After analysing all eight movies of the Harry Potter franchise I have found that the one that scores best for females' presence and voice is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007). All eight pass the Bechdel Test (a test that serves as an indicator of the active presence of women in movies) but some just barely pass. In order to pass this test the movie must include two female characters (preferably named) that speak to each other about something besides a male. These movies from the franchise just barely pass this test: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001), a named female character says three words to a girl we do not hear from again in the series and Maggie Smith and Emma Watson have an exchange that lasts less than a minute; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), Pam Ferris compliments Fiona Shaw on the supper she made and Emma Watson and Emma Thompson exchange five sentences; and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), Watson says to Bonnie Wright, “Ginny, look!” to which there is no reply and later Watson says to Tiana Benjamin, who is practically outside the frame, about other students, “They’re not too happy about that one,” to which there is no reply. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, on the other hand, includes 11 occasions in which named women and girls speak about something besides males. Moreover, no woman or girl is told to shut up in Order of the Phoenix, as is the case in Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire.
In terms of women and girls' presence, too, Order of the Phoenix scores better than the other instalments. Although Emma Watson plays one of the three lead roles (Hermione) in all the movies she is practically without female co-stars. Many women and girls populate these films but they appear only briefly and interact very little. This is not the case for Order of the Phoenix, which boasts the significant presence of two other clever girls: Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood and Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasley. It also includes assertive moments for Natalia Tena (Tonks) and instances of girls showing initiative, not to mention congeniality between female characters (e.g. when Maggie Smith comforts Emma Thompson). We are also shown a woman protecting girls, female characters being praised for something besides their looks, a male standing up for a woman who has been insulted, a boy showing kindness to a girl and a sexist boy bested by a clever girl.
Among the 500 movies I have analysed for my upcoming book on the sexualization of women in media I have my favourites. Like millions of viewers I particularly enjoy the Harry Potter franchise, for many reasons including, in my case, the fact that women and girls are rarely sexualized in these movies. Of the eight instalments Order of the Phoenix is the only one for which the screenplay was not written by Steve Kloves. Michael Goldenberg wrote the screenplay for the adaptation of J.K. Rowling's bestselling novel of the same name. I am not in a position to say whether this was significant, but it is undeniable: Order of the Phoenix has more to offer female viewers.
© 2019 Alline Cormier
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