life. written, directed and starring Lena Dunham.

Made in Dagenham - A dramatization of the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant, where female workers walked out in protest against sexual discrimination.

Miral - A drama centered on an orphaned Palestinian girl growing up in the wake of the first Arab-Israeli war who finds herself drawn into the conflict.

The Tempest - In Julie Taymor’s version of ‘The Tempest,’ the gender of Prospero has been switched to Prospera. Going back to the 16th or 17th century, women practicing the magical arts of alchemy were often convicted of witchcraft. In Taymor’s version, Prospera is usurped by her brother and sent off with her four-year daughter on a ship. She ends up on an island; it’s a tabula rasa: no society, so the mother figure becomes a father figure to Miranda. This leads to the power struggle and balance between Caliban and Prospera; a struggle not about brawn, but about intellect. Directed by Julie Taymor.

You Won’t Miss Me - A kaleidoscopic film portrait of Shelly Brown, a twenty-three year-old alienated urban misfit recently released from a psychiatric hospital. Co-written and directed by Ry-Russo Young.

The Bechdel Test for Women in Movies

The Bechdel Test is a simple way to gauge the active presence of female characters in Hollywood films and just how well rounded and complete those roles are. The test was created in 1985 by Allison Bechdel in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For.

It is astonishing the number of popular movies that can’t pass this simple test. It demonstrates how women’s complex and interesting lives are underrepresented or non-existent in the film industry. Women have jobs, creative projects, friendships and struggles among many other things that are actually interesting in our lives… and yet Hollywood simply skips over those topics in favour of stories about male characters who are made more interesting.

This topic is also covered on numerous other websites, including:

The Bechdel Test Movie List: A very long list of movies and where they rate on the Bechdel Test.

Why Film Schools Teach Screenwriters Not to Pass the Bechdel Test, an essay by Jennifer Kesler.

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