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  1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    The Bechdel test: How is it possible so many movies fail?

    Discussion in 'Entertainment' started by GingerCoffee, Nov 12, 2013.

    There's an older thread on this, but it was a year ago and apparently became sidetracked a bit. And there were a couple of posts I found shocking, like "why should we care"? :eek: So if people are interested in trying again, I've started a new thread.

    What is The Bechdel Test?

    The test is simple. In order to pass, a movie need only have a minimum of two named female characters and they must talk to each other at least once about something other than men.

    It's quite shocking when you find out which rather famous blockbusters fail this simple test.

    Lord of the Rings
    Star Wars
    Star Trek Into the Darkness
    The Master
    Enders game
    The Fifth Estate (really, no significant female involvement in Wikileaks?)

    It's not a perfect test. It may not be applicable to a movie with very few characters like, Gravity. There are a lot of objections noted on the movie ratings.

    Why should it matter? When huge blockbusters, epics, and docudramas don't have normal female characters interacting with each other it subtly says women don't count. Write them out of history, write them out of movies and books, and you write them off.
     
  2. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You'd have to take the first one up with Tolkien.
     
  3. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think I'm guilty of this even in my own book. I saw once there's this test you can do on your novel - swap a male and female characters and see if the characters still make sense. When I swapped mine, goodness me that's when I realised how gendered (eg. stereotypical) the girl was. The male role was more or less fine regardless of whether it was a man or a woman speaking, but the girl, I cringed. I'm not sure ANY of my female characters ever interact, even though I have about 4 named women. And 3 of them really only exist to be love interests...

    The scariest thing is when WOMEN are this way too :( (and yeah I'm a woman)
     
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  4. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    This reminds me of when I was younger when some boys made a boys only club excluding us little girls. They went fishing, talked did things. Us
    girls counterstriked with our own club but all we did is talk about the boys excluding us. Face it - Women can be their own
    worse enemy. We talk a good game but really what do we do? Do we sit down and write letters? Do we picket movies, and stir up female
    stars to action? Do we sit down and write a movie with an all female cast? No. Instead we go see the all-guy movies driving them to the top
    of the box office. Hell, we'll even gush over Orlando Bloom and the dreaminess of Benedict Cumberbatch.

    We know the cure - females have to become role models and create characters, novels, and icons with the efficiency that the men have done it.
    But a lot of us are still stuck in the wash-cycle of sex & dependency sells and instead we lean on it and worst we even encourage it - we have
    Miley Cyrus twerking, novels like Fifty Shades of Gray and characters like Bella Swan. Suddenly we sound like men - it's empowering to be known
    for jiggling your ass? It's empowering to be tied up in bed because it's being done by a rich handsome guy? - take away rich and handsome and
    we'll see if that flies so well. It's empowering to get so tied up with a guy you'd chose death over life?
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm a guy, and I'm gay, and I find myself writing about male characters almost all the time. I've never written any story of any length with a female MC. Women do appear in my stories, though, and sometimes have large roles. I find it interesting that, usually, when I write a female character, she's in a position of authority. I've written a woman who's the chief of a scientific expedition (the male MC is a scientist working for her), another who becomes a cult leader, another who's the mother of one of the MCs (this MC is a young boy in this case), another who's a tavern owner and the MC is one of her customers, etc. I have no problem writing women who are smart, capable, and independent of men. But I don't have many women in my stories, and I think all of my stories would fail this test.

    I'm not proud of this, but I can't say I'm really ashamed of it, either. I write stories about guys. I am a guy, I like guys, I understand guys. But the older I get, the more ambitious I am to write a female MC. I used to be scared of doing so, because I thought I'd do it "wrong," but now that I'm a curmudgeon, I don't give a crap. :)
     
  6. redreversed
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    redreversed Active Member

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    Movies often fail it because thats how the characters and story was written.
    Seriously, after all the threads and comments people make in this forum about how you shouldn't care if people find your story or characters offensive- why should the movie writers care?
    If I want to put in a woman in my story, I will- If I don't, then I won't put her in. There is no secret subliminal message that I think women don't matter or that they are lesser than men.
    Unless the movie was made specifically to put down women, I really doubt it was trying to send a message either.

