Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Shrek Forever After

Shrek Forever After was the eighth-highest domestic-grossing film of 2010. I've already reviewed the first three Shrek movies here, here and here. The original Shrek passed only one level of the Original Bechdel, while the second and third passed all three levels. Will the fourth pass the Original Bechdel too?

blug1.png The first man to speak is Rumpelstiltskin, who gives the opening narration. The second man is the King (not yet turned into a frog), who recoils when a mime blows a kiss at him. Soon after, he turns to the Queen and expresses his doubts about their plan.

The Queen is the first woman in the movie, who reassures her husband about going through with the plan.

blug2.png When we first see Rumpelstiltskin on screen, he promises to release Fiona from the curse in exchange for the entire kingdom of Far Far Away. He speaks with the King about the deal, which passes RB-2, but not RB-3, since the conversation is about Fiona.

blug3.png Rumpelstiltskin is going mad, ripping the pages out of the fairy tale book telling the story of how Shrek saved Fiona (and prevented Rumpelstiltskin from taking over Far Far Away). Pinocchio says, "Uh, sir? You're going to have to pay for that." Rumpy offers to make a deal, calling Pinocchio "Little boy" and Pinocchio says, "Oh, I'm not a real boy." Rumpy again tries to make a deal, but Pinocchio kicks him out of the store. (Even though Pinocchio is not a "real boy" and even though he was wearing ladies' underwear in the second movie, I think he does count as a "male character" for the purposes of the Reverse Bechdel.) Like so many other movies, Shrek Forever After passes the Reverse Bechdel within the first five minutes.

pink1.png The second woman in the movie is Fiona, who talks with Shrek during the montage of his day-to-day activities. The third woman is the Ugly Stepsister, but none of them talk to each other before Shrek's deal with Rumpy. (Speaking of which, Shrek and Rumpy have a nice long talk with other before the deal that easily passes RB-3.)

The fourth woman to speak is one of the witches, who says to the other witches, "Ogre! We got another one, ladies!" Then another says, "Looks like a troublemaker!" and after they capture him, "Nice job, ladies!"

Once Shrek is in the wagon, two witches argue about what Donkey should sing. One says, "I hate this song" and the other replies, "Yeah, I'm driving, so uh, I'm in charge of the music." Donkey has the next line, so it doesn't quite pass OB-2 as I've defined it.

nopink2.png nopink3.png Throughout the rest of the movie, no two women talk audibly to each other at all. Some witches are seen apparently talking in the background, and some laugh in a group, but no two women actually talk to each other. In the ogre camp, there are dozens of men, but only two women, who are never even seen together. Of course, one of those women is the alternate Fiona, the ogres' leader, but she is the only main character who is female.

Indeed, in terms of main characters, Shrek Forever After follows much the same pattern as the original Shrek. The supporting characters built up over the franchise play only very small roles in the fourth movie. Most of the dialogue is between Shrek and Donkey or Shrek and Fiona, with some extra dialogue between Shrek and Puss-not-in-Boots. The only other character with significant lines is Rumpy, the villain.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Shrek the Third

Shrek Forever After was the eighth-highest domestic-grossing film of 2010. I've already reviewed the original Shrek here and Shrek 2 here. This is the review for Shrek the Third, which was released in 2007, and was the secong-highest domestic-grossing film of its year, after only Spider-Man 3. The original Shrek passed only one level of the Original Bechdel, while Shrek 2 passed all three levels. What can we expect for the third installment?

blug1.png The first man to speak is Prince Charming, acting on stage at a dinner theatre. The second man to speak is the Gingerbread Man, complaining about the dinner theatre. He says he hates it, and Pinocchio says, "Me too" (before his nose grows longer). Gingerbread Man doesn't respond, so it doesn't count as a conversation yet. Similarly, heckling from the Gingerbread Man and another man (credited as "Heckler"), although aimed at Prince Charming, doesn't count as a conversation.

