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> What's a problem is that it becomes a pattern when so many movies fail the test,
According to BechdelTest.com, almost 60% of movies they checked pass. When the article says "so many movies fail", how many movies was it talking about? Most? Any? Somewhere in between?
The number of movies that pass the test varies based on how much leeway it is given. Some people will hear one word from one woman to another and count that as passing. Other people will want a minute's worth of conversation. The criteria does say, "who talk to each other about something," which sounds like there should be some topic of conversation, not just a few words.
Per Alison Bechdel, the test should be called the Bechdel-Wallace test.
Should it be so renamed here?
I think so too, I was actually coming here to make this exact same recommendation.
I agree with this discussion item, but I think discussion pages are too ignored for the decision to be made here.
I'm not sure what would be a good place for it?
Trope Repair Shop would be, but it's highly unlikely that it will gain consensus - the common name is "Bechdel" only.
Just for the record, I think the current ("Bechamel test") image is rather bad. It even gets the idea's content wrong (starts with "If you have a film with two ladies in it," though that's not a requirement), besides being centered around a pun that's pretty lame at least in the context. And the part in the caption is misrepresenting the idea too, since it's not about judging the individual work. How about just the original comic? Well, no, that doesn't look very good. Anyhow, I don't have time to start a proper discussion over this now.
Also agree on this, why can't we just use the image that originated the concept in popular culture?
Like I said, the original comic just doesn't look good for this purpose. Still, something else would be better.
So if a movie can fail the test while still possessing overtly feminist themes or pass the test without portraying women in a very good light, then what's the point of the test?
People have different opinions on what a film has to have to count as feminist. This test is one particular idea.
Some people believe women have the right to be portrayed in films without always being shown in relation to men.
Quoting from the trope page:
"This is because the Bechdel Test is not meant to give a scorecard of a work's overall level of feminism... What's a problem is that it becomes a pattern when so many movies fail the test, while very few show male characters whose lives seem to revolve around women, that says uncomfortable things about the way Hollywood handles gender."
I believe Kazemakase Tsukikage Ran would pass the Bechdel Test. The two protagonists, Ran the Ronin and Meow the Martial artist do have conversations about subjects other than men.
Would it not be a good idea to have on this page a list of (at least notable) films which pass the test?
There Is No Such Thing as Notability. This page also used to have examples that passed the test but were removed.
Just because that's true doesn't mean examples must be notable. They just have to exist.
Mind you, perhaps the list might potentially go on forever...
I can see how having a list on the page might make the entry rather long. Or perhaps not, seeing as that's the whole point of the Test and all. But either way, maybe if there was a separate page of works that pass the test? I know I'd be interested in seeing such a list.
"or murderers they're trying to catch" what is the Gender of the suspect is unknown? Or they assumed it was a Male during the conversation but turns out they where wrong, or visca versa.
I removed this entry:
The header says that the examples should be works that reference the test (named or not). It should list arbitrarily chosen works that may or may not pass.
That said, I think including that tidbit somewhere in the description wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, because I do think it's pretty interesting.
But yes, most definitely shouldn't be in the examples section.
It'd be interesting to create an inverted Bechdel for girl-, and woman-oriented media. Most movies/series/books that boast about passing the Bechdel test with flying colors wouldn't pass a male version of it.
Take Desperate Housewives or Sex And The City. Or in kids' media Winx Club or Totally Spies. In the latter, male characters except Jerry are either irredeemably evil or handsome beefcake to be swooned over, occasionally both.
Even series with a strong cross-gender appeal and Periphery Demographic like Powerpuff Girls or My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic would struggle; heck, they'd hardly pass requirement #1.
In the webcomic series No Pink Ponies, not one of the male characters is ever named, even though its only lampshaded with the male lead.
I guess it's like with abuse: as long as males are the targets, nobody cares much.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is aimed at girls. Girls want to see female characters. There are plenty of things that target neither a male nor female audience but don't pass the Bechdel Text, like Lord of the Rings. I don't mind action movies not passing the Bechdel Text. The ponies are fine.
Lord of the Rings, with its war and last stand of Humanity setting, is pretty much male-oriented. A better example for mixed gender appeal would be Harry Potter or The Princess Bride, though I have to say the former would probably only pass the test by a hairsplit, if at all.
I just wanted to point out the hypocrisy that media designed "for girls/women" suffers the same problems with inverted gender roles.
You're right of course, I wouldn't want stallions featured in MLP just so the producers can say "There, happy now?", or a Very Special Episode about gender equality; it just struck me as odd that the two major recurring male characters hardly as much as shared a scene, much less talk to one another.
