48 Comments

Films for Feminists – Open Thread

What films would you recommend to women coming to feminism as an introduction to feminist concerns about the roles of women?

Films where women in traditional gender roles are oppressed, as consciousness raising?

Films where women seek personhood in their own individualistic way, full steam ahead, despite society’s disapproval?

Films where women walk a line between societal and familial expectations and pursuing their own ambitions?

Some examples of all of the above?

And how many films which you might recommend as exploring aspects of women’s roles actually pass the three points of the Bechdel-Wallace Rule? (aka the Mo Movie Measure)

Does the film have
1. at least two women in it, who
2. talk to each other, about
3. something besides a man?

Please feel free to list films that don’t pass the BW rule, as not every film that passes that rule is necessarily feminist, and films where women do nothing but discuss men can still raise feminist issues. I’m particularly interested in films for feminists that are important to see because of, not despite, their blatant sexism.

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writer, singer, webwrangler, blogger, comedy tragic | about.me/vivsmythe

48 comments on “Films for Feminists – Open Thread

  1. None of these are “perfect” feminist films, but all have plenty to discuss:

    Serenity (mainly because I love Kaylee. And Zoe.)
    A League of their Own
    Erin Brockovich
    Alien(s)
    Muriel’s Wedding
    If These Walls Could Talk
    Possibly: Contact, The Abyss

    Films with lots of “femininity” stuff to talk about:
    Memories of a Geisha
    Pretty Woman
    And, because I’m stuck in the eighties: The Breakfast Club, Little Darlings

  2. I think Spirited Away passes the Bechdel-Wallace rule and the central character is a ten year old girl who was specifically created as a role model for Miyazaki’s granddaughter.

  3. Hmmm.

    The Colour Purple
    Boys on the Side
    All about my mother
    The animated version of Wyrd Sisters (when I grow up I want to be Granny Weatherwax)

    (Also, yay for Serenity! River also rocks in that film. And there’s the whole subtext there of female adolescence and madness, and government control of the minds and bodies of its citizens.)

  4. a thousand winds, thankyou for giving some reasons to watch the film!
    Lauredhel and Kirsten, you’ve definitely got me interested in Serenity.

    Now, as to the rest, I know why to see the ones I’ve already seen, but what about the ones I haven’t?

    The Abyss definitely passes the BW Rule, although only just as mostly the women talk to the men, but at least for most of the film they’re not talking about the men.

    Contact – I’ve only read the book, but the central character is a good example of a woman pursuing her own way despite disapproval etc. Is there a conversation with any other woman character in it?

    A League of their Own – plenty of conversations between women about more than just men, transgressing traditional roles, generally kicking arse. Good flick.

    Erin Brockovich – good exhibits of sexist attitudes. Strong, driven central character. Not much womanly solidarity.

    etc etc

  5. I have Firefly and Serenity conflated in my head, and would definitely recommend watching all of Firefly before the BDM (Big Damn Movie).

    Contact: I don’t recall the film closely enough to remember conversations between women, but it passes the seeking personhood in non traditionally feminine ways test.

    Alien(s): women and men in the military together, without pretending that gender doesn’t exist in the same way that Starship Troopers does. Kickarse woman with big guns, nobody suggesting that she can’t achieve whatever she wants to. No backing out at the last minute, no deus ex machina bailout: Ripley has to deal with it to the bitter end. Small girl being the only one to survive alien attack, through sheer smarts and determination.

    Muriel’s Wedding: definitely passes the women talking together test. Examines and gently mocks Girly-Wedding-Lurve. Doesn’t romanticise femininity or femaleness or family; some rather riveting and distressing moments of harsh reality and family dynamics.

    If These Walls Could Talk: the story of three women of different generations who find themselves with untenable pregnancies. Absolutely heart-rending, grindingly real. Should be compulsory viewing.

