Jennifer Siebel Newsom released her documentary, Miss Representation, in January of 2011 at the Sundance Film Festival. The documentary is solely based on the gender injustices that occur in the media. Miss Representation gained a lot of praise and also sprouted some controversy, as well as the beginning of the Representation Project. The Representation project, “is a movement that uses film and media content to expose injustices created by gender stereotypes and to shift people’s consciousness towards change (therepresentationproject.org).” This is an amazing movement, in that it really shows and teaches people about what goes on in the media and how our society has used it to brainwash people about gender roles.
The start of this movement also led to the creation of the “Representation Test.” According to the Representation Project website, this test is a “media literacy tool to spark learning and conversation around representation in film, and to encourage more overall diversity on screen and behind-the-scenes in Hollywood. (therepresentation.org)” After looking over the test, I find the components very interesting only because these are topics that I just never really paid attention to. There are 5 categories and a Bonus Points category. These categories consist of Women; Men; Race, Ethnicity, Culture; LGBT People; and People with Disabilities.
For our final blog, our assignment was to pick any movie, use the representation test, see how it rates on the scale and then explain our findings. Now, I chose one of my all time favorite movies that I have always dreamed of being the main characters: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. You would think that this film was going to fail terribly, but you will be surprised to know that it actually scored 9 out of 27 points/ a B! That’s pretty incredible knowing this is an intense action movie based off of a gruesomely violent video game. I thought the best way to break this down would be to just go by category...
But first, just a little background about the movie just in case you have not seen it. Like I said, it’s based off the famously infamous video game about a bad-ass female archeologist, Lara Croft. She is a tomb raider that enjoys collecting ancient artifacts from places of ruin in history. She is amazingly skilled in weaponry and fighting, she also has plenty of knowledge of different cultures and languages. Basically, she is kind of a bad-ass. In the movie, she is sent on a mission by her late father to stop an Illuminati group from gaining power due to an astronomical alignment and the finding of an ancient device that can control time. There is a lot of fighting, but there is a good ending to the movie and good triumphed over evil- Lara Croft saved the day!
The movie gained extra points on the fact that the protagonist of the movie is indeed a woman. Unfortunately, there is not diversity of women in the movie. Based on the Representation Test, the movie lacked women of color, diverse body types, and age. The movie also did not pass the Bechdel Test; it did not even pass the first question of the BT. There is only one female character in this movie. Tomb Raider does, in fact, represent Croft as more than an “object for the male gaze.” Croft speaks so intelligently, there is nothing that degrades her or makes her seem like a ditzy bimbo. While she does wear tight clothing, she never shows too much skin. There is no cleavage with her tank top, she wears long pants, and the most skin she shows are her arms; with the exception of the movie poster that displays Croft in spandex shorts but she does not wear those shorts throughout the movie. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is one of the highest grossing video game movies with a female protagonist! (forbes.com)Which I really liked to see because the audience is not focusing on her sex appeal; they are mainly focusing on her kicking the bad guy’s ass. Just a little side note- according to Forbes,
Tomb Raider does not show men in stereotypical ways. The male characters all have different body types; there is no body type that gains more praise or scrutiny than another. We have Croft’s friend and weapon creator, Bryce who is an average looking guy.
Race, Ethnicity, Culture
The movie’s events take place in different places around the world: Great Britain, Venice, Cambodia, and Siberia. Obviously these are different cultures, and the movie did a good job at not having any stereotypes nor picking the wrong actors to portray these characters.
Unfortunately, Tomb Raider does not have characters of LGBT people or people with disabilities. Nor is it written or directed by an LGBT or person of disability. I do not think the reason is anything against these people at all. Simply that this was not that kind of story line.
Tomb Raider did gain a “bonus point”, surprisingly enough, it was co-written by a woman! Sara Cooper and Mark Werb wrote the storyline for the movie (imdb.com). I really found this interesting because, I had no clue a woman helped write this movie. This really proves that even women can be involved with the making of an action movie.
After totaling the score, Tomb Raider got a B on the Representation Test. I’m surprised because I thought this would score lower due to the fact that it is an action movie with only one female character. But since, Croft is so skilled and knowledgeable, I feel that she is a good role model for girls. She truly shows that any woman can do what she does if they have the strong will to make it happen. I do believe the scoring system is fair because it really does open your eyes to see what these movies have in between the lines. You can learn a lot about a movie by scoring it with this test. It really aides the movement in showing what goes on behind-the-scenes, and people are able to see that a movie can be degrading or very stereotypical. I praise this movement, and can’t wait to see what comes of it in years ahead.