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Positive Images: Screening Women’s Films

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Presentation on theme: "Positive Images: Screening Women’s Films"— Presentation transcript:

1 Positive Images: Screening Women’s Films
by Linda Artel and Susan Wengraf in Issues in Feminist Film Criticism edited by Patricia Erens Indiana University Press,1990 Originally published in 1976

2 Discussion Board You’ve read “Positive Images: Screening Women’s Films,” by Artel and Wengraf. Do you agree or disagree with their perspectives? Explain. Identify a film that you believe represents women in a positive light. Did it conform to the article’s criteria? How so or how not? Identify a film you believe represents women in a negative light. Explain. Please share your findings with us during this presentation.

3 The Primary Aim of Artel and Wengraf
“The primary aim of Positive Images was to evaluate media materials from a feminist perspective. We looked for materials that had at least one of the following characteristics:” [Positive Images was a catalogue]

4 Non-stereotyped Behavior
Presents girls and women, boys and men with non-stereotyped behavior and attitudes: independent, intelligent women; adventurous, resourceful girls; men who are nurturing; boys who are not afraid to show their vulnerability

5 Non-traditional Work & Leisure
Presents both sexes in non-traditional work or leisure activities: men doing housework, women flying planes, etc.

6 Questions Role Division
Questions Values/Behavior of Traditional Male/Female Role Division

7 Women’s Achievements Shows women’s achievements and contributions throughout history.

8 Deals With Women’s Problem
Deals with a specific women’s problem, such as pregnancy, abortion or rape, in a non-sexist way

9 Consciousness-raising
Contains images of sexist attitudes, behavior, and institutions that can be used for consciousness raising.

10 Problematic Films according to Artel and Wengraf
“A number of films deal with feminist issues but are sexist in the way they treat the subject matter.”

11 Examples They Use: Minimizing women in problem-solving a woman’s issue
Behavior limiting credibility (Mary Tyler Moore being coy) Condescending narrative Rescued by man Class-based (only relevant for upper-middle class women) Women’s subjects but lack feminist perspective. Strong protagonist, weak secondary characters (e.g., adventurous vs. “good little girls”).

12 Problem Areas They See:
Only a handful of films w/ positive images at preschool or primary grade levels. Biographies of women: need more Women’s roles in history: specific contributions Women in non-traditional jobs w/ in-depth focus (usually surface) Third World Women Male liberation from masculine roles Changing definition of “family”

13 Useful or Problematic? Did you find this process of finding “positive images” useful or problematic?

14 How is it useful? How is it problematic?
“There’s More to a Positive Image Than Meets the Eye” by Diane Waldman (same book)

15 Waldman: Acknowledges usefulness of seeking out films that Artel and Wengraf recommend, but . . . Has 2 main criticisms: 1) criteria involved in determining what is to be considered a “positive image” and 2) limits of the notion of “positive image”

16 Defining “Positive Characteristics”
Is it possible to empirically define “positive characteristics” for women and men? Is western, white, upper-middle class able-bodied culture the proper standard? (counterpoint: A Day in the Life of Bonnie Consolo (woman born w/ no arms) Are we reinforcing dominant bourgeois histories (“great men” replaced with “great women”)? Assumes that most of what we see are “negative images” and that the corrective is “positive images.”

17 Depicting “Reality” Do these “positive characteristics” depict “things as they really are, or as we think they should be?” Example: The following catalog excerpt does not see this film as “positive.” Yet, it depicts a “reality” of this culture and time. Is it useful/beneficial? “In a cattle raising community in Northern Kenya, the women perform the traditional tasks of child-rearing and food preparation while the men manage the herds. Although the women are also responsible for building the cowhide covered dwellings, this too is viewed as ‘women’s work.’” If a filmmaker depicts “reality,” and it is negative, is the negative image considered a fault of the filmmaking? Should we not note differences between depicting things as they are and as we think they should be (example: depicting woman as president)? Waldman believes we should think just as carefully/critically about “positive images” as we do about overtly sexist images. What if a woman were to be depicted in a non-traditional role playing it in a negative way? Would it still be considered “positive”? Or, if negative, could it be useful to watch and study it? (example: Monster, Charleze Theron)

18 The Kids Are All Right Erin Brockovich

19 Precious (2009) 71 Awards Gabourey Sidibe Mo’Nique Mariah Carey nom: Best Actor Won: Best Supporting

20 Gabourey Sidibe, nominated Best Actor

21 Constructing Meaning The “Positive Images” catalogue Ignores the fact that “meaning is to be located in the interaction between reader and image and not in the images themselves.” Notion of a “positive image” assumes identification of the spectator with the character depicted (hero/heroine) “the mechanism of identification goes unchallenged” (how we identify with characters, what constitutes a traditional role or a positive role, what is sexist or not, etc.)

22 Creating a Pedagogical Model
Does not address the issue of how to deal with the reality of sexism

23 Waldman suggests: “. . . as teachers, we should stress analysis, critical distance, and discussion of any material we use rather than rely upon the identification implied by the ‘positive image’ concept.” “We certainly should attack blatant sexual stereotypes and applaud ‘positive images’ when they do appear: that these images do serve to shape children’s attitudes and behaviors is undeniable.

24 What is a “positive image”?
Depends on the viewer (perhaps Artel and Wengraf could have recognized subjectivity in their selections, saying these were their selections, their identifications with characters, etc.) Easier to identify “negative images,” because we know when we see them.

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