No Safe Haven For The Representation Test
A Rachel L'Antigua Critique
It is not a secret that we live in a nation where people are constantly striving to be both relevant and tolerant. In fact, people often try to one up one another in the areas of relevance and tolerance. While I think that both the Bechdel Test and the Representation Test offer an interesting way of rating movies based on their feminism and tolerance of hot-bed issues, I also think that both tests have elephant sized room for error. Call me a realist, but I just don’t think its possible to adequately judge films based on an itemized checklist.
For the sake of this blog I decided to do the Bechdel Test and the Representation Test on Nicholas Spark’s novel-turned-film, Safe Haven. Just to clarify, the Bechdel Test requires that a film fulfill three requirements in order to be considered “woman-friendly”. According to bechdeltest.com, the three requirements are as follow:
1 1.The film must have at least two named women in it
2 2. The women must carry on conversation
3.Their conversation must be about something other than a man
While Safe Haven passes the Bechdel Test, it does so in a rather unorthodox manner. Maybe I’m just reading too much into it, but I really don’t think that a film depicting a battered wife whom escapes her abusive husband only to fall into the arms of another man, should necessarily be considered as “woman-friendly”. What type of message does the film actually give? Is it one of empowerment or is the age-old male-to-the-rescue story that feminists everywhere so resent? However, far be it from me to point out discrepancies within such a widely revered test.
Safe Haven scored a 7 out of 27 on the Representation Test. At first glance I thought that the Representation Test would provide critics with a more accurate base for reviewing films. However, although its true that the test has more criteria than the Bechdel Test, a film only needs to score an 11/37 in order to receive an A (Obviously the inventor of this test was not a mathematician…). In fact, according to the Representation Test, Safe Haven earned a B for cultural impact. Is that a joke? Shouldn’t it be a little more difficult for a movie such as Safe Haven to end up in league with movies such as The Help?
Sure, the protagonist in Safe Haven is a woman, but her character lacks depth and she fails to do anything truly motivational through out the film. In fact, the majority of the film is how she reacts to situations instead of any proactive initiation on her part. Yes, the film features conversation between two named women within several scenes such as when Jo and Katie paint Katie’s kitchen, talk on the front porch, and stroll down the road together. However, the other woman ends up being a ghost. Should that still count? According to a checklist it does.
The film avoids glorifying violent men. In fact, that is probably the only criteria that Safe Haven truly fulfills. The whole film is filled with anti-abuse statements and scenes. Even the abuser’s friends and co-workers are depicted as not condoning abuse. Good job, Rep. Test; at least one of your criteria was “actually” met.
The leading male is shown to be a loving caregiver to his children and is seen in juxtaposition to Katie’s abusive ex-husband. Alex (Katie’s new lover/savior) is painted as a portrait of sensitive masculinity. However, instead of “rocking” the caregiver role, Alex is seen as a reluctant and even incompetent single parent. For instance, one of his children almost drowns when he is not paying attention and he often talks to others, including Katie, about how hard it is to raise two children without his wife. It is unfortunate that this “met” criteria is undercut in this way.
Finally, where is the racial or gender equality factor? Oh that’s right, it’s non-existent. Its not that the film is racist or insensitive to LGBTQs, but it simply fails to portray any characters of a different race or sexual orientation. According to the Representation Test this is a big taboo.
All in all, I think that both the Bechdel test and the Representation Test are nice in theory, but that they often fall apart upon further scrutiny. I give the rating system a 1 out of 1 and I give the film a 2 out of 3 for unknowingly and undeservingly passing both tests with flying colors. Oh, the irony.