It's good to keep in mind that the Bechdel test really has nothing to do with the quality of a given work. A work isn't necessarily bad if it fails or good if it passes. It's really just designed to show that, in general, media does not do a good job of portraying women as independent characters. It's less about the individual works passing and more about the ratio of works that pass to ones that don't. That's why people don't really care about the male version. There's certainly media, mostly aimed at women or girls, that passes the Bechdel test but wouldn't pass the reverse. But it's a minority compared to the media that doesn't pass, including a lot of stuff that's supposed to appeal to both men and women.
So uh...if this trope isn't meant to be a score card, why is it that 90% of the entries outside of this page mostly just consist of "Passes it."
True, it probably shouldn't even be named a "test" in that context.
Would you like to suggest a better way to say it?
Chemicals don't "fail" a pH test, and bacteria don't "pass" a Gram stain test. Bechdel-positive or Bechdel-negative perhaps?
Thing is, the test is undergoing Trope Decay in the real world. As it gets well known more and more people use it as a score card, including some of the examples on the page, without considering that 90% of nunsploitation films pass with flying colours.
Eagal: Because it's a simple way to look at the issue of sexism without needing to think about context and setting and nuance and all that pesky stuff.
Michael: I'm not sure if it can be called trope decay if the predominant usage of the Test ignores all nuance. I'm not sure how a scene could've been inserted into Saving Private Ryan, for example, that passes the test. Inception doesn't pass either, and that's because Dream Mal is clearly obsessed with Cobb. Und so weiter.
Jonn, by Trope Decay I refer to people using the test as a score card for the sexism levels in individual works, which it was never really intended for. BloodRayne passes the test easily but you would have a hard time arguing it's less sexist than Saving Private Ryan.
What the test is good for is measuring one aspect of the health of a section of the entertainment industry. For instance if it turns out that films made by company A are more likely to pass than films made by company B, or if it turns out that steampunk works pass more commonly than urban fantasy works, then that is interesting and potentially useful information. Likewise, I would predict that films of 2015 will be more likely to pass than films of 2009.
To answer your question, by the way, you would lever in a pass scene for Saving Private Ryan by giving modern-day Ryan a female chauffeur who gets a scene to herself. It would be obvious, it would detract from the film and it would be likely to increase the levels of sexism rather than reduce it.
Editing to add: This is a great example of the test being used to study trends. Of the top 50 films in 2013, 24 (48%) passed the test and took in 67% of the box office takings of all 50.
This conversation happened along time ago, but I'll add that "Bechdel positive" is at least as misleading as "passes the test", even if it might technically be more right.
I have a quibble with this sentence:
"What's a problem is that it becomes a pattern - when so many movies fail the test, while very few fail to show male characters whose lives don't revolve around women, that says uncomfortable things about the way Hollywood handles gender."
You know whose life revolves around women? Noted feminist icon Barney Stinson.
If anything, this quibble seems to show that you have difficulty imagining men's lives revolving around women in any other way than womanising... even though there's nothing impossible about other ways, and you'd get plenty of them if you just gender-inverted everything we have now in fiction.
The comment is over 3 years old, dude.
Is the purpose of this to try to claim that most works are supposedly sexist and supportive of "the patriarchy"?
Does it have to be a female character talking with another female character about another female character to pass? That's not that hard.
Three year bump to say no, it's not that hard. That's the point. It's a very low bar, and yet a surprising number of works fail it despite having no logical reason to.
Even with all of this discussion, I still don't understand the reason for the Bechdel Test existing. We've all acknowledged that it's not to do with misogyny — movies that pass the test could still be misogynistic and movies that don't might not be — and that there can be legitimate reasons why some works of fiction don't pass the test (silent films, for example). However, the original comic strip involves a woman who outright REFUSES to watch a movie that doesn't pass the test. Is that seen as extreme by anybody else?
The bigger issue for me is that the test seems very sexist. Not against women but against men. I can understand not wanting to see a movie where the only conversation two women have involves finding boyfriends or their husbands work hours but the fact that it's ANY male shines a disturbing light on the whole thing for me. For example, two mothers discussing their daughters passes the test. Two mothers discussing their sons doesn't. Because their sons are male and that makes it a conversation some people apparently don't want to hear. Likewise, the fact that it must be a discussion between two women seems pretty immature too. I realise the original comic strip was from 1985 and relationships between the sexes have improved since then but a man and a woman can have a conversation about things other than relationships and is that somehow worse than two women just because one of the participants is male?
I have a feeling replies will mention me Completely Missing The Point ... which pretty much IS the point of this post but, since there isn't a Headscratchers section for the Bechdel Test, this is the best place for it.
