by Laura Shamas — Writer and consultant; independent scholar
January 24, 2013 – 00:00
I long for scenes between talented women at work: between women as creative, competent peers on the job; female-driven scenes of brilliance, collegiality and productivity; smart women guiding growth. Or even better: bright women working together to save the world.
Does this scene from “The Bourne Legacy”  between Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) and Dr. Connie Dowd (Elizabeth Marvel) fit that description? Not exactly. Even though it takes place in Shearing’s home, it’s a scene featuring “women on the job” from 2012.
It’s part of a long sequence at the film’s midpoint that ends in violence, and with super agent Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) saving Shearing; the journeys of Cross and Shearing are joined from this point. Spoiler alert: Shearing eventually “saves” Cross, too.
The Dowd-Shearing clip stands out to me because it’s long, interrogatory, and centers on Shearing’s work experience and credentials. Dowd offers her full name at the start of the sequence as they walk through the house. Both women “identify” as Ph.D.’s, and as we learn in the longer sequence, Dowd works for the CIA. Between Dowd and Shearing, at this point in the film, it’s hard to distinguish which character has the true “ethical” high ground, as both women work for organizations shrouded in governmental secrecy: the CIA and “Sterisyn,” respectively.
In a strict sense, it could be argued that because Shearing’s former boyfriend is mentioned, the scene does not pass The Bechdel Test. I think it does qualify, because the former boyfriend is mentioned in two lines, a part of her personnel file/background—to indicate that Shearing’s private life is under investigation due to the aftermath of the mass shooting at Sterisyn, her work environment. Foite is discussed as a work colleague. What do you think? Does the scene pass?
In the January 18, 2013, issue of Entertainment Weekly, director Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”), describes the new film “The Heat,” starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy: “It seems like such a no-brainer. Why has no one done this before? These are two professional women who aren’t looking for a man or to get married or be saved” (35).
Will there be more 2013 films that center on “women and careers” or “women in the professional arena”? I hope so.