Because movies are generally produced to make money for their respective studios, one of the biggest modern challenges for films is diversity. Not only have we seen Oscar ceremonies ridiculed for their whiteness, but we often find women under-represented in film as well. This makes sense, since most films are created with the appeal toward white males between the ages of 18 and 35. As one of the target demographic, I can say this is certainly true since there are many films created each year which I find myself interested in watching for some reason or other. While it can be challenging to create films with independent women as the main focus, especially if the film wants to make lots of money, there are plenty of great films out there featuring independent women. This week’s two films examine the lives of independent women.
Length: 122 minutes / 2.03 hours
Perhaps the baseline test for films about independent women is the Bechdel test. A piece of fiction which features two women who talk to each other about something other than a man would pass this test. More than half of all films can pass this test, but there are at least 10% of all films that fail all three criteria. While the Bechdel test might seem like a feminist stamp of approval on a piece of media, often it is a good indicator of an excellent protagonist. Take, for instance, the French-language film, Amélie (2001), which passes the Bechdel test: the eponymous main character is interesting, imaginative, and fun . . . all without necessarily focusing on her love life. Even films like Juno (2007), which clearly include story arcs about a woman’s romantic life, can pass the Bechdel test with realistic representations of independent women.
Surrounded by a number of eccentric people at the café where she works, Amélie Poulain (Audrey Tautou) often finds herself in the world of her own imagination. Upon discovering a small box of mementos left over from the previous tenant of her apartment, she makes a decision to bring happiness to those she meets, starting with tracking down the owner of the box to return it to him. Through finding information about the box’s owner, she meets her neighbor, Raymond Dufayel (Serge Merlin), who is moved by Amélie’s goal and decides to reconcile with his estranged daughter so he can meet his grandson for the first time. While Amélie works to help those around her achieve their happiness, Raymond notices that she’s neglecting her own happiness in the process. He suggests she pursue the man she met outside a photo booth and see where the relationship could take her.
Length: 96 minutes / 1.6 hours
Another similar test to the Bechdel test is known as the “Mako Mori test.” Despite Pacific Rim (2013) clearly being a film meant to attract male viewers, one of the strong, independent women (if not the only one) in the film was none other than Mako Mori (portrayed by Rinko Kikuchi), who had a very distinct and strong character arc that didn’t support any of the character’s male counterparts’ stories. While the two aforementioned films of Amélie and Juno feature independent women, both are of the Caucasian persuasion. In countries like the United States and France, women are generally seen more as equals when compared to other parts of the world like Japan or Iran. What’s even more impressive is a story about an independent woman in a location where women are seen as second class citizens. This is why Marjane Satrapi’s memoir in Persepolis (2007) is so inspiring.
Set in 1980’s Iran, we follow Marjane (voiced by Chiara Mastroianni) as she grows up through multiple revolutions. From a Czar to an Islamic state to war with Iraq, the instability of Iran causes Marjane’s parents to send her to Europe for safety. However, the fact that she is from Iran causes some tension at first, due to racial profiling and stereotypes. Eventually, her homesickness gets the better of her, and Marjane heads back to Iran. Thinking that time has changed the strict society of Iran, Marjane is disappointed to find that sentiments have largely remained the same. While her grandmother told her to be free, the only way for her to do so is to leave Iran once again, never to return.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 fantastic females