The Advocate Chat is a recurring series where the Valley Advocate staff talks about a topic on their minds. The text below has been lightly edited.
kristinpalpini (Editor-in-Chief Kristin Palpini): To set the mood on this feminist convo, a story from our buds at The Onion, which apparently has been making me laugh for the past two years.
dave.eisen (Managing Editor Dave Eisenstadter): Nice, I love how this is set in Portland, Oregon.
cgoudreau (Staff Writer Chris Goudreau): My favorite quote from this article: “However, she said she was able to consistently remind herself that this was ‘Natalie time’ and that the feminist movement ‘could do without [her] for 30 minutes.'”
dave.eisen: With Wonder Woman out last weekend, we wanted to talk about feminism in general.
kristinpalpini: That article is so true, though. as a woman sometimes you have to ignore the digs at your gender to get through the day. It’s why I stopped listening to morning radio.
dave.eisen: You don’t mean Morning Edition, right?
kristinpalpini: No, not Morning Edition. Morning DJs.
cgoudreau: Are you thinking about a certain classic rock station?
kristinpalpini: The last straw for me was listening to Bax and O’Brien on Rock 102. Their joke of the day was about a woman getting raped by her OB-GYN, but like funny, you know, cuz she was blonde and dumb.
dave.eisen: Yeah, there are some stations I used to listen to and then I started listening to the jokes they tell between songs. And it’s like, “OK, that’s coming off the preset.”
jlevesque (Art Director Jen Levesque): Sorry late to the chat cause I’m blonde and dumb 😉
kristinpalpini: I always thought Wonder Woman wasn’t that feminist, but of course, that’s just from looking at her in pop culture. Never read her comics.
dave.eisen: Some people see her as a feminist icon because she’s a female superhero. What is your take?
kristinpalpini: I mean, she’s a super hero, so in a lot of ways we have to discount her outfit as “that’s what super heroes wear.” I mean, at least they gave her a skirt. But she always seemed to be a side character with nothing to say and always in need of being saved. I saw her on the Justice League, that’s where I’ve gotten my WW info from. The old justice league cartoon for anyone who is 30 or younger.
dave.eisen: I haven’t read any Wonder Woman comics either. Is she the only female in the justice league?
jlevesque: I used to read them when I was a kid, next to my X-Men comics… which always pissed me off with X-MEN cause there were badass chicks involved, too.
dave.eisen: Who are all these people? I recognize Superman. Oh, and there’s Batman!
kristinpalpini: You’ve got a schmaltzy Green Lantern in the front… and in the back… What’s up with that?
dave.eisen: I don’t even see Wonder Woman.
kristinpalpini: Is that her with the black hair and cape? Jen, you know comics, so who do you think is the best woman super hero?
jlevesque: I honestly always loved Wonder Woman. There was always this powerful feel that radiated off of her that I’m sure a lot of other young girls gravitated towards. But again, the whole sexist feel was ALWAYS there. But I was a huge X-Men fan too, and Rogue was the shit. And Storm.
kristinpalpini: I’ve only seen the newer movies, but I liked Rogue, too.
cgoudreau: Does Tank Girl count as a super hero?
dave.eisen: Oh yeah, tank girl! I saw the movie. What are some good feminist movies?
jlevesque: I Spit On Your Grave is the best feminist movie of all time!
dave.eisen: Oh, what is it about? I don’t know it.
jlevesque: A woman is raped by multiple men then she seeks revenge and ya know, takes charge like a woman.
kristinpalpini: If a movie has rape in it, it’s hard for me to watch. Same with TV shows.
jlevesque: Yeah I hear that. I tend to look away, I love the revenge parts, though.
cgoudreau: It seems more like a horror film that turns into a revenge tale a la Kill Bill. Aliens is surprisingly progressive when it comes to portraying women.
christin-howard (Intern Christin Howard): Has anyone seen the new show Handmaids Tale? It’s based on a book, all about feminist issues.
dave.eisen: Oh, I haven’t seen that, but I do want to.