  6. Ah, a fantastic writeup of Aliens is here.

  7. Volver – As with most Almodovar movies, female characters are central. It’s a beautiful, fun, funny, moving film. Three generations of women cope with the harm imposed by a patriarchal family structure

    The Emperor’s New Groove – Although this doesn’t pass the Bechdel-Wallace Rule, it is the most woman-friendly animated Disney film. The female character is a wife and mother who doesn’t die, she’s smart and witty, and she’s the first pregnant woman shown in a Disney movie.

    The Descent – A horror movie with strong, kick-ass women. A group of female friends go caving, only to get trapped in the cave with a whole bunch of monster things. Aside from being a great and truly scary horror film, the interpersonal relationships between the women are very interesting. Lots of womanly camaraderie, even if most of it breaks down by the end.

    Pan’s Labyrinth – A beautiful, beautiful film from Spain. “A fairy tale for grown-ups” set during the Spanish Civil War.

    Sympathy for Lady Vengeance – A Korean revenge flick. A woman who has been (wrongly) imprisoned for murdering a child gets out of jail and takes revenge on the man responsible.

    Chocolat – A woman opens a chocolate shop in a repressed town and changes the lives of many of the townspeople. Of particular interest is a woman who leaves her abusive husband.

    A Price Above Rubies – An Orthodox Jewish woman leaves the faith. A wonderful depiction of some of the problems within the Orthodox community that aren’t generally discussed.

    Pumpkin – A sorority girl becomes disenchanted with sorority life as she builds a relationship with a disabled man.

    A Thousand Acres – I didn’t particularly like this movie, but it’s a very provocative interpretation of King Lear.

  8. Some possibilities off the top of my head that haven’t been mentioned yet: North Country (women who stand up against sexual harrassment at a mining company, based on a true story) Volver?, (I’m finally watching it for the first time tonight, it looks promising) Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, (only one woman, but a remarkable film based on her experience as an anti-Nazi protester in WWII) Chocolat, Beauty Shop, The Descent, (untypical horror flick with a strong all female cast, brought up a lot of issues for me personally).

    Also maybe Aquamarine – two teen girls try to help a mermaid, who must prove to her father that real love exists or else marry the icky mer-guy he’s chosen for her. The girls try to hook her up with the cute lifeguard at the beach, to no avail, but then realize that their friendship is real love, and that’s what saves them all at the end, rather than the boy. I thought that was really refreshing. There are also mother/daughter issues and issues about courage and independence.

  9. Great question… I like what others added – some of my favorites from recent memory:

    Personal Velocity
    Real Women Have Curves
    Lovely and Amazing
    The Hours
    Pleasantville
    Run Lola Run
    Amelie
    Boys Don’t Cry
    Mean Girls
    Marie Antoinette
    Friends with Money
    The Devil Wears Prada
    Secretary

    This list could go on and on. I think this is a good sampling of movies that spark conversation. Nothing is better than leaving a film and wanting to talk about the issues surrounding the characters.

  10. You must have been reading my mind.

  11. Is this an I Can Has Pwned? moment?

  12. “All I Wanna Do” – Kirsten Dunst and Gabby Hoffman are at odds about their 1960’s boarding school going coed. On google searches its sometimes referred to as “Strike”. And yes, I realize the discussion and coalition forming has do with men…. blargh. But at least you see young smart women get to do cool/fun things in a movie and not die at the end.

  13. “Up the Sandbox” with Barbara Streissand, about feeling trapped as a housewife and having fantasies of a public life
    “North Country” about sex discrimination at work
    “Iron-Jawed Angels” about the struggle for American women’s suffrage
    “Me and You and Everyone We Know”, because I love how the amazing Miranda July wrote, directed, and starred in it
    “Ever After”, for having a rather feminist spin on a fairy tale

    I agree with so many of the other responses, too. Especially “Pan’s Labyrinth” (which is deserving of some critique but has an amazing young female hero) and “Volver” ( I absolutely loved how this entire movie centered on a full and dynamic cast of women).

