Look, we can all agree that female representation in popular culture is not what it should be. We realized this some time ago. Considering recent developments on “Game of Thrones” (not to mention that arc on “Downton Abbey”) and that new Taylor Swift Action Ladies video and the success of “Mad Max” (more on this later), I thought it was time to reveal my secret for getting through pop culture’s many feminist failures: alcohol.
Much as I loved “Mad Max: Fury Road” (it was shiny and chrome and the protestations of angry men’s rights activists were endlessly amusing), it is a little sad that most of the hype over how Feminist the movie was can be boiled down to “there were MULTIPLE WOMEN in this film and they all had DISTINCT PERSONALITIES and were treated like HUMANS and some of them were PAST THE INEFFABLE CUTOFF AGE,” which is, er, sort of the bare minimum for men in most movies. Even “Top Gun.” (This is more of a sad statement about what passes for revolutionary in our depiction of women and less of a criticism of the film. It was terrific and I don’t mean to detract from it in any way and I will be seeing it a minimum of six more times in order that I may RIDE FOREVER IN VALHALLA, SHINY AND CHROME.)
My point is, pop culture too often lets us down. Sometimes it’s big — you fail the Bechdel Test, say. Sometimes it’s minor. Every time we notice this, we can either tear our hair out and groan and feel sad, or we can channel this energy into a drinking game.
I started playing this game when I watched “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” It made the movie a lot better.
To the game…
Drink… every time a TV show decides that a “really great arc” that would “add depth” to a female character is for her to be a victim of sexual violence.
Drink… every time a show does not equally decide that something like this would be a great and moving arc that would add depth to its male characters.
Finish the bottle if this whole arc of female suffering is actually just used to motivate or shed light on a male character.
Drink… every time her attire is wildly inappropriate for the climate and/or her preferred fighting style.
Drink… if it gets torn or grungy in the course of the plot, but ONLY in a way that makes it sexier or more revealing.
Drink… every time she is wearing heels, even though nothing about her personality suggests that she would wear heels, especially not on this terrain.
Drink… every time the camera stares at her in a way that would get it reprimanded by HR if it were a person.
Drink… every time her ponytail goes WHOOOSH in a circle while she round-house kicks.
Drink… every time she correctly assesses the male lead as being several leagues below her, then revises this opinion by the end of the movie for no really compelling reason other than they both like bees and he brought her a bee-themed card or something.
Drink… every time she is being asked to romance someone old enough to be her dad’s slightly creepy friend and this is never treated as anything other than totally normal and correct.
Drink… every time she is in any way not conventionally attractive and so if she has a love interest at all it is played for laughs.
Drink… every time the male supporting characters have detailed traits like “is terrified of the number three and walks with a cane and spouts weird science facts” and the female supporting characters have traits like “is beautiful and plucky and loves her some roundhouse kicks” or “is hyper-competent except for the part where she needs constant rescuing.”
Drink… every time her introduction is kicking noun and taking names as she saves the hero from an unspecified plight while keeping her cool, then she spends the rest of the plot being rescued.
Drink… every time she tells the hero that he “doesn’t have to do this” or other such words right before he goes out to do the Big Climactic Thing.
Drink… every time there is a woman in a car who has to be rescued by the hero from falling off a thing in the middle of a climactic battle sequence before he can really get to the villain. (If I can get through the rest of my movie-going life without watching any more helpless women in cars dangling off the edge of things, it will be too soon.)
Drink… every time she says she supports him.
Drink… every time an actress says she is going to be playing a “thorny, interesting woman” in a new movie and the next words out of her mouth are “she’s the wife of a…”
Drink… every time her only character trait is that she is coolly and unflappably ace (but not quite as ace as the hero) and she wears an all-black form-fitting ensemble and nothing rattles her, even at times when a normal human being would probably be rattled, because she is a Strong Female Character.
Drink… every time she is ostensibly the protagonist but spends the entire time being rescued by her boyfriend.
Drink… every time she is better than the male protagonist at something when it doesn’t count, but when it does count, only he can do it.
Drink… every time she has to be all things to all people because she is the ONLY ONE THERE.
Drink… every time there is no action figure available.
Drink… every time she can’t be both strong and vulnerable.
Drink… every time she only competes with and/or fights other women.
Drink… every time she has no female friends.
Drink… every time she is only within a very specific youthful age window because anything outside that window could not POSSIBLY be attractive and belongs as far off-screen as possible, preferably in a dark cave without mirrors.
Drink… every time she could not POSSIBLY have multiple love interests because, well, you know what Jeremy Renner thinks about that.
Drink… every time something is hailed as cool and feminist and literally all that it does is feature MULTIPLE WOMEN who appear to have distinct personalities and are not just love interests.
Finish the bottle every time she’s not the protagonist, even though if you were just to state her life synopsis in one sentence it would be something like “she is a world-class assassin and pilot who has been keeping the resistance alive single-handedly for years after overcoming a serious childhood trauma” and when you say the male protagonist’s life story aloud it is something like “he’s just some guy who worked in a Walgreens until like SIX MINUTES AGO.”
If you go to “Mad Max: Fury Road,” you will emerge relatively sober.