Action-packed movies seem to be missing independent women

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According to the Motion Picture Association of America, women buy 55 percent of theater tickets. I’m still trying to figure out why.

I rarely set foot in a movie theater anymore, and it isn’t because I’m afraid I will stick to the floor.

Have you seen the ads on TV for movies? Oh look, another sweaty guy with a three-day beard and a gun struggling to blow something up, keep something from blowing up, or fight off zombies as another city composed entirely of CGI landmark architecture gets blown up, flooded by huge crashing waves or torn apart by alien monsters.

Where are the women? Captured? On the phone, begging the hero to be careful? Screaming to be rescued before any more clothes come off or get soaked?

As a member of the imperiled sex, I am underwhelmed.

I’ll admit that many of the women I know — including me — wouldn’t be much good in a battle. But then, neither would many of the men I know. And at least women generally have the sense to avoid the battle in the first place. We aren’t nearly as jeopardy-friendly as slasher films would have you believe. If there are no lights in the spooky house, I am not going to the basement to look for you. I’m getting out and sending help. I have to be up in the morning to walk my dog.

Most of us probably haven’t given this a lot of thought. Hey, I like a superhero movie as much as anybody. I like a little sci-fi If things get blown up, that’s cool. After all, I’m part of the group buying 55 percent of the tickets. The question is, if most movies were like “Steel Magnolias” or “Beaches” or “Mamma Mia,” would 55 percent of tickets be purchased by guys?

I’m pondering this paradox because of a movie project currently seeking funding via Kickstarter. The movie, co-written by a humorist and author I admire named Bruce Cameron, is called “Muffin Top: A Love Story,” and it is touted by its other writer and leading lady as not merely a movie but a “movie-ment” to “put chicks back in flicks.”

“Only 6% of studio movies have a cast that is 50% women,” Cathryn Michon points out in the funding pitch. Which is kind of funny, considering real life has a cast that is half women. Not that Hollywood is famous for putting real life on the big screen, but still.

“Muffin Top” also has a female director (like a whopping 4 percent of Hollywood movies) and an all-female camera crew. And yet, judging by the trailer, it does not consist entirely of selfies of grinning women with their cheeks pressed together.

This seems especially timely since Swedish cinemas have adopted the Bechdel Test to rate the gender bias of movies. The test, conceived by American cartoonist Alison Bechdel, offers three challenges to a movie: It has to have at least two (named) women in it, who talk to each other, about something besides a man.

(That last requirement wipes out the entire “Sex and the City” franchise, and a good thing, too.)

Bechdeltest.com offers a list of recent movies and how they fare, and there are surprises. It’s odd that movies like “The Fifth Estate” and “Mud” fail, on the grounds that the women don’t ever talk to one another; it’s even odder that top marks go to “Sharknado.”

As the director of a Swedish arthouse cinema told The Guardian, “The entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, all Star Wars movies, ‘The Social Network,’ ‘Pulp Fiction,’ and all but one of the Harry Potter movies fail this test.”

That’s a big chunk of our pop culture there, lacking in independent women with something important to say and do.

Is that a world I really want to buy tickets to?


Samantha Bennett, freelance writer: sambennett412@gmail.com.

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