Friday, 18 March 2011

Feminism Friday: Winter's Bone

I didn't want my Feminism Friday blogs to just be me moaning, I wanted to talk about all the good stuff that women and feminists do in the world too, then last night after watching it, the Writer by Night said I should blog about Winter's Bone.  Obviously, like any good feminist I thought I'd better do as my husband said, and here I am. 

I'd like to stress at this point, that a good film and a feminist film are not necessarily the same thing.  If it wasn't a Friday, I might not even mention Winter's Bone, I don't watch things in order to deconstruct their gender politics because if I did that I don't think I'd enjoy another film again.  I will always notice, but it isn't how I choose films to watch, and many of my favourite films could not be considered feminist.  This is not a review of Winter's Bone, it's a reflection on the messages I find within it.

Chris actually liked the film more than I did, although I liked it too.  I will try not to give spoilers, in fact, I don't really need to say very much specific about the plot.  The good news is, it passes the Bechdel Test within about five minutes, but more than that, the film is full of female characters with names all talking to each other.  Amazing.  And even better, they all do it fully clothed, and in some cases, with woolly hats on.   It is the female community in the film that supports, advises and helps Ree, the central character - and although violence is threatened by male characters, the only real violence in the film is executed by women.  What's interesting about this violence is that it is committed in the name of protection; not revenge or power or personal survival.  Astoundingly, given the odds for escaping this in movies in general, no one is raped.

(I had to search really hard on Google for an image of more than 1 woman from the film.  Note to self: in future, avoid googling anything with the word 'bone')

So, is it a feminist film?  At first I thought not, because in this community men represent power, authority, they are still the catalyst for change and most of the progression in the plot.  Most of the conversation between the women is about men, and indeed the plot revolves around a man.  There is still a moment where a man comes to the rescue - but I am coming to the conclusion this is more in the vein of 'sidekick' than 'superhero'.  Some of the men try to be heroic, but they all fail through cowardice, greed or malice.  Ree on the other hand succeeds without becoming a masculine archetype.  She is still able to nurture, communicate and seek non-violent solutions to her problems.  She is brave, selfless and dignified.  The film does truly celebrate feminine characteristics without devaluing them. 

What interested me most though, was the number of women involved in making the film, reading the credits, there were women - usually plural - in pretty much every behind-the-camera department.  I think our commercial film industry is so skewed towards male stories and tells them in such a blatantly sexist way is because women generally have such a tiny part in the process, men genuinely forget about them.  Then women aren't interested because they don't feel reflected in cinema, and so movies just get made for young men and it becomes a viscious circle.  There was still nothing like an equal split but women clearly had a much stronger presence in the making of Winter's Bone, on a project led by women.  The more this happens, I hope, the more we will see an honest reflection of our world on screen.

Director Debra Granik on set for Winter's Bone

While writing this I've been listening to Debra Granik being interviewed about Winter's Bone, and she makes the point that if we are to have any kind of 'biodiversity' in film making, we need to support the small films, because if they make their money back, the investors are happy and they get to make more films.  She's not talking from a feminist perspective, just any kind of independent film-making outside the glossy Hollywood model.  So I am making a resolution to seek out and pay for movies like this, in the hope that my one voice will go some way to ensuring I get to write more positive blogs!


  1. I've just watched the link on the Bechdel test - what an eye-opener!

    Winter's Bone looks brilliant - a refreshing alternative to all those slick, glossy films set in southern California.

  2. This a movie that Ant wanted to see on several occasions when it was on release, and for some reason we never managed to get to it...

    Very interesting. We'll definitely get it now.

    I have to admit I don't have a system for measuring the feministic leanings of a picture, other than analysing the basic message structure. A film has to really outrage me before I'd want to rant about it from a feminist perspective, but I've noticed that your Friday posts do have me analysing my own script for the 'isms' :P

    When are we gonna see your own feminist films?

    p.s. thanks for the link to your friend's blog; it genuinely caught me offguard with the expansive positivity, and I'm in a great mood n frame of mind now. Bonus xxx

  3. Steerforth, thanks for watching the Bechdel test video - I hope you took some time to look at some of the other stuff on Feminist Frequency too, I think it's brilliantly done.

    Winter's Bone is good, a film noir set in a kind of America you don't often see on film. Recommended viewing!

    Hels - I was going to respond and say that I won't make my own feminist films, just line-produce on Chris's, but now I've seen the BFC's link for, I'm thinking again...

    Glad you liked the link - I don't know who's blog it is, my friend just linked to it on Facebook and I liked the attitude!

  4. Hmmm *raises eyebrow* Haven't seen that website but will take a look later today; I too was planning to be Ant's lackey, but I'm changing my attitude to alot of things, including shorts. More on that and other filmmaking stuff soonish innit x

    I go now, I need some caffeine...

  5. Nice post, will watch Winter's Bone for sure now.

    Bechdel test video - interesting, and sadly on the mark, at least as far as big budget Hollywood is concerned. Dunno if things will change for the better, seeing as the moneymen control things now more then they ever did...

    Would be great to see you and Hels making your own movies...


Comments are welcome! Open debate is encouraged. Abuse is not tolerated.