Sunday, March 3, 2013

Housewife to the Rescue!

Sorry about the long absence, guys!  Life gets busy sometimes.  You know how it goes.

Anyway, this post takes a look at the new kids' movie, Escape from Planet Earth.

 Now, I know what you're thinking.  "This is a kids' movie, why should I care about it?"  Well, I'm going to tell you why.  This movie is one of the few (relatively speaking) films that passes the Bechdel Test.

What's the Bechdel Test, you ask?  It's a test that became popular through Alison Bechdel's comic Dykes to Watch Out For, in a 1985 strip called The Rule.  The test names three criteria for a movie:
  1. It must have at least two (named) women in it
  2. who talk to each other
  3. about something other than a man.
Let's use this test to examine Escape from Planet Earth.  First of all, there are four named women that I can think of off the top of my head: Kira Supernova, Lena Thackleman, Io, and Gabby Babblebrock.

The second criteria is that at least two named women talk to each other.  Kira and Lena talk to each other on several occasions throughout the film.  The third criteria is that they talk to each other about something other than a man.  Kira and Lena's discussions are rarely about a man, but rather about plot-specific events, including the plot's main conflict.  So Escape from Planet Earth definitely passes the Bechdel Test.

What strikes me most about the fact that this film passes this test is that it's a kids' movie.  I might be biased, being a woman myself, but I think it's incredibly important for films, especially those meant for kids, to be progressive when it comes to gender, among other things.  Giving these female characters bigger parts than just being eye candy or being there to have some female presence in a film is a big, progressive step for movies to make.  And showing kids that women can have meaningful impacts on plots in films and other stories is important if we want to move toward true gender equality.

This sounds really preachy, and I apologize for that, but I really do think this is an important thing.  What is perhaps most telling about this whole idea, that few movies actually pass this test (follow the link to the Bechdel Test above and you'll see what I mean), is the fact that I walked out of the theater after seeing Escape from Planet Earth surprised.

Surprised because a female character (outside of a superhero team movie, most of which don't pass the Bechdel Test, by the way) had a meaningful impact on the outcome of the plot.  Surprised because the focus wasn't always on the men, but was on the women in the film, as well.  Surprised because the women in the movie actually had meaningful conversations with each other.

Again, I know this sounds preachy, but I hope that in the future, seeing things like this in movies won't be surprising.  Here's to a brighter future in films with more Rocket Moms and heads of mission control centers!


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