First off, the original comic is played for laughs. I don't think anyone actually avoids all movies that fail the Bechdel Test. If nothing else, it's a fairly difficult thing to check ahead of time.
As to your actual point, it's important not to think of the Bechdel test as the Ultimate Arbiter of Feminism in Fiction. It's equally important, however, not to ignore it. Audience members ought to be aware of the way works of fiction can make the universe revolve around men even while including female characters.
Sure, a work can highlight a female character who converses primarily with men, but there are many more traps than the obvious "female character equals sex object" one you've mentioned. Such as "woman's goals and achievements are defined by men in her life", "woman becomes independent by evolving beyond her Woman Problems", "man is hastily rewritten as female to fill a quota", et cetera. These kinds of characters are sometimes worse than having no women at all.
The third standard seems to be a question of how often men are the ones doing things worth talking about. If, for example, the female members of a group only talk about what the male main hero and male Big Bad are doing, then it potentially shows that the men are the only ones impacting the plot. Not talking about topics other than men at risk of Satellite Character status if they end up talking about a particular man; from my perspective, the female examples are of more major characters than the male characters.
Another point to keep in mind is that one conversation between women about a subject other than males passes the test. The test thus doesn't judge women talking about men as bad, but if that's all they're talking about, the movie has not done a good job of giving women plot-relevant roles independent of men. Granted, only passing once is not proof of a work being feminist (Naruto Veangance Revelaitons, one of the most misogynist fanfics ever, passes because the Council women talk to each other in their makeout sessions about how they consider it wrong but do it anyway), especially if the conversation is about stereotypical female topics, but it is a step toward having female characters that are important in their own right.
If two characters are from a mono-gendered alien race, and are talking about another member of their race, does this count as passing or failing?
Example I'm thinking of is the Asari from Mass Effect, but thoughts?
That would definitely succeed since the Asari, while monogendered, look and sound female. Like you, though, I've considered aliens too. If it's two women in a sci-fi movie and they discuss a male alien, how would it work? Would it make a difference if the alien was beast-like, as opposed to humanoid? What if it isn't called "male"? Again, what if they're monogendered but all speak with male voices? It's a complicated issue.
I guess if the alien race is capable of asexual reproduction, and is talking to another member of their species, then that's a pass...
And what if we start going into species that have bizarre alien biologies, like three genders?
Heh, that would be a fun conversation to have with the creator of the test... "Hi, Ms. Bechdel? My online friends and I were wondering how your test would deal with aliens or species with only one gender."
Or what about plant-like creatures, which have both male and female parts? Or certain types of frogs, which can change their gender? Or people who had a sex-change operation? Does the test change from pass to fail if the person being discussed became a man in the interim period?
Lemme see if I understand this:
Let's take House. If 13 and Cameron have a discussion about their patient (Which I'm sure has happened at some point...), then it gets a tick in the Bechdel Test box is the px is female, but if the px is male it gets a cross. If they then have a conversationabout the male px's partner then it gets a tick in the box?
Would the Valley Girl outtake where Cameron & Cuddy are talking about Foreman's paper initially, then go and talk about shoes count as being a pass or fail?
Is it worth listing works that fail the "reverse" Bechdel test? There are a few, many of the anime movies of Hayao Miyazaki as well as possibly Gunnerkrigg Court.
http://www.dumbingofage.com/ has a story arc called # Book 1 #04 - The Bechdel Test. it passes
What if two women in a military setting discuss the placement of enemy soldiers, when most of those enemy soldiers are male?
General conversations pass.
What if two women have a conversation about something other than a man, but that conversation is a subpart of a larger conversation that has other people, some of which are men, in the area?
What's the verdict on silent movies? Would they pass if they had 2 female characters who pantomime about something other than men, or does it have to be verbal conversation?
Pantomime counts as communication, so yes. This also means that conversations had over instant messaging programs also pass.
How does it work with something like Misfile when one of the main characters' backstory is that a few minutes before the comic started she was a man?
Lots of women talk with ash about mundane things (especially cars), lots of women talk about things ash-related, but the main non-ash-related f/f conversations are Emily and her mother.
Does the The Watchmen really pass? I can't recall a conversation between Sally and Laurie that wasn't about either Doctor Manhattan or the Comedian in some way.
They... talk about the weather, or the good old days or some shit like that. And they also discuss a porno comic Laurie's Mom received in her fan mail. But it was sent by a male fan.... damn, I'm of two minds on this one.
Regarding the recent hottip I added, I actually got this from the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly. Hopefully once next week's issue comes out, the articles from this week's will all be available online instead of just the reviews, at which point I'll add a link.
...Yes, there was an entire column about the Bechdel Test. Entertainment Weekly has become so much more awesome since I've started thinking like a troper.
