#297. Independent Women

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.

Year: 2001
Rating: R
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.

Year: 2007
Rating: PG-13
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


#296. Osteogenesis Imperfecta

Disabilities aren’t what they used to be. What was once a death sentence for many people has become mostly an inconvenience today due to the advancements of medical science and pharmacological solutions. Still, even the technological advancements in medicine haven’t yet solved some of the rarer diseases. If anything, providing a comfortable way to live life is the closest some people will ever get to obtaining a cure. Despite a handful of diseases being so rare that there aren’t enough subjects to study for a cure, a few have symptoms just interesting enough to raise awareness. Cancer, diabetes, and heart disease are mostly understood, but what if someone has brittle bones? What type of life could someone with Osteogenesis Imperfecta live? This week’s two films highlight characters who have Osteogenesis Imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease.

Year: 2000
Rating: PG-13
Length: 106 minutes / 1.76 hours

Osteogenesis Imperfecta is seen in about one in every 20,000 births, which calculates out to a 0.005% chance a newborn would have this disability. While there are a number of different types of this disease, most involve a deficiency of collagen. There are a few types of Osteogenesis Imperfecta which are fatal, but there are also a number of types of this disease which can be survived. As with any severe disease, a person’s attitude can often determine their quality of life while enduring the symptoms. Some are likely to “give up”, but those with strong wills can find ways to live with their ailment, sometimes even making it a part of their identity. The more people who live with a rare disease and are able to educate the public on it, the more accepting society will become of these cases. Unfortunately, sometimes the means to do this are a little . . . misguided.

Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) was born in the 1960’s with a mild type of Osteogenesis Imperfecta. Because of his fragile nature, he spent a large amount of time sitting quietly and reading comic books. While this led to his eventual career as an art dealer specializing in comics, it also gave him an idea. What if, somewhere out there, a person with an equally opposite body existed? What if there was someone who was “unbreakable”? When he learns of David Dunn (Bruce Willis), the sole survivor of a train crash, he immediately gets in touch with the man to explain his theory. Of course, this theory follows all the tropes of comic books, including the weakness of the hero being something simple, like David’s inability to swim. As Elijah learns more about David’s powers, David soon realizes Elijah has some secrets of his own.

Year: 2001
Rating: R
Length: 122 minutes / 2.03 hours

The people who have a rare disease like Osteogenesis Imperfecta have a choice to make: they can live their life in pity of their condition, or they can live their life to the fullest extent possible. Granted, with a limiting disease like Osteogenesis Imperfecta, the “fullest extent” isn’t the same as for people who do not have the disease. Still, introverts may thrive with such a disease, since it allows for a very low-impact lifestyle, often spent indoors reading or painting. The key to understanding these diseases is in the people who have them. They are still people, with hopes and dreams. Just because they have a disability doesn’t make them any less of a person. In fact, the less we focus on people’s limitations and focus more on their passions; often we’ll find that we all have something relatable inside of us.

Because of an incorrect diagnosis of a heart defect, Amélie Poulain (Audrey Tautou) was homeschooled by her parents. Consequently, her loneliness spurred her to develop an active and disruptive imagination. After the death of her parents, she obtained a job as a waitress and moved into an apartment where she eventually meets her neighbor, Raymond Dufayel (Serge Merlin). While he is quite reclusive due to his Osteogenesis Imperfecta, he allows her into his apartment where it is revealed he is recreating a Renoir painting. As he continues to paint for the next few weeks, he watches as the young woman manipulates the people around her at the cost of ignoring her own loneliness. Now fast friends, Raymond and Amélie meet often as he finishes his painting. With a gentle nudge in the right direction, Ray sends Amélie out into the world to find love.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 broken bones