    Women who feel "oppressed by men" or that think we have some secret kind of discriminating agenda, are the only ones who find this sort of thing important.
    All the women on this forum are lovely, so I mean no offence but I get annoyed at people seeing things where there is nothing to see.
     
  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @redreversed I think the Bechdel Test is more about awareness. People look at it, then look at their story, and find out that without consciously realizing it and as a result of no particular intent on their part, they don't meet it. Once the awareness is there, the person can take the next step of deciding for themselves whether or not that's an issue or something they want to change. It's a good tool for that. If you've written such a story merely because you've easily fallen into standard representations because that's what you've seen a lot in various media, there's nothing wrong with a tool that causes you to recognize it and think about it. That's different that telling someone who has already thought about, and made conscious decisions about, the issue that they should rewrite.
     
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  8. redreversed
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    redreversed Active Member

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    But one of my points is , so what if they don't meet it?
    It they specifically wrote the story like that(No women, or at least no women who do anything of value) to discriminate then they deserve multiple slaps.
    But if they didn't, then even if they did it without realizing it or they did realize it (With no bad intentions) then is seriously doesn't matter because it does NOT as GingerCoffee said " it subtly says women don't count".
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    In any given instance, I think it is hard to say there is any specific intent (or even subtle or subconscious intent) at work. There are plenty of works that fail the Bechdel Test that are just fine in and of themselves. Suppose you wrote a story that took place entirely within a trench on the front lines of WWI. Probably going to fail the Bechdel Test, but I don't think that's a problem.

    I think where you can see evidence of something else at work is when you look at the entire breadth of a genre or medium and see a large number of works that fail a test like this (which is a very simplistic test). To me, that kind of broad snapshot of works within a culture tends to say something about the issue, whereas analysis of any single work might not tell you a whole lot.
     
  10. redreversed
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    redreversed Active Member

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    Yes true, would be hard to know the specific intent but thats not really the point, I was just trying to make sure people didn't misunderstand me and think I'm fine with movies specially made with a bad intent.

    All I think it says is that mainly people enjoy writing( maybe also watching?) male characters more than female. That might suddenly seem sexist, but its really not.
    I don't know the reasons for it, perhaps our brain likes the sound of lower voices more than high(random uneducated guess) or they like characters with more male traits.
     
  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The failure is occasionally so significantly "loud" as to invite lampoon and comedic parody. I know this is TV, and not a film, but the original Jonny Quest series (1964-65) was sooo lacking in any female representation at all that to modern eyes it looks like a gay adventure fantasy complete with daddy-type Dr. Quest, his boi-toy muscle-hubby Race Bannon, their lebensborn son Jonny (probably created in the lab) and their requisite adopted child, Hadji (Branjelina helped them out). The show is constantly tapped as an example of blatant gay subtext in media.
     
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  12. redreversed
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    redreversed Active Member

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    The way you described it makes it sound hillarious haha. :D
     
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    ;) Seriously, though, find one of the original (1964-65) episodes and watch it. You won't be able to unsee the gay couple with their bright happy children on adventure holiday. LOL :p
     
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You just listed all the reasons I love that show!

    (I mean, I would, if I watched it, but I've never seen more than about one episode. I need a box set NOW!) :)
     
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  15. A.M.P.
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    I don't think I ever had this problem.
    Most likely since I'm a guy and have no understanding of females.
    So, I just wrote them in as men with boobs.
    Seems to work for me.
     
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  16. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    "Men With Boobs" would be a good name for an all-female heavy metal band.
     
