Beacons of genre cinema have often (but not always) underserved female fans with male-centric marketing and underwhelming female characters. That’s certainly been changing in modern movies, but now the biggest monster franchise in the world is joining its genre peers as they push towards progress. Director Michael Dougherty’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the sequel to Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla and may have the best representation for women of any film in the series.
This comes from actress Vera Farmiga, who plays Dr. Emma Russell — the Monarch scientist that invented the Orca, a machine allowing humans to communicate with the Titans — in the film. When speaking to TotalFilm about the movie and Russell’s relationship with her daughter Madison (Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown in her film debut), Farmiga explained that the film takes a different tack than previous entries in the iconic monster franchise.
“The previous Godzilla really focused on the relationship of a father and a son,” Farmiga said, referring to Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Joe and Ford Brody from the 2014 film. “At the heart of our film is this relationship between a mother and daughter.” Madison and Emma are kidnapped by a mysterious organization, giving them plenty of time to work out family drama as well as the genre fare — like Madison’s strange relationship with Mothra. In fact, their closeness in the film is a bit of a landmark for the series.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters “might be one of the first Godzilla that passes the Bechdel test,” said Farmiga. The Bechdel test refers to the requirements laid out by Alison Bechdel in a 1985 comic: a movie should have two (or more!) women in it who talk to each other about something besides a man. Simple, no? You’d think so.
However, according to the Bechdel Test Database, there are only two Godzilla films that even marginally pass the test: 1998’s Godzilla and 1989’s Godzilla vs. Biollante. Neither feature long conversations between their female characters, though they achieve the technical minimum for the test. Now that Godzilla: King of the Monsters will actually feature a few female leads, it could pass with flying colors. And it does feature Mothra, who has “the superpower to give birth,” according to Farmiga, who counts the creature as her favorite Titan.
Maybe Godzilla: King of the Monsters will finally be the Godzilla film to respect its queens when it comes out on May 31.