pink1.png The first woman to speak is the actress playing Fiona in the dinner theatre. The second woman to speak is Fiona herself.

blug2.png blug3.png Once Donkey comes into Shrek & Fiona's bedroom, Fiona doesn't say anything, but Donkey, Shrek and Puss-in-Boots all have lines. Donkey sings "Good morning" and remarks how children "grow up so fast." Shrek replies, "Not fast enough." Puss-in-Boots says, "You have a very full day filling in the for King and Queen. There are several functions which require your attendance, sir." (The first sentence appears to be directed at both Shrek and Fiona, while the second sentence is directed only at Shrek.) Shrek replies, "Great, let's get started!" and hides under his blanket. Donkey pulls the blanket off of him and recoils when he finds out Shrek isn't wearing anything underneath. None of these exchanges strictly satisfy the criteria for a one-on-one conversation, but since Fiona doesn't say a word, I think this qualifies as a conversation between the three men.

If there's any doubt that this passes the Reverse Bechdel, a few minutes later Shrek says, "Hey you, come here. What's your name?" The man replies, "Uh, Fiddlesworth, sir." Shrek says, "Oh ho ho ho, perfect." There's also a longer and more plot-relevant conversation between Shrek and the King shortly thereafter, about who is next in line for the throne.

The third woman to speak is the Queen, Fiona's mother, but she only speaks to the dying King. There are a few more women at the tavern where Prince Charming rallies support, including the singing witch, Mabel (the ugly stepsister) and the Wicked Witch (from Snow White), although none of them talk to each other.

When Puss-in-Boots says goodbye to his lady-friends before boarding the ship, none of them speak English or walk on two legs like he does, although some apparently get into a cat fight off-screen. When Donkey says goodbye to Dragon, he can apparently understand what she is saying, even though she's not speaking English. I'm not sure whether she should count as a woman with lines, but since she only speaks to Donkey anyway, it doesn't really make a difference.

When Shrek arrives at Worcestershire high school, he walks to up to two high school girls who were talking to themselves. One (Gwenivere) says to the other, "So then I was all like, I'd rather get the Black Plague and lock myself in an iron maiden then go out with you." The other girl replies, "Uh, totally." Shrek interrupts and says, "Pardon me..." but Gwenivere says, "Eeaugh, totally eww-eth" and the second says, "Yeah, totally." Since Shrek has a line in between, it doesn't quite pass OB-2.

pink2.png pink3.png Shortly after the half-hour mark, the various princesses hold a baby shower for Fiona. Rapunzel, Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty are all there and have lines with Fiona. Like the first conversation between Shrek, Donkey and Puss-in-Boots, there aren't any one-on-one exchanges. However, each of the five women has at least one line, and they're talking amongst each other, not to any men. They talk about Fiona's pregnancy, the baby shower gifts, and whether or not babies poop, without mentioning any men at all.

Like the first two Shrek films, Shrek the Third is male-dominated, with most of the action and character development happening between Shrek, Donkey, Puss-in-Boots and Arthur Pendragon. Again, considering the title character of the franchise, this isn't too surprising. That said, it's the women who lead the escape from the jail cell, and they also lead in retaking the castle. Shrek the Third has more female presence, and stronger female characters, than either of the previous two Shrek movies.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Shrek 2

Shrek Forever After was the eighth-highest domestic-grossing film of 2010. I've already reviewed the original Shrek here. This is the review for Shrek 2, which was released in 2004, and was the top domestic-grossing film of its year. The original Shrek passed the Reverse Bechdel within five minutes, but only passed one level of the Original Bechdel. Will its sequel fare any better?

The first man is Prince Charming, with the opening narration.

blug1.png blug2.png The second "man" is the Big Bad Wolf. I'm assuming he counts as a man, since he speaks with a man's voice. On the other hand, he is consistently seen in grandma's outfit, but that's a separate issue (even the Fairy Godmother later calls him "gender-confused"). Prince Charming climbs Fiona's tower to rescue her and finds the Big Bad Wolf there instead, who tells Charming that Fiona is on her honeymoon. Since they're talking about Fiona, it doesn't RB-3, but it does pass RB-2.