  14. Here’s a short list of films with thought-provoking stories and interesting women. There’s a range of quality (from ok to excellent), but all are well worth seeing for the relationships between the women, between the women and their world, and between the story and the real world:
    When Night is Falling
    Black Widow
    If These Walls Could Talk 2
    Whale Rider
    By Hook or By Crook
    Cold Mountain
    Fire
    Handmaid’s Tale
    Desert Hearts
    Joy Luck Club
    Ballad of Little Jo (the one with Suzy Amis)

    Oh, and some of them are about lesbians. If your reaction to that is to skip those movies because they’re not about your experience, that’s all the more reason to make sure that you do watch those particularly, especially as a part of the Feminism 101 experience.

  15. Antonia’s Line
    A Question of Silence

  16. A League of Their Own was the first movie I ever bought for my daughter on DVD, when she was three. It was one of her favorites then, and still is now, a year or so later. Just an excellent, rich movie for kids that age.

    I stumbled across The Magdalene Sisters on cable in the middle of the night a few months back, and was blown away. It’s a searing treatment of the notorious (though not, I guess, nearly as notorious as they should be) Magdalene asylums of Ireland — convents where young women were locked away and abused for decades because of real or imagined gender-role transgressions. An astounding story.

    And I see nobody’s yet mentioned Vera Drake, about an English lay abortion provider in the days before legalization. My mom and I wound up having an interesting debate about the title character after watching that one.

  17. a couple that haven’t been mentioned :

    Bend it like Beckham

    Looking for Alibrandi

    Nice ones to show teens ;-)

  18. I recently saw an Iranian movie called Mehmaan-e-Maman(Mama’s Guests) and a South African one called Serafina, both pass the test.

    Hazaar Chaurasi ki Maa in Hindi, though it’s an adaptation of a Bengali play by Mahasweta Devi, qualifies. So does Naayi Neralu in Kannada, I think. A lot of older Hindi movies like Bandini, Mother India, Anuradha. And Ray’s Charulata.

    Actually, I should blog a whole list, I think.

  19. Shirley Valentine
    Fried Green Tomatoes

  20. Ooh, Erimentha, please do.

    I’d love to hear from any non-anglosphere feminists about their favourite films, but the Indian films particularly fascinate me as I know there is a strong independent film-making culture separate from the Bollywood blockbusters with their predictable gender roles (independent spitfire heroines, but not untameably independent thankyouverymuch)

  21. Lately I’ve been drawn to movies with magnificent preteen heroines, self-possessed young girls who are smart, strong, feisty, courageous, defiant, resourceful, and still passionate about their own lives and interests because they haven’t yet been indoctrinated to believe that their value and worthiness depend solely on being being desirable to males. They don’t all rate a full five stars on the Bechdel-Wallace scale, but still manage to redeem themselves because of the girls.

    Off the Map
    Carol’s Journey
    Whale Rider
    Half Nelson
    Rabbit-Proof Fence
    An Unfinished Life
    Antonia’s Line

  22. I would also suggest Mona Lisa Smiles….

  23. Bodies, Rest, and Motion – Two best-friends (twenty-somethings) deal with jerks but are very supportive of one another in the process. One of the women decides to live life her own way, on her own terms even though there’s another guy trying to woo her. She does what she wants, not what the men want.

    Cherish – Woman wrongfully convicted of a crime does everything in her power and more to bring the real criminal to justice and generally kicks ass in every way possible. A bit of a hokey romantic subplot but whatever. The overall message is about strong women not just accepting the shitty hand they’re dealt.

    Thelma & Louise – I think this was the first movies I ever saw with such strong female leads. It was the first one that ever really reached me, anyway.

    Like Water for Chocolate – Strong, fierce women.

    Manon of the Spring – Young woman out wits, out performs, and out lasts the men who destroyed her father.

    I’d also like to second the love for a few that were mentioned earlier: If These Walls Could Talk (1&2), Volver, Pan’s Labyrinth, Lovely and Amazing, The Descent, North Country, Real Women Have Curves, You, Me, and Everyone We Know, Whale Rider, and Rabbit-Proof Fence.

