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Go out with you? Why not... Do I like to dance? Of course! Take a walk along the beach tonight? I'd love to. But don't try to touch me. Don't try to touch me. Because that will never happen again. "Past, Present and Future"-The Shangri-Las

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Alison Bechdel's Movie Rule

The Rule.

I think this rule (a movie must contain two women having a conversation about something other than a man) is too Procrustean if taken straight, simply because it excludes Citizen Kane. Any movie-watching rule that keeps you from Kane is a rule that needs revision. But it's a great yardstick that addresses a blind spot, a blind spot I've had but never thought about. I'm mentally reviewing my fave films to see if they follow the rule.

Summer, AKA The Green Ray: Yes. Women discuss vacation plans, the etiquette of nude sunbathing. Still, it follows the letter more than the spirit, since the impetus of the story is a timid woman's uncertain quest for love, and one could argue that all her conversations about things other than men are presented as avoiding the real issue, which would, for our heroine, be men.

Le Eclisse, AKA The Eclipse. Yes. Women discuss playing the stock market, living in Africa, "What shall we do tonight?"

Claire's Knee. Nope. A man is the central character, and it's tuff to fulfill The Rule with a man at the center of the narrative. But it's full of substantial conversation in which women are almost always included; it disobeys the letter of The Rule, but it comes closer to an ideal of female inclusiveness and equality than most flicks.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Nope. Still, it's proven fertile ground for feminist readings. "Men, Women and Chainsaws" is a book I wanna read, about the gender politics of horror flicks.

TCM2. Ditto.

Daisies: not quite one of my favorites, but a terrific film I've seen recently, that satisfies the Rule. Although the heroines are women of action more than of conversation.

Spirited Away: Need to rewatch it, but IIRC women discuss job requirements, dealing with a fearsome Matriarch, etc. A delightful animated fairy tale that you should watch, BTW.

Alison Bechdel's masterwork, Fun Home (highly recommended) is about a man, so I doubt she's really trying to get everyone to avoid stories about men.

Also, I'm reading L'Morte D'Arthur by Mallory; women rarely play a role in the stories other than as McGuffins, but a lesbian feminist professor of mine specialized in these stories. The Rule brings a blind spot to light, but we needn't develop a manufactured blind spot in response to that blind spot. My professor is no doubt very aware of women's peripheral role on these stories, but doesn't let it prevent her from engaging and speaking on behalf of the tales.

I'm reminded of all the black guys I know who have been enthusiastic from childhood about kung fu movies, perhaps in part because they short-circuit the specific racial politics of our culture. Representation is important, but sometimes getting away from the whole representation/lack-of-representation either/or is a good idea.

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