the bechdel test.

| Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Today's Tune: Her Words Destroyed My Planet

As many of you may have noticed, I am female. As a person who is female, talking about the portrayal of women in literature and the media is a topic of interest for me.

One such topic that I find very fascinating is the Bechdel Test, which is primarily focused on film, but can possibly be extended to other areas.

If you haven't heard of the Bechdel Test (or Bechdel Rule) before, it's pretty straightforward. It's a gauge of whether or not women are accurately represented in a film. It's a simple test. In order to pass, a film must contain: (1) two or more female characters (2) who talk to each other alone (3) about something other than a man or men.

Easy, right? I mean, women make up approximately 50% of the population. We talk to other women. About things other than men. Yet you'd be surprised how many films don't pass or barely pass this test. There's even reasoning behind it in Hollywood - "the public" doesn't want to sit around and watch women yak yak yak yak. Because our conversations are always vapid, useless, and boring, of course.

The point of this test is to shed light on the way women are unfairly portrayed in film - as sidekicks, foils to the male lead, romantic interests only, for the purpose of supporting men, or just "hey, we should probably throw in a woman for that whole feminine emotional factor." We are independent human beings capable of being defined based on our own merit, not a man or men.

Now, to be fair, a film does not have to pass this test to be pro-woman or a quality flick. Many films don't pass, but still portray strong female characters. Nor is this test intended to be anti-man. It's merely supposed to point out that hey, maybe we should pay attention to the way women are underrepresented in many films, or do away with the idiot notion that all we talk about when we're alone is men, shoes, men, fashion, men, makeup, men, men, and babies.

WHICH IS NOT TO DISCOUNT THOSE THINGS AS THEY ARE ALL WELL AND GOOD FUN TO TALK ABOUT SOMETIMES. But really.

This portrayal tends to be less of an issue in literature, as a very large demographic of authors are female. We are far more greatly represented as authors than screenwriters and directors, that's for sure. Still, novels do exist where the female presence is mediocre at best - men are given all the best lines, they get to do all the fun stuff, and any focus the female character gets at all is comprised of "oh, that man of mine."

So, my point? I like being a person. I like seeing other members of my sex being treated as people, not props. And no one has to kill romance or fashion talk in order to do it! Just, you know, let your female lead do something else, too.

Okay! Next time I'll actually talk writing. SWEARSIES.

3 comments:

{ jjdebenedictis } at: June 16, 2010 at 12:31 PM said...

I agree that many books treat women this way. Also interesting is the fact that many books treat men this way too.

Think urban fantasy, where there's a kickass heroine and the men are all gorgeous confections with slabs of abs and smoldering eyes--whose existences revolve around desiring the heroine.

The fact is, treating any character as a fetishistic prop is lazy writing and insulting to humanity. Every single character should be portrayed as a three-dimensional person.

{ fairyhedgehog } at: June 16, 2010 at 1:13 PM said...

I hadn't heard of the bechdel test.

When I was a kid most books and films had male protagonists. It's not nearly as bad now (although still worth challenging).

{ maybe genius } at: June 16, 2010 at 1:27 PM said...

jj: Great point :) Sort of the opposite extreme; the pendulum swinging the other way.

fairyhedgehog: It has gotten a lot better! This test was originally created around 1985.

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