  24. G.I. Jane demonstrates how women are forced/tracked into administrative positions in the military although it is the operative positions that are promoted and if she is afforded the opportunity, men systematically undermine her authority and label her a lesbian.

    Courage under Fire illustrates how a woman responses under fire with the most courage of all, but is murdered and her story suppressed by a tangle of patriarchal narratives.

    The Hours an excellent example how socially conditioning women to be heterosexual removes the option for a woman to understand her true sexuality.

    He Knew He Was Right a period drama, mid-1870. A Victorian wife is accused of adultery (she did not commit) and instead of submitting to her insecure and emotionally abusive husband’s demands to feel ashamed, or confess in order to live as usual, she stands her ground.

  25. Thanks for the great recommendations so far, I’ve definitely got a few films to order in the DVD rotation now.

    The Victorian period drama mentioned above reminded me of The Forsyte Saga, any version. There is so much going on with gender roles and double standards in that film, and not just with the central story of Irene.

  26. Both named but without “why”s:

    Fried Green Tomatoes — a buddy flick where the buddies are women and don’t spend their time trying to attract/bitching about the men, they live their lives. What makes it work is that it takes place in a time and place where the idea that women could get along just fine without men was never admitted to, let alone portrayed.

    The Rabbitproof Fence — sisters and their friend trying to get home after the Aboriginal authority has taken them a thousand miles away to be deculturated. A film about power relationships from the underpowered PoV. And a groovy Peter Gabriel soundtrack.

    Also:

    Almost any Miyazaki film. Spirited Away has already been mentioned; but in general, Miyazaki has consciously built his anime with strong female protagonists, who interact interestingly with other women (and men). Sometimes there is a male-female romantic relationship; often there is not.

    And, in a very weird way, I would point to the 12-hour miniseries The Tenth Kingdom as something to give a pre-adolescent or early-teen girl. Though at one level it’s a “boy meets girl” (actually “girl meets wolf”) story, there’s a lot more going on, including the startlingly powerful (for a Hallmark-produced story) theme of a daughter abandoned by her mother.

  27. I know I’m really late to post to this thread, but I did see a question above about non-anglosphere feminists and their favorite films, and being Indian and a non-anglosphere feminist myself, here are some of my favorite Indian films:

    1. Rudaali

    2. Chutney popcorn (not exactly Indian, but good anyway)

    3. Voices from the morning (not Indian again, but excellent: available from wmm.com)

    4. Khamosh Pani (silent waters)

    5. Fire by Deepa Mehta. (it could have been made a little differently but it was compelling)

    6. Mirch Masala

    I hope this list helps.

    This post pushes me to blog about it as it brings many more movies to mind. Thanks tigtog!

  28. tamilpunkster — yay! I’d been hoping there were more south asian feminist movies out there. I’ve seen Fire (own it, actually), but more is good.

    Are Rudaali and Khamosh Pani Hindi or Tamil?

    There are also some sorta interesting proto-feminist leanings (but in a really predictably sitcommish Bollywood way) in Veer-Zaara. I feel like the good musical numbers kinda balance out the “proto” and “predictably sitcommish”. Dil Se is also kinda-sorta feminist, and it smacks less of the big Bollywood blockbuster. Both of these definitely violate Mo’s Rule, though. The only women who talk to each other about anything other than men are inevitably talking about weddings. Hm, Dil Se might have a scene somewhere with the female revolutionary cadres in conversation. Probably not, though. I don’t think Bollywood can handle any subject Maoist feminist guerilla warriors would talk about together.

    Also, both The Day I Became A Woman, The Circle, and Baran are very good films from Iran that deal with feminist themes.

    Osama, which is the first film to come out of Afghanistan in years, is similar to Baran in plot, if a bit overwrought, but worth a look-see. Of course, any film about women under the Taliban is probably going to need to be overwrought to even begin to describe anything. It’s about a young girl who has to assume a boy’s identity and work to feed her family, because all the men are dead in wars and the Taliban will kill her mother or grandmother if they try to work outside the home.

