After a very busy summer dealing with children who are thankfully almost back in school – seriously, when you work from home and these sticky, dirty, needy ruffians are either at home with you or you are ferrying them back and forth to camps, it’s not conducive to anything but the minimum work effort. BBS engagement suffers as a result. I do love them, but all hail school starting.
Anyway, I watched this tonight: http://www.afi.com/100years/quotes.aspx. It is a 2005 American Film Institute (AFI) compilation of iconic movie quotes over the past 100 years. Before I begin, I’d like to contextualize my comments with the following caveats:
Yes, this video aired in 2005, so it doesn’t take into account the last 12 years. Unless we are all crazy optimists that ignore thousands of years of gender inequality, I think we can agree that the missing 12 years of film doesn’t mean all has been solved in the interim. Indeed, we do see a revolution of TV shows and films that increasingly develop female narratives beyond the Bechdel test (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bechdel_test), but it’s 12 years people. Let’s not get caught in the weeds here.
My analysis was not scientific. Feel free to watch the 10 or so minute video of the iconic quotes and arrive at your own numbers.I’m happy to admit a +/- of 5 or so on either end.
I categorized the video as follows:
c. subset of a: women whose quote was primarily in reaction to a man/romantic storyline/etc.
d. subset of b: men whose quote was primarily in reaction to love. I want to quality here because I was being generous. For example, I categorized Bogart’s quote, “Here’s looking at you, kid” as being part of romantic love. When asked, Mr. Jilly said, “Well, partly.” I’m trying to be as expansive as I can for the men because there is no Bechdel test for men.
If my math is off by a little here or there, let’s not castigate the whole point. I’m not presenting this as carved in stone.
To my analysis:
Of the films represented in the 10 or so minute video of iconic movie moments in the past 100 years:
77 of 123 were men
26 of the 123 were women
Of the 77 from men, 8 were about love (as described above, I defined “love” liberally)
Of the 26 from women, 16 were about getting/keeping/loving a man. (Down to 10 from women not about love.)
Of the 26 from women not about love, 3 were from “Wizard of Oz.”
That leaves us with 7 iconic quotes not from the “Wizard of Oz”, not dealing with love, etc. from women out of 123.
If we can agree that the dominant media paradigm for the past 100 years is film/radio/television, what does this tell us?
Of those most iconic moments that US Americans as a culture recognize as important, the narrative is overwhelmingly male. We can all point to Sigourney Weaver or Charlize Theron or Linda Hamilton or thankfully now Elizabeth Moss, but those are what we can remember because they are the minority.
This post isn’t about the specifics. It’s about the totality of what it means to have your cultural touchstones be male. We can pretend it’s not important that it was Leo hanging off the boat shouting “I’m king of the world” instead of Kate. We can pretend that we don’t still have Tina Fey defending that women are funny.
These movies, this entertainment, are fundamental to how our culture reflects itself. And after my completely amateur exploration of one video tells me: We’ve not come that far, baby.
To some extent I think it tells us that viewers are comfortable watching film and television that depicts life more or less as it is. That is, most of us as viewers generally prefer not to have our views challenged.
Of course i don’t mean that it would be not be good for women to be better represented in the media.
Also it might simply tell us that the compiler of the list is extremely biased. Perhaps his (or her?) idea of what is iconic is not in tune with the rest of the world.
Of course women live lives with the full range of interest as men, but the reality is that society still views women who are visible and vocal as at best exceptions and more often as threats.
Life for most women in the world is still different than it is for men, less good by most measures, but it is the world that most people are familiar with and that familarity is a powerful force that maintains the status quo.
My use of the word challenging was meant to be in this context. I don’t see where aberrant comes in at all.