Monday, 29 June 2020

Musical Monday #257

I saw this scene before I watched the movie. This is probably the best bit. I have completely forgotten the movie itself. I think I could barely remember it while I was watching it.
You Don’t Own Me from The First Wives Club 
Performed by Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton
Written by John Madara and David White

Who doesn't love a song about emancipation anyway.

Monday, 22 June 2020

Musical Monday #256

We’ll Never Have Problems Again from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, episode 'Will Scarsdale Like Josh's Shayna Punim?'
Performed by Rachel Bloom and Vincent Rodriguez III 
Written by Rachel Bloom and Adam Schlesinger

Monday, 15 June 2020

Musical Monday #255

Take Back Your Mink from Guys And Dolls
Performed by Vivian Blaine  (and others)
Written by Frank Loesser

Monday, 8 June 2020

Musical Monday #254

Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay from Grease 
Performed by Sha Na Na
Written by David White

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Testing The Scarlet Pimpernel

A while ago, I saw a list of ‘tests’ you can apply to films to see how sexist they are. I thought it would be interesting to give this a go. I decided to use some films I really like, because it is kind of less mean to pick something apart if you actually appreciate it and also I figured that I wouldn’t like overtly sexist stuff, so it would be interesting to see how it can sneak in without you noticing.

I also wanted to see whether things have got better over the years, so I decided to use my list of my favourite film per decade. Unfortunately since some of these movies came out in the very first year of the decade, they aren’t really representative of their respective decades at all and were probably made in the previous one. But oh well. Close enough.

The tests I decided to apply were:

First of all, are there any female main characters in the film?


To pass this test, you mustn’t be able to replace a female character with a sexy lamp without destroying the story. This also includes a sexy lamp with a post-it on it, to cover info-dump characters who otherwise have no agency of their own.

To pass this test, the film must have at least one female character who has her own plot arc and the character or her arc doesn’t just exist to support a male character’s plot.

To pass this test, the film must feature at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. A bonus requirement is that both women are named characters. (There is a database of movies to see if they pass this test.)

The Fridging Test (this was called the Anti-Freeze test on the original meme, but I can’t find it called this anywhere else, mostly because if you search ‘anti-freeze test’ you just get a lot of articles about cars)
To pass this test, no woman should be injured, raped, killed or depowered just to move a male character’s plot forward. (Originally this idea was specifically about comic books.)

I also decided to apply my own test:
The Creepy Age Gap Test.
In movies, especially in older ones, there was often this sexist idea that men could be a lead regardless of age but women had to be young, so therefore you would often get romantic pairings that were not remotely age-appropriate (I don’t mean to be ageist here, I’m only looking at it from a sexism perspective). This test is simply to note the age gap between the romantic leads. I am going to arbitrarily say that once the gap enters double digits then it is getting creepy.

Beyond this, I also wanted to see if there was any representation of people of colour.

And if there were, to ask similar questions to the above, such as:
Are there at least two named non-white characters? Bonus requirement is if there are, that they aren’t related to each other.
Do any POC have any dialogue that isn’t forwarding the plot of a white character?
Do any POC talk to each other (about something other than race)?

I also wanted to see if there was any queer representation.

So, is there a character who is identifiably non-straight? Bonus requirement is that they are not solely defined by their sexuality.
Is this character relevant to the plot so that if they were removed it wouldn’t make sense?

Is there a character who is identifiably non-cis? Bonus requirement is that they are not solely defined by their gender.
Is this character relevant to the plot so that if they were removed it wouldn’t make sense?

And finally, a bonus question of whether there is anything in the film that wouldn’t be appropriate if it had been made now.

So, to start, representing the 1930s, we have 

The Scarlet Pimpernel [1934]

This isn’t really one of my absolute favourite movies, it’s just a film I quite like, because apparently I don’t love any 30s movies.

Plot: The Scarlet Pimpernel saves aristocrats from the French Revolution. They send a a spy, Chauvelin, to England to find him. Chauvelin blackmails Lady Blakeney into helping him. She has no idea that her estranged and idiotic husband is secretly the hero she seeks.

Female characters: Lead, Lady Blakeney (Merle Oberon). Minor supporting roles, Suzanne de Tournay (Joan Gardner) and Countess de Tournay (Mabel Terry-Lewis).

Sexy Lamp: Pass. 

A lamp can’t use cunning to steal and read a note or travel to France to warn its husband of danger. However, this is only a soft pass, because honestly stealing information is not too far removed from the post-it idea, and she actually fails to warn her husband of anything, though presumably by warning Ffoulkes (I think it was) that does turn the tide in Percy's favour at the end, but we can't be sure since that is off-screen.

Mako Mori: Unsure. 

Marguerite does have her own plot. She is blackmailed by Chauvelin into helping him uncover the Scarlet Pimpernel in order to save her brother’s life. These plots are entwined with the male characters, but I think that she is briefly a driving force in the plot. However, in the novel she is the main character and here she has definitely been usurped by her husband and she does very little in the finale, so it could have been a lot better. Ultimately, the only character growth she experiences is to realise that she loves her husband, so I guess that doesn’t count as an arc that doesn’t support a man.

Bechdel: FAIL. 

There is only one main female character and she very rarely even interacts with other women. Briefly the Countess and Suzanne do talk about her, but they were having this conversation with men, so I don’t think it counts.

Fridging: Fail, I think. 

Right at the end, Marguerite gets captured by Chauvelin which he uses directly to catch Percy, who did have the upper hand but then instantly surrenders, and she then just faints. This is particularly annoying because the entire final act of the novel is about Marguerite but in the movie she is just caught, then unconscious and then carried out by a man.

Creepy Age Gap: FAIL. 

Leslie Howard was nearly 18 years older than Merle Oberon. I mean, this might be historically accurate because older men did used to marry younger women, but it is still a significant gap between the leads.

POC Representation: FAIL. 

I glimpsed three POC in a parade at the start and that was it. I don’t even know if they were genuine POC.

Queer Representation: FAIL. 

None. I mean, briefly the Scarlet Pimpernel disguises himself as a woman but this isn’t how he lives his life.

Couldn’t Get Away With It Now: Pass. Seems all right.

So, now that I have examined The Scarlet Pimpernel, what do I think of it? 

Honestly, this hasn't changed my opinion of it. The lack of representation is unsurprising given its age and the fact that it is a 'historical', regardless of whether that is inaccurate representation or not. Meanwhile, I have always felt that Marguerite gets a raw deal at the end. She is such an interesting character up until this point and then she a) completely fails her mission and b) faints like a total loser. Worst of all is that because the final face-off between Percy and Chauvelin is so AWESOME, part of me doesn't even care. Having now read the book, I am more annoyed at how pathetically useless Marguerite is written out since the entire finale of the novel is about her struggle (although again it is about her love for her husband), but I would not give up that really cool finale of the movie in exchange for a less sexist approach to the only female lead. I guess this shows how ingrained sexism is in movies. Handling a woman's plot badly can't detract from how cool a man's plot is. It should have been better though. Did she really have to faint? She doesn't faint at any other point. I think the writer just couldn't figure out a way to get her out of the room otherwise.

Tune in soon for the 1940s!

Monday, 1 June 2020

Musical Monday #253

Shake A Tail Feather from The Blues Brothers
Performed by Ray Charles with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd
Written by Otha Hayes, Andre Williams and Verlie Rice