Watching movies and TV shows is my number-one hobby. I used to review movies for a newspaper, and even if it was in so many ways a dream job (having a movie theatre to yourself is pretty cool), I often headed back to the news desk with a racing heart and sentences pounding in my head like “one-dimensional female character” and “all the women were half naked”.
Scenes like this awkward underwear stupidity in Star Trek Into Darkness remind us how badly women are portrayed in the media. Most movies don’t even pass The Bechdel Test’s three simple criteria: at least two women in it, the women need to talk to each other, and they need to talk to each other about something besides men.
So how do we love movies and TV with a media industry that doesn’t love us back? Having spent my professional and free time watching tons of movies and TV shows, I’ve developed a survival guide to keeping your love for TV and movies alive and kickin’.
Do your research! Don’t be a lazy consumer; you’ll only be punished. Read reviews from journalists you trust and ask your friends. Are there women in the movie? How are they portrayed? Even though it’s not a guarantee that the movie is good, you can check out which movies pass the The Bechdel Test here.
Spread the word! Whenever you come across a TV-show or a movie with a cool character that is also a woman, share a clip on Facebook, brag to everyone you know about how great the movie is, and keep a list with all your favorite shows. Whenever popular culture seems hostile and not for you, use your list and watch a rerun of something that gives you pep and inspiration. Oh, and make sure to spread the word that some Swedish movie theaters have started to include a feminist movie rating. Pure awesome.
Allow yourself to identify with men! A lot of the time, it’s not possible to find women-friendly movies, but you still want to press play on something and eat that bag of chips.
Even if the movie industry seems to forget it, we are all people who get our hearts broken, we need to pay our bills, and we have fights with our parents.
Don’t be afraid to be critical! Call out movies that won’t accept women as people. Complain loudly and shamelessly. Yes, your friends may be annoyed. You may be “that person” who can’t “relax and enjoy the movie”, but you’ll spread essential ideas.
Change can’t happen if we keep accepting the status quo.
Create your own media! Write a script, shoot a short film and post it on YouTube, or take a class in documentary filmmaking. Earlier, I’ve written about how Camp Reel Stories wants to contribute to just that: If you can’t change it, make it.
Siri Nybakk is a Norwegian journalist currently working on her master’s degree at University of San Francisco. Her thesis is about how organizations and activism can spark a change to how women are portrayed in the media. As a feminist she is especially passionate about how female sexuality is represented and the awesomeness of Swedish feminist cartoons.