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Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Where are the women?

Is it so hard to have interesting, complicated female characters? Women who think for themselves? Is it so implausible that we might discuss something other than men in our free time? Ugh.

I've recently discovered something called The Bechdel Test. To pass, a movie has to fulfill these three requirements:
1) It must have at least two women in it,
2) Who talk to each other,
3) About something other than men.

Humble aspirations, you'd think. Half the world are women, surely most movies pass this test without even thinking?

Well, this video contains a list of movies that fail, I think you'll be surprised.

Yeah. They're not all pure testosterone movies. Ghostbusters? Wall-E? Toy Story, the Princess Bride, the Wedding Singer for goodness' sake! Are we that uninteresting?

Interestingly, one of the movies that passes this test is Legally Blonde. If you haven't seen it, it's about a beauty- and shopping-obsessed sorority girl who adores the colour pink. So far so blah, right? Especially given my feelings about pink. But this movie is possibly one of the most feminist mainstream movies I've ever seen. If you haven't seen it yet, UK types can watch it on iPlayer until Sunday. If you can overlook the fact that the main character has every advantage in the world (being insanely popular, pretty, and rich), it's actually pretty empowering (yes I just used that word) to see her surpass everyone's expectations and defy stereotypes. The sequel is more fluffy, but still passes the Bechdel test with flying colours.

Anyway, enough ranting from me. Todays interesting thing, although I give no guarantee that you will find it so, is the latest Nexus - an online magazine for creative writing. I've got one story and one poem in there, and I'm very pleased with it!


  1. It's quite saddening that I wasn't surprised by this at all.
    I'm sure there'll be plenty of others if I were to go through various films I've watched over the years. The film world still doesn't know how to portray - or perhaps just doesn't want to show women as much more than damsel in distress/ice queen/bitch/temptress/protagonist's naked prize/etc.
    I'm glad I've seen this, I'll try and remember it the next time I go to the cinema. This is also a bit hilarious seeing as the last few films I've seen have been trash-tastic - Avatar, Clash Of the Titans and Prince Of Persia. All of which I enjoyed immensely despite being mostly garbage. I can't think of it in regards to Avatar, but I'm fairly certain it fails and the other two must fail spectacularly. Gemma Arterton is wonderful to look at, but interesting? complex? character? yikes. It's all a bit depressing, especially when they keep making films based on Frank Miller films. ick.

    Bit critical of some of the films in that list though. It's understandable that films like Milk and Shawshank Redemption would fail the test, and as I'm in love and hoping to marry the film Fight Club I feel the need to rush to its defence and prattle on about how it's a massively perceptive insight into the modern man. Probably just because we all want to be Brad Pitt or something.

    It must be frustrating for women who get riled by this, as Hollywood seems to have given the impression they're trying to change this, when really they haven't. Now women are 'feisty' and fight back more than ever!!! That's their way of washing over arguments like the above. When all it's doing is simply reducing 'damsel in distress' characters without addressing any equality other than getting a bit more work for female stunt doubles.

    Juno's just popped into my head. She fulfils all the criteria in your first paragraph, but I've got a feeling that might fail the test, too...

    Ramble? yes. this is what happens when I comment at bone 2am!

  2. Excellent typo, I think you'll agree.

  3. I think Avatar passes, Phill, due to the scientist talking to the Na'vi spiritual leader about the coming invasion etc. It may not be the most feminist movie, but the test doesn't really measure that.

    I really liked Prince of Persia; it's not original, but it's well done, and the game was awesome. There's only one named female character, I think, so it falls at the first hurdle there.

    Fight Club is absolutely amazing, I'll give you that, and introducing extraneous females would not be an improvement.

    Haven't seen Juno in a little while, not sure about that one...

    What was that typo meant to say? I like it as it is, I think!

    Night, Phill, hope to hear from you again :)

  4. To be brutally honest I was really surprised by this. The most meaningful conversations I've ever had, ever, have all been with fact it has reached the point that I rarely even bother to try having a meaningful dialogue with other blokes.

  5. Heh, the typo was meant to say gone 2am, I like it as it is, too - a fine example of why I shouldn't have been up so far past bed time.

    And I'm loving the Nexus, just the kind of thing I need at the moment!

    Actually, tell me about your first piece in there, it's great.

  6. Aww, you like that?? Thanks! I'd been looking at and getting into the idea of gender politics as expressed through toys. I read a lot of blog posts on the subjects, and some of the comments were just baffling... so, I decided to give a fictional blogger the power to flip the world on its head and make blue the controversial colour.
    'Sfunny, I was ordering a new phone the other day, and they offered it to me in two colours - silver, or pink. One for people, and one for girls. Isn't that weird? :S (I opted for silver, FTR.)

  7. Phil, (other Phil, Phil with one L), I know so many people who say "I get on with (the other gender) so much better." I wonder why that is? I told myself for years that I didn't get on with girls, but I suspect it was stemming from a very specific set of insecurities. Who knows.

  8. I wouldn't say that I get on with them better, only that the relationships, and consequently the conversation, tend to be deeper without needing to try that hard. I think that's the nature of women at work rather than any personal issues (of which I have plenty...I'm a therapist :)


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