I am a PhD student in the UC system, as well as a published writer and photographer. I am passionate about film, photography, literature, and my family's herd of black cats.
Junior Contributor I
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Thank you for your reply. I’m glad you found value in the film. One of the things that I love most about the genre is its ability to speak to things in our daily lives, both on a more personal, and a broader social level.
Thank you for your reply. I would suggest that, regardless of the film’s intent, the overall result is the reinforcing of a certain ideal that is the direct result of both the fact that Samantha was positioned as the other, and how that positioning was executed. At the end of the day, however, the conversations and debates that this (or any) film inspires are one of the biggest assets of the genre, instigating wider public discussion about timely social issues in an accessible way (and a common language with which to discuss them).
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I agree that it was an enjoyable film, and one of his strongest to date.
Thank you for the comment. My intent was to utilize queer in the sense of looking at this film through the lens of Queer Theory, which positions queer in a more expansive way. In Queer Theory, the focus expands beyond the traditional focus of LGBT studies (which posit “natural” and “unnatural” behaviour as a focal point for inquiry into homosexual behaviour) and “encompasses any kind of sexual activity or identity that falls into normative and deviant categories” (Princeton.edu). I find this a much more useful tool for examining the finer nuances of the complex relationships in this richly layered- and thoroughly enjoyable- film. I hope that this helps clarify.
While I cannot claim to know whether or not the Bechdel test was meant to be applied with no other form of analysis involved, I highly doubt that this is the case. As somebody who has a degree in Gender in Women’s Studies, I can say that my particular training (and I am one person, from one University- so this is in no way a universal statement) was in intersectional analysis. Thus, the points raised in some of these other comments would be addressed in such a framework, especially the fact that there are instances where there may not be two female characters for a very legitimate reason (time period, roles of women in history/story, limited number of characters [2 person script], etc). That having been said, I think that the point of the test was not just to point to the lack of substantive, non “male-obsessed/centered” roles available to women, but to the number of roles available (or not available) to women, period. The sad fact of the matter is that there are far fewer leading roles for women than there are for men, these roles are more limited in scope and type, and- when they do occur- they often do not pass the test (in terms of being about women and their accomplishments/actions/faults/struggles/whatever, as opposed to being about what women say- or do for- the men in the film). This is what I believe the test was designed to show us- but what we choose to do with that information is completely up to us.
I wonder if, as you state, there really was no moral evaluation regarding Theodore and Samantha’s relationship? I am still struggling with the film’s seeming need to return its human actors to human relationships, while its operating-system characters waltz off into an invisible, digital sunset of implied polyamory. This leaves me pondering whether we are meant to see that the natural conclusion of the whole (experimental?) affair was the move back to human-human companionship and the possibility of romance between the two leads who were jilted by their operating system lovers. (FULL DISCLOSURE:I am working on an article about this film myself, and am leaning heavily- at this point in time- toward the queer potentiality that I see as intrinsic to Jonze’s overall narrative.)
I am always thrilled to see A)the Bechdel Test get a mention, and B)a film actually manage to pass said test. That having been said, you raise an interesting point: What does it mean when a film that passes the test (which really is a rare and commendable thing) does so with scenes in which the destruction of women is the topic of onscreen discussions between women that do not center on men? You are correct in surmising that passing the Bechdel Test is not, in and of itself, proof of a “feminist” film…but I cannot help but be troubled by the alternative to male-centered conversations offered up in this film. It would be interesting, I think, to know what response, if any, Alison Bechdel would have regarding films (like Mean Girls) that pass the test in this manner.
I must say that it is refreshing to see an “end-of-the-year”-type list that is not arranged in typical, hierarchical fashion. Thank you for taking the time to remind us that, while it is all too easy to just be critical of the films and texts that we do not like, it is much more generative to consider what “work” these films are doing (both in our own lives, and in the greater social arena, as well). Oftentimes, I find that the films, books, songs, works of art, etc. that I engage with the most passionately are NOT necessarily the ones that I liked the best; rather, they are the ones that, for better or for worse, touched me in a way that demanded further consideration and examination.