The Bechdel Test

anonymous asked:

Dear Ashely, I really love your comics (I've been reading for almost two years now), and I think you handle diversity really well as an author. What are your thoughts on the Bechdel and DuVernay tests?

I’m not a huge fan of such things - at least not of the Bechdel test. It sets the standard too low.

At the end of the day, I don’t want to wag my finger in dudes’ faces and tell them to put real people in their work. If that’s not their artistic prerogative, you can’t twist their arm and expect them to change for you. I am very interested in sincere visions, and not visions that have been compromised by censors, even if it’s censorship or a change made in good faith, for reasons of diversity and inclusiveness. If the artist didn’t have it in him to do that to start with, I don’t want them made to add it. That’s pandering. That’s insincere. I’d rather know just who they are, what’s in their heart, what their intent is, so I know right off not to pay any attention to them.

We need more women and people of colour making movies, shows, and comics. That’s what I’m interested in. That’s fixing issues at their source.

indiewire.com
Not Every Film Has to Pass the Bechdel Test (And Some Shouldn’t Even Try)
“Dunkirk” and “Their Finest” present two perspectives on World War II, only one of which passes the Bechdel Test. That shouldn’t matter.
By Kate Erbland

Interesting read and makes some good points. Misses out on others though.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the Bechdel test always more of a thing to show how little women are featured in general and that only few from all movies pass this small requirements? And more of to show that only few percents even have female speaking roles, not about a single movie to be judged on its own (at least not unless it claims to feature woman heavily and then still failing). It doesn’t say anything about quality of female roles or anything at all. It is indeed just a small very imperfect quick test and not a deep analysis.

In an ideal movie-making world not every movie has to pass the Bechdel (or reverse Bechdel) test, but those movies are more of an exception than the rule. Same with the other tests. In an ideal movie world not every movie will pass all tests, not every movie will have African-American leads or stories where a female character has its own story arch. It’s about diversity. It’s about telling different stories from different point of views and not saying that the white-male view and experience is the dominating one that is a template for everyone out there. Not every single work has to be diverse, but the movie world in itself has to represent diversity and offer opportunities.

Things I think about at 2:35am apparently -

The original High School Musical is the most consistent in terms of plot, characters, and story structure.

High School Musical 2 is the most fun to watch with the best overall soundtrack (even if its existence adds nothing to the overall trilogy).

High School Musical 3 is the most polished with the best production design and the best choreography of the trilogy thanks to a better budget.

All 3 films have their strengths and weaknesses, and honestly??? What an iconic trilogy???? Also, all 3 films pass the Bechdel test and have a diverse cast. Lord of the Rings who?????

Like, Moana just did so well from a feminist perspective. Passes the Bechdel test. Literally doesn’t even mention the fact that they don’t have a romantic interest. No one questions the legitimacy of a girl training to become the next chief. All the women in her life empower her to follow her destiny. She has a more realistic physical figure. She literally battles a demon and learns advanced navigational skills which she then teaches to her entire tribe. She grabs a demi-god by the ear and tells him to fix his shit. Like, dayum. Well done Disney. 

Best parts of Moana:
-no love interest
-Moana had proportions like an actual human and wasn’t sexualized
-Disney princess set to inherit is actually depicted being trained in running her society
-COCONUT PIRATES
-no dead parents!
-bechdel test pass
-respectful depiction of source material and culture
-the music oh my god!!!!!
-Maui’s 4th wall breaks
-no actual villain
-closest thing to a villain was David Bowie crab
-Lin-Manuel Miranda
-the chicken
-only white in the cast voiced the chicken
-my giant green wife

Power Rangers is awesome and here’s why

- Diverse cast
- Passes the Bechdel Test at least twice
- Well-written Autistic character
  - When characters get superpowers and get healed of physical problems, screenwriters don’t “cure” Autistic character of his Austism
- Perfect levels of camp / nostalgia factor
- Writers nail the whole “adults aren’t on the same wavelength as us” thing in a realistic and heart-wrenching way
- GO GO POWER RANGERS!
- Krispy Kreme

Go see it.

The Bechdel test is actually the craziest shit because at first you’re all like “two female characters discussing something other than men, alright, easy peasy, what a low fucking bar” and then you start to pay attention and you realize that like 80% of the films you watch don’t pass this simple test and it’s just

what the everloving fuck is wrong with our society

i’m sure this has all been said before but it’s so fucking tiring to read article after article and post after post by straight (or even just non-lesbian) feminists waxing poetic about the bechdel test. like yeah, obviously it’s indicative of a massive issue w the representation of women in media and a useful tool to gauge the failings of hollywood and big time show writers or whatever

but that wasn’t what it was fucking intended for. it was never about all women, it was about the lesbian experience. it was about the overwhelming loneliness of the lesbian identity and how far removed you feel from media. i feel this every day, and i have for the last decade that i’ve been out

it’s infuriating to watch straight women talk about the bechdel test at all (“my show is different – even though they’re talking about men, the story is about their friendship. it’s like turning the bechdel test on its head”) and even MORESO when they’re fucking criticizing it (“the bechdel test isn’t the end all be all… films can still be feminist and not pass it. films that don’t pass can be even more feminist than films that do!”)