I'm not sure whether it should count or not, but the first woman with any audible lines is the mermaid who takes Fiona's spot kissing Shrek when the waves crash over them. Fiona drags her away, and the mermaid cries out, "Ow, ow, ow!" before being tossed into the sea (and apparently eaten by sharks).

blug3.png When Shrek and Fiona go back to Shrek's place, they find Donkey. Shrek and Donkey exchange a few lines about Donkey staying there, and how he hasn't sorted the mail, watered the plants or fed the fish. Shrek tries to get Donkey to leave, but...

pink1.png ...Fiona interrupts with her first actual line, the second line by a woman in the movie, asking whether Donkey should get back to Dragon. About the six-minute mark, Shrek 2 has passed RB-3 and OB-1, which is the same level as the original Shrek reached for the entire movie. A third woman speaks up when they reach Far Far Away, and can be heard saying, "Hey, everyone look..." when Fiona passes by in her horse-drawn onion. The fourth woman is Fiona's mother the Queen, who gets her first lines when Fiona and Shrek arrive at their castle, talking with Fiona's father the King.

Just before the 15-minute mark, Fiona says, "Mom, Dad, I'd like you to meet my husband..." Although this doesn't pass OB-2 since her mother doesn't respond, it is closer than the original Shrek ever got. Fiona and the Queen both have several lines during dinner (with Shrek, Donkey and the King also present), but only one of the lines is directly between the two women-- While the pig is in the air, Fiona says, "Mom..." but the Queen says, "Harold..."

pink2.png pink3.png Immediately after dinner, Fiona goes to her room and cries on her balcony. Her Fairy Godmother shows up and strikes up a conversation.

Fairy Godmother: "Oh my dear, look at you, you're all um... grown up."
Fiona: "Um... who are you?"
Fairy Godmother: "Oh, sweet pea. I'm you're fairy godmother."
Fiona: "I have a fairy godmother?"
Fairy Godmother: "Shush shush shush, now don't worry. I'm here to make it all better..."

Shrek 2 passes both Bechdel tests in a reasonable amount of time. However, most conversations before the arrival of Puss-in-Boots take place between people of both genders-- either Shrek and Fiona, the King and Queen, the King and the Fairy Godmother, the King and the Ugly Stepsister, or within some group, like the group at dinner, or the Fairy Godmother, Prince Charming, the King and the female drive-thru worker at Friar's Fat Boy.

Even so, the film is still male-dominated (again, not surprising given the title character). The three main heroes are all male (Shrek, Donkey and Puss-in-Boots), and much of the dialogue of the movie takes place between the three of them. Although Fiona is the focus of everyone's attention, overall she is fairly passive, while those around her enact their different plots. In the end, she only avoids a life with Prince Charming because her father chose not to give her the love potion.

Still, considering that the original Shrek didn't even pass OB-2, Shrek 2 has a much stronger feminine presence. Of the eight main characters credited at the end of the movie (Shrek, Donkey, Fiona, the Queen, Puss-in-Boots, the King, Prince Charming, and the Fairy Godmother), three of them are women-- that's as many female characters as the original Shrek had in the entire movie.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Shrek Forever After was the eighth-highest domestic-grossing film of 2010. Since Shrek Forever After is the fourth movie in the Shrek franchise, I'll first review the original other three Shrek movies. The original Shrek was released in 2001, and was the third-highest domestic-grossing film of its year, behind only Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.