kristinpalpini: I read the book right before the show came out. The book is MEGA awesome. The show, I don’t know. I couldn’t get into it. Think I still have too much of what I envisioned for the book in my head.
jlevesque: I wanted to start watching the Handmaid’s Tale but I don’t have that station.
kristinpalpini: Handmaid’s Tale made me realize how fragile fem freedom is.
dave.eisen: This is unpopular to say on the internet…
kristinpalpini: Do it.
dave.eisen: I really loved the new Ghostbusters. I thought it had a lot of three-dimensional female characters who talk to each other in a normal way and eat like normal people and I thought it was really funny.
jlevesque: I loved it too!! Fuck the haters on that for real.
dave.eisen: For me a lot of movies that I really loved as a kid are hard for me to watch, in part because of the crappy anti-feminism messages in them. Back to the Future, my all time favorite, doesn’t pass the Bechdel test (having at least two named female characters that talk to each other about something other than a man)… What are the obstacles to having pop culture be more feminist?
dave.eisen: Ah, fear, like of losing money?
kristinpalpini: Fear of women, and fear that women can’t make money.
dave.eisen: Do you think it is the fault of consumers who don’t want to see it, or is it executives?
cgoudreau: I think money is the exact issue for the executives.
jlevesque: The show GIRLS is one of my all time favorites. So many people hate Lena Dunham but I think she’s genius and that show is soooo true to women.
dave.eisen: Hm, Lena Dunham, not a huge fan myself, but I haven’t watched much of the show. I think it is that I really like watching shows with admirable characters, and I kept thinking her character is making fun of how crappy she is.
jlevesque: Yeah she had a lot of mental issues in the show, but so don’t we all. Haha.
christin-howard: Not a huge Lena Dunham fan myself but I think Girls is a really important show. It’s rare to find something that actually focuses on women’s experiences as the primary drive for the show and not a subplot.
kristinpalpini: I love just about any show that focuses on female friendship. They’re the best. So sassy. So nasty. So true.
dave.eisen: In some ways, that was why we went to see Wonder Woman. We didn’t know if it was going to be the ultimate feminist movie (though we kinda hoped) but we were going out and giving money to a movie that at least had a female lead.
jlevesque: And thoughts???
dave.eisen: Without getting too into the movie it was cool to see a woman kick ass in a super hero way. BUT, a major problem was still that it felt like it was still basically a man’s world she was in. Very few female supporting characters after she leaves her magic island and goes to the real world.
jlevesque: I feel like I’ve been waiting to see this movie since I was a little girl but terrified I’m going to be let down and act like a little girl cause I didn’t get what I want.
dave.eisen: Haha, I think you should see it, but try not to have super high expectations that it will be amazing. I think my expectations were too high…
christin-howard: I was kind of disappointed because isn’t Wonder Woman supposed to be a giant buff amazon woman? She seemed kind of small.
jlevesque: ^true. But hey, she’s got huge tits! (Eye roll)
christin-howard: I thought the executive were too nervous to have a “masculine” looking female lead.
dave.eisen: Maybe we need more all-female reboots.
kristinpalpini: We need scripts written by women. I think that would fix it up.
dave.eisen: So more female executives, too?
cgoudreau: More female writers and directors, definitely!
kristinpalpini: But that isn’t the trend. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, in 2016, among the top grossing 100 movies women were 4% of directors, 11% of writers, 3% of cinematographers, 19% of producers, 14% of editors. In the top 100 films of 2016: females comprised 29% of protagonists.
dave.eisen: Gross. Is that lower than before?
kristinpalpini: And a little more: 76% of all female characters were white in the top 100 films of 2016. 14% were Black, 6% were Asian, and 3% were Latina. And for Dave: As budgets increase, opportunities for female filmmakers decrease. From 2007-2016, women: Directed 28% of narrative shorts; Directed 27% of narrative independent films; Accounted for 19% of first-time episodic TV directors; Directed 4% of top-grossing films.
jlevesque: But… I wonder how many women went uncredited. Probably more then men.