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  17. A.M.P.
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    Makes me think of Bye Bye Beautiful by Nightwish.
    The band switches back and forth between female versions of themselves :love:
     
  18. ReaperKnight
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    I am seriously OCD about having at least two named female characters, as in I have never written a story with fewer than two named female characters. Dialogue is based on a plot-critical area or just side-crap (technical term) so dialogue concerning men only happens when the female characters start smoking hallucinogenics.
     
  19. GingerCoffee
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    Kind of a chicken and egg thing, though. If young girls had better role models expressed in books and movies, would they be different? There's only one girl Smurf. Why is that? When Disney went to market costumes for Princess Merida in "Brave", they princessed up the costume. The list is endless.

    BTW, I'm not sure we should be condemning Miley, but that's fodder for another thread.

    Also, I think times not only have been changing they continue to change. I agree with @Steerpike, it's about awareness. This is about people seeing what is in front of them they might not have otherwise seen.
     
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    It's not about movies vs books, it's about storytelling. Movies are just an easy thing to look at here.

    This is amazing to me, that people don't think the issue is significant or that someone who does must feel 'oppressed'.

    I don't feel oppressed. The opposite actually, I feel very lucky and very liberated. The world is what it is, men and women contributed to make it what it is. Consider this is a small piece of my contribution, reflecting what is for others to get a view they might not have, and hopefully more people will consider these matters when they write their characters.
     
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    All the female roles you describe sound great.

    So I ask myself, how can these major (sounding) roles lack the depth to either talk to named females or not talk about anything with another female except about a man?

    No one should be ashamed for anything they've written. We are all writing the stories we want to write, we have no obligation to 'want' to write something else. I happen to want to, it's integral to the story I want to tell. But I don't owe anyone that story and no one else owes women more developed female characters in their stories.

    I do think when the issue comes to people's attention how many movies and books have such absent or shallow females that it might stimulate an interest in writing different characters.
     
  22. A.M.P.
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    Females might have equal to rights as men in most places, these days, but there is still lots of discrimination that's more subtle and most of it bred out of habit or someone's subconscious.
    I'm saying this when I think of women being hired vs men being hired. Or how males often get paid more than females.
    There's still lots of odd stigmas that are stuck to them and some misogyny floating about, but the world is much better.

    In Fictionland, I find there is very few strong female characters. If they are strong, they are usually second to the MC.
    However, I did also notice more and more stories involving them in very positive ways and being as legitimate characters as any male would.
    So, it's nice that females are getting put out there more often when I read books or watch movies.

    Now, I'm just waiting for gay MCs appearing outside of the erotica section or stop being killed off even though they were merely playing second fiddle to the protagonist.
     
  23. GingerCoffee
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    What does it say? How else do you explain it if it's not saying women don't count? Women rarely count in the historical record, they are absent from so many books and movies that have no reason to leave them out, how do you explain that?

    Women make up a little more than half the population. How are they missing from so many stories? Why would they be such shallow characters when they do show up that they don't so much as have a conversation with each other except conversations about men?

    I'm willing to consider your point of view, but it lacks any rationale that I can consider to weigh it's validity. If it were random, it should reflect the gender distribution. If it doesn't then it's not random. If it's not random, what do you think explains it?
     
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    Maybe women are portray less in fiction because a lot of fiction is romance based since a very long time ago?
    Generally, it's the man trying to win her heart because the love of a woman was deemed more valuable than that of a man.
    So, the women mostly spoke about men as it's a romance novel with the basis of the man winning her over.
     
  25. GingerCoffee
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    You and Wrey made me laugh. :D

    This is actually one of my pet peeves, though, not that there are some of these stories, one of the best is Ripley in Alien. But it's become the norm for macho-muscle bound stories to have their token females who have muscles that matter not with the always much larger breasts popping out of tank tops. I'm guessing this is a common guy fantasy, dare I say, taming the shrew, or is it more like, who cares look at those knockers?

    [Insert smiley ducking a tomato.]
     
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