In Praise of Older Women

As a variation to our plotlines theme, you might have come across the Bechdel Test, a kind of litmus of how women are perceived in the majority of film and television plotlines. The test was designed to highlight the gender imbalance in so many popular (especially Hollywood) movies, where female characters’ lives seem to revolve entirely around men in a way that just doesn’t happen the other way round…

To pass the test, these are the requirements:

1.It includes at least two named women

2.Who have at least one conversation

3.About something other than a man

Try applying this to some of your favourite films – you may find it surprisingly difficult. We showed “All about Eve” last week which passes with flying colours, but so many others don’t get near. Passing the test isn’t a sign of a good film, or even a particularly pro-feminist film, indeed many of the undisputed “greats” fail on every point (hello Mr Scorsese) and many “women’s movies” are stinkers. It’s just interesting to see how the Hollywood mind works and what preconceptions we have absorbed through our media. Once you really start noticing this, it can seem that female characters only exist in terms of their romantic relationship with a man. And women directors are by no means immune.

As three women running a film club, we are mainly interested in the magic of beautiful images and good storytelling but it’s inevitable that we think about the way women are portrayed in the media.

Anyway, although it’s only a narrow pass on the Bechdel score, our next film is Ealing comedy “The LadyKillers” which also features ladies of mature years – something else you rarely see in Hollywood. We can’t guarantee that there will be no stereotyping involved (because it is rare to find fully dimensional characterisation of women over 60) but during the next few weeks we are going to be celebrating the cinematic charms of the older lady. From Simone Signoret and Jeanne Moreau (both still unrepentantly foxy in later life) to Agnes Moorhead, Lillian Gish and Margaret Rutherford – and of course, the wonderful Katie Johnson as Mrs Wilberforce in “The Ladykillers” – they are a force to be reckoned with. Come and see for yourselves at the end of the month at the Lantern Theatre!

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