Do movies imprint the right ideas on children?

Flan and I recently watched a TED talk that actually made us think a lot more than we thought from the title. The talk was by Colin Stokes and titled ‘How Movies Teach Manhood’.

Colin mentions the Bechdel Test, a tool that rates movies on the following criteria:

1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man

Here’s the Wikipedia article. The Feminist Frequency also wrote a piece about it.

How many of your favourite movies pass this? When I heard about the test, I realised I’d become so used to watching movies in which the main characters are either men or women discussing men. A lot of the time, you’ll find there will be a woman in a group of main characters, but only one – the token female. Alternatively, you’ll have a few women, but they’ll be either plotting to get men or complaining about them. The common roles of women seem to be mothers, wives, girlfriends or wannabe girlfriends. Meanwhile, the men are racing around in cars/helicopters/planes/trains/etc., hitting/shooting people and getting the girls in the end. Colin was worried about what these stereotypical roles were teaching his young children, and it definitely made me pause to think. Are girls learning to take charge of the situation, to be brave, to learn, to take care of others? Are boys learning to trust girls and let them lead as well?

Flan actually brought up the topic the next day after realising his daily work life doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test. Out of the seven people in his department at a technology company, none are female. In his physical office room (open-plan), there are sixteen people, and only one is female. Why is that? (I’ll leave that thought there so we can all have a think.)

International Day.

Today was, by far, my favourite day. Led by a lecturer from Iran, the day involved watching an Iranian movie and hearing from three different speakers who had different cultural experiences. I personally believed the talks to be fascinating, but a couple of my friends didn’t think so, as they left at lunchtime to go shopping. I was actually surprised when they did so, but they thought they were culturally sensitive enough. Now, I think I’m far more culturally aware than they are (both of them are English-born-and-bred), and I still thought I could learn something from today. But then, it may be because of my international background that I’m interested in international practice.

Girls, if you stumble across this, shame on you for your arrogance. Just because your boyfriend is half-Bangladeshi doesn’t mean you’re worldly.

Anyway, to start the day, the lecturer played about forty minutes of an Iranian film titled Soul Mate. It’s about a man recently released from a mental hospital who meets a single mother of two. It turns out her ex-husband divorced her because she, too, had a mental illness. They impulsively marry and must subsequently face the community’s disapproval, fighting for their right to live normally. The movie was released in 2004 in Farsi with English subtitles.

As occupational therapy students, we were expected to observe the main character and assess his occupational performance level, as well as the factors which impact on his occupational life. What stood out most to me in that first half of the movie is that the man wants to live a normal life, but the stigma he faces and the sick role he is forced to assume by his brother and sister-in-law doesn’t allow him to. He lives under the constant threat of being taken back to the asylum, as in Iran at the time, one’s family or the police could simply take you to a mental hospital if they thought you were acting strange (or didn’t want to deal with you). There weren’t the laws and procedures protecting people’s autonomy like there are here in the UK.

As for the talks, we heard from a mental health OT who took up a fellowship in Tanzania, a woman (not OT) who has worked with travellers (AKA gypsies) for twenty years and an OT from Jordan or Palestine (I can’t remember which now!) who worked for some time in Palestine as an OT and reflected on how people use occupation to build their resilience during the Israeli occupation. (She called it Surviving Occupation Through Occupation, which I thought was quite clever.)

This was a valuable and absorbing experience, and I wish we had more opportunities to explore international practice in this course!