Seems to me that you could have a Bechdel Scale out of this. Simply award one point for every conversation that passes the Bechdel Test. Hence, works that fail the Bechdel Test would score 0, but some works might score a 1, while others score much higher...
The thing about the Bechdel Test is that it was originally geared for movies rather than television, so series tend to score way higher simply by the virtue of having larger casts and more screentime. A scale might give the impression that series are simply better than movies at writing female characters that act independently of men. I think, at least for series, a Bechdel Ratio would be a better idea (# of episodes that pass the test/# of episodes total).
Sounds good to me. =) Actually, you could say exactly the same thing about longer movies versus shorter movies. So a Bechdel ratio of # of Bechdel-passing conversations / # of total conversations would be a good measure of movies as well.
The main description innacurately lists Aliens as an example of a film that is considered highly feminist but does not pass the test. It does, though: During the locker room scene, Vasquez engages Ferro in conversation about Ripley. Their conversation is interrupted by Hudson making a wisecrack, but it is two women talking to each other about something other than a man.
Isn't there at least one scene where Ripley talks to Newt about things other than men? Newt may not be a *woman*, but she probably counts.
So something is bothering me about how the test is being applied to works that aren't intended to be one-shot deals. Specifically, any work that isn't a movie or a single episode. In serials, or in television shows, it seems more inevitable that a conversation taking place will not happen to have to deal with men—more inevitable than say, supportive of strong independent female characters— and to me, at least, this displays the limits of conversation topics far more than it showcases independent female characters. This isn't so much an issue in movies, (where the rule was originally intended to apply), so I can't help but wonder if, for Tv shows, Anime/Manga's, and even certain book series (although many books would certainly be within reasonable consideration for the base rules of the test, especially if they are, like movies, one-shot) we should tighten the rules in such a way that these series need to display evidence of passing the Bechdel Test in multiple, isolated scenarios, the needed number relative to the length of the series. (So a series that has a single conversation over 2 or 3 seasons would not be considered passable, but a series hitting 1 conversation over each of a several episode span would be more eligible) Because otherwise, I feel as though settling for a single example per show in these cases might be overly generous, and not within the spirit of the test as it was originally posited.
Laconic: TV shows and other serialized works should be held to a higher standard regarding this trope than Movies.
Where did the "alone" part of the TV Tropes rendering of the rule come from? I looked at the original, and that definitely wasn't in there.
I think it was implied.
I don't see how. Two named female characters could well be conversing in midst of a nameless crowd, or including an unnamed female character in their conversation, or hold their discussion in the presence of a nonspeaking male character.
What about two women conversing in front of a Heroic Mime male. Link never contributes anything to any conversation but the sereis is through his perspective. With the "alone" precipate no Zelda examples (except for the rare 3rd person cutscene) counts.
I agree about this. "Alone" makes it nearly impossible for any first-person male narrative work to pass the test. Deleting.
Why is it ever relevant to include information about the "reverse test"? Isn't the point of the Bechdel Test that the media that passes it is, if even for one conversation, not about men?
Gender equality? Female-dominated works can sideline male characters just as much as male-dominated works can sideline women, even if the former type of story tends to be less common than the latter.
At the very least, it would be interesting to see what percentage of Pink Bishōjo Ghetto shows pass.
Distributed media tends to be male-dominated, for obvious reasons. (Or, if they aren't so obvious, see Most Writers Are Male, or other related tropes) So including the reverse rule seems redundant at first glance. What is important to remember is the fact that Female-dominated works can sideline men in the exact same fashion, pretty much supporting the double standard that the Bechdel Test is trying to highlight and criticize against.
It's the contrast between the two that's helpful, really. Maybe half of movies can pass the Bechdel Test, and that's being generous. By contrast, something like ninety-nine percent of movies pass the reverse Bechdel Test.
Below are examples moved from the main page for not having an explanation or not explaining why it passes:
Works listed with just the title
Works with a description that doesn't include evidence of passing
I've restored Alice In wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, with anotes on when or with who the conversations occur. (Respectively, the Duchess; and The Red Queen, the White Queen and them both of them). The conversations are nonsense in all four cases, of course, but then, that's true of virtually all conversations regardless of the genders involved.
I restored Juno with an explanation.
Wait, you just yanked a list that big because the explanations didn't explicitly point out when the Bechdel Test got passed? That seems overly harsh and counter-productive. Even if we're hoping to have a list of Bechdel conversations someday, why rip out examples because they don't quite state that now?
Just scanning the list, I see stuff like "the cast includes only two guys and the first conversation is about food" and "passes the test in almost every episode"... how the heck do these not qualify for being on the page??
