Last weekend I counted up the movies I have already included in my upcoming book, which is now 626 pages (and counting). My index lists 305 movies, and I know there were some I forgot to add to the index when I wrote about them. My guess is that when all is said and done my book will include 350 movies!
© 2017 Alline Cormier
Blade Runner 2049 (2017) is full of violence against women. It is also full of the objectification, sexualization and silencing of women. It is not a hopeful movie for women like Hidden Figures (2016), a movie in which women have a real voice, like in Suffragette (2015) and Wonder Woman (2017), or full of solidarity between women like The Help (2011). Indeed, Blade Runner 2049, which was written and directed by four men, excels at silencing women. For instance, the lead male’s girlfriend is not a real woman but rather a virtual woman who only says “everything you [men] want to hear,” according to the ads for these artificial intelligence products. These virtual women are named Joi (sic) and only speak flattering, loving, reassuring words to their male owners. Unlike real women they are incapable of voicing dissatisfaction, frustration, anger or expectations. The writers also silence women by killing them: the three lead female characters are murdered before the end of the movie and a fourth woman, whose appearance lasts only a few minutes, is also murdered by the god-like man who created her.
The violence against women in Blade Runner 2049 is graphic. A man chokes a woman to death while holding her under water to drown her. This scene is long and includes several closeups of her face. A woman stabs another to death and stamps out a third woman’s life, both before our eyes. A man cuts a woman open to kill her and shoots another in the head at close range for being unacceptable to him. In contrast men’s deaths are much less brutal. One is shot off screen and another dies a peaceful death, lying on snow covered steps under the prettily falling snow.
Women are also highly sexualized here. For example, viewers are shown to several giant naked holograms and statues of women. Also, of the women who have speaking lines three are prostitutes, one is a virtual girlfriend called Joi and another is a synthetic woman called Luv.
Apparently Blade Runner 2049's filmmakers like their women naked and subservient. They also seem to enjoy watching women being murdered. Few recent movies have managed to be as insulting to women. The female viewer may feel inclined, afterwards, to wash out her eyes and brain with a movie that empowers women, like Wonder Woman (2017) or 9 to 5 (1980).
© 2017 Alline Cormier
Movieland is a lonely place for women. It must be considering how few women inhabit it. In “real” life women have a mother, sisters, girlfriends, aunts, female cousins and colleagues they are friendly with. Sometimes we even have our grandmothers in adulthood. In movieland on the other hand they are typically alone in a world of men. For instance, take Wimbledon (2004), a love story starring Kirsten Dunst as the lead female and Paul Bettany as the lead male. Bettany has his brother, his father, his best friend Dieter and his male agent. For her part Dunst has no sisters, mother or girlfriends and her agent is a man. In fact, all she has in the way of contact with other women is rivals. This is not an atypical movie. It is the norm.
Thankfully the increasing number of women in film (behind the camera) is starting to change that. In movies like Brooklyn (2015), Suffragette (2015), Hidden Figures (2016), Ghostbusters (2016), Wonder Woman (2017) and Meditation Park (2017) women are often surrounded by other women. Female moviegoers will be happier with this new, more hospitable landscape. Unfortunately, there is still a very, very long way to go. These movies are exceptions.
Most recent movies only just barely pass the Bechdel Test (a test that serves as an indicator of the active presence of women in movies) because female characters rarely speak to each other about something other than a man. For instance, this is the case in Inferno (2016), Skyfall (2012) and Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017). In Inferno the only time a woman speaks to another woman about something other than a man is when a woman introduces herself to Felicity Jones. In Skyfall (2012) the only time a woman speaks to another woman about something other than a man is when Judi Dench and Naomie Harris exchange less than 20 lines about a situation that also involves men, an exchange that lasts less than two minutes. In Spider-Man: Homecoming female characters speak to each other (about something besides a man) for less than one minute.
Many movies still fail the Bechdel Test because no two named female characters ever speak about something besides a male. For instance, this is the case for The Secret Life of Pets (2016). Many movies still fail the Bechdel Test because no two named female characters ever speak. This is the case for Kong: Skull Island (2017), Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014), Fast & Furious (2009), Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull (2008) and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), to name just a handful.
Women enjoy the company of women, and we have things to say to each other--things that do not involve men. Movies should reflect this.
© 2017 Alline Cormier