The first man/ogre to speak is Shrek himself, who reads the fairy tale of Princess Fiona, and then uses the pages of the book as toilet paper.

blug1.png blug2.png blug3.png The men from the village form a mob to kill Shrek. Hiding in the reeds near his house, one of the men wants to charge the house, but two others warn him about what ogres do to humans. Shrek shows up and scares them a bit by talking about what he likes to do to humans (squeezing the jelly out of human eyeballs and using it on toast, for example). One of them waves his torch and says, "Back! Back, beast! I warn you!" Then when Shrek extinguishes the torch by pinching it, the man says, "...Right." Shrek yells at them, and says, "This is the part where you run away." The original Shrek movie passes the Reverse Bechdel test within the first five minutes.

The first woman in the movie is Donkey's owner, who says to him, "Oh, shut up" and slaps him. She only has a few lines before Donkey escapes. When Donkey meets Shrek right after, they have a nice, long conversation that easily passes the Reverse Bechdel. There are some fairy godmothers camped outside Shrek's house, but they don't have any actual lines; they just scream and fly away.

pink1.png The second woman with lines doesn't show up until about 25 minutes into the movie, during Shrek's wrestling match with Farquaad's champions. A woman in the stands cheers on Shrek and yells to "give him the chair!" which Shrek does by whacking the knight with a folding chair.

Shrek and Donkey have another nice, long, rambling conversation on the way to rescue Fiona. When they get to the castle, Donkey finds out that the dragon is "a girl dragon", but she doesn't have any lines. Fiona herself is the first, and only, woman with more than a single line, about the 36-minute mark.

nopink2.png nopink3.png Throughout the rest of the movie, Fiona only talks to men. There are some background female characters without lines, and of course the speechless dragon, but Shrek never passes the second level of the Original Bechdel test, because there are never two women who talk to each other. According to the IMDB cast list, there were some actresses in the film's choruses, but the only non-chorus actresses listed are for the three female characters that I've already noted above.

Although Shrek fails the Original Bechdel test, it should also be noted that it has very few plot-relevant characters at all. Most of the movie is one-on-one interaction between Donkey and Shrek (who is, after all, the title character). Even so, since the dragon was also female, it would have been easy to give her a few lines, or even add a single scene where Fiona and the dragon talked. After all, both were trapped at that castle for who-knows-how-many years, and yet apparently they never got to know each other.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I've been reviewing all of the Harry Potter series, with just two films remaining (not counting the yet-to-be-released Deathly Hallows, Part II). So far, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban and Order of the Phoenix passed both the Original and Reverse Bechdel tests. Sorcerer's Stone passed OB-2, while Goblet of Fire only passed OB-1. All five films passed the Reverse Bechdel. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released in 2009. It made $933 million worldwide, a $5 million drop from the previous movie, Order of the Phoenix.

The first woman with lines in the movie is the waitress at the train station. The first man is Harry Potter.

blug1.png blug2.png blug3.png The second man in the movie is Dumbledore. He meets Harry at the train station, and tells him that he's been reckless this summer. Harry says he likes riding the trains because it takes his mind off things. Dumbledore says to take his arm, then teleports him away from the station, after which they both have a couple lines about the teleportation, then a couple more in front of Horace's house. Half-Blood Prince easily passes all three levels of the Reverse Bechdel by the 5-minute mark. Dumbledore also speaks with Horace about Harry and the Death Eaters. Horace and Harry also talk to each other, although mostly about Harry's mother.

pink1.png pink2.png The second woman in the movie is Ginny Weasley. She sees Harry's owl and his other stuff in their house. She calls out to her mom, who is the third woman in the movie. Mrs. Weasley says, "Ginny, what is it?" Ginny replies, "I was only wondering when Harry got here." Mrs. Weasley says, "Harry who?" Ginny tells her it's Harry Potter; Mrs. Weasley insists he's not there, but Ginny says that all of his stuff is. Mrs. Weasley, "seriously doubts that." Ron trades some lines with Ginny, then Hermione shows up, and asks if that was an owl she heard. Ginny asks her if she's seen Harry, who she thinks is wandering about the house. Hermione only replies, "Really?" Both conversations-- between Ginny and Mrs. Weasley and between Ginny and Hermione, satisfy OB-2. However, both conversations are also about Harry, so neither one satisfies OB-3.

pink3.png On the train to Hogwarts, Luna offers a Quibbler to Ginny, who accepts, and asks what it's about. Luna says it's about invisible creatures who fly into your ears and make your brain fuzzy. Unlike the other Harry Potter movies, Half-Blood Prince easily passes the Original Bechdel early in the film (with two hours left in the movie).

