Resident Evil: Resident Feminism

I want to talk about guilt. Specifically, the guilt I’ve always endured for liking the Resident Evil movie franchise. Why feel guilty? The movie is based on the survival/horror game franchise by the same name which doesn’t have a lot to work with in terms of progressive female characters, or even just female presence. Also, skimpy and unpractical outfits abound. So, it’s a game-to-movie franchise dedicated to having a girl in a short red dress do as many high split kicks as possible…right?



If you apply the Bechdel Test, which looks for female presence (not feminism, calm down male chauvinistic pigs), there are three extremely simple specifications to meet:

1 – There must be at least two named female characters.
2 – They must talk to each other.
3 – They have to talk about something other than men and/or babies.
This test is intended to expose the one-sidedness of the movie industry, to show how frequently movies only include women when they are validated by male characters, or serve to further male-centric plots.

And sadly, most movies are exposed by this test. In fact, a whole slew of films I previously had no qualms about loving will now be the reason I stay up late, burning my bras to compensate. Great movies, like Dark Knight, Fifth Element, Fight Club, District 9, Watchmen, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, etc., all fail to meet the three points above. Some of them don’t even get past question number one.

So, let’s talk about Tomb Raider (noticeably absent from the list of ‘great yet lacking female presence’ movies I just mentioned). It’s a game-to-movie franchise, and is most famous for making audiences nod in unison while Angelina Jolie ran from one side of the screen to the other.

All together now!

And that’s about as much as you’d expect from a videogame-turned-movie. After all, they were made for boys, and of course only boys play videogames, so it would be silly to presume anything of videogame origin could possibly pass the test.

And yet somehow, Resident Evil the movie passes with flying colors, and on its first try, too. See, if videogame movies do well at the box office and survive long enough as a franchise, they do eventually run out of man-fueled story and can then be forced to acknowledge the other half of the population, but Resident Evil (arguably the most successful game-to-film franchise ever) gets right down to business in its first film.

We have Alice (Milla Jovovich), who goes on to be The Face of the franchise long after everyone else has died, reanimated, and died-for-real again. We also have Rain Ocampo (Michelle Rodriguez) and Dr. Lisa Addison (Heike Makatsch). Oh, and there’s the Red Queen, homicidal femputer extraordinaire.

And something worth noting is the poster for the movie looked like this:

Do I really have to point out how unusual this is?

Now, Alice and Rain do share words that don’t include ‘he’s dreamy’ or ‘nap time for baby!’ but I want to focus on the words Alice and Lisa share. They meet before the movie starts, but Alice remembers their encounter as the plot develops…and it turns out, their conversation is The Reason for the plot in the first place. How often does that happen?

Alice and Lisa meet, and they talk. About bringing down Umbrella Corporation. Not men, and not babies.

Heck, they’re not even near a kitchen!

So, the Bechdel Test is satisfied, but what satisfies me and absolves me of my guilt – what puts the spin in the kick for me – is that it turns out Alice is not a reactionary creature – she has her own reasons and motives for doing things, none of which require a rape origin.

 Throughout the franchise (which is still producing lucrative and entertaining sequels) she never abandons her goal of bringing down Umbrella, and no one (or love interest) has to hold her hand while she does it either. In fact, the movies have been so successful at portraying this universe – and at making LOTS of money –

Pictured: Lots of Money

– that the movies have begun to affect the game franchise. Like the later movies, there is now less horror and fear, more action, and yes, more female presence. The fifth Resident Evil game was recently released, and featured a zombie-fighting partner, Sheva. And although you (male main character) are still looking for your female partner and end up saving her from some sort of distress, Sheva helps you, and doesn’t require a knight in shining armor, or even a love interest.

So this movie does more than pass the Bechdel Test, it validates the idea that movies can have female presence (and a strong one at that) and still connect with the masses. Furthermore, it shows what an effect one movie can have in terms of including The Other Half of the population in media and entertainment. And if we’re talking about wanting more female presence, well, I guess I’m guilty.

Female Agency – Now in 3D!

2 thoughts on “Resident Evil: Resident Feminism

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