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By Cheryl-Anne Fries

 

I was recently watching one of my favorite childhood movies, THE MASK OF ZORRO, but I did not enjoy it nearly as much as I did when I was 10. I did not like the way Zorro’s daughter, Elena, was treated in any of her scenes, especially when she was undressed by Aljeandro during their fight scene. It made me realize just how many of what used to be my favorite movies depicted women only as objects to be sexualized by the male lead character. It further infuriated me when I continued to find this treatment of women throughout the films and television shows I found on Netflix and Hulu these past few months.

Following this realization, I decided to search for movies that featured strong women who not only passed the Bechdel Test, but also the Pierce Test. The Bechdel Test is the most well-known “test” to rate the importance of a female character upon the plot. For example, a film must have at least two women who talk about something other than a man in order to pass the test. The Pierce Test is named after Kimberly Pierce, director of BOYS DON’T CRY, and it requires that a female protagonist or antagonist has her own story and has her own needs and wants. Additionally, it requires that the audience is able to emphasize with her.

The following list features films with strong and independent women who exist as more than sexualized objects.

 

DUMPLIN (2018) directed by Anne Fletcher

As the daughter of her small Texas town’s long-standing pageant queen, Willowdean (Dumplin’) signs up for her mother’s pageant in an act of protest, which inspires other young women in town. DUMPLIN is a light- hearted, feel- good coming- of- age story that will leave you happier than it found you.

Available on Netflix.

 

LOST GIRLS (2020) directed by Liz Garbus

When Shannan Gilbert disappears, her mother, frustrated at the lack of response from police, begins her own investigation. LOST GIRLS breaches the subject of the way sex workers are treated; especially by the police when they go missing This film is based on a true unsolved crime.

It features powerful performances from Amy Ryan, Thomasin McKenzie, and Lola Kirke. If you enjoy true crime dramas, this should be your next pick.

Available on Netflix.

 

TALLULAH (2016) directed by Sian Heder

On the search for her boyfriend, Tallulah (Ellen Page) stumbles into a hotel room to find an emotional distraught mother who is seemingly incapable of taking care of her young daughter. Tallulah takes the child and pretends to be her mother. As Tallulah bonds with her missing boyfriend’s mother, this film explores the ways different women approach motherhood and the societal pressures to be a “perfect” mother. Ellen Page’s emotional performance as Tallulah, the lost anti-hero stuck in an impossible situation, is riveting. If you are a fan of Ellen Page, this is a great movie!

Available on Netflix.

 

HUSH (2016) directed by Mike Flanagan

This horror movie features a deaf and mute woman who fights for her life against a masked killer. It uses sound, or the lack thereof, to enhance the tension. It is encouraging to see a full-length movie featuring American Sign Language (ASL) and a deaf main character where the conflict doesn’t come from the character’s disability. If you are looking for a good spook or something to watch with friends, this is a great choice!

Available on Netflix.

 

JUNO (2007) directed by Jason Reitman

In this comedy, Juno (Ellen Page) finds herself pregnant at 16 and decides to give her baby up for adoption. This story follows Juno and her relationship with prospective adoptive parents Vanessa and Mark Loring. With witty humor and deep character insights, JUNO is a very pleasant surprise.

Available on Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, and YouTube.

 

THE FIRST WIVES CLUB (1996) directed by Hugh Wilson

Three divorced women come together after the death of a college friend; they aim to take revenge on their husbands. THE FIRST WIVES CLUB is a sweet story on the relationships we often forget; however, we may always come back to these relationships. If you are missing your friends right now, this is a great reminder that true friendships never die!

Available on Netflix