Friday, February 18, 2011

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

In case anyone hasn't noticed from the previous entries, on my way to reviewing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I, I'm reviewing all preceding Harry Potter movies. So far, I've reviewed Sorcerer's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire. While Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban passed both the Original and Reverse Bechdel tests, Sorcerer's Stone failed OB-3 and Goblet of Fire failed OB-2. Goblet was also the first movie reviewed here at Reverse Bechdel to fail the second level of either test.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released in 2007. It made $938 million worldwide, a 4.8% improvement over the previous movie, but still worse than the first movie of the series, Sorcerer's Stone.

The first "man" is a disembodied male voice, apparently giving the weather forecast on radio or an unseen television. The first woman is a mother at a playground telling her son it's time to go home.

blug1.png The second male is the first woman's son, a boy at the playground who asks whether they have to go home, before the camera zooms in on Harry Potter.

blug2.png A group of male bullies approaches Potter, who asks them if they've beaten up another ten-year-old. The leader, Dudley, replies that this one deserved it. Harry remarks that it would've been five against one. Dudley then teases Potter, who apparently has been having nightmares about the death of Cedric Diggory from the previous movie. Harry tells Dudley to shut up, but Dudley then teases Potter about his mother being dead. Order of the Phoenix easily passes RB-2 within a few minutes, but it's not clear that it has passed RB-3. Only Dudley has any lines about Cedric, or even Harry's mother. Harry's only lines are about an unnamed, unseen ten-year-old of unspecified gender.

pink1.png The second woman in the movie is Mrs. Fig, one of Harry's neighbor's who walks him back to his house. Miss Fig only talks to Harry. The third woman is Aunt Petunia. The fourth woman... er... the letter from the Ministry of Magic was written by a woman, Mafalda Hopkirk, and the envelope speaks with Mafalda's voice. I don't know whether that counts as a woman, but Harry is the only one who the envelope talks to anyway (and he doesn't even respond). The fifth woman is Nymphodora Tonks, who breaks in and rescues Harry along with Professor Moody and some others.

blug3.png As Harry and his rescuers are leaving the Dursley house, both Moody and Kingsley trade a few lines with Harry about his expulsion from Hogwarts. Harry has two lines with Moody, who has a line in between, and Kingsley has two lines with Harry, who himself has a line in between. Both conversations satisfy RB-3. Order of the Phoenix passes the Reverse Bechdel test completely before passing the second level of the Original Bechdel. Will it do better than Goblet of Fire on that count?

The sixth woman in the film is Mrs. Weasley, who keeps Harry out of the adults' meeting. The seventh is Hermione; the eighth is Ginny. Ginny is the first female to even talk to another; close to the 15-minute mark, Ginny says, "Hi mom," on her way down the stairs to eat dinner. At the dinner table, Tonks is making faces-- turning her face into that of a pig, then a duck-- and Ginny is laughing, but neither of them actually speaks.

The ninth woman is Amelia Bones, who speaks up at Harry's hearing. Shortly after, Mrs. Fig begins her testimony at the hearing, and Bones asks her, "Please describe the attack. What did they look like?" Mrs. Fig describes the boys, rather than the dementors, and Fudge corrects her. Since each woman has only one line, this does not strictly fit the definition of "conversation" that I've been using here at Reverse Bechdel, but more than twenty minutes into the movie, it's the closest we've gotten.

