“Fra-gee-lay, that must be Italian!”
If you recognise this dialogue, you must also remember the historic scene from “A Christmas Story” when Ralphie’s family gathers in the living room as Mr Parker unveils the prize.
A leg lamp, a major award! In Mr Parker’s words, “It’s indescribably beautiful! It reminds me of the Fourth of July!” It’s no ordinary lamp; its saucy fishnet stocking and fringed shade break all the conventions of a stereotypical lamp. But for them with more unconventional imaginations, it’s like any ole lamp.
Cutting the chase, why am I talking about this scene and the lamp? Because I don’t think there is a better way to introduce a thought experiment from Kelly Sue DeConnick, the Sexy Lamp test.
Picture a movie with a strong female character, say Captain America’s Peggy Carter or Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura, Potter World’s Cho Chang or The Hobbit’s Tauriel. If the character can be replaced by this sexy lamp and the movie still makes sense, then the movie fails the sexy lamp test. This simple and unconventional test effectively weeds out movies with just plain bad writing.
I know, I know! Things have changed, and a lot of fiction has marched resolutely into the 21st, but you’ll be surprised at how many movies still fail this minimal feminist test (ooh, I used the scary f-word).
There are some great movies that pass this test – Avengers, Frozen, Brave, Legally Blonde, and even a few Katherine Heigl movies.
The Sexy Lamp Test is important because it addresses the ever-present and much-despised Strong Female Character trope, where a woman is “strong” (air quotes) on paper but completely lacks organisation or relevance to the plot.
Just like the Bechdel Test, this assessment method has also risen from the darks of the comics world. DeConnick works in the US comics industry (breeding ground of sexist behaviour) – remember The Hawkeye Initiative, a befitting reply to lousy comic covers.
Forget Hollywood; try this test on popular Indian movies – Sarkar, Anbarivu, Pushpa, Sarileru Neekevvaru, V, Maharshi, Bharat Ane Nenu. Every single Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar starrer. Let me know what you find.
I’ll be back with another test to test the representation of women in fiction.
Until next time!
There is nothing better than a friend who is *the* friend that introduces you to Just One Thing.