Cultural Impact of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
With our society changing more and more each and every day, it’s easy to notice how drastic cultural changes have become. Women have numerous more rights than they did prior to the 60’s. Different ethnicities have gained more rights and are now even holding positions that in the past we never would have dreamed to see them in. Lesbians and gays are becoming a more prominent part of society and people are becoming more accepting of it daily. With these numerous changes, you would think that movies would depict these rapidly growing changes, yet this is not always the case. A test has been made to test film’s cultural impact or contribution to change. The representation test contains several sections such as: women, men, race/ethnicity/culture, LGBT, people with disabilities, and then a bonus section about the writer and director of the film. Within each section is several questions that if the movie qualifies the credentials for it they get a point. The more points a movie scores the more cultural diverse and represented the film is considered. This test is a fair way to see what aspects of the movie reflect cultural difference in our society. Most would find it very surprising to see how many movies don’t score very high on the test, despite the increasing changes that have become customary in our world.
In The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, the audience can see different areas where the movie came through and areas it may have fell short on these cultural impacts. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is a comedy/drama film directed by Ken Kwapis that is based on a book written by Ann Brashares. The movie is rare in that it focuses mainly on the lives of four young girls who are all best friends and stay connected to each other over summer through a “magical” pair of pants (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants film). Due to the movie containing mainly female roles, it actually gets the majority of its points from the women section. It passes the bechdel test “which as a test has inspired filmmakers to portray not only more gender representation, but better gender representation” (Armstrong par. 2).
The four main characters are all high school age girls who are very different from each other. They all look different, have distinct personalities, and have very different body types. One of the main girls, Carmen, is Puerto Rican, which gives some diversity. However, with her being Puerto Rican also comes some racial stereotypes. Carmen is very curvy and comes from a lower class family, which may be deemed as a racial stereotype society often places on Puerto Ricans (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants film). The film represents some of the girls as more than “objects for the male gaze” as the test says, but a couple of the girls in the movie definitely are seen as simply being flaunted as eye candy. For example, Bridgette, a young blonde soccer player, is very sexy and her sexuality is emphasized in several scenes. She emphasizes her curves and draws the attention of male characters (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants film). These “good looks and sex appeal are compelling traits, predisposing us in favor of a given character (Giannetti 406). In this case that character is definitely Bridgette. The movie does a good job in using a variety of types of girls to portray women.
However, despite The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants scoring well on the women section, it falls short in the other categories. One thing I found super surprising was in how the movie didn’t really represent men well. Most movies represent a variety of men well and not on the women. In this case it is the opposite. The men in the movie were all white and didn’t really play a main role. The guys that were the more predominant men in the movie were attractive white males. Eric and Kostas, the two who got the girls in the movie, were both young attractive males with perfectly chiseled abs and muscles (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants film). The men in the movie don’t really represent our culturally diverse world. For these reasons, the test only scored one point for the men section.
Another section of the test is the race, ethnicity, and culture portion. There is only one question on it regarding avoiding racial and cultural stereotypes. However, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants does have one of the leading roles played by a Puerto Rican, yet as mentioned above they play into some of the typical stereotypes people seem to often place on Puerto Ricans. The film had a skewed ideology in this aspect which is “defined as a body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual group, class, or culture” (Giannetti 403). For this reason, the movie didn’t score any points in this section.
With regards to the LGBT section and people with disabilities section, the film did not cast anyone who fell under the umbrella of either category. This could be slightly problematic in our society today, as these groups are becoming increasingly larger in number.
The last section of the test is a bonus section that has to do with who the film is written and directed by. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is a novel made into a movie as mentioned before and the only point it gets in the section is for being written by a girl. It’s interesting to me that even though the book is written by a girl and focuses mainly on girls, yet a white male directs it. It doesn’t seem to make sense why a girl who would have a better point of view on the matter wouldn’t direct it.
After watching the film, I discovered that the film scored 7 points on the representation project test. This qualified it for getting a low B range for addressing a variety of types of people and culture. I didn’t find this very surprising, as the movie didn’t strike me as being one with much cultural diversity. Overall, I thought the score seemed a fair judge for the movie and it helped make me more aware of the misrepresentation there is in so many movies that we often do not even notice. Due to the fact the movie was pretty average on it's cultural impact I would give it a rating of three slurpees.