Why Gravity Is a Giant Leap for Womankind

Sandra Bullock attends the 16th Annual Hollywood Film Awards Gala held at The Beverly Hilton HotelSandra Bullock’s Gravity is still going strong at the box office, opening to huge numbers this week in the UK.

The effects-heavy space adventure felt more like an amazing ride than a mere movie to me, and Sandra Bullock carries the whole thing (with a little help from George Clooney) on her toned, NASA-trained shoulders.

She plays an astronaut cut loose from the space shuttle, adrift in space facing one disaster after another. No spoilers, but the movie is terrifying and intense from start to finish.

By all accounts — critical, commercial — Gravity is a huge success. This is really remarkable.

In Hollywood where most critically acclaimed, commercially successful films don’t even come close to passing the Bechdel Test (to pass the test, a movie has to have at least two women in it who talk to each other about something other than men), Gravity’s strong female lead is not only the star of the show but the everyman of the story. Can you name another blockbuster where this is the case?

S.E. Smith from XO Jane writes:

[Gravity's success] would seem to suggest that audiences are ready to pay to see women at the helm, which flies in the face of traditional understandings about Hollywood and what we’re repeatedly told. In fact, it even flies in the face of what [Gravity director] Alfonso Caurón was told while working on the film, when he was asked to change the lead to a man or to create some male-centric backstory for her. He refused, preferring to isolate Bullock alone in the vastness of space, and the result was explosively, hair-raisingly, edge-of-your-seat good.

It certainly is. This movie is history in the making — reason enough for feminists to turn out in droves to the theater to support what is happening in this movie with Sandra Bullock. But that is decidedly not what is happening. People are seeing it because it looks good and because it’s getting great reviews.

Which is even better for women in film and women in the world and women and men and … just better for people in general.

As someone who would call herself a feminist, who knows about the Bechdel Test and cares about the way women are portrayed in the entertainment industry, I did not go to see Gravity simply because there was a woman in the lead. I went to Gravity because it looked awesome. I don’t think a single feminist thought about it while watching the film because it’s too gripping to think about anything while you’re watching it. My husband loved it. And while it’s not my favorite movie of the year, I don’t feel like I have to say that it is in order to help prove that Caurón was right. He was right. The movie stands on its own.

The sooner these kinds of groundbreaking steps become old hat and the sooner we can take a movie like Gravity for granted, the better.

Photo Source: Pacific Coast News

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