it’s like…. the name of the fucking strip has the word “dyke” in it. have you all ever considered once that the original comic wasn’t ever meant for your consumption at all? have you ever thought about the fact that alison bechdel was writing as a lesbian about her lesbian experiences and that maybe, just maybe, this isn’t some generic feminist concept but instead a description of a lesbian-specific experience?

and the thing is that the liberal feminist application of the bechdel test has been criticized for not being intersectional – which it isn’t! movies about gay men and men of color are still incredibly groundbreaking and significant to our culture even though they “fail” the bechdel test

and that is LITERALLY BECAUSE the bechdel test wasn’t ever fucking MEANT to be the Generic Feminism Test Of Diversity And Equality – it was commentary specific to the lesbian experience when engaging with media

straight feminists historically hated and excluded lesbian feminists (and many do to this day lmao) but still, as always, want to co-opt and misappropriate our writing, concepts, and experiences to suit their needs

Laura Moon is not your “iconic badass female character” at all, and I’d appreciate it if white women stopped pretending otherwise. 

I do think it’s important and necessary to portray female characters who are complex, flawed, selfish, dangerous, and even a bit villainous. I also think it’s crucial to represent female characters with mental illnesses properly. So yes, in that sense, Laura is written quite well. Her depression is not aestheticized or glorified in the slightest, nor is it fetishized for a male viewing audience. She’s not a typical wife to a male protagonist because she is dangerous, she is apathetic, she is both a liar and casually blunt, she is self-aware, and she is cynical. These are not typical traits for the love interests of male characters. I get that. 

But Laura is also meant to be a character you dislike, or, at the very least, one that you should have quite a difficult time empathizing with. Not only did she cheat on her husband - she cheated on him with his best friend, a man who also happened to be her best friend’s husband. Her selfish desires caused Shadow to get imprisoned, and she committed adultery while he was in prison because she lied to both Shadow and to herself when she said she could wait for him. She chose temporary relief over honesty. She treated Shadow apathetically, selfishly, and patronizingly, and in fact even after her death she continues to condescend to Shadow and expects him to be at her beck and call. She was callous and flippant with a god (Mr. Jacquel, AKA Anubis) and expected him to listen to her whims. Mr. Jacquel is a serious but compassionate person - if even someone like him is irritated by her actions, then you know that Laura is not a nice or good person at all. 

You don’t need to justify her behavior. You need to accept that she’s a selfish and bad person. If you truly want complicated and different female characters, you cannot spend time trying to prettify or justify their awful behavior. 

Audrey, who justifiably hates Laura, still cares for her because Laura, albeit her actions, was her best friend. It’s difficult to fully hate someone when you found out about their death and their adultery at the same time. But she has no qualms about letting Laura know what she truly thinks about her. And she’s right - Laura did not love Shadow. Laura did not treat him properly. Laura was selfish. Laura is still selfish. Laura thinks of nothing but herself, and it doesn’t matter that she’s depressed; depression does not excuse treating your loved ones like toys to play with or manipulate. 

The only reason any of you are justifying Laura’s behavior is because Shadow is black. The protagonist of the show is a black man, and that’s exactly why you think the show is only good now that Laura is on it. I’ve seen people say “well the show passes the Bechdel test because of Laura now”. Setting aside the sad reality that the Bechdel Test was created by a lesbian to measure lesbian representation (so the show doesn’t actually pass the test since there are currently no lesbian characters on it), there are actually interesting and unique female characters already. These same fans who are touting Laura Moon as the height of “revolutionary” female representation ignore Bilquis. 

If Shadow was a white man, he’d definitely get more sympathy from white fans. Conversely, if Laura was a black woman, she’d get villainized by the same people who are currently defending her. Or alternatively, if Shadow had cheated on Laura, he would be deemed persona non grata by these “Laura defense squad” type fans. Hell, if Shadow was a white man, white fans would not be saying that the show was “boring” until Laura came along - they’d hype it up from the get go. 

This show is incredibly important because the main character is a black man who isn’t reduced to stereotypes at all, and it’s important because it has many characters of color who are written well and aren’t typecast into boring roles. Laura Moon is not what makes this show great. Sure, she’s one example of the great writing behind the show precisely because she’s such a challenging character to figure out and analyze. But even her actress, Emily Browning, acknowledges that she is supposed to be a character you have a hard time liking or empathizing with. Do not excuse her actions or lessen the degree of hurt she caused. 

Suppose, for instance, that men were only represented in literature as the lovers of women, and were never the friends of men, soldiers, thinkers, dreamers; how few parts in the plays of Shakespeare could be allotted to them; how literature would suffer! We might perhaps have most of Othello; and a good deal of Antony; but no Caesar, no Brutus, no Hamlet, no Lear, no Jaques –literature would be incredibly impoverished, as indeed literature is impoverished beyond our counting by the doors that have been shut upon women.
—  Virginia Woolf (A Room of One’s Own)