kristinpalpini: All this data comes courtesy of womenandhollywood.com.
cgoudreau: That’s Hollywood for ya.
dave.eisen: I talked to a filmmaker friend of mine and asked him if he ever thought of the Bechdel test. He said not really.
kristinpalpini: Sounds about right, at least he knew what it is. I think a lot of guys don’t feel like it’s up to them to write for women.
dave.eisen: And then I asked him why so many films get made that don’t pass it. He said that those scenes between the two women characters are put in the scripts, but then they are cut because they slow things down or aren’t central to the plot.
kristinpalpini: Because they ain’t important. So they’re cut because guys don’t give the women anything important to do.
dave.eisen: Yeah… To me, I feel like a movie is pretty shitty if it can’t pass the Bechdel test.
kristinpalpini: Agreed, D. It’s a low bar.
cgoudreau: The Bechdel test is the bare minimum. It’s not even that hard to pass. Just convey women as human beings who are not talking about men every five seconds.
kristinpalpini: I’m trying to think of some shows and films I like that can pass this …
cgoudreau: I think Buffy the Vampire Slayer would probably pass.
jlevesque: Omg Buffy!!!
kristinpalpini: It’s got to have an all-female cast like Golden Girls or Sex and the City (though, that show may not pass the test) or Girls or Living Single (for my 90s ladiez)
dave.eisen: I think its great that Valley Advocate columnist Chris Rohmann includes Bechdel-passing shows in his stagestruck columns for us!
kristinpalpini: Chris is a treasure.
dave.eisen: Sometimes star trek TNG passes. Sometimes it doesn’t.
christin-howard: I’m looking at a list of shows/movies that passed and there are some not so great ones. Like 50 Shades…
dave.eisen: 50 Shades, that pillar of feminism.
kristinpalpini: Really 50 shades? How did that happen?
christin-howard: It really is just the bare minimum.
dave.eisen: What are some good ones on there?
christin-howard: This says Logan passed, which I didn’t see but I heard was great.
jlevesque: Logan was amazing.
cgoudreau: Die Hard passed the Bechdel test! Haha
dave.eisen: I’m trying to remember when… It’s mostly just Bruce Willis and Snape going back and forth, right? With Carl Winslow on the phone.
cgoudreau: Pretty much.
jlevesque: Carl Winslow. hahhaa
dave.eisen: So the Advocate staff is going to film a scene of back to the future this summer as part of Northampton Community TV’s crowdsourced cinema. We DEFINITELY need our scene to pass the Bechdel test somehow!
kristinpalpini: Absolutely, though I guess it depends on what scene we get. I guess Jen and I could be Doc and Marty.
dave.eisen: I think one of you should be Biff.
kristinpalpini: I think we should have my kid Cleo play Biff.
kristinpalpini: She can be nasty.
dave.eisen: Nice, but I’m not the one who is going to punch her though.
cgoudreau: Biff was actually based on Donald Trump, btw.
kristinpalpini: Really C?
jlevesque: Auh shit, dis is gonna be YUUUUUUGE.
christin-howard: That’s amazing.
kristinpalpini: I thought he was based on the Biff from Death of a Salesman.
dave.eisen: OK, wrapping up, what can we all do to have feminism be more present in pop culture?
kristinpalpini: Keep paying the salaries of Jen Levesque and Kristin P
dave.eisen: Nice, well, hopefully someday you are big movie executives!
jlevesque: Oh, we gots stories
kristinpalpini: My first film would be a revenge flick on the guy who invented pantyhoes. Pantyhose?
dave.eisen: You could kill him with a hoe!
jlevesque: Yeah! What a douche. You wear them once then throw them away?
kristinpalpini: Death by hoe!
cgoudreau: Would it be a sci-fi time traveling flick with killer robots?
kristinpalpini: O ya. With machine gun jumblies.
dave.eisen: OK, well I’m posting this right away. I predict you’ll get discovered by the weekend.
kristinpalpini: If we call it Death by Hoes, ya.
Have an idea for an Advocate Chat? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.