I don’t know any women who would trip over their own feet while running away from ghosts and bad guys. I don’t know any women who spend 90 percent of their time talking about men. And every woman I’ve ever called friend knows how to swing a hammer, or saw through a 2-by-4. Most women are everyday badass, taking care of business just as competently as men do.
Alas, that’s usually not how they are portrayed in movies in general, and the supernatural genre in particular, where they/we are helpless, man-obsessed harpies or virgins who can’t put one foot in front of the other. And when a strong female character does show up – like Aliens’ Ripley – it’s such a novelty that all anyone can talk about is how fierce she is, like it’s some unheard-of state of being.
One of the things I am most proud of about The Wasting is its authentic portrayal of women. Grace is everyday badass. We may not always like Valerie but that’s because she is a woman of great complexity, not just a “perfect mom.” She clearly had a life before she became a wife and mother, and it bleeds realistically into her life today.
Sophie may be troubled and confused, but when the going gets tough she knows how to run without tripping.
Check her out beside you. That's not a girl who will fall over her own feet. That's a girl who will brandish a sharp-edged shovel and tell somebody (not saying who!) to back off or risk brain trauma by blunt instrument.
The Wasting manages to have all these great women characters without taking anything away from its male characters, who are also complex, realistic human beings. It’s not a competition. It’s a story about humanity. We’re all part of it.
Today I ran a little Bechdel Test on The Wasting. You know what the Bechdel Test is, right? It asks if two women – with NAMES – have a conversation about something other than men. Here are examples of just some of the scenes I found:
• Valerie and Sophie talk about Val’s childhood
• Sophie and Grace talk about how skinny Sophie is
• Valerie tells Sophie she shouldn’t be in such a hurry to grow up
• Sophie and her dance teacher talk about her dizzy spells
• Valerie comforts Sophie after a bad day
• Valerie and Sophie talk about freedom
• Grace repairs a window. With a screwdriver! And she's not wearing a sexy carpenter belt and short shorts.
Okay technically that last one isn’t Bechdel, but I like it because I had a choice in that scene, in which Grace is home alone, to have her doing anything. A lot of writers would have had her washing dishes or talking to her cat. I chose to have her competently repairing a window frame. Just like a real woman in real life would.
And that, folks, is what happens when a woman writes and directs a movie. And why I hope you will support not only The Wasting, but other films made by women, for all people.
I'm the writer-director and more or less the mother of this film.