    Prime Suspect is a series of English miniseries, but all out on DVD now and definitely worth seeing. They’re about Jane Tennison, fictional first female DCI of murder cases in the London police. Tons of feminist workplace subplots about Tennison’s constant battle not to end up behind a deskor be undermined in solving her cases, and sometimes the case itself has a feminist (and almost always general-liberal-awareness) bent.

    And for something actually fun and uplifting… ummm… er… Dude, who am I kidding? I’m a sucker for Legally Blonde. Sorry.

  29. Der, why did i just say Veer-Zaara had good musical numbers? to be honest, they’re mostly really weepy. It’s the opening one I really like, where the fiery heroine declares to her mother that she will Never be tamed for any man. In the end, in fact, she mostly doesn’t back down — i won’t give any additional spoilers, though.

  30. Veer Zaara was a little too much on the weepy side, no?

    Rudaali and Khamoshi Pani are both hindi movies and they both have strong female protagonists. If you haven’t seen them, I suggest you rent them pronto. :)

  31. There’s a great discussion thread on worst misogynist/best feminist films from March this year over at The Happy Feminist.

  32. Gah! Via Feministing, Warner Bros president has apparently decreed that there will be no more movies from his studio with female leads.

    It’s not fully confirmed that he has really said this, but there are already calls supporting a boycott if he has indeed decreed this.

  33. What was that movie – Enchanted April? I think that’s it. I watched it for a womens history class once, and if I remember it correctly, it suits this category very well.

  34. To Wong Fu, Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar!

    Yes it’s cheesy but it’s also a lot of fun and chock-full of female solidarity. And the fact that the leads aren’t even biologically female makes it that much better.

  35. If you’re into classic German cinema (or even if you’re not), try and track down this gorgeous film from 1932: ‘Mädchen in Uniform’ (Girls in Uniform).

    Made by an all-female team with an all-female cast, it’s set in an authoritarian girls’ boarding school – which worked as a metaphor for the rising fascist authoritarianism in Germany at the time. It’s a seldom-seen insight into the world of women at a particular point in history and has some amazingly strong homo-erotic elements for its time.

  36. I cannot recommend ‘Volver’ enough. Not only would it practically fail a gender-reversed Bechdel Test- there are perhaps four or five male characters with speaking parts, none of whom interact with one another- but it deals beautifully with female friendships and the relationships between three generations of women in the same family.

  37. I recommend ‘Salt of the Earth’, which was made in 1954 by three of the Hollywood Ten blacklist – Michael Wilson (writer), Herbert J. Biberman (director) and Paul Jarrico (producer) and was itself blacklisted for many years.

    The film follows the true story of the successful miners’ strike at the Empire Zinc Company in New Mexico in 1950. What makes it an extraordinary feminist film is the role of the women in the story. While the men are fighting for better and safer working conditions, it becomes clear as the film progresses that they have the same exploitive attitude to their wives that the mine managers have to the workers.

    When the miners are legally banned from the picket line, the women take over the fight despite intense opposition from the men. As the women become caught up in their cause, their husbands’ are forced to work through their feelings of helplessness and emasculation. The feminist strength of the film is in how the miners come to realise that their key to success lies in banding together with the women, and the way in which the women progress from submissive housewives to major players in the strike’s outcome.

  38. tigtog:

    A League of their Own – plenty of conversations between women about more than just men, transgressing traditional roles, generally kicking arse. Good flick.

    How is it Penny Marshall can be related to Gary Marshall? And how come he still has movies coming out and she hasn’t directed a film since Riding In Cars With Boys?
    Yeah, I already know the answer.

