Thursday, March 4, 2010

the Bechdel test

Over at Shakesville, there are some recommendations in this thread of books, movies, and webcomics that pass the Bechdel Test. The Bechdel Test, named for the author of Dykes to Watch Out For, requires that a movie (book, whatever):

1. Has to have at least two women in it,
2. Who talk to each other,
3. About something besides a man.

Some variants require that the women be named characters. You know, this is really not asking a lot. And yet, i can think of surprisingly few movies that pass this test. Books fare a bit better. Even Tamora Pierce's YA novels generally only have one prominent female character, so i'm not sure that they would all pass #2. In comics, well Birds of Prey and Detective Comics from #854 (i think this is where Batwomen takes over) pass. I would also like to amend rule 3 to "About something other than romance" because lesbian fiction might not talk about a man, but still can fall within the tired tropes of what women "should" be thinking about (securing a mate, finding love). For instance, with my version of rule #3, Jeanette Winterson's Written on the Body might not pass, since the novel has a fairly narrow focus, if i recall it correctly.

Obviously, it's very difficult, if not impossible, to say that i'm only going to consume woman-friendly media. Even harder to do the same with LGBTQI-positive media. Or PWD-positive media (actually, this one might be impossible). i'm the first to admit, i enjoy comic books like Batman, or Superman, or Aquaman, despite the misogyny. One of my favourite movies, SLC Punk, definitely doesn't pass. But it's important to know the choices available, and it's important to show that there IS support for greater diversity (because the film industry loves to tell us that women WANT brainless romcoms, not films that represent their actual experiences).

Really, this shouldn't be as hard as it is. Suggestions of lit/comics/film that passes are welcome in the comments. i might go over my bookshelf and add more suggestions later.

There is also a blog (apparently coming out of hiatus soon) that determines whether or not movies pass the test.

1 comment:

  1. I always consider that test when I watch a movie, but there are so few that pass that if you really restrict yourself to Bechdel movies, you miss out on a lot of great quality work. One of my all time favorite movies, Master and Commander, doesn't have any women with speaking roles: just two native women who canoe up to the side of the boat and wave at one point. I think Bechdel is most useful for shitty movies, then I think, "Well, at least it's got that going for it."

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