5 Girl-Power Movies To Watch If You’re Bored

Years back, it came to the attention of feminists that there is a real problem with how women are portrayed in movies.  And there are several problems I want to talk about before I get to the movies that I recommend here.  The first is the subject of the Bechdel test: for those of you who are not familiar with it, the Bechdel test asks three simple questions in evaluating movies.  1) Is there more than 1 female character?  2) Do the female characters talk to each other?  and 3) Do they talk to each other about something other than a man?

An astonishing number of movies fail this test.  All of the movies I am about to list below pass the Bechdel test.

A second problem is that in many instances, women are portrayed as simply erratic and emotional, OR they are just a prize for the male protagonist-~-the woman is just someone who is won by the hero.  That’s…also not okay.  A last problem is the oversexualization of women, which often accompanies the previous problem: the woman is nothing but a sexpot.  Worse, the sexy characters are too often the villainous ones-~-we see this in TV shows too, even ones that do an overall great job (like ABC’s Once Upon a Time).

So those are problem’s I am screening for with the following movies:

1. Whip It

I’m a pretty big fan of this movie.  First of all, the takeaway line for the movie is “Be your own hero”, which is a pretty great message.  On top of that, this film passes the Bechdel test like it’s its job: most of the time, the women aren’t talking about men at ALL: they are talking about work, roller derby, etc.  The movie also does a great job of showing the main character’s struggle with her mother’s understanding of femininity vs her own.  I won’t say any more, because I don’t want to give away what happens, but it’s worth the hour and a half it’ll take you to watch it.

2. Ever After/A Cinderella Story

I’m going to talk about these stories separately even though they are listed together because of the similar Cinderella plotline.  Why these two?  Because in both of these versions of the Cinderella story, the girl succeeds in rescuing herself.

How?  In Ever After, Drew Barrymore’s character consistently defies her evil stepmother, challenges the prince’s ideas, and then in the end succeeds in saving herself before prince charming can even get there on his white horse.  An in A Cinderella Story (again, this is vague so I won’t have to give everything away), Hillary Duff’s character stands up to her stepmother and fights for what she really believes in-~-she even stands up to her “prince” when the time comes.  It’s a nice break from the normal prince-saves-damsel-in-distress version.

3. Legally Blonde

I hate when people try to tell me that Legally Blonde is anti-feminist.  How is it anti-feminist?  Because Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is hyper-feminine?  Guess what: if we can’t be taken seriously when we look and act feminine, we’re still not equal, and the battle is hardly won.  Vilifying women because they don’t “look like feminists” is not a good approach to the fight for equality.  But let’s get back to the movie itself: the protagonist aces her LSATs (which, let me tell you, is NOT an easy feat-~-I can only hope I do nearly as well), exploits her advantages (so maybe a sexy video essay isn’t the greatest message, but she did what she had to do to get into freaking Harvard), and when her ex is obviously never going to respect her, she ditches him, proves he’s wrong about how smart she is, and stands by her convictions even when the rest of the world is unwilling to believe she has what it takes.  What’s anti-feminist about that?

Oh, right…nothing.

4. The Help

I can’t say enough good things about this movie.  It tackles racism.  It tackles sexism.  And Emma Stone is awesome in it.  What’s so “girl power” about it?  One of the main characters, Skeeter, goes after the career she wants even though she knows her mother has other priorities for her and she sticks to her convictions even when they start to come with a price tag in her personal life.  The relationship between Minnie and Celia Foote shows a strong female friendship that transcends boundaries and illustrates the journey each woman takes with regards to standing up for herself, either to her husband (in Minnie’s case) or her peers (Celia’s case).

5. First Wives’ Club

I started with one of the most recent of my favorites and I’ll end with the least recent.  This movie, if you haven’t seen it, is fantastic.  It chronicles the reunion of three college friends who, in the years since graduation, have grown apart and come together after a mutual friend’s suicide, only to discover that all of their husbands have left them or are leaving them for younger women-~-so they hatch a plot for revenge.  The movie follows these three women as they try to reclaim their dignity and their sisterhood, with much comical stumbling along the way.  Don’t worry, though: the writers made sure to give it an ending that erases any real feeling that these women were just bitter hags out for revenge.  Well worth a watch.


Got movies you think deserve to be on this list?  Feel free to post about them in the comments section below.



~ by Randi Saunders on July 13, 2012.

One Response to “5 Girl-Power Movies To Watch If You’re Bored”

  1. […] you’re wondering why I’m wasting time blogging about movies, your answer is this: we get a lot of our ideas about what is normal, what is cool, what is taboo, […]

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