For my Representation Test, I chose to evaluate Spy, a 2015 movie starring Melissa McCarthy. The movie is directed by Paul Feig, who directed Bridesmaids, The Heat, and the new take on Ghostbusters. It is certified fresh by Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 94%(rottentomatoes.com), and it tripled its budget of 65 million dollars in Box Office revenue, making a staggering amount for a comedy: 235.7 million dollars. It was also nominated for two Golden Globe Awards for Best Musical or Comedy, and Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy (Melissa McCarthy).
Spy features Melissa McCarthy as the protagonist, and it definitely passes the Bechdel Test; women are the main characters, and as such they are portrayed in a holistic fashion and interact with each other about much more than men. Surprisingly, however, the movie scores only a C (with a score of 6) on the Representation Test! While women are well-rounded characters, there are no people of color, no people with disabilities, and the men are portrayed in a very negative and stereotypical fashion.
While a great deal of the movie takes place in Rome, Italians are all presented as sex-crazed, wannabe playboys. Jude Law, a main character, is portrayed as a trained killer and secret agent –who has an aloof attitude and neither knows nor cares about the concerns of those around him. Later, he is a traitor. For Jason Statham, the treatment is much the same. His character is an expert secret agent who is overconfident in his abilities. He is almost killed several times in the film due to his own stupidity, and his character is outwardly sexist towards women.
Women’s flaws in the movie are seen not so much as flaws as the direct result of positions they’ve been put in by men, who are lazy, sex-crazed, impetuous oafs. Melissa McCarthy and several other members of the cast (most notably Allison Janney) are over 45, and a multitude of body types abound for the female characters in the film. Again, though, the men are pigeonholed into the traditional media-driven male body type: Jason Statham is lean and muscular, and Jude Law is tall and slim.
Overall, Spy was an interesting subject for the Representation Test for a two reasons: First, the women characters are well-rounded, self-empowered, and intelligent, and they do not conform to Hollywood’s usual standard of beauty. Second, as stated, the men are portrayed in the opposite fashion. I believe, though, that the men are portrayed this way to make a statement about the typical spy movie.
Although men are the main characters in every James Bond movie, every Mission Impossible movie, and in countless other spy movie franchises, their characters are no deeper than their counterparts in Spy. These characters make us laugh in the context of this movie, but they are an archetype that we see incessantly in traditional Hollywood media. For that reason, Spy made me as a man question not only the traditional Hollywood role for females, but also those heroes we as men are taught to emulate when growing up.
Spy scored just a C on the representation test, but it turns Hollywood’s usual mumbo-jumbo on its head and makes us question: Is any traditional Hollywood role a role to which we as humans should aspire, or do most Hollywood archetypes take all of the depth out of living? Are we not more than a privileged, fit white man, an intelligent and athletic but misunderstood black man, or a damsel in distress?
By not outwardly discussing these issues, Spy scores a C on the Rep Test. Because it makes us ponder these issues through satire, though, it deserves an A in my book. In Spy, satire again points the finger back at us as a society, and there is nothing that can enact change so effectively as that.