I have a hard time watching movies or tv shows with other people. Any time I have someone over, and they suggest I pick something out on Netflix I freeze. Like many other people, I could spend an hour on Netflix just searching for something to watch, but combine that with my female-directed/written/starring mentality and you have a whole other bucket of worms to sift through. Until recently, I was in a long term relationship with another woman (decidedly not a feminist,) which was an experience by itself. Picking movies to watch with her was one of the hardest parts of our relationship, because her tastes primarily led us to watch big budget mainstream Hollywood movies and tv shows starring and written by men.
To both cope with my post-breakup feelings and organize my feminist media viewings into yet another list, this post is dedicated to my five favorite Indie or indie comedies starring, directed, and written by women.
Obvious Child – this is a modern day, much-needed narrative about a normal, twenty-something woman who goes through an abortion to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy. Jenny Slate is a hilarious heroine, and provides poignant, realistic humor about her experiences navigating the “murky waters of adulthood.” Her abortion is not portrayed as something horrible, but rather a normal medical procedure sought out for a specific, personal reason. The main character, Donna, develops a relationship with the man who knocks her up, but there is no pressure or tension from the unplanned pregnancy. It is simply accepted and put to bed.
Juno – Ellen Page’s role as Juno introduced me to the sarcastic, witty Indie-babe trope you can view in almost any independent film made in the last ten years. Juno is a snarky, deadpanned comedienne making the most of her high school experience, but makes a poor life choice when she has unprotected sex with her friend Paulie. This movie is an oldie but a goodie, and Page’s portrayal of a teenage girl going through an unplanned pregnancy is equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking.
Lost in Translation – Unlike the previous two films, this one is not funny. It has comedic moments of awkward silences and strange situations, but the story it tells is one of a failed and failing relationship, and the friendship that develops as one woman searches for something to fix her own loneliness in a foreign country. Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray are the ultimate BFF’s in loneliness – as Murray’s character travels for work and Johansson’s slowly separates from her new husband, they find solace (platonically) with each other.
An Education – this film reinforces an age-old lesson many women are told once they begin dating interpersonally; be careful with your heart. Lone Scherfig’s story of a high-school girl preparing for the future, caught in the decision of whether or not she should pursue a higher education or marry the handsome adult man that is courting her. The film portrays 1950s England with the hip décor and music you would expect from an independent romantic drama, but Carey Mulligan’s role as Jenny is so down to earth she feels just like a friend.
Persepolis – this movie is arguably the best on the list, in my opinion, but is different from the previous four in that it is a foreign adaptation of a graphic novel. Persepolis tells the story of a young girl growing up during the Iranian Revolution while falling in love with American punk rock music. As she comes of age she is forced to hide her passions as well as her body from her country, while dodging political follies and the government regime. The film deals with topics of familial separation, love, heartbreak, drugs, depression, and grief as you see the heroine develop into her newfound adulthood.
I tend to enjoy independent movies more than big budget Hollywood features, because they feel more grounded. I’m able to see myself in these characters and relate to their personal experiences because of the way they are written and directed. The movies I like the best are often directed by women, because they tell the kind of stories I care about and want to hear. Does this make me sexist? Some of my friends, and certainly my ex, like to tell me that when we try to watch a movie together, or discuss film, but I disagree. Men have always been overrepresented in our media, since the first silent films of the early twentieth century. As a woman, I care most about the experience of other women. I like the stories they tell, because it feels more like they are about myself.