    I watched a documentary the other night called The Gits, about the band of the same name and the rape and murder of their lead singer, Mia Zapata. Some aspects were problematic, like the stranger danger/ self-defense class handling of Zapata’s attack, though she actually was a victim of one of those rare stranger attacks. But the parts where they talk about Zapata’s talent and personality and her mentoring of Seven Year Bitch was very cool. And OMG, JOAN JETT’S IN IT!

  39. Also, Clueless is good for a fun one. It’s not feminist-feminist, but it’s female-centric, which is a nice change.
    For that matter, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Yes, I’m serious. Same director as Clueless – Amy Heckerling. For a laugh, it’s probably the most female gazey of the 80s teen sexy comedies.

    For stupid horror movies, Megan Fox is surprisingly good in Jennifer’s Body, a blatant rip-off of Ginger Snaps. Jennifer’s Body has the advantage of having been written and directed by women, however.
    Near Dark – a well-crafted cult classic about hooligan vampires from the director of The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow).

    Docs:
    The Heart of the Game – must see doc about a young and very talented female basketball player who’s kicked off her team for getting pregnant.
    Very Young Girls – sad but hopeful doc about prostituted adolescent girls.
    Girls Rock! – doc about an all-girl rock & roll camp created by members of Sleater Kinney.

    No brainers:
    Julie & Julia, of course.
    A Raisin in the Sun, natch.
    Girlfight – hell yeah!
    Salaam Bombay! >>>> Slumdog Millionaire
    Buffy the Vampire Slayer – never got into the TV show, but loved the movie.

    I have lots more, but I don’t want to be a space hog. I find a lot of culty little gems just by seeking out movies by female directors. There’s a whole different perspective when a movie’s directed by a woman. Even if the movie’s not great all-around, so many of those tired cliches just fall away! I’d even recommend The Proposal over just about any man-made rom-com. It still kind of sucked, but not near as much as Valentine’s Day will.

  40. snobographer

    I … like … TOTally agree with you on Clueless – one of my all-time top 10. To me, it’s a feminist film because it takes the typical girly-genre and subverts it through very intelligent satire.

    Re ‘Near Dark’. I haven’t seen it yet, but my son has been urging me to. He claims that, as I’m a feminist, it’s a must-see.

    Just one other thing … What did you mean by: ‘Salaam Bombay! >>>> Slumdog Millionaire’?
    Do you mean by ‘>>>>’ that SB was a far better movie?

    If so, great! I truly hated SM – one of the rare few on the planet. And what I hated most about it was the ridiculous, unrealistic passivity of the main female character – considering she was a slum survivor. I’ve rarely seen a female character so ruthlessly and needlessly disempowered by a film script.

  41. Just another quick comment to say that anyone who is interested in film from a feminist perspective should take a look at the website ‘Women and Hollywood': http://womenandhollywood.com/

    It’s a first-rate, up-to-the-minute commentary/analysis of all the movies in release and coming up – all from a feminist perspective. I rarely miss a day without reading it.

  42. @MarianK – Yes, I mean Salaam Bombay! was much much much much better than Slumdog Millionaire, and was fundamentally the same story, sans the game show. More human insight, gorgeous cinematography. believable acting, female characters who have storylines of their own and aren’t passive trophies – far far better all around.
    Near Dark didn’t have any specifically feminist themes that I remember, but it had way more depth than The Lost Boys, the wholly boy-centric vampire movie that drowned it out at the boxoffice.

    I haven’t seen Whip It yet, but it looks fantastic.

  43. “Beautiful” and “But I’m a Cheerleader” are two of my favourite movies ever. They are both quite simple and even follow typical Hollywood formulas, but I still love them for the real life struggles they go through.

    “Beautiful” is a very relatable movie about a young girl who has a sad and lonely childhood and compensates by trying desperately to conform to patriarchal standards of beauty and become a beauty queen. You watch her grow up and her life still revolves around nothing but being voted the most beautiful, what is in her mind a prerequisite for being a worthy human being and being loved.

    “But I’m a Cheerleader” gets very stylistic and over the top and just highlights how absolutely ridiculous gender roles are and how much pain people go through in their attempts to conform to these absurd rules of gender.

