I love movies. And so do most women who purchased 55% of movie tickets in 2009. But even though last year women comprised majority of the moviegoers, Hollywood has been slow on the uptake, continuing to produce movies that do not pass the Bechdel Test. If you do not know what the Bechdel test is, watch the short video below and prepare to have your mind blown (captions provided for the hearing impaired).
For more statistics on women’s presence in literature and film check out my IWD post.
So what’s socially aware feminist to do? Fear not, I’ve put together in no way exhaustive list of movies you can enjoy without betraying your feminist identity. Save the guilt for the pop corn (actually fuck guilt altogether, cut it out of your emotional diet).
1. The Waitress
Jenna is a waitress stuck in an abusive marriage with no escape. Her husband controls her life: he takes all the money she makes, drops her off and picks her up from work, so he knows exactly where she is at any time. Baking pies is her main coping mechanism. But when she gets pregnant, Jenna decides her unborn child deserves a better life than this and begins planning an escape plan.
Though it may sound depressing, the story is actually very uplifting and the film finds a very playful tone. The film manages to stay realistic without being bleak. Jenna is a delightful character, a strong woman. And did I mention Nathan Fillion plays the role of a delightfully awkward gynecologist? (Is there anything nerd girls love more than awkward Nathan Fillion? If there is, I haven’t found it.)
2. An Education
An Education is a story of 1960’s English school girl who starts an affair with an older man. It is a coming of age story in which Jenny struggles to find her place in the world, confronts gender roles and the hypocrisy of adults, and learns the value of education.
When Jenny meets David, a charming businessman, she is confronted with a choice. She can choose the life of domesticity, marry a rich man, quit her expensive private school and abandon dreams of going to Oxford. Once Jenny realizes that those who preached about the immense value of education are so quick to change their minds in favor of marriage, Jenny starts questioning everything she’s been told before.
The film takes place in post World War II occupied Germany. Lore’s parents are Nazis and they are taken to jail, and she is left alone to take care of her siblings. As she makes the journey through the occupied Germany to her grandmother’s house in Hamburg, she is forced to face the reality of fascist atrocities.
Lore is beautifully filmed and acted. Some scenes knock the breath right out of you. It also features a somewhat unexplored period in history, and it is really interesting to see those first post-war moments through the eyes of a child who was fed all the Nazi propaganda.
4. Winter’s Bone
Before Jennifer Lawrence entered the world of Hollywood block busters, she starred in this Sundance Film Festival award winning movie. Winter’s Bone is another coming of age story that explores extreme poverty in the rural United States.
Jennifer Lawrence’s character Ree embarks on a quest to find her drug-dealing father in order to save her family from losing the house they live in. Ree demonstrates great courage and tenacity. The acting is great and the scenes evocative.
5. The Heat
The Heat is this summer’s buddy cop comedy that stars Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in which an “uptight FBI Special Agent is paired with a foul-mouthed Boston cop to take down a ruthless drug lord” (IMDB).
The Heat is hilarious and passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. There is not even a love interest, can you believe it? Melissa McCarthy’s character is funny but never because of her weight. The movie address sexism in a funny, but not at all preachy way, and *spoiler alert* the bad guy gets shot in the balls!
Though some people find the war on drugs and the violation of civil rights depicted in The Heat disturbing, it is worth seeing if you’re looking for light-hearted entertainment that isn’t 100% testosterone-dominated.
As I was making this list, I noticed that all of the characters in these movies are cis straight white women. I’ve only listed movies that I have seen. It’s obvious to me that I need to branch out of my comfort zone and watch some movies that feature POCs, LGBQT characters, and people with disabilities. In the comment section please recommend some movies I can start with and I promise that the next list I write will be more inclusive.
Meanwhile enjoy these stories of women’s empowerment!