Friday, November 21, 2014

Clueless: Representation Test

The 1995 film Clueless, gives Jane Austen’s novel a satirical look on teenagers in a Beverly Hills high school. Cher and her best friend Dionne are both upper-class girls and are at the highest on the popularity scale at their school. Cher decides to use her popularity for good throughout the film. She brings together her two introverted teachers and helps the geeky new student Tai get as popular as herself. After comparing this film against the representation test, Clueless earned eight points, which put the film at the “B” range.
The representation test is separated into six different categories. The first category pertains to women. Clueless scored four points in this category. The protagonist of this film is Cher as it centers around her life and every scene involves her. The film also earned a point for including a woman of color in speaking who was not reduced to racial stereotypes. The character Dionne, Cher’s best friend, is African American and was not presented in stereotyped manner in the film. The final point this film earned in the women section was that it passed the Bechdel Test. There are numerous scenes where Cher and Dionne and talk about school work and shopping. Although there is a lot of talk about men, the few scenes that don’t help this film pass the test.
There are several criteria in the women section Clueless fell short on. The protagonist, Cher, is not a woman of color nor over the age of 45. Also, the film does not include women in speaking roles with diverse body types. All the women in the movie are slim and fit teenagers. Although Cher is strong female character, the film did not earn a point for the criteria, “Does the film represent women as more than “objects for the male gaze”?”.  The whole film Cher is altering others looks to get the attention of men. Also, there is a scene where Cher herself is trying to get the attention of the new guy in school. She shares her secrets such as drawing attention to her mouth and showing skin. Cher says that by showing skin it, “reminds them [men] of being naked and then they think of sex.”
In the men section, Clueless was one criterion short of earning all four points possible. The film avoided glorifying violent men as none were seen. Cher stands her ground against the men that come on to her. For example, Elton tries to kiss her multiple times while in the car and never once did she let him get his way. The film also earned a point for avoiding perpetuating an extreme and unhealthy body ideal for men. All men in the film had an average body size for males. The third point in this category was rewarded because the film included a man in a non-stereotypical role. Cher’s father is her only parent figure in the film. He is the one that interacts with her about grades, driving, boys and such. Since many times women are seen as the main caregiver, the films offers a different view on the gender roles related to parents.
The film also did not earn any points for the LGBT people and people with disabilities categories. However, the film was written and directed by a woman so it earned two bonus points for aspect.
The only criteria that the film did not meet in the men section was regarding the question “Does the film include one or more men of color, in speaking roles, who are NOT reduced to racial stereotypes?” The film did not earn this point because of the presence of the character Murray, an African American man. Murray is introduced in the film with his loose pants hanging down to his feet and talking in a vernacular or slang that is stereotypical of African Americans. Because of this, the film did not earn the point in the race, ethnicity and culture category which asked, “Does the film avoid celebrating offensive racial, ethnic, and cultural stereotypes?”.

In my opinion, the Representation Test is a fair scoring system and should continue to be used along with the Bechdel Test. The Representation Test is should be used along with the Bechdel test because the issues in films are not only the lack of representation and stereotyping of women. Films also tend to trivialize certain groups such as people of color and with disabilities along with the LGBT community. This test elicits a spark in conversation about representation both on and behind-the-scenes is the next step towards in getting a wider range of representation of all groups of people. According to Joy Schaefer from the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, women only accounted for 15% of protagonist, 29% major characters and 30% of speaker characters in 2013’s top 100 grossing films. What’s even more surprising is that these numbers have barely changed since 1940s. Because of the underrepresentation of women and other groups in films in this day of age, us as viewers should continue to advocate for change. For this reason, the Representation Test is relevant.
I am giving Clueless three out of five pickles. Although the film has a good representation of women and men, the film fell short in incorporating other group of races, LGBT community and people with disabilities. 

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