Favorite Holiday Movies: Where my girls at?

Well I am problematizing the everyday. Thanks Dorothy Smith for the book, The Everyday World as Problematic. As I sat down yesterday to watch my favorite holiday movies my feminist mind took over, yet again. Ever since I found out about the Bechdel test which basically highlights how most movies do not have adequate representation of female characters, I tend to criticize every movie I watch (Note: it is probably not fun for people to attend movies with me, sorry friends!). The Bechdel Test is simple and all the movie needs is: 1.) It has to have a least two women in it. 2.) Who talk to each other. 3.) About something other than a man.

So I decided to analyze my favorite Holiday movies. In no specific order:

Elf (2003)

Well like most holiday movies the lead character is a man, Will Ferrell a.k.a, Buddy the Elf. Now I find Will Ferrell hilarious and this movie is so stupid funny I am usually quoting it for days. For example, “Buddy the Elf! What’s your favorite color?” or “Have you seen these toilets? They’re ginormous!” So this movie is upbeat and positive, but their are two primary female characters and they do not talk to each other (partial pass to the Bechdel test). They may talk to each other somewhere towards the end for a hot second, but I can’t really remember and if so,  it is only as a passing nod. But….are they represented as women or tropes? See (www.feministfrequency.com). The first female lead is  Zooey Deshanel who often seems to play the part of the manic-pixie dream girl such as in 500 days of summer, but in Elf she is more cynical. Indeed it seems that Buddy the Elf is the manic-pixie dream  MAN(?) that drives Zooey’s character out of her brooding cynicism of Christmas. Is this movie challenging gender stereotypes?

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Well this movie does pass the Bechdel test (although does it count if all female characters are within the same family?)! And, to boot the lead character Clark Griswold is not afraid to show his emotions. Clark is the one that gets all nostalgic about Christmas and even cries during the movie when he is watching his families old Christmas movie reels. However, the division of labor within this household is definitely along traditional gender lines with the women in the kitchen and the men putting up the outside Christmas lights. Also, what about when Clark is hitting on the much younger woman at the store and then dreams about her later? Is this just normal or is it a subtle message to married women that men are always going to be fantasizing about a younger woman? A continuation of a subtle yet strong message to women that we need to stay young and beautiful. But wait his wife is young and beautiful! Some may say that I am over-exaggerating the influence of the beauty message but, when documentaries such as the Science of Beauty or Killing us Softly illuminate how the media continuously dictates to girls and women this unattainable perfection this subtle message speaks loudly.

A Christmas Story (1983)

This was my first favorite holiday movie and it absolutely does NOT pass the Bechdel test. Now one can argue that this is a period piece so, of course, it is reflective of the times. Then, I will not argue  about how gender is constructed in this movie, however, there is also a severe lack of female representation in this movie. The movie is based off a book so the real criticism lies there (not that I read the book though!). The only female characters we get are the mom who “acts crazy” and gets jealous about a lamp and a female teacher which to me is nuff’ said. Although I will give a passing nod to the young female that talks to Ralphie while he is waiting for Santa that is dressed like an aviator (I am going off memory here). She does not fit the traditional gender stereotype. So there ya go we have a 3o second blip of some gender difference. On that note, may I suggest that none of these movies so far go truly beyond the binary. The media in general seems to ignore different representations of gender and sexuality and when they do include them they are more likely to be stereotypical. For example, the “flaming” gay man or the “butch” lesbian.  For more on the discussion regarding the complication of gender and sexuality see, Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl.

And, last but not least….

Home Alone (1990)

This film surrounds the antics of one boy, not girl. So all in all not only does this movie not pass the Bechdel test, but I also can really pick apart the only female lead character. Kevin’s mother who will do anything to get home to her son that SHE is responsible for leaving home alone. This plays into the notion that only a mother can truly be negligent. Indeed, the father stays back and does not have to bear any of the blame for the little faux paus of leaving behind one’s child. He does not even notice that the son is not there until the mother mentions it and he takes the entire debacle in stride.

Now there are other movies out there and I would love to hear people’s thoughts and suggestions!

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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