Gender / media / Sex in the news

Why Are there No Women in Movies?

lock stockMy type of movie is Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Big Lebowski or American Psycho, easily classified as “guy movies.” It drives me up the wall that my preferred genres: crime dramas, psychological thrillers, heist movies, superhero adventures and stoner comedies have virtually no women characters. The ones they do have are guaranteed to fuck someone else in the movie and are appear to be only in this scene because they are done modeling  for lingerie ads for the afternoon.

A lot of the time the main characters could easily be women, but they’re just not.  And for a long time the place where women could consistently be found was rom-coms but now the bromance flick is pushing even that door closed. But while lists of great female characters rarely include anything since 1996, there is some room to say women’s roles are better than ever.

In any event, there is systemic problem of minimizing females in movies in favor of a male-centric and male-oriented model of filmmaking. And it’s not just in the slasher flicks, shoot ‘em ups and the dumb frat comedies. It’s even kids movies.  Check it out.


So be aware, beloved readers. Just apply the Bechdel test when you’re watching a movie:

  1. Are there two or more female characters and do they have names?
  2. Do they talk to each other?
  3. Do they talk about anything besides men?

After a conversation with some friends, we decided there were a couple additional rules that cut the list down even further. If you don’t count horror movies where the female characters die,  mother-daughter relationships and queer movies, the number of films shrinks immensely.

So here are three proposed additional rules, as if the first three weren’t difficult enough:

  1. Do the females have a parent-child relationship?
  2. Do one or more of the female characters die before the end of the movie?
  3. Do two female characters make out/kiss/ have sex at some point?

This further whittling down removes females in their traditional roles as mothers, sex object and victims.  Just something to think about. Even if we aren’t in charge of making the movies, we can at least be cognizant of what we’re consuming and how we’re thinking about it.

Questions? Comments? Violent reactions? Email sexwithtimaree@gmail.com or tweet @timaree_leigh See more at http://www.facebook.com/sexwithtimaree and http://tinyurl.com/swtpod

10 thoughts on “Why Are there No Women in Movies?

  1. If you like heist movies with decent female characters, I would suggest the TV show “Leverage.”

  2. Hi Timaree,

    I thought a lot about this and came up with some great movies in your genre’s that pass the Bechdel test and are more recent.

    They would pass the new rules except for the second one, but with the sexes reversed, I think you couldn’t find any movies at all. Men are killed without a tear in movies on a regular basis.

    So here are the movies I came up with:

    1) Kill Bill

    Strong main character who is female. She is no victim in the patriarchal sense and she has many conversations with other women about something other than a man.

    2) The X-men Series

    Certainly male dominated, but the strongest character is a women (Jean Grey). There are also conversations not about men or love interest between her and storm.

    3) Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

    Ok, this fails the 3rd item of your knew test, but there is also man on man action, so at least it goes both ways (pun intended). It is also heavily misogynistic. That said, Sissy, Chrisie, Missy and Justice are the only smart people in the entire movie and pass the tests.

    4) The Scream movies

    Easily pass the original test. Cliche’d in the virginity is pure and slut shaming, but it has a female main character who has conversations not focused on men.

    5) Charlie’s angels

    I’m not saying it’s common, but they are out there.

  3. One more follow up point.

    I think the issue really is, who is the main protagonist. The rest of the test is really geared towards that one issue, and that issue alone.

    For example, kill bill has a female protagonist. Even with it being named after a man, it is a movie about a women. There is not a conversation between two men which is not about her, a women. So it is not surprising that it fails.

    The problem, as I see it, is that I couldn’t even think of more than a few movies with female protagonists (outside of the romantic comedy, romance and girl comedy genres).

    A romantic comedy or a romance movie will likely fail the test from a male or female perspective, since every seen will be about talking about the opposite sex.

    The girl comedies will pass the test, but will have the alternate situation for men. [I’m thinking the Sweetest Thing and Romy and Michelle).

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