I can agree with taking out the unexplained X Just X titles, but I'd advocate restoring most or all of the ones that have an attempted explanation. Let someone come along later and update them; don't just move them all to the talk page here.
Actually, it might be worthwhile to move them here. Passing a test means being precise and accurate. Failing to provide descriptions or being vague can justify almost any work that appears. And let's face it: if you like a show enough, you'll come up with even the briefest conversation to justify the work finding a place here.
All right, I'll accept that argument basically... if a little skeptically. Still, I wonder how many people are going to completely overlook this talk page (like, giant post halfway down the talk page) while going "Hey, this show that obviously belongs here isn't here" and just adding the name again.
Also, don't you think shows with primarily female casts ought to be given the benefit of the doubt here? I'm not saying you couldn't make a show in which 7 women chat about nothing but men, but....
Lale: This is ridiculous! Some of these series pass because girls/women repeatedly have multiple conversations about things unrelated to men! Harry Potter, The Powerpuff Girls, Animorphs, The Assassins Of Tamurin... it's just not possible to list each one, nor should it be necessary. By requiring an explanation for every example, you're asking each entry to basically say: "This work includes at least women who have at least one conversation about something other than a man because it includes at least two women who have at least one conversation about something other than a man." We're supposed to list every one?! If you can list every conversation, that work actually scores lower than works for which you can't! If somebody knows an example doesn't pass, remove it. Why make a nice, simple list cluttered with longwinded explanations for every one? It's like making an entire page of justifying edits!
Who said anything about listing every conversation? I thought the idea was to describe one, to prevent misuse of the trope. Saying, "In Harry Potter, Hermione talks to Professor Mc Gonagall about learning such and such a spell, among many other interactions that pass the test" is sufficient, reinforces the idea that the topic of the conversation is important to the trope, and is not terribly long.
I think that because this trope page is seen as a positive one for works to be on, people might have a tendency to fudge their definitions of "conversation" and "about men" in order to get their favourite work here. Other tropers could remove failing examples, but even when you are familiar with the work, it can be difficult to recall, off the top of your head whether there was no conversation that passes, or whether you just can't remember it because it wasn't central to the plot. Requiring a brief description of an example keeps people honest and makes cleaning up bad examples much easier.
Does Halo really pass that well? In Halo 2 she's just asking Foehammer to deliver supplies or pick them up. Does that count as a conversation? In Halo 3, Cortana and Keyes never interact at all. The other Halo stuff might qualify, but the main premise of the entry seems out of place.
EDIT: Halo Wars doesn't apply either. Serina and Anders never talk together when they're not both reporting to the (male) captain.
EDIT 2: Here's an incomplete Halo Bechdel test:
Crap, I just added the Lord of the Rings example while not realizing item number two (have a conversation that's not about men) needs to be between the two women. Is that true? Because Galadriel and Éowyn don't speak with each other in the story.
Yes, it's true.
Well, you could count Legolas...
I have come to the conclusion that the proper way to deal with lack of *insert demographic group here* in *insert medium here* is not to say that something is wrong with works that don't fit a certain minimum representation, but to realize that a person is a person regardless of their demographic grouping and to stop judging works by that standard at all.
To use movies as an example, the reason movie studios prefer to make movies about straight white men is because they believe that people will only watch a movie where the main character falls into the same demographic groups they do, and that straight white men see movies more. By saying that you are more likely to see movies that feature more women/minorities/whatever group you're advocating for, you are proving them right; you are proving that people would rather see movies featuring characters like themselves demographically.
The true solution to under-representation would be for everyone to stop caring about the demographic look of the characters in the movies they see, and for the movie studios to realize people don't care.
And why should we care? Are most people really so superficial that they would only care about and sympathize with someone who looks like them? Would they refuse to be friends with a real person because the person is of the opposite gender or a different race? If not, why do they care about it for fictional characters they read or watch shows about? It just doesn't make any sense.
I'm a Caucasian female, homeschooled up until college, who has never had much in common with girls my own age. I can play with and teach kids younger than me; I can learn from those older than me. I can enjoy the company of men (all the friends I hang out with are men slightly younger than me, whom I met in college). But girls were always "Barbie" and "boys" and girly stuff and I never got it.
In view of that background, consider my viewing habits: In movies or literature, I prefer the male protagonist. I prefer the male supporting cast. Not that I can't enjoy a strong female character (my favorite adult trilogy: The Deed Of Paksennarion), but I can't usually connect with girls even when they're written well.
