MovieChat Forums > Booksmart (2019) Discussion > Which type of feminist film is this?

Which type of feminist film is this?


There seem to be two types. There's the one in which women are represented as natural, well written diverse characters that have depth, which I applaud and encourage. And then there's the patronizing type that can't go 5 minutes without referencing the patriarchy, portrays every male character as evil, everything a male character says is wrong while the film's forced, unsubtle political rhetoric overshadows the narrative. Which I tend to roll my eyes at.

I'm hoping it's the former, but I have my suspicions.

Please, no spoilers.

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I'm only aware of the latter version existing.

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There's the one in which women are represented as natural, well written diverse characters that have depth, which I applaud and encourage.


What you are describing here is NOT a "feminist film". It's just a good film. Your second description is spot on for a "feminist film". Which is Booksmart? It gives the impression of being the latter from the trailers. But maybe, just perhaps, the protagonists are shown as dogmatic, self-righteous, arrogant, and self-centered just at the beginning only to demonstrate some personal growth by the end of the story. Perhaps there's at least one male character who isn't a walking cliche of the feminist view of "toxic masculinity" or a stupid sexist oaf. Maybe the girls begin to show signs of developing a wider, more balanced and nuanced view of society and realize they may not be as smart as they think they are. That's typically how this type of teen story goes (except for the insufferable "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", where smug and arrogant Ferris gets away with everything and learns nothing). I doubt it, but it's possible.

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What you are describing here is NOT a "feminist film". It's just a good film.


I would agree with this to an extent. But I'd also disagree to an extent. This type of film is clearly beneficial to representation of women and women in general. It may have been intended as a feminist film by the filmmaker or it might not. What is clear is that the media and reviews and the feminist movement will herald such films as feminist films. You could say that they have hijacked it but that's a different debate.

Booksmart is a film that has been cheered in reviews as a feminist film. Forum threads seem to be describing it as such, one thread is even titled. 'Olivia wants you to support her film to support women as it's failing'. So I guess I'm asking what they all mean when they describe it as feminist. Because I do want the film to be good.

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But I'd also disagree to an extent. This type of film is clearly beneficial to representation of women and women in general.

That happens with good movies... and not only for women, but for every character. With the exception of very specific genres that portray certain groups as villains (Native Americans in westerns, Germans in war movies, white males in modern movies in general), good movies use to make characters interesting and give an insight in their point of view.

Check comedies from the 30s/40s. You'll be surprised how interesting, witty and what strong personality have the female characters. They're far more interesting than modern feminist movie female characters, that seem a bunch of spoiled empowered brats.

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I find women from older films to be way more kick ass than modern women in films. I love Film Noir and Westerns and women in those films are sexy as hell plus they really do kick ass without ever compromising their femininity or becoming caricatures.

Women in modern films have this victim quality about them even though they are supposed to be kick ass. They also do things that are just unlikely. In the series Vikings there is a virtual army of shield maidens and they go up against big men in hand to hand combat and win. I don't think so.

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Yeap. I remember the Odin's judgement scene, in The Vikings, the old movie with Kirk Douglas. The fierce look in the eyes, even when she's facing likely death

https://www.everythingamiga.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/helga-the-vikings.png

That's a woman, and we're talking 1958.

Now they're overpowered unreal comic characters. They don't feel real. Shield maidens taking down a group of big male warriors. WTF? After then they should shoot lasers out of their eyes, why not?

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this is off topic i guess, but this last bit you mentioned about women holding their own or besting men in fights is something that annoys me in a lot of modern action films. obviously these are films that are in their own fantasy world already, so maybe it's a bit fanciful to kvetch about a lack of realism, but it bothers me. maybe it doesn't bother the people who like those kinds of films, but it takes me out of it.

take 'the night comes for us' as an example - just gave it another watch earlier this week, and i absolutely love it, it's one of the most violent, brutal films i've ever seen. but it has several scenes featuring women going toe to toe with men who would in any realistic world scenario pulverize them without much fuss. now this film also features the classic martial arts film 'one guy thrashing two dozen faceless goons' several times. so there's that. realism is not the name of the game here.

i just don't think it's a blow for gender equity when women are portrayed as doing something they could never, ever do.

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I don't actually mind women besting men in fights in films. We frequently see men going up against men twice their size in cinema so I don't think a woman beating a man is any more ridiculous. And I do enjoy Atomic Blonde and Kill Bill. It's that whole underdog thing.