The tenth female is Dolores Umbridge; the eleventh is Luna Lovegood. Hermione introduces her to the others, then says, "What an interesting necklace." Luna replies, "It's a charm, actually." Again, each girl has just one line spoken to the other.

pink2.png pink3.png In their first Defense Against the Dark Arts class, Hermione raises her hand while the books are being passed out. Dolores Umbridge says, "Yes?" Hermione asks, "There's nothing in here about using defensive spells?" Umbridge replies, "Using spells? Haha! Why, I can't imagine why you would need to use spells in my classroom." Although the exchange is short, Order of the Phoenix passes OB-3 not long after the half-hour mark.

About fifteen minutes later, there is a longer one-on-one conversation between Dolores Umbridge and Professor McGonagall about the disciplinary methods used on Potter. Potter himself is not mentioned, although it is clear that Umbridge's treatment of Potter was the trigger for the conversation. Towards the end, Umbridge talks about loyalty to the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, and that he will want to take immediate action at Hogwarts. Even though this conversation probably does not pass OB-3, it clearly passes OB-2.

A few minutes after that, Umbridge has dismissed Professor Trelawney, and there is a confrontation in the courtyard between Trelawney, Umbridge and McGonagall. No one else is involved until Dumbledore appears halfway through, and the conversation between the three women easily passes OB-3.

The movie overall is male-dominated, but there is far more of a female presence than the previous film. The six students who went to the Ministry of Magic to rescue Sirius Black were split half-and-half-- Hermione, Ginny and Luna are all girls, while Harry, Ron and Neville are all boys. The Order of the Phoenix includes at least three women-- Mrs. Weasley, Tonks and Mrs. Figg. There are also women on the bad side, like the escaped Death Eater Bellatrix and Dolores Umbridge, who worked for the Ministry. Even though the leaders of all three groups are male (Dumbledore, Voldemort and Fudge, respectively), and the movie is, after all, primarily about Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix had far more female presence and interaction than any of the previous four Harry Potter movies.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Despicable Me

The seventh-highest domestic-grossing movie of 2010 was Despicable Me, bringing in over $251 million in domestic revenue and $541 million worldwide. Wait a minute, what's that you say? I never reviewed the sixth-best movie of 2010? Yeah, that's right. I'm breaking the rules I've set for this blog by temporarily skipping Harry Potter. I've reviewed the first four HP movies so far, and the truth is, I'm ready for something besides HP. Don't worry, I'll be returning to Harry Potter to review the rest of the movies soon. In the meantime, I feel like watching a different movie. I know, I'm sorry, it's despicable of me, isn't it?

The first man with any lines is the American tourist dad, and the first woman with any lines is the American tourist mom (talking to each other).

blug1.png When the kid gets away from his parents and crosses the safety barrier, two male Egyptian guards start yelling at him, "No! Stop!"

blug2.png blug3.png When the supervillain Gru gets back to his suburban home after the visit to Starbucks, he starts chatting with his neighbor. They talk about the neighbor's dog leaving "bombs" on Gru's lawn, easily passing the Reverse Bechdel test.

pink1.png The second and third female with lines are two girl scouts girls from the orphanage, trying to sell cookies to Gru. As they leave, the older one says, "Come on Agnes," but Agnes doesn't reply on screen.

pink2.png pink3.png While the girls are walking home, Edith jumps in a puddle and splashes the others. The oldest girl says, "Edith, stop it," and Edith replies, "What? I'm just walking." Then they enter the orphanage and talk with Miss Hattie about getting adopted and about selling cookies. Despicable Me passes the Original Bechdel test in just over twelve minutes.

Overall, the movie is neither male- nor female-dominated. The "villains" are all male, including Gru, Dr. Nefario, Mr. Perkins and, of course, Vector. On the other hand, all three children are female, as are the two major non-villain adults-- Gru's mother and Miss Hattie at the orphanage (although in a movie where the villains are the heroes, the two non-villains are also sort of villain-y).