*This post was first published in Cosmopolitan Australia magazine.
By JAMILA RIZVI
I’m breaking up with romantic comedies.
I won’t do romantic comedies the disrespect of making excuses. I won’t say that I’m focusing on my career right now, or that I need to try other films before settling down or that it isn’t them, it’s me…
Because it is them and here’s why.
I want you to think back to the last time you spoke to another woman.
During your conversation with your delightful friend/sister/mother/local shoe proprietor, you would have covered any number of topics.
You might have spoken about the asylum seeker debate, or a mate whose mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer, or your unhealthy reliance on dry shampoo, or your mounting HECS debt or a certain gentleman you’re keen on.
But if you go to the movies and watch a romantic comedy? The only part of that conversation you will see reflected on the screen – is the bit about the bloke.
That’s because Hollywood continues to produce movies with a distinct gender bias. The presence of strong, smart female characters is abysmal. The primary role of women in most movies is to fall in love with, cry over and obsess about men.
Pfft you say. Wrong. Chicks do heaps of rad stuff in movies. But hold on a cotton-blended-t-shirt picking second while I introduce you to: the Bechdel test.
To pass the Bechdel test, a film has to include at least two named female characters, who talk to each other, about a subject besides a man.
Would you believe then, that only around half of the films screened at your local Hoyts meet that requirement? In fact, only 3 of the 9 nominees for this year’s Best Picture Oscar passed the test.
Some of the biggest blockbusters of the past decade have failed, including The Social Network, Avatar, Slumdog Millionaire, Oceans 11 and Men in Black.
And romantic comedies – films that are marketed directly at women like you and I – are some of the very worst offenders.
The Proposal failed the test. And PS I love you. And The Wedding Singer.
So did When Harry Met Sally.
The Bechdel test isn’t perfect. It doesn’t assess whether a movie is sexist or if there are strong female characters or even if the movie is any good.
But it’s a useful guide to the presence and portrayal of women on our screens.
And currently the results are pretty ordinary.
I love romantic comedies but I just can’t hack what they say about me and my friends. The suggestion that our conversations are only relevant or interesting when they’re about men is an insult of the very highest order.
Women are lawyers, doctors, mothers, journalists, business owners and Prime Ministers. We have conversations with each other that are jam-packed full of really INTERESTING STUFF.
And we deserve to see that depicted in the films we watch.
(Especially the conversations about dry shampoo – I’m not sure why there aren’t more of those…)
Do you believe romantic comedies depict women badly? Whats your favourite film?