The Night Comes For Us was such an absolute blast. I hope Netflix makes more films like that.

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it's ridiculously great!
not quite as great as the first raid, which is my high water-mark for action, but it's my runner-up favourite.

y'know, that's a completely fair point about smaller men in action movies. that's not any more silly.
and i'll say i didn't like atomic blonde or kill bill much either.
maybe that's my hangup.
it's a show-stopper for me. maybe i'm just a boy-child who can't handle strong women - but if we start talking about everything that's wrong with me, we'll be here all day...

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We frequently see men going up against men twice their size in cinema so I don't think a woman beating a man is any more ridiculous.

Exactly... but that just shows the blind-eye way that sexism works, by only focusing on one gender and absently "allowing" the other gender to get away with anything.

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I love Film Noir and Westerns and women in those films are sexy as hell plus they really do kick ass without ever compromising their femininity or becoming caricatures.

You literally just described a caricature and then said it wasn't a caricature. A "comparable common thread" in two genres during a period of time, of sexy+kickass, MEANS a caricature is being used.

Are they comparable at all to real common women? Doubtful, but men in Film Noir, specifically, are also a bit unreal.

Ah but, common.... No, movies try to avoid being about common people or common situations.

Therefore, movies create caricatures.

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They're far more interesting than modern feminist movie female characters, that seem a bunch of spoiled empowered brats.


Yes, they complain about women being stereotyped in film but are only replacing them with a new form of stereotyping.

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"Maybe the girls begin to show signs of developing a wider, more balanced and nuanced view of society and realize they may not be as smart as they think they are."

Aaaaaaaahhhrrrrggg!!! You called them "girls"! Heads are exploding all over the femiverse!

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"What you are describing here is NOT a "feminist film". It's just a good film."

Agreed, but they're not mutually exclusive.

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wow , a film with women on the cover and you're straight in with the outraged anti women bullshit - and you havent even seen it.

I recognise you've thinly veiled it with that question but still.... Youre subject line shouts louder

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Alas, this is why a polite, balanced discussion on gender equality can never be had. And unfortunately why it's difficult for gender equality to make any progress. Because people from both sides will resort to this kind of black and white statement.

And it shouldn't even be about sides. Because things aren't that black and white.

I'm looking forward to Booksmart. The five star reviews have got me excited. Because I do like seeing well written, natural films about women because they have been badly represented in the past.

As for feminism? I do agree with some things the movement says today and disagree with other things. Because, as I said, things aren't that black and white. I do tend to disagree with their methodology and think it is more harmful to women rather than helpful. And no movement or political theory is beyond reproach.

There seems to be a lot of hate for this film on forums from people attacking it because it's feminist. And my opening question is a response to that. I'm asking "Well, which type of feminist film are you saying it is?"

How else am I supposed to ask it?

And yes, I was predicting replies of this ilk and I'm sure it won't be the last. I would like to have a polite discourse on this kind of matter but I don't think it's going to happen.

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I was going to say - What makes you think its a feminist film?
I see you've covered that with:

"There seems to be a lot of hate for this film on forums from people attacking it because it's feminist. And my opening question is a response to that. I'm asking "Well, which type of feminist film are you saying it is?""

you didnt explain that your new thread was a general open letter to those saying its a feminist film.
Who were these people? perhaps you should have replied directly to their assertion that it was feminist film rather than hoping they will find your post here.

We are kind of in the same boat. I too want to know why these people labelled it a feminist film, however I'll go one step further and instead of asking which type of feminst film , I'll go so far as to wager it is infact not a feminst film , but "a film" , albeit a film starring women , directed by a woman.

That that should not be a thing for people to get their panties in a twist about should it?
after all - most of the other films are starring & directed by men and people look at the film for what it is , rahter than some sort of gender statement


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you didnt explain that your new thread was a general open letter to those saying its a feminist film.
Who were these people? perhaps you should have replied directly to their assertion that it was feminist film rather than hoping they will find your post here.


Well, because it's also a question to the critics and lovers of the film who are heralding the film as feminist.

I'm interested in knowing what both these opposing groups of people think when confronted with the idea that the issue isn't black and white. So my question was designed to challenge both camps.

And I think these people are finding my post. There are not that many other threads on this board so it's hard for them to miss it.

And I do like the suggestion that it's just a film about women by a woman. But I'm also curious as to the type of person Olivia Wilde is in this area. Does she preach femininity or embrace it. And people seem to be saying different things about the film so I guess I can only make my judgement when I see it myself.

