Babylon 5, Ivanova, and female bonding.

Ivanova’s been making friends with the other women of B5 in the last few episodes I’ve watched, and I have to say, I’ve been enjoying the show’s interpretation of “female bonding.”

There’s a tendency, in popular culture and especially in film, to treat everything women say to each other as trivial. It’s why screenwriters are taught not to pass the Bechdel test— people will tune out what the female characters are saying, so you can’t have them say anything plot-important, and everything in a film must further the plot.

But even when Ivanova is talking to other women about trivial things (defined as “feminine things,” like hair and PMS), Babylon 5 does a good job of taking the conversations seriously.

For example, the most “feminine” conversations I’ve seen Ivanova have so far have been with Delenn, explaining how to wash one’s hair and what it means when you have “the oddest cramps.” But rather than playing the conversation as girls tittering away like birds, or omitting it entirely, it’s a touchingly human moment for Delenn (I mean, the only thing more human than growing long hair is complaining about how to style one’s long hair.) And Delenn’s human transformation is definitely plot-critical.

Ivanova has also recently accepted an overture of friendship from Talia. The tension between them has never been portrayed as anything like a cat-fight, a fact for which I am eternally grateful, but their reconciliation was also framed as overwhelmingly human, rather than feminine. (Note: I don’t think those two ideas contradict, but most screenwriters seem to.) Talia sought Ivanova because she was struggling to come to terms with her new relationship with the Psi Corps, and Ivanova is the only person she knows well who has a history with the Corps and might be sympathetic. Again, the Psi Corps (and Talia’s place within them) are a pretty big deal plot-wise, so it’s taken seriously, especially when Talia takes off her Psi pin to talk to Ivanova.

In other words, these are fully-fleshed, human relationships between women! I think I’ve written many times before about how frustrated I am when films act like strong women are by necessity unique and isolated; it perpetuates the myth that a strong woman is an exception, and that she must associate primarily with men in order to be a strong woman. Which is rubbish, of course.

I’m really looking forward to seeing both these friendships grow, if only because extra screen time for Ivanova is never a bad thing.


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