Read, watched, podcapped: ‘Overdue’ and ‘The Bechdel Cast’ discuss female leads in stories old and new

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Both of our podcasts this week focus on female-centered stories, each contextualizing the main female character’s role within the larger plot. “Overdue” explores the lesser-known source material of a very popular adapted film while “The Bechdel Cast” discuss a timely and largely hyped superhero film.

“Overdue”

Craig and Andrew begin the episode by discussing what they had for breakfast, leading up to the story for this week: “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by Truman Capote. Introducing the story, Craig says, “I think when I was a kid I thought that the book ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and the movie did involve a character named Tiffany . . . untrue.”

Instead, the novella centers around New York socialite Holly Golightly — famously portrayed by Audrey Hepburn in the film adaptation — whom the unnamed narrator, an aspiring writer, befriends in the fall of 1943.

The relationship between the narrator and Holly remains platonic. Craig explains that the narrator has romantic feelings for Holly which she does not reciprocate — though she clearly cares for him and makes room for him in her life. Despite this, Andrew cites his contextual research and points out that Holly is often regarded as a textbook example of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) trope — in other words, a stereotyped female character who exists solely to help a male character grow. The MPDG is often a love interest and exhibits quirky qualities admired by the males.

Craig acknowledges how Holly can be considered as such, especially since she is solely perceived through the narrator’s point of view. He brings up, however, that one of the biggest elements of the trope is that the pixie girl helps the male character grows in some way. This doesn’t happen in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” This, at least, complicates the discussion of Holly, especially when not much is even known about the narrator. Essentially, she becomes the protagonist.

Andrew suggests that the story may have benefitted from being told from Holly’s point of view, as giving a voice to this female character would further flesh her out. He says, “It would be a book about someone who is doing a lot of crimes and duping a lot of dudes and maybe she has it more together than she acts like she does.” Craig agrees, stating that Capote presents Holly as an elusive character who often keeps the reasoning behind her actions to herself. From Holly’s perspective, her actions may be less about fulfilling some version of a male character’s dream girl and more about the female character herself.

Overall the episode is an effective discussion on what Capote got right — and what he got wrong — with his direction of Hepburn’s well-known female character. Craig ends the episode saying, “Time to go eat more breakfast.”

“The Bechdel Cast”

This week, Caitlin and Jamie, joined by guest host Carolyn Cocca, cover “Captain Marvel,” which was just recently released in theaters. “Captain Marvel,” which the hosts call a “hashtag current movie,” follows Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), showing her journey toward becoming Captain Marvel (as prompted by a war between two alien races that Earth gets caught in the middle of).

The three hosts, overall, are happy with the film and its female representation. They note that they have their critiques, but as a whole, it accomplishes more positive than negative. One of the most notable positives, for example, is the lack of a romantic subplot. This itself is almost unheard of in any film, let alone one with a female lead. They also point out that all of the women characters are either in the military or in STEM, both of which are rare occupations for female characters in film.

Caitlin appreciates that Carol is not depicted as an overly emotional female. Instead, she begins “as emotionally detached as a male superhero (is allowed) to be,” Caitlin notes. And Carol’s character arc includes her becoming more in touch with her emotional side, which eventually humanizes her. Jamie points out that, nonetheless, she would have liked to see Carol be able to be openly emotional about something without it being depicted as a weakness.

Further, the hosts go into the consequences of using source material that was written by men. This adaptation may be led by women — a female co-director, majority female writers, a female composer, etc. — but it still comes from a comic that was written and illustrated by men. The hosts discuss the root of deeper issues that are more embedded in the work and are bound to come across in the film. Jamie believes that the film postulates a message of, “Look, girls can do what boys do.” She continues by expressing her desire to see an empowered female character achieving success without it being compared to a man’s actions or successes.

The hosts end on a positive note, expressing joy at seeing a female-led film with females also leading behind the camera. They discuss how much it meant to see so many kids excited in the theater to watch this film, which they point out is the most important factor. Caitlin, Jamie and Carolyn themselves may not have grown up getting to see female superheroes but kids today will have that experience. And that may be the most fitting note for them to end on, as it points to all of the progress that has been made since their childhoods, a promising indication of the representational progress to come.

Nikki Munoz covers podcasts. Contact her at [email protected].