I watch The Slayers, and my favorite characters are Xelloss, Zelgadis, Gourry, and Zangulus. I watch Revolutionary Girl Utena, and enjoy Touga and Miki. Buffy The Vampire Slayer gives me Spike (never did like Angel much... and Xander often annoys me). I gravitate toward the male side characters almost every time, and my favorite episodes are the ones that focus on their character growth.
So... yeah, go ahead and write strong female leads - but don't think that girls need them. We can enjoy male leads just as much! I don't feel at all deprived for having my favorite characters be male; I'm not going around moaning that I just can't find a good female character to connect with. Holy cow, do you think girls can't enjoy King Arthur or Robin Hood because the Knights and the Merry Men were all guys?
As far as race... I would love to see some strong characters played by actual black actors... or charcoal grey, the closest the human race can get. But Not Too Black annoys me, because I really find the black black guys sexy, and yet you never see them! And if a female character is worth watching, I'd just as soon enjoy an olive-skinned beauty or an Asian or something. I love variety there, and on a personal note, when designing characters for my comics, I'll plan out certain characters to be particularly good-looking, and my primary means of designating that is to give them darker skin (olive, maybe a little lighter) than the rest of the cast.
P.S. Sakura Taisen is a good example of a well-developed female cast in which there's plenty of characterizational variety. Tenchi Muyo is similar. This kind of cast works well, I think.
I'm a white, heterosexual male. I wouldn't consider myself a racist, homophobic or sexist (though really, who would). Still, I have to admit that I prefer seeing movies about white, heterosexual males. I enjoy nonconformity in fiction, but mostly in the form of unconventional stories and unsympathetic protagonists. Theoretically, I'm all for diversity too, but for some reason, I find it easier to identify with WHM characters. I'm not saying it's a good thing. I'm just saying that for me, and presumably quite a lot of others, it works that way.
To the two most recent posters: you say you can relate better/only to white heterosexual male characters, but my argument here is this: when I first found out that Azumanga Daioh was a shonen anime (meaning a genre that is mostly marketed to a young male audience), I was actually quite surprised. Considering the show's Pink Bishojo Ghetto and the fact that it's a Slice of Life series, about a bunch of girls in a high school, I wondered how young boys would find it appealing as opposed to, say, young girls. For (what I think is) a more blatant point, Soul Eater's lead protagonist is a cute little girl in pigtails!
And to add...
I'm honestly a little disappointed in Kilyle and Artistic Platypus for saying they relate better to male characters. Kilyle mentioned that 'girls are all "Barbie" and "boys" and girly stuff and I never got it'. Do you think if a female character had less stereotypical interests (and not necessarily tomboy, but say, if she liked books or mechanics and could care less about romance/boys) you'd relate to her better? I just don't like the fact that the media treats girls as though they can only be a small number of things, and you're either a girly, pinky-poo mall-rat or a sporty tomboy, with little to nothing in between. I thought about it, and I think there's a chicken-and-egg conditioning of the public into thinking that one can only relate most to a character of their own gender/race/sexual orientation. True, I can somewhat see that last one, but what makes me different from a black guy (aside from skin tone)? Okay, so this character is different from me; we still have some things in common, right?
You know, if you 'just happen' to relate better to white, straight males- maybe it's worth thinking about WHY. Do you honestly believe it is a total coincidence that WSM, the dominant majority in many types of media, are the ones you see as 'best'? If you 'just happen' to not care as much about people that are not white, straight and male in a society whose media restricts and beats down characters that don't fit that mould- well. Maybe you want to think about why and consider trying to alter your perspective. Or do you *like* having an immensely limited demographic to care about in a way that perpetuates certain types of discrimination?
Now, to the OP- this SOUNDS nice. Except it's absurd. Basically, when it comes down to it, equality is treating people the same when they are in the same situation. Minorities and majorities are not in the same situation. If a straight white cisgender etc. man demands to see more of himself on the cinema screen, he is demanding that an over-represented group remain over-represented.
By contrast, if I, as a queer woman, demand that I have someone to relate to, I am taking an UNDER-represented group and balancing things out.
To say 'we need to stop caring, then it will fix itself!' is the ultimate propping up of privilege. Problems do not fix themselves. If we stop caring, we stop noticing that currently, WSM are over-represented. Which means we do not try and correct it, because who cares, right? Which means that there will still be little girls denied role models (something I can personally attest is difficult), queer kids will be denied knowledge of their existence (something I can personally attest is soul crushing for many)... and so on.
Like, for example- positive representation of queer people has been shown in studies to improve real-life attitudes. That is SO IMPORTANT. And to say that we need to care LESS about acheiving that is a terrible thing to say. By contrast, because straight people are already accepted, it really doesn't matter about how much they are represented; they stand to lose very little by giving some of it up, if they stand to lose anything at all.