    I also want to recommend the Korean series “Dae Jang Geum.” It isn’t really consciousness raising, but there are some absolutely incredible strong roles for women and it passes the Bechdel-Wallace test several times over in each episode. It is set in the king’s palace and it is all about the women behind the scenes who do all the cooking in the palace and the very complex political issues that they all get mixed up in.

  44. Hey,

    What about ‘Down with love?’….Rennee Zellwenger..produced in 2003 but its narrative takes it back to the 60’s.. anyone who can say something postfeminist and how it tackles feminism and repesentation?

  45. the world unseen – watch it!

  46. Yeah, really really late, but I suppose its worth the comment because this thread still comes up on page one of a google search for “Feminist Movies”.

    For fun, and especially for teens, what about “Whip it” and “Stick it”? They’re both about probematic sports that show women in teeny clothing (gymnastics and roller derby), but fun and no one dies or gets raped or gets married.

    Whip it- Female friendship, female athletes, women and girls doing things they like, a little bit of a kick at beauty pageants.

    Stick it – Young women and girls in professional gymnastics. There’s some snark, but there is also female friendship and collusion of girls against oppressive forces.

  47. I didn’t originally see the movie “Easy A” because I thought the title was gimmicky and made no sense, and I have to admit the trailer put me off by showing that it was going to be narrated in amateur vlog style (boring! trying too hard to be indie! not worth the big screen!) and… a teen movie protagonist who was neither an awkward innocent loser-geek, nor clearly supported by some awkward innocent loser-geek friend. It looked like something that was all self-congratulatory wit and no insight.

    A friend of mine loved it so much that she got me to sit down with her to watch it, and I am so, so sorry that I missed supporting something so fresh and original and – inasmuch as I’ve learned how to define it – feminist.

    At least, a lot of it surprised me. I didn’t like the main protagonist that I saw in the trailer because of the misogynistic slut-shamer in my head. I kept thinking, though I didn’t notice that I was thinking it: she’s curvaceous enough to wear a bustier, she’s confident enough to wear a bustier and dish the catcalls right back at anyone who gave them, she spoke as if she were entitled to gifts for only pretending to put out and that’s just unfair – I had already decided that she had consciously used her beauty to take advantage of boys and that the movie would be 120 minutes of whining about such privilege, and having to face the “just consequences” of abusing such a privilege, which was a bad reputation.

    In the movie, it’s more that she has a lot of courage, or at least insecurity and anger from that insecurity, but society punishes her so disproportionately for losing her balance when it comes to honesty versus kindness. And, of course, for daring to appear sexual, because it’s totally everybody else’s privilege to put the ‘pry’ into someone’s private life, and judge, and shun, especially if they’re a sexual female person.

    The goods traded for her simulated services weren’t a big part of the movie, and I still don’t think it was handled well, but the turnabout was more that what the boys were buying for her was too small a price when she was sacrificing her social standing and respect for them– NOT that it was too large a price for not even getting to cop a feel.

    There’s more surprises. The biggest bullies in the school are Christians: not the voices-in-their-heads kind, not all-ritual-and-no-heart kind (well, maybe that one guy,) but ordinary immature teenagers with a lot of faith who don’t see that they’re causing more harm than good. The main character’s paramour(s!) is/are a not particularly flamboyant homosexual boy, and a straight boy who was a late bloomer when it came to the sexual interest expected of boys. It seemed a pretty big stereotype breaker to me. Also, trigger warning: there’s an attempted rape scene of the main character. Nothing graphic, but it’s a shockingly dark and serious turn in the middle of a sardonic, satirical movie. On the other hand, it would be a cop out to explore themes of society’s treatment of female sexuality, and not go there once even a little.

    It’s not “The Handmaid’s Tale” — there’s no philosophy, there’s just one girl’s story that she tells with as much fun as possible, and as much fury as deserved at how we’ve normalized the absurd.

  48. The secret life of bees

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