Hollywood, and the entertainment industry in general, has a generally lamentable record when it comes to representing “women’s complex and interesting lives” as GrrlScientist described in a 2010 The Guardian article, in their films and TV shows.
More often than not they fail The Bechdel Test, which originated with Alison Bechdel’s comic strip in 1985, and measures how much, if at all, two female characters interact solely with each other around subjects that don’t have anything to do with a man.
It won’t surprise you that most films, which are the primary focus of the test, and TV shows, fail to meet these parameters, an all the more egregious failing given that women, like men, love to go to the movies, more so when there are films that reflect their lives in all their complexity.
One recent film that has passed the Bechdel Test with flying colours is Mad Max Fury Road, which has at its core, along with of course the titular hero, a powerful strong female character Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who manages to spirit away the five enslaved breeding wives (it is every bit as degrading as it sounds) to freedom from the warlord Immortan Joe.
Though the film is packed to the brim with exotically-styled apocalyptic cars and intense car chases, usually seen as appealing more to a male than female audience – itself a case of gender stereotyping that doesn’t always hold true – the heart and soul of the narrative is Furiosa and her battle to enforce the ideal that people are not objects to be traded and owned.
It is riveting and compelling storytelling and now YouTube user Albert Lopez, has given its stirring message of female empowerment even more resonance by combining images from the film with the theme song to Tina Fey’s new Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which also features a strong, eminently capable woman doing amazing things with her second chance at life (the premise centres around her and others being liberated from an underground doomsday cult).
Together it sends a powerful message, one that Lopez enthusiastically endorses on his YouTube page:
“All the haters who are pissed off that there’s a strong female lead in the new Mad Max film need to realize something… FEMALES ARE STRONG AS HELL!!!!!! Behold… the UNBREAKABLE FURIOSA!!!!”
To be fair, it hardly signals the divine fulfilment of the Bechdel Test but it is a small step towards belatedly recognising that all out entertainment options should, and must, encompass the totality of all the many and varied gender expressions in our increasingly rich and pluralistic society.
And plus, the mash-up is also just a huge lot of fun!