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September 4th, 2008


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12:20 pm - Bechdel test discussion
There's an interesting long discussion of the Bechdel Test on metafilter here. Some commentators spectacularly miss the point.

The Bechdel test (you probably already know) is whether in a given film or TV show there is more than one named female character, and these women are shown talking to each other about something other than a man (I think the implication is, a man in whom one or both has a romantic interest, rather than you know fighting Hitler or something like that).

I'm thinking how much of my life is concerned with conversations with other women that are not about hetero romance. I enjoy chatting about romance as much as the next gal, but it's a small part of my life. If I had a heightened life (one worth making a film about) I'd hope the amount of dynamic talking would go up rather than down.

I think it is interesting for men and women who think there is little or no inequality 'nowadays' to think what it would be like if most films only showed men when they were talking about women. And what it feels like as a woman to be shut out of film after film.

One commentator says he knows what it's like to be excluded because of your gender, because he watched Buffy. But how silly - there are lots of lively male characters in Buffy. He isn't empathising with what it is like to just not be there at all, to be completely silenced. I think it's easy for people in privileged positions to make these dismissive remarks.

Don't get me wrong, some of my favourite films have a more or less all-male cast (someone on metafilter mentions 'The Thing' another example would be 'Southern Comfort'). I just wish there was a spread of films, reflecting the spread of real human life. I don't mean make films boring - I mean make the women in films more active and exciting like real women are.

(33 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:snowking
Date:September 4th, 2008 11:58 am (UTC)
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One commentator says he knows what it's like to be excluded because of your gender, because he watched Buffy.

What an amazingly stupid statement. Always at least two regular male cast members, and actually a male-dominated cast in what, two or three seasons.

It always interests me on how strict you should be with the test. Say, if two female police officers/FBI agents/whathaveyou are talking about a male serial killer is that a failure?
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From:communicator
Date:September 4th, 2008 12:04 pm (UTC)
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The way Alison Bechdel first framed it, that would fail the test, but I think that's a bit harsh
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From:altariel
Date:September 4th, 2008 12:00 pm (UTC)
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Not really adding to the dicussion, but I do wish Metafilter didn't have such a eye-watering design. It always sounds so interesting but I can barely read it.
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From:despotliz
Date:September 4th, 2008 12:12 pm (UTC)
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If you have an account you can set it to display in the plain theme, which is black text on white.
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From:hawkeye7
Date:September 4th, 2008 12:05 pm (UTC)
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I've never heard of the Bechdel test. The first thing I thought of was Alison Bechdel, the comic book artist, from Dykes to Watch Out For and Fun Home.

Ooops. It is that Alison Bechdel. Still never heard of the Bechdel test.

Edited at 2008-09-04 12:07 pm (UTC)
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From:communicator
Date:September 4th, 2008 12:16 pm (UTC)
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Yes, she invented it (actually I think her friend did and she popularised it) If I was clever I'd find the 'dykes' strip that started the whole thing
(Deleted comment)
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From:iainjcoleman
Date:September 4th, 2008 01:09 pm (UTC)
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The remaining male characters are Xander, Giles and Oz

You forgot Riley. Which is understandable.
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From:hafren
Date:September 4th, 2008 01:07 pm (UTC)
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I never seem to talk to other women about men/romance, but then I'm married....:) Anyway the kind of fantasies I have, you can only talk about online.....
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From:communicator
Date:September 4th, 2008 03:00 pm (UTC)
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I have been known to gossip about who shag who
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From:sugoll
Date:September 4th, 2008 05:11 pm (UTC)
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Charles Stross only encountered this recently, and added an interesting extension: the subject also fails if the two women are talking about marriage or children.

It's also interesting how he views it in relation to his own work.

(And I'm aware of the irony of taking a conversation about Bechdel's Law and then making a man into the subject...)
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From:iainjclark
Date:September 4th, 2008 07:47 pm (UTC)
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Bearing the same irony in mind, I think that's a fantastic post by Charles Stross.
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From:espresso_addict
Date:September 4th, 2008 05:52 pm (UTC)
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Rewatching DS9 recently I was struck by how frequent woman--woman conversations are, compared with much of the other television drama that I watch: there are many head-to-head scenes with Kira & Dax, Kira & Winn, and Kira/Dax & OFC-of-the-week. There again, they are often talking about men, though often non-romantically, and man--man scenes or man--woman scenes are a lot more common. I suspect something like 10% woman--woman, 45% man--man & 45% man--woman in terms of screen minutes would actually feel unusually woman--woman focused, even to a woman viewer.

I also apply the forename test (are men and women addressed by their forenames to an equivalent extent), which B7 & TNG both fail but DS9 passes.
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From:iainjclark
Date:September 4th, 2008 06:43 pm (UTC)
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Sadly DS9 did descend into romantically pairing up its characters, which had a significant impact on Kira and Dax. They continued having their own stories, but it was a shame.
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From:ide_cyan
Date:September 4th, 2008 06:10 pm (UTC)
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I think the implication is, a man in whom one or both has a romantic interest, rather than you know fighting Hitler or something like that

I think that the appeal of the test isn't only to show that women have interests besides dating men, but that it also takes away from the presumed centrality of men in all subject matters, which doesn't work if you make too many exceptions on the grounds that the matter isn't romantic interest in men. I mean, if two women are talking about how a man they don't have an interest in dating is going to fight Hitler, that's not any better. If they're talking about how they're going to do the fighting themselves, then it's somewhat better because it becomes about something other than a man.
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From:communicator
Date:September 4th, 2008 09:04 pm (UTC)
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Yes. It's hard to formulate but I know what you mean.
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From:vilakins
Date:September 4th, 2008 10:27 pm (UTC)
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I'm completely with you. I rarely discuss men with other women in that way (with the exception of a colleague who was dumped not long before her wedding) but then I'm also on the edge of fandom by not caring about pairings and romance. In fact I'll be put off by seeing it in films where it's gratuitous. I'd rather have no women in a film at all than a "love interest".

I have now seen two episodes of the last Kelsey Grammer comedy Back to You. It has some funny lines but I'm only giving it one more chance. There are two women in it. One is an airhead bimbo with big boobs; the other is an anchorwoman--who turned out to my disgust to have had an affair with Chuck before he left, and to have a daughter by him. [headdesk] So it's going to be all about that, isn't it?
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From:communicator
Date:September 5th, 2008 09:31 am (UTC)
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Another one to scratch off my list by the sound of it
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From:emeraldsedai
Date:September 5th, 2008 02:17 am (UTC)
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I'd never heard of the Bechdel test. I can't think of a movie I've seen that meets its criteria.

I suspect that a movie that meets the first criterion--more than one named female character--but fails the second, fails more spectacularly. I'm thinking specifically of such chick-fests as "Mamma Mia" (which, yes, I've publicly confessed to enjoying) that raucously celebrate the status quo while pretending to be about women's independence and real lives.
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From:communicator
Date:September 5th, 2008 09:35 am (UTC)
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My female friends seem to be fairly evenly divided about Mama Mia, and not necessarily in the way I would have guessed. My local cinema advertises 'singalong' viewings at the moment. I envisage lots of ladies getting slightly over-excited :-)

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