Does your script pass this Filmmaking Test? 8 comments

Sometimes there’s a topic I’ve wanted to discuss with you for ages and before I work out how to write it up, someone else beats me to it and does a far better job. Miss L’s Handy Guide for Filmmakers is the perfect example.

Folks, not all women are sex workers, we’re not always naked (you might be shocked to learn this, but there’s a whole global industry devoted to designing and manufacturing uncomfortable clothes without pockets for us!), and when we die, our corpses may be grotesque, pitiful, or disgusting, but they’re rarely sexy.

Alas, you wouldn’t know any of this if you had only learned about “women” from watching film and TV.

All of which is to say, if you write for film or television, there’s a huge, gaping, demeaning, dehumanizing reality gap in the way women are portrayed. And there’s a great opportunity for you as a writer to do a better job of writing women.

“How on earth would you go about that?” you ask. Good news: the fabulous Miss L has put together a flow chart to guide you through how to do a better job of writing women.

a flow chart showing the decision process to avoid writing demeaning & dehumanizing representations of women in film

Run your script against this test. If is fails, you have work to do.

PS Lest you think Miss L is exaggerating about the representation of women in film in any way , follow her on Twitter as @ProResting or check out her Tumblr Casting Call Woe where she shares real casting calls from real casting websites. After which you may want to rinse your eyes with Lysol–and then sit down and write something better.

8 thoughts on “Does your script pass this Filmmaking Test?

  • Debbie Moon

    As a fan of action, crime and sci-fi movies, I’m constantly astounded by how many films fail even the simple tests mentioned above. Though I was heartened this week to see a survey suggesting that even teenage boys think women are over-sexualised and underused in video games. Presumably they think much the same thing about films, too, so perhaps the tide is finally going to turn…

    • Shaula Evans Post author

      I saw that survey, too, Debbie. I hope audiences vote with their wallets and show they’re tired of these insulting representations of women so we don’t have to wait for those teen boys (AND GIRLS) to grow up to be the heads of game- and movie studios and make the changes themselves.

  • Mystery Failure

    Not to be contrary here, as I’m sure bad rep of women is probably more endemic than that of men – but the representation of men is just as bad, it’s just women don’t see it that way. We’re not all handsome, ripped, articulate, go getting heroes with a minor flaw, good with the opposite sex and able to cope in a tight squeeze. Neither are we nerdy geeks, or misogynistic sofa surfing beer swilling, farting, burping, sex craved egomaniacs. But then I would see it that way, being a male.

    Anyway – hopefully the above comes over in jest as that is the intention.

    The writers of Humans could have done with that checklist. So far, one of the robot ‘double x chromosome recipient’ types (I.e. Woman) was posing as a sexworker before she blew her cover by murdering one of her Johns. Then the main ‘XX’ (easier to type) gets switched onto ‘Over 18’ mode by her owner – the husband – who promptly gives ‘her’ a bit of how’s your father.

    Meanwhile – all the ‘XY carriers’ are running the important task of freeing the ‘awakened’ robots from their human tyrants.

    I mean – talk about writing cliche and poor representation – everyone knows that if anthropomorphic robots were actually invented, it would be mostly women who would chose to make them into sex slaves. Men would be more likely to chose the ‘best buddy’ option, with maybe a small ‘orificial’ (I just invented that word – it means an official orifice sanctioned for use with your robot by the manufacturer and guaranteed against manufacture defects as long as used according to instruction and properly maintained at an authorised main dealer) add on gizmo for the occasional blow job.

    Well – if you managed to get to the end of that post without being reviled or insulted, then you’re enlightened/depraved enough to see my latest reading rec – “You” by Caroline Kepnes. It’s about a guy with a seriously bad obsession with a gal. And boy does she deliver – I haven’t read anything so good for 25 years (not since Dead Babies by Martin Amis or The Dice Man by Luke Reinhart). I picked it up cheap from Tesco, on spec, so I’ve no idea about the provenance of the writer or the reception of the book. I’m waiting till I finish reading it to find that out.

    Hopefully – the next generation will recoil from our deep dive into liberalised media content and put in place proper checks and balances to ensure we don’t get persistently bombarded with filth, phishing, spam and predatory kiddie-fiddlers trying to groom our children. I mean – would we be willing to put up with a crowd of ne’er do wells hanging around our front door 24/7/365, hassling, tempting and trying to trick us or do us harm every time we went out of the house? I doubt it.

    (ps Shaula – if this fails your decency filter, please feel free to delete it as I suffer from ‘online tourettes’)

    • Shaula Evans Post author

      Is the representation of men also bad? Yes. Is it “equally bad”? I’d say no: men are shown as heroes, as active characters, as leaders of every field. Toxic masculinity in pop culture is a major problem but there are ALSO positive representations of men. Women on the whole don’t get that; when we do, what we get are small crumbs.

      Is the topic of this discussion male representation? No. Is it okay to just discuss issues that affect marginalized people without centering those discussions (even “humorously” or “ironically”) around dominant culture groups? Yes: in fact it’s very important.

      Don’t worry: we’ll talk about the issues with representations of men here another time. Just not here or today.

      (Thanks to other commenters for not further derailing this thread.)

  • Mystery Failure

    I was thinking this would be a very stiff test for the makers of adult films to pass – but then I see, near the bottom, as long as there’s also male nudity – then all is well and good.

    Thank fuck for that!

    • Shaula Evans

      From the chart: “Do you consider those other female characters to be equal to the male ones?”

      If you’ve managed to find yourself porn where the women aren’t humiliated or degraded and they have the same power, importance and agency as the men, you’re watching some seriously egalitarian porn: good for you.

      (And now, thanks again to everyone for getting this discussion back on track.)

  • Angel Mirou

    Reading this entry made me think of the Spanish poster for the Danish film The Absent One (? Imdb gives that as the international title) displayed on the Metro and prominently featuring the naked body of a murdered woman, which I saw the other day. My first reaction was ‘wow, they still get away with this.’ Lots of work to do still on the subject.

    I’m glad to see my new screenplay passes this test. AND the Bechdel test. In fact, when I start a new story I usually have the opposite train of thoughts. I choose by default a female protagonist, and then sometimes wonder whether it would make more sense to have a man as the protagonist. So far, I’ve never found a reason compelling enough to switch. So woman it always is. Works for me. :)

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