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there are some elements of the film that verge on being a bit didactic, i'd say.
for example, there's a casually dropped joke early about gender being a social construct, which is something that seems to be part of a lot of feminist orthodoxy these days. it certainly seems to me that many (most?) feminists have adopted the blank slate position, that behaviors that tend to vary on average by gender are socially constructed with no biological basis, & that is almost certainly wrong.

there are a few elements like that. & it's very much a willfully queer-friendly/gender non-conforming film at times, with many characters who are ambiguous sexually, & one of the main characters being openly gay.

& nothing wrong with that, if that's the kind of film that you want to make. but it did feel a bit to me like a film that was very much pushing a notion that, if we could just get rid of all that heteronormative patriarchy business, we'd gravitate to the inner queer/questioning/whatever that's really inside of us.

to which i would again say, i think that's incredibly unlikely to be true.

my main beef with booksmart is that it didn't make me laugh, but i also found it annoying in its pandering to its feminist sensibilities.

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Thanks for the considered response.

I certainly don't think that it's wrong to overtly explore these socio-political notions in films. But I think the problem has become that it's done in every other film that comes out these days. If it was just done every now and again you could think about these notions and consider the points the piece is trying to make. But because we're so bombarded with it it comes across as preachy.

As with women, I think that gay people or ethnic minorities are best represented in films as just natural, realistic, normal people with diversities of personality as opposed to existing in the piece as a political statement (which can be just as guilty of stereotyping as the conventions they are trying to abolish). That's the true way to equality and acceptance.

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hey thanks. & i think i very much agree with what you're saying.

if a feminist film simply means one where women are portrayed as genuine, fully realized characters then i'm all in for that, and i think we've had a pretty good run of exactly that kind of movie in recent years - 8th grade, madeline's madeline, ladybird, even something like raw all live up to that standard & are some of my favourite films of the recent past.

& i absolutely think that when a film tips into that sort of droning 'i'm here to teach you a lesson' doctrinal mode, i'm usually not going to like it, and, depending on the topic, i may well disagree with it, & if i think the movie is saying something i think is wrong, then that's a fatal blow for it more often than not.

i don't think booksmart is that extreme but it does have some elements of that, & that definitely turned me off of it.

but mostly, it just didn't make me laugh. and if a comedy doesn't make me laugh, then i can't really say i enjoyed it.

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The movie is about two young women, so reviewers may jump to the conclusion that it's a feminist movie. This happened with "Godless". It included some natural, well-written female characters who had depth, so all they could do was yap about it being a feminist western. It was nothing of the sort.

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Godless was awesome.

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Thank you for the tip, I'm gonna give that one a chance.

That's a big problem with modern Hollywood. Since it's mostly garbage, you're likely to miss those movies that worth it.

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It's a tv show not a film. It's on Netflix. But be warned, it is very slow.

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I don't mind slow paced series (or movies), as long as the characters feel real and interesting. What I can't handle anymore is watching puppets selling the official narrative.

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You're not allowed to state the obvious OP, it brings out all the male feminist types which ironically end up proving your point.

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hahaha!

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And if it is the first type it will be howled down by the Feminazi's because the female characters aren't some kind of perfect superwomen.

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It’s not possible to answer this question unless you agree that there are two types of feminist films, which I do not. Mostly because even feminists have trouble defining what makes a film feminist. As Holly L. Derr puts in her article, ‘What Really Makes A Film Feminist?’: To actually evaluate whether a film as a whole is feminist requires much more than a tally of female characters and the conversations between them. A film may have some feminist elements, some sexist elements, and some elements that are neither, because—and this is important—"feminism" is not simply the absence of "sexism." The most reliable way to determine whether a film is feminist is to see it—and even then, the question is not a simple one.

Here’s a link to the full article:
https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/11/what-really-makes-a-film-feminist/281402/

By posing the idea that there 2 types of feminist films, you’re basically asserting that there’s a right and a wrong way to portray feminism, when there are numerous ways, many of which don't adhere completely to one or either of the types you have described or are so black/white.

There are good and bad films, and some of them are feminist and some are not, deliberate or otherwise. Some are even good films, but bad feminist films despite their intentions and vice versa. One example is the new Ghostbusters film, which is, imo, a good portrayal of feminism, but a terrible film.

