“Sexy Lamp”: a female character that is so unimportant to the plot that she could easily be replaced by a curvy lamp carried off by the manly man hero instead.
Another cliché trope? “Man Pain”, where the male protagonist tragically loses the woman in his life to provide him with motivation for his revenge quest. These cliché tropes can be found in everything from indie flicks to large blockbusters and are now up for dissection in a new web-series entitled “Sköp” by Þórey Mjallhvít Ómarsdóttir and Dögg Mósesdóttir.
The slopes of tropes
Þórey and Dögg are known for co-founding the production company Freyja Filmwork, which has brought out works like Tinna Hrafnsdóttir’s short film ‘Munda’ and their own documentary “Höfundur óþekktur / Author unknown,” which is about women and music in Iceland. “Sköp” is Freyja’s first animated series and features Þórey and Dögg as cartoon versions of themselves, tackling gender tropes, clichés and stereotypes in movies and TV.
“I think it’s a worthy pursuit. It’s funny and it’s needed to open up this discussion,” Þórey says. “I think that for budding filmmakers or anybody who’s in the creative business, being aware of these things is essential. You cannot just leave people to just pretend that they’re not responsible for the stuff that they create.”
Usually one has to search the depths of the internet before coming across content that investigates the slippery slopes of cinematic tropes. It’s niche—you have to know exactly where to look for it and even then, it’s usually just video essays between 15 minutes and an hour in length, which can be fun and interesting, especially if the viewer is already into the topic, but there are hardly any comedic bite-size clips.
Þórey though, with ‘Sköp’, hopes to make the discussion a bit more graspable and maybe less dry. “Gender discussion doesn’t have to be super-serious and uninviting. It can just be something where you kind of go: ‘Oh wow I didn’t realize that!’ and nobody feels threatened in the process,” she says.
“Why haven’t I heard about this?”
The idea behind the web-series actually came to the two creators in a casual discussion about a movie, where the term “Man Pain” was brought up by Þórey.
“[It was] basically, almost exactly like it was in the first episode,” Dögg remarks. I mean I thought I knew a lot about gender issues in film because I was a president of Women in Film and Television in Iceland for six years and I’d been to lectures all over the world. I had heard all kinds of concepts around this and I thought “Why haven’t I heard about this [‘Man Pain’] and all these tropes?”
And given that Þórey is an animator, the two decided to follow in the cartoon-style footsteps of artists like Alison Bechdel and have their animated counterparts discuss film and TV tropes.
More “Man Pain”
The duo also provides the dubbing for their characters in Icelandic and English. They have also received help from an actress for a Norwegian version and are very open to the idea of more dubs in the future. But right now, it’s all about funding the series to ensure it continues and hopefully securing partnership and distribution opportunities along the way. Dögg and Þórey emphasise that they want the series to remain free though. They’re entertaining various ideas for promoting the series—one idea is to screen an episode before movies in the theatre—but Patreon is currently the best way for fans to support the show. The creators can be found and supported under the username Sköp on Patreon, where it’s possible for supporters to donate in order to unlock new content, get stickers and of course make the web series production possible.
And even though the dreaded YouTube algorithm poses a constant threat of swallowing up content like theirs—especially since the project’s still in an early stage—Dögg and Þórey see the value in their work and already have lots of ideas for future episodes.
For example, the “Born Sexy” trope: a woman with no knowledge of the world but a sexy bod, whom the hero can protect but also pursue. Or the “Buffoon Husband,” a more or less lovable bumbling idiot who often has to be parented by his wife as much as their children.
That said, the next planned episode is about “Women In Refrigerators”, those female characters who are considered disposable and often get killed in a gruesome way to provide drama—usually for more Man Pain.
Dögg hopes the series will provide more opportunity to open up a conversation about these topics. “It’s kind of our [contribution] to a healthier film industry I guess,” she concludes, “and for a healthier representation of women. That’s nice to leave behind.”
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