Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Bechdel Test and why I hate every movie I love

If you've never heard of the Bechdel test, you should, I declare it. The Bechdel test basically measures whether a movie has a female presence with real female characters by judging it on the following three criteria: (1) it has to have at least two named female characters, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man. Now that doesn't sound too hard, right? Well, the sad thing is how many movies don't meet that criteria. Check out this 2 min video about it. Go ahead, I'll wait.



It's not some crazy feminist thing conspiracy theory. There really is a long standing and very problematic tradition of movies being big ol' sausage fests. And what's even sadder to me is that the types of movies I tend to enjoy are they types that are the worst offenders. Sci-fi, fantasy, action. I'm not a fan of "chick flicks" - the big movies marketed to women - because they're all fucking romantic comedies or romantic dramas. If I'm going to invest my time and money, I want to see more than a man and a woman doing the modern mating dance. I want to solve a mystery, go on an adventure, or blow some shit up.

Unfortunately my interest in sci-fi and action means that seeing a movie which passes the Bechdel test is very rare for me. Let's take a look at 5 of my favorite movies (I'm not laminating this list as a permeant Top 5 or anything, these are just some I happen to really like)

1. Star Wars - Ok, let's get the obvious one out of the way. This doesn't even come CLOSE to passing. I guess Episode 2 passes, but only barely (Queen Jamellia and Padmé talk for a hot second.) But none of the originals do, nor do I or III.

2. The Fifth Element - Nope. There's only one named female character at all. She's totally badass, and I've even cosplayed as her, but the movie still fails.

3. Shaolin Soccer - Fail. Actually, pretty much all of the kung-fu movies I can think of fail.

4. Serenity - ding ding ding! This movie more than passes. Joss gets a lot of credit for being an advocate for having strong female characters. And the credit is well deserved.

5. Moulin Rouge - This is the only romantic movie I'd watch again and again... and still it doesn't pass. I guess even romances are not safe.

Not to mention all of Indiana Jones, most of Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings... It makes me sad and angry. I love these movies, but they ignore my existence  I feel like if women would start being treated like people then they could be any movie character, not just the love interest or damsel in distress or eye-candy. I wish I knew how get this to change (without boycotting my favorite movies). But I don't see that it will within my lifetime, and I'm not going to start only watching movies that do pass... It's a no-win situation, and that sucks.

What do you think? Do your favorite movies pass the Bechdel Test?

9 comments:

  1. Some do and some don't. I'm a big David Lynch fan - some of his films do pass the test. On the other hand, I love sci-fi and bad action movies, and pretty much none of those do, at all. Females are almost strictly eye candy in those genres.

    I don't have tv, no cable channels or regular ones either, however, we do watch certain shows on netflix or buy them off of Amazon. Television is where it's at for good characters and storylines these days. American Horror Story has a strong feminist element, in my opinion.

    Women are under-represented behind the scenes in the entertainment industry too.

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    1. Yeah, TV is better, but even there the male-to-female ratio is like 3-2 at best in most shows I watch like HIMYM, Big Bang Theory, The Office... Bones is good though! I should give American Horror Story a try. I started to write a post about TV shows but it got ranty and I abandoned it. haha. I'll revisit it one day with a cooler head.

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  2. In The Fifth Element there is another named female character - Diva Plavalaguna, the blue "lady" who sings that song. But she doesn't interact with Leeloo, so the movie still doesn't pass.

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    1. right. she didn't really talk much at all, I forgot about her as a character...

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  3. Great post - I am nominating you for another Liebster Award!

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  4. I don't even watch movies. They cut into my reading time.

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    1. Reading is personal time, movie watching is social time. I wish I had more personal time for reading. Thank got for the Kindle app on my phone, I can finally get through books again!

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  5. My favorite movie of all time is The Shawshank Redemption, which fails for a perfectly legitimate reason: 95% of it happens in a men's prison in the 1940s-1960s. There is debate over whether my other favorite prison film, The Green Mile, passes - two named female characters do have a conversation, and the brief part we hear is not about men, but most of it happens in the background. (The book on which it is based passes.) And, again, most of the book is set in a men's prison.

    Part of why I love these movies is that the prison setting brings out a ton of depth in the characters. Their days are routine, and so we learn a lot about the men and their relationships. What makes me sad is that there will not, any time soon, be a story like Shawshank that is set in a women's prison, because women's prisons are for catfight scenes.

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