Basically? Stop whining that people are trying to actively make things better instead of passively waiting for it to get better. Marginalized groups are not going to stand on the sidelines refusing to care about their own lack of representation and the negative effects it brings. I am not, as a queer woman, going to ignore the ways the media hurts me because "if you ignore it, the media execs will ignore it too!". Instead, I'm going to shout and scream at anyone who will listen (metaphorically, you understand) until the media execs stop ignoring it, start realising it hurts me, and fix things so it doesn't anymore. And I encourage everyone else to do the same.
And yes, to the asshole above, I personally NEED female characters. Sure, I can like guys. But god, the way lacking positive women affected me in childhood can't actually be understated. You are not everyone. Shut the hell up. Girls who grow up with no female representation often experience self-esteem issues relating to internalized misogyny- feeling that women are lesser and that's their lot in life. The media is important, and cutting women out of it for no reason is therefore never okay.
I've been thinking: is it really fair for a work to be able to pass this test if the situation in which the conversation takes place wouldn't be conducive of a conversation about men? For example, if two females are facing down a big bad monster and discuss their battle plan in the middle of the battle, it wouldn't really make sense for them to discuss men, would it? However, if the two women are just conversing and the scene is an expository one, then they very well could discuss men, so if they don't, then such a scene would certainly deserve to pass the Bechdel Test. I would think that there should be two Bechdel Tests in order to allow for a distinction between these two kinds of scenes: a weak one and strong one.
Weak Bechdel Test: The Bechdel Test as we know it.
Strong Bechdel Test: The Bechdel Test with the added criterion that the situation in which the conversation takes place doesn't preclude the two women from discussing men.
For example, in The Descent, when the women are talking about how they are going to escape the cave, it wouldn't be very helpful for them to discuss men, so that situation would pass the weak Bechdel Test, but not the strong one. However, if they are sitting around a campfire (I haven't seen the movie, so I don't know whether that happens) and just talking, and rather than talking about the trip itself, they talk about their pasts, or the constellations above them, but not men, then that hypothetical scene would allow the film to pass the strong Bechdel Test
Since the movie mentioned in the Trope Namer comic strip is Alien, which passes since "the women in it talk about the monster", I don't think context should matter too much. (And if two female characters discuss battle plans or something else that's related to the plot, that's probably a sign that the work they appear in treats them as actual characters, not just sexy props for the hero to rescue from the villain.)
I agree with Lavode. From the article:
"[T]he Bechdel Test is not meant to give a scorecard of a work's overall level of feminism. [...] A movie can easily pass the Bechdel Test and still be incredibly misogynistic. Conversely, it's also possible for a story to fail the test and still be strongly feminist in other ways, and there's nothing necessarily wrong with that. What's a problem is that it becomes a pattern - when so many movies fail the test, while very few fail to show male characters whose lives don't revolve around women, that says uncomfortable things about the way Hollywood handles gender."
I suspect it's probably fine, but what if the discussion is about a student or teacher who happens to be male, but it's not thinking about the character in any sexual way, or about a historical or current political figure who happens to be male, etc. Basically if it's about a guy or guys but the subject is 100% non-romantic/non-sexual?
Using Fargo's inclusion on this page as a precedent, I would guess that such a discussion would cause a work to pass the test.
No. The Bechdel Rule highlights the lack of female-centric narratives and dominance of male-centric ones in fiction. Whether it's romance or adventure or whatever, as long as they're talking about a male character, the focus is still on a man.
What if one of the women in the conversation is talking about, for example, how she's upset about being forced into an arranged marriage? The topic obviously involves a man, but it also clearly shows how the woman in question is not at all happy with sitting around and obeying the men around her.
Also, what if there are multiple female characters, but most of them just want to talk about guys and dating and getting married and stuff like that and the main girl isn't interested in that stuff, but then she ends up in a situation where she's with a bunch of guys and no other females. Even if it's clearly still focusing on her, the supporting characters make it fail the test.
The first scenario there was hypothetical, but the second one describes a real movie that no one would ever say was too male-focused. I can come up with so many other scenarios where a work could exist that would never be considered unfairly male-biased by someone who saw or read it, but would still fail this test.
I think tests like this are usually well-intentioned, but you can't really write a formula for accurate, or fair representation of something (whether it's a group, an idea, whatever). Fiction, like all other forms of art, is so complex that not even a test with as many questions as those Mary-Sue litmus tests that float around the internet can accurately divide works into "pass" or "fail" on an issue. It's not fair to act like this is the ultimate criteria for determining something.
Should Death Note come off the page? I accept that it technically passes, but it definitely does not "score high on the Bechdel Test," given that it is one brief exchange in 108 chapters? (In Volume 11, they put the entire surviving female cast in one room ... and they talked about boys. So close.)
