Tag: Feminism

TESTING THE JANE TEST

TESTING THE JANE TEST

We all know what the Bechdel test is,  The Bechdel test asks whether a film (or any work of fiction, for that matter) features at least two females who talk to each other about something other than a male.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that on the HAGS Podcast, HAGS co-hosts Riley Rose Critchlow and Nicole Wyland brought up the Jane test during their second episode which centered on INTELLIGENCE.

HAGSnew

What though is the Jane test, and where did it come from?

On twitter, a professional script reader named Ross Putman pulls the introduction of female characters out of screenplays, changes all the characters names to “Jane,” then tweets the description the first time we see them.  Putnam’s findings reveal a superficial focus on a female characters’ looks, and a telling dearth of information about what makes them tick as a person.

Specifically, Putnam examines three things:  1) Does The Introduction Focus on the External Attributes of the Character?  2) Is She a Twenty- or Thirtysomething?  3) Is She Dating Someone Decades Older Than Her?

Here’s where I’m torn:  In RIDING ARISTOTLE, the last feature screenplay I wrote, the protagonist is a female.  It’s 1908, and she is the first female dean of a major university.  The first time we see her, she is splashed in the face when a nearby horse steps in a puddle of water.  So it’s a focus on an external attribute (Rule 1), but it is by no means a sexy description of her physical looks.  Next, she is 37, which would trigger Rule 2.  However, I didn’t write her as 37, to portray her as sexually vibrant, nor anything close to that.  Since she is a fictional character, I wondered what the youngest age that a person could become a dean — and for it still be somewhat believable, but more importantly, remarkable.  The point was she had made amazing achievements in grad school (finishing at 26), then as a professor (five years, making her 31), then as a department head (another 6 years, making her 37) — achievements so large, every step of the way, that they could not be ignored.  She exceled her way up the academic ladder at a time when the odds were stacked against her.  There’s no way THAT’S sexist.  To the contrary, her age is a testament to her advanced abilities.  Lastly, Rule 3 — not only is my protagonist NOT dating an older man, she is married to a much younger man (in 1908, another nod to her independent streak).  On the other hand, I do have an older man chasing her.  Am I guilty of violating Rule 3?  Or am I subverting it, by having my protagonist (SPOILER ALERT) stay loyal to her younger husband?

See what I mean?  A case could be made that my protagonist does not pass the Jane test — but there’s no way my protagonist is anywhere near the same as a lithe Meagan Fox glistening with sweat in her Daisy Dukes in Transformers.  This is not to say that Putnam’s observations are wrong.  I agree with him that there is a problem.  I’m just saying that describing the problem is not as cut-and-dried simple as 1 – 2 – 3.

Clearly there is more to be said about this topic.  This won’t be the last time we discuss the Jane test on this blog.

WHY REBEKAH FIESCHI MATTERS

WHY REBEKAH FIESCHI MATTERS

Before I get sideway glances for touting another Seed & Spark project, let me just say that Rebekah Fieschi ‘s latest project, Sylphvania Grove, has already surpassed 169% of its goal.  Of course, more followers would be great (more followers = more benefits unlocked for the project) — but that’s not the purpose of my blog post this week.  My purpose is to introduce you Rebekah because she has the ability to change the way we see things, as well as the things we see.  I have no doubt she will do both.

Rebekah is an advocate of fair gender representation in filmmaking.  In fact, let me let her tell you in her own words:

“I do not want to be a female filmmaker, I just want to be a filmmaker but I have been thrust into a world in which women are not fairly represented so I’m proud to give nuanced voices to female characters and to be part of the group seeking to transform the industry.”  — Rebekah Fieschi

WHO IS REBEKAH FIESCHI?

Rebekah Fieschi is a New York based writer/director from a tiny island in the south of France who makes peculiar fantasy and gothic horror films through her company Horromance Productions. Her most recent short, Mauvaises Têtes, is an award-winning reinvention of classic Hollywood horror films such as Frankenstein which was well received in film festivals around the world. Her focus is to bring more entertaining, yet layered, character driven gothic horror and fantasy films to the screen. Her career as a storyteller began as a small child, making up elaborate tales to tell her family and friends. This natural talent for make-believe and keen visual imagination, had by age eleven, led her to decide on a directing career. After studying filmmaking in Paris, Rebekah moved to New York in 2010.  Equally important, as I mentioned at the outset, she is also an advocate of fair gender representation in cinema.

In Sylphvania Grove, five of the six characters are female, including the ten-year-old lead, Mycena.  Rebekah and her team want to help empower young girls and contribute to fair gender representation on screen, especially in the fantasy genre. Their writer/director and much of the crew are also women.