Also, I can’t think of one film I’ve seen lately off the top of my head

that can't go 5 minutes without referencing the patriarchy, portrays every male character as evil, everything a male character says is wrong while the film's forced, unsubtle political rhetoric overshadows the narrative.
Even blatantly feminist series, The Handmaid’s Tale, doesn’t do any of that.

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The first two thirds of your post I wouldn't argue with. No, of course things aren't black and white and feminism in film exists on a spectrum. And of course, in my OP I am simplifying and sensationalizing. But people can easily see that and it's pretty clear what I'm actually asking- Is the film natural and organic or constructed and forced. Why didn't I phrase the question differently? Well because if I had gone into all the diverse forms of feminism in film like you have in my opening post, it would be too long and no one would have read it. Now we're further down the thread it's easier for these kinds of ideas to come out.

I would have to disagree with your last bit though. And it's funny you should mention The Handmaids Tale because I'm currently watching season 2 and it's this that was fresh in my mind when I wrote my OP. Season 1 is (mostly) fine but season 2 is not based on the book as (Game of Thrones style) they ran out of material to adapt. And it shows.

Pretty much as soon as the season begins there's a pre-dystopia flashback scene set in a college lecture hall. Alexis Bledel is giving a lecture. When she finishes a female student points something out. A male student then calmly corrects her, without interrupting and in a completely polite conversational manner. Bledel then politely tells him that actually, no, he's wrong and the girl is right. The whole interaction is totally normal, everyone is happy and no-one is upset. We then cut to after the lecture and Bledel is frantically chasing the girl down. When she catches her she "heroically" tells her "Never let a man correct you". And I cringed.

And the whole season is full of this kind of stuff. The women suffering is turned up to 300. We get frequent scenes of women doing forced labour as their skin melts off. And the whole situation is a metaphor for the patriarchy. Mrs Waterford represents that "evil" woman that is brainwashed by the patriarchy into oppressing her own kind.

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My interpretation of The Handmaid's Tale is different than yours - which I think is the point of the show. Obviously women's suffering is the focal point of the entire show, but it doesn't deny men's suffering in the process.

For example, the particutions are described as worse than being sent to the Colonies. Also, not all the men in this new world are well-treated - if they were, why wouldn't June's husband have stayed and lived there? And if anything, we're shown in season 2 how complicit Mrs. Waterford has been in creating the world that now exists - she is hardly going into anything brainwashed.

As for what Ofglen/Emily said at the lecture and to the student later, the point isn't whether you agree or disagree with what she said. It was to show the position and place of power she was in, in order to convey how far she is in the present from where she once was.

She was able to say something borderline misandrist in a position of power and feel like she was helping her female students stand up for themselves, however misguided her path to doing so may have been - and no one suffered dramatically from the action. Now, in the present, she is being castrated simply for falling in love with someone while that someone is labelled an abomination and executed.

In short, the show demonstrates that both the men and women suffering in this society only succeed by working together, for each other's happiness. Yes, the women are the focus more than the men, but the men are not denied the suffering or the heroism that the women character's demonstrate, they are just not at the centre of the story as they are in almost every other TV show.

I agree that the situation is a metaphor for the patriarchy. It's not a secret. I'm not sure how it's specifically anti-men, since women make up a great portion of the patriarchy; hence Mrs. Waterford.


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Again interesting, I agree with some of your assessments but I don't think it's one or the other. I think we're both right.

Yes, the men suffer too. But feminists have always claimed that the patriarchy affects both genders but it's men who are ultimately responsible for it.

Mrs Waterford is the embodiment of how many feminists view any woman who may have said anything even slightly negative about feminism. They are viewed as gender traitors. Feminists have never listened to any of the criticisms these people express regardless of whether they have merit or not. They demonize them and see them as brainwashed by the patriarchy. And thus, Mrs Waterford. A creation. The boogey(wo)man of feminists. Her views and policies so undisputably evil that she even says in season 1 that she believes all women belong in the kitchen. The reason she is a political figure complicit in the creation of the show's dystopia is because her views have been institutionalized in her by the patriarchy. Or brainwashed as I said previously.

As for what Emily said to the student. What you say is interesting and I agree that is what was intended. But the writer could have chosen a number of different social situations. The one that was chosen was themed by male entitlement. So I think we are both right.

I like that the show encourages men and women working together as a solution. I like many things about the show. As a show about the politics of a totalitarian dystopia I think it's very good. And how religion can be used in politics to get a society to do some shocking things. But I think season 2 is an example of one of the categories you talked about earlier: it's a good show but a bad feminist show.

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