The Bechdel Test doesn't care if it was only a brief conversation; the fact is, two female characters (Misa and Sayu, I believe) of Nominal Importance talked about something other than any of the male characters. It doesn't go on this page because there was never a mention of the test itself in the story. And yes, I'll agree that although it passes (which I honestly didn't think it would), it still wouldn't exactly count as being 'good with it's female cast' if you know what I'm saying.
Does it count if the women in question talk mostly about clothes and what other women think of them? :/
I'd imagine so. Even if it does reinforce female stereotypes it still meets the criteria.
And what if it's implicitly- implicitly- because of a man? I'm asking because I'm thinking of something I'm writing, and there are several scenes with two women discussing the career advancement of one of them. The truth is, the one advancing is fully sponsored by a man, and so his character always casts a shadow over the topic even if he's never even obliquely mentioned.
There are also a few scenes with a woman having a much deeper conversation with a male-bodied character who is referred to as he but identifies as a kind of blended masculine/feminine third gender, thinks of himself as his cisgendered male partner's "girl", and alternately presents as both male and female depending on his mood. Because he's not a man, I think it counts, but he doesn't fully identify as a woman either.
So does that mean it half-passes if it's a girl having a conversation with an androgen? Similarly, if three people (no, I'm not trying to be silly, just wondering) are having a conversation, one being a girl and the other two being something else (intersex, maybe?), would it pass by means of Loophole Abuse?
Stoogebie: I don't think it would count, unless the gender of the person is not important in the narrative context and they are socially identifiable as female. To be blunt, in most narrative contexts people with non-binary gender association are alien, not female. I think this happens rarely enough though that we should review them on a case-to-case basis rather than make generalizations beforehand.
Megan Phntm Grl: As I understand it, the rule is that their conversation has to be about something else than men, not caused by something else than a men. In this case I would say that the subtext is critical: is the career a manifestation of their fight for male approval, or is being sponsored by a man merely a tool for career advancement?
Remember though that the Bechdel test isn't a checklist of "this is what I should do to make the feminists happy". The three rules are just symptoms of the real problem: that women aren't treated as fully fledged human beings. Sure they may be equal to men, but works which fail simply don't have any deep female characters. If you just try to make your work pass the test, you defeat the point which is to make complex female characters. You shouldn't pass on technicalities.
Is it possible for a first-person novel with a male viewpoint to pass this by having references to such conversations among the female cast?
Yes, IMO. If a male viewpoint protagonist overhears or has related to him by a woman a conversation had with another woman, then a woman to woman conversation (likely relevant to the plot) will have been included. May not count after all if subject of conversation was a man or men.
Well, naturally it wouldn't count if it was about a man or men, that's one of the main points of the rule, but thanks for answering the other part of my question.
A good example is Harry Potter.
Do all of the participants need to be women? That is, does a conversation pass if a woman says something non male-related to another woman, even if there are men around them?
Random example from the Dresden Files books: In Summer Knight, Georgia fixes up Murphy's wounds and tell her to get the leg checked out by a real doctor, etc. In the middle of this conversation, Harry (the first-person protagonist) ask Murphy if she is OK. Murphy answers something like "it hurts, duh!" and returns to her discussion with the other woman. Is this conversation now discqualified for Bechdel purposes?
Yes. Two female characters. I've seen many different variations of this test, and in all of them that part is mandatory.
Sorry, I obviously failed to make myself clear. Apart from the two female characters having a conversation between each other, can there be a (third) male person who occasionally enters said conversation?
That, yes. Some variations maintain that the two women should be alone, but since that would throw out every single work told from a male perspective, it's not universally accepted.
By This Wiki's definition, a third (male) character can be present, and it passes as long as whatever's said between the women themselves is not about men.
Hope that cleared it up for you.
Is it really worth having non-movie examples for this?
Rule of Fun I guess...
Does context in which "men" are talked about matter? The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask would be thinking of her soldiers in a different manner then a Female Love Interest would be thinking of a Male Love Interest.
Jatay, that level of analysis of the test is missing the point. The test was a joke, and the very limits of the test (and trying to take it seriously) reveal the cultural patterns to which the author really wanted to bring the reader's attention to. So when you start straining to decide if a movie fits, you're kinda supposed to realize, "Wait, isn't it weird that so few movies actually do pass the test?"
In the original strip, there is no clarification because there is no need for one. It's a funny one-off gag. The character who follows the "rule" passes movie after movie which she can't see until she finally gets to Alien, which she can see because two women spent time talking about the alien.
But strictly speaking, no.
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