The Smurfette Principle was named two decades ago by Katha Pollitt, when she noticed that there were a disproportionate amount of male characters in programming aimed at young people. Even in adult programming, when women do appear in the primary cast of a television show or movie, they are usually alone in a group of men. Sadly, this trope has made its way into the 21st century.
Fly Away, opens on Jeanne, a single mother, as she is awoken by her teenage daughter's cries. "Bad girl! I hate myself!" It might not be a surprising sentiment for a teenager in the throes of an angst-ridden moment, but Mandy is severe on the spectrum of autism, and the middle of the night is one of the times she communicates the clearest. Written and directed by Janet Grillo, Fly Away is a slice of life portrait of a small family at a crossroads and it focuses very much on the everyday details.
This past March, Women, Action, & the Media held several "WAM!-It-Yourself" satellite conferences in various cities exploring feminism and media. One component of this decentralized conferencing was spreading the conference ideas via the internet. Nist.tv (which I cleverly called "Feminism's YouTube") did a series called "Feminism in Focus: Interviews with Feminist Video Creators," which features interviews with seven awesome feminist filmmakers, including Bitch contributor and Feminist Frequency founder Anita Sarkeesian! You can watch all the segments online, and there's more content coming! Here's one with filmmaker Tiona McClodden, who talks about her film black/womyn, using social media for social change by posting her movie on National Coming Out Day, how short-form film is great for collaborating with like-minded organizations, exploring representation through filmmaking, and more:
While in Austin for SXSW, Kjerstin and I saw the highly anticipated (and highly publicized—there were posters all over town) Bridesmaids, a new potential blockbuster comedy from Judd Apatow, directed by Paul Feig and written by Kristin Wiig and Annie Mumolo. As the title suggests, it's about a woman (Wiig) whose best friend (Maya Rudolph) asks her to be the Maid of Honor at her upcoming wedding—Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and Rose Byrne round out the cast as the titular bridesmaids. Bridal party formalities, bachelorette party wackiness, and bouts of barfing ensue. (We should note: We attended a "work in progress" screening, but Feig, who was in attendance along with Wiig, assured the audience that what we saw was basically a finished product.)
Maybe it was the hour-plus wait in line, the midnight showtime, or the beers we snuck in to the theater, but Kjerstin and I left this movie with distinctly different opinions.
The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a cute, bubbly, young (usually white) woman who has recently entered the life of our brooding hero to teach him how to loosen up and enjoy life. While that might sound all well and good for the man, this trope leaves women as simply there to support the star on his journey of self discovery with no real life of her own.
Sarah Sparks loves technology. A freelance tech geek, she fixes everything from new computers to old radios and calls her home pregnancy test a "nifty gadget." When its digital face displays the word "pregnant," she comments to boyfriend, Leon, "It's actually a pretty good quality font for a disposable," before recognizing that her life is about to be altered by a much less predictable technology. In first time feature directors Annie J. Howell and Lisa Robinson's Small, Beautifully Moving Parts, Sarah (Anna Margaret Hollyman) is ambivalent about her pregnancy.
Alison Bagnall's The Dish and the Spoon opens with Rose (Greta Gerwig) despondently crying as she drives to the beach—clad in pajama bottoms, a boxy coat, and knit cap—after discovering her husband's infidelity. Taking refuge from the winter air in a WWII watchtower, she discovers a young British drifter (Olly Alexander) shivering inside.
Like many connoisseurs of young adult lit, I've been excited and wary about the upcoming film adaptation of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. On Friday, I greeted the news that Jennifer Lawrence had nabbed the part of protagonist Katniss with nothing but dismay. Now, I didn't like Winter's Bone as much as many seemed to, but Lawrence's performance was powerful, and I'm sure she's capable of the emotion necessary to play the mockingjay.
Here's the thing, though: In the books, Katniss is clearly not white.
On Friday, I saw the Noboru Iguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura, and Tak Sakagucki-helmed Japanese flick Mutant Girls Squadas part of the Northwest Film Center's Portland International Film Festival (PIFF.) From the synopsis, I expected a girl power-y saga of young women bonding over their new superpowers and fighting off comic book-esque villains at each other's behest... something like X-Men meets D.E.B.S. (the latter of which I will defend until my death, and not just because of name loyalty). Basically, I went into Mutant Girls Squad thinking it would be ridiculous and entertaining. I was half right.
Comments, spoilers and a gruesome trailer after the jump!