July 23 2014 01:07 PM

We ran summer-movie trailers against the seemingly easy-to-pass scrutiny, and the results weren't pretty

2014 summer movies

I never wanted to be an elitist movie connoisseur, but it's getting harder to defend the dreck that passes as cinema. This isn't a complaint about the intellectual emptiness of Hollywood blockbusters; it's more of an indictment of the malevolence infecting pop culture as a whole. We flood the cinemas to support movies that are apathetic—if not outright hateful—toward women, minorities and other underrepresented or maligned populations.

To prove my point, I watched a handful of trailers to see if any of them respected the ladies by following ground rules established by the Bechdel test. While not perfect (last year's Pacific Rim was praised for its strong female representation even though it technically failed the test), it's a good starting point to find out if the culture you're consuming is respectful or just a dripping bag o' dicks.

Just to recap, here are the rules for a movie to pass the Bechdel test:

1. It has to have at least two women in it, 

2. who talk to each other, 

3. about something besides a man 

Because I feel that movies could do a better job of respecting humanity as a whole, I've added my own appendix. The only rule of the Bradford test is:

1. It can't be based on a comic book. 

I expect to get some guff for this, especially in the frickin' Comic-Con Issue, but hear me out: Can anyone remember a comic movie delivering more than a cash-grabbing, cynical repackaging of nostalgia? Or presenting an original vi sion that didn't feel processed through a committee? Maybe Christopher Nolan's The Dark Night, but that was six years ago. B-b-but The Avengers? You mean the movie that raised our feverish expectations for each succeeding superhero movie to include all the superheroes? If that's not a sign of cultural excess trumping innovation and originality, then I owe you a new pair of sweatpants.

So, onward with another summer of movie trailers! Onward with another year of supporting the white / hetero / male-dominated pop-cultural infrastructure while we continue our slow trudge to the grave!

Hercules (official trailer No. 1):

Observed plot summary: Shirtless Hercules fights a lion and a boar that are, like, way bigger than normal-sized lions and boars.

Bechdel results: There are literally three shots of women in this trailer and one of them shows harem-esque ladies sexily gyrating their hips. Fail.

Bradford results: Can't really remember what Hercules is. Greek myth? Bible story? Disney thing? I'm too lazy to look it up, but I know it's ubiquitous enough that it probably has been made into a comic at one point or another. Fail, probably. 

Lucy (official trailer No. 1):

Observed plot summary: 
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy) is an unwitting mule for bad guys who sew drugs or chemicals into her stomach. When it leaks, it unlocks 100 percent of Lucy's brain potential (science!), thereby disputing every fifth grader's favorite fun fact that we use only 10 percent of our brains. Apparently, when you use 100 percent, you can make time stop and play the world like an iPad, or some shit.

Bechdel results: Twist! Second trailer in and this feels like a trick question. Johansson is the only woman shown, but she seems strong and spends the entire time killing bros, so that nullifies at least two of the Bechdel rules, right? No. Also, director Luc Besson has a fetish for weaponizing the woman form in his movies, and I can't really get behind it, so fail.

Bradford results: This is an original story, no matter how dumb it sounds. Pass.

Guardians of the Galaxy (extended cut):

Observed plot summary: 
Lord knows. There's a tree guy and a raccoon and that one guy from Parks and Recreation. They're in space. The raccoon seems to get angry a lot.

Bechdel results: There's a shot of the only female character—an alien?—zipping up a tight jacket over her green cleavage, which definitely soothes the urge to spitefully rage-cum at the otherwise lack of eye candy. Amirite, fellas? Fail.

Bradford results: Maybe I'm missing the point—maybe this film's totally subversive. But that doesn't negate the fact that fans will probably use phrases like "foul-mouthed raccoon" and "saves the galaxy" to defend it. Fail. 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 
(trailer No. 2)

Observed plot summary: Title + dubstep = plot. 

Bechdel results: This is the first trailer I've seen during this project that has two women talking to each other—Megan Fox and Whoopi Goldberg—but their conversation is about the turtles who, I think, are guys. Plus, this is a Michael Bay production. It should be called T.M.N.T.I.T.S. Fail.

Bradford results: I loved the T.M.N.T. comics and toys more than anything back in the day, and seeing such callous treatment of them makes me cry T.E.A.R.S. Fail.

Into the Storm
(official teaser trailer)

Observed plot summary: Destruction. Fire tornadoes. Holy shit.

Bechdel results: There's absolutely no dialogue here, so, technically, it fails, but it seems that the only purpose that the humans in this movie serve is to be flung around by devastating weather. Perhaps it's a symbolic retribution for our hubris, excess and misogyny.

Bradford result: Remember in Taxi Driver when Travis Bickle says, "Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets"? Let chaos reign / rain! Pass.

Write to ryanb@sdcitybeat.com or follow him on Twitter at @theryanbradford


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