SylphvaniaCast

Rebekah explains the lack of female representation in fantasy by stating, “A big reason for the lack of female protagonists in fantasy films is that women are not being hired to direct big budget films and fantasy films typically require larger budgets.”  Rebekah wants to see that change.  She is doing her part to see that it does.
I asked Rebekah why she feels a focus on a young female protagonist is so important to the genre.  She told me:
I remember very strongly that as a kid I wanted to be like a boy and that I felt a sort of shame for being a girl, according to a study recently published in Science girls start believing they are less capable than boys by age six, even though their academic achievements are usually higher. Stories help construct our view of the world and historically in fairy tales, fantasy/adventure movies, books etc. the woman character (if there is one) either has to become a princess or find happiness/be rescued by prince charming or a knight in shining armor. I think it’s important that girls/women don’t have to think of themselves in relationship to boys/men, and that they can have a professional ambition other than becoming a princess. There’s no reason we can’t have female characters that behave the same ways as male characters in movies like The Never Ending Story and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial characters that make decisions and take actions to be in control of their own life. If I can identify with the likes Atreyu, Elliot, Frodo and Harry, I don’t see any reason why boys can’t also identify with girl heroes.
I agree with Rebekah completely, of course.  If you agree with us, put your fingers where your mouth is (ew!) and click over to the Sylphvania Grove page and follow it right now.
Help her get to 500 followers so Seed & Spark will unlock some cool assistance ($9000 worth) for this project.  You can watch a promo clip for it here.  Then watch this blog for excerpts of my upcoming interview with her.
Oh, one more thing,  Rebekah turned me on to this podcast:  PunchFarm Podcast.

I will be blogging about that podcast next.

WHY HAGS MATTER

WHY HAGS MATTER

It’s a podcast, people!!!

As you know, among other things, every week here, I blog about at least one podcast.  Usually it is about an episode of screenwriter John August’s Scriptnotes.  But today, I want to tell you about a brand new podcast I discovered this month.  (Thanks to the women of TeamRAD who put this on my radar.)  In fact, it’s only been around for a month.  New episodes air every Tuesday, so if you start right now, you can get caught up on the back episodes — and it is worth your time to do so.  So, without further ado, Ladies and Gentlemen, direct your attention to:

HAGS Podcast.

Who are the hosts of HAGS?  From their website:  “HAGS co-hosts Riley Rose Critchlow and Nicole Wyland met on the set of a hit web show and have been creating feminist content together ever since. In 2016, they co-produced a gender-bending parody series called Get Bent, which highlights the way women are portrayed in Hollywood by putting women in the men’s roles and vice versa.”  They have both worked in a variety of positions in the film industry.  More on them at the bottom. 

This week I want to talk about their second episode which centered on INTELLIGENCE.  They discuss, among other things, how intelligence is monetized and commoditized so that a women’s cleverness can be devalued.  The societal value applied to female intelligence is for the benefit of men.  A woman’s intelligence, they argue, is yet just another element of the “full package” making her more attractive to a man.  Rather than say, this education, or her inherent brightness, will serve her well in accomplishing her personal goal, or in serving our planet better, a woman’s intelligence is turned into a commodity for the benefit of the male gaze (well, the male gaze is done by the eyes, so whatever-a-male-brain-does-instead-of-gaze).   And I agree with Riley and Nicole completely — not that their positions need male validation, because they do not.

HAGS

Nicole Wyland (left) and Riley Rose Critchlow (right).

 

I promised more information about these hilarious and insightful feminists.  Here it is, again from their website:

RILEY ROSE CRITCHLOW – HOST

Riley grew up on a small island in Maine, moving to Los Angeles to pursue a BFA in Acting from USC’s School of Dramatic Arts. After graduating, Riley founded sketch comedy troupe Bowling for Tiffany, whose content caught the eye of Funny or Die, Tosh.0 and Discovery. Out of BFT, Riley and fellow comedian, Daniel Montgomery, formed comedy duo Mary-Kate and Ashtray. MKA recently performed at SF Sketchfest and has a pilot slated for completion later this year. Riley has appeared mostly as criminals on such television shows as Southland, Rizzoli & Isles and Marcia Clark’s pilot, Guilt By Association. She is also the lead of Julia Max’s film, Distortion, which is currently touring college campuses as a cornerstone of the Obama/Biden “It’s On Us” campaign to end sexual assault.

NICOLE WYLAND – HOST

Nicole is an actress, writer, and vocalist.  A native of Eighty Four, Pennsylvania, Nicole received her degree in Theatre Arts from the University of Pittsburgh before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film. She is known for viral videos like freddiew’s “Flower Warfare” which has over 15,000,000 views online. In addition to playing Moriarty on the critically acclaimed webseries Video Game High School,  Nicole writes and performs sketch comedy for her own YouTube channel.  Her parody Lady Gaga music video has been viewed over 12,000 times. Nicole also owns her own production company, Verdant Pine Productions, and is looking forward to producing her first feature later this year.

Next week, I will revisit this same episode, because I want to dig deeper into their discussion of the Jane test for scripts.  (Not the Bechdel test, the Jane test.)  What is the Jane test, and what do I think about it?  You’ll have to come back here next week!