In This Changes Everything we discover that Geena founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Their core value is:
If she can see it, she can be it ™
And this is true. What started this whole thing was when Geena was watching Finding Nemo with her then two-year old daughter. Nemo’s class contains an array of aquatic sea life taught by Mr. Stingray. A classroom of Nemo, a seahorse, a squid and nine other fish. 12 in total. But only one of the speaking roles was female, the little pink squid. And Geena thought it wasn’t right.
The film and the Geena Davis Institute talk freely about how “if girls don’t see themselves on screen…, they’re less likely to pursue [particular] career paths,” speaking about STEM careers, but even in the film industry being portrayed as a leading lady, in front of and behind the camera.
This Changes Everything
The film itself has a hopeful message even after the ups and downs of suits filed, the #metoo movement and the hurdles women have had to overcome in Hollywood to get their stories told.
I first heard about the film when Geena was on Seth Meyers’ show. The name of the film, This Changes Everything was even coined from articles after her most notable films were supposed to have “changed everything” in film for women. Thelma & Louise came out in 1991 and A League of their Own in 1992. I think we can all agree, nothing has changed.
The Bechdel Test
One of the threads from the film was The Bechdel Test. It was first introduced in the 80s but I didn’t hear about/really absorb it in until the 2000s. The documentary talks about a theater – granted it’s in Sweden – that only plays films that pass the Bechdel Test. Now, if you don’t know what this test is, it’s simple.
The movie must fit three criteria:
- It has to have at least two women in the story (There is some debate about if they have to have names, I say yes)
- These two women must talk to each other
- Most importantly: They must talk about something other than men.
If they do this, the film passes the test. Are there films that surprisingly pass the test? Always! Like American Hustle, Jennifer Lawrence’s character Rosalyn talks to Amy Adams about nail polish. Does it count? Yep. Does that mean that films that are inherently misogynistic and portray women horribly still pass the test? Unfortunately, Yes.
I did a not-at-all-scientific focus group about gender bias and one of the questions was about the Bechdel Test. I asked friends to list their favorite movie, if they knew about the test and if their favorite movie passed the test. Here’s what I found.
61% of films people responded with actually passed which fits the data. This got me thinking about my favorite movies, the MCU, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, even Twilight. Here is what I found. I took photos of the films I had on DVD tried to relay which films didn’t pass with a green X.
Other films like Pirates of the Caribbean series with five films, I own four of the five. Only 2/5 passed. None of the Lord of the Rings films passed. I couldn’t get a photos of Star Wars films. With data only available for eight films. The original 3 (Episodes 4, 5 & 6) did not pass. Episode 1 and 2 pass. Revenge of the Sith does not. Both new films The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi Pass. All of the Twilight Saga films pass. Like Star Wars, I own Harry Potter films digitally, and in those eight films, Goblet of Fire did not pass, the rest did. What started this whole thing for Geena Davis was Finding Nemo and Pixar films. From the ones I owned, eight did not pass.
The Challenge of Gender Parity for filmmakers
This Changes Everything challenges Hollywood creators to look at their scripts and portray women and men more equally. Beyond just the basics of the Bechdel test, are the women depicted working in their job? Do they have an actual story beyond the men in their life? GDI & See Jane has this fantastic checklist geared towards STEM, but I think for any creator it can be used to help make women’s stories more rich and fulfilling.
See this film
To find out where this film is playing check the release schedule here.