The Bechdel test

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The Bechdel test

Postby General_Norris » Wed Oct 27, 2010 11:02 am UTC

The Bechdel test has become a popular metric to measure the feminist quality of a movie or work of art or a way of showing how sexist media is. I think it's too simple to give us any meaningful data and it's being stretched more and more to cover ground it was never supposed to.

It also kind of annoys me that it's said that "It's not supposed to reflect if a work is feminist or not" when it's then used for such ends.

For those who don't know what the test it, a work of art passes if:

1) It includes at least two women
2) ...who have at least one conversation alone...
3) ...about something other than a man or men.
(Note that the third forbids any talk about a man including "we must save the president" if the president is male or "the gardener has an alibi" if the gardener is male)

This test is problematic for various reasons. First of all it assumes that the sex of the characters is always meaningful. Why should it be? It only is if you take part in a sexist perspective and you can't conclude that it must be sexism just because it's a common occurence. There are a plethora of factors that are always ignored and that are very relevant like who the writer is (Most writers are male), who they meet (Portraying reality means portraying gender roles) and what they copied (The reason most mad scientists are male is that Nikola Tesla, Einstein and the Dr. Frankenstein were male, for example)

Secondly it is too broad and conflicts with history and metafictional matters. History is self-explanatory but the latter isn't. For example, the test is applied to any movie without regard to cast size. If your movie only has one character it can't past the test. Movies with 3 characters have a 50% chance of not passing the test assuming random distribution. Movies seen through a character will not pass the test. Movies that revolve around a character will not pass the test and not talking about the man you like is problematic in a romantic comedy.

There are hundred of reasons why a movie doesn't pass the test, so using it as proof of sexism is too dangerous. What sexism does it show? Is it the producer's sexism? The director's? The writer? Society, past, present, future? And what does it tell us about the movie?

For example, this webpage runs into many of the problems detailed above with it's list of movies that don't pass the test:

http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/201 ... boy-story/

For example, it includes Back to the Future III in the video. Back to the Future III is set on the Wild West making it really hard for women to appear in couples there running into historical problems. It includes Wall-E, where the cast is very reduced. It includes Austin Powers, which parodies everything about Spy movies, including the women in them and so can't pass the test. It includes Fight Club, where women being banned from the eponymous club is an important part of the plot. It includes a James Bond film, where the main character (male) is almost always alone and so two women talking to each other would be really rare. It also includes a Tomb Raider film that fails for the same reasons James Bond fails but in reverse.

It also includes Braveheart and Gladiator and lists sequels and the LOTR films as separate entities, which I feel is not a good idea.

If you ask why I particulary chose that blog and video it's because I have seen it used recently in this forum and not just once. I'm not very happy about the example above because it comes from a self-styled radical feminist with quite a lot of issues outside of the test and could potentialy lock the opposition in this debate so be free to provide far better examples, because I think there are better lists out there.

So, what do you think?

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby mister k » Wed Oct 27, 2010 11:50 am UTC

Its there to make a point. Its entirely true that certain historical tales are more inclined to have only men, and it does not indicate that an individual film is sexist by the measure you appear to be applying. Instead, it is a measure intended to provide evidence of systematic sexism. I applied the test to the imdb top 100 recently, and barely any films passed, and, perhaps more importantly, they all passed the opposite (the test but for men). This is indicitive of a problem- there are less roles for women in film, and this is an issue, as it hardly seems likely that only 50% of the population have all the interesting stories.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Роберт » Wed Oct 27, 2010 2:22 pm UTC

I agree that whether a particular play/movie/book/etc passes that test is worthless on its own. But it could be eye opening to apply it to a group (and then apply it with the genders switched) and see if there are any large disparities.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Wed Oct 27, 2010 2:36 pm UTC

It's an acid test, and never pretends to be anything more. By 'acid test' (not assuming you don't know, but spelling it in case it escapes any reader) I'm referring to the metaphor from chemistry where we first test an unknown compound to find if it's acidic or basic. It doesn't tell us anything specific, but it's a good first indicator for subsequent tests. The Bechdel test is similarly simplistic, and the fact it has major limitations in no ways reflects on the usefulness of the test, because it never pretends to be able to discern the difference between feminist/non-feminist texts. (If anything, it was generated to be a joke useful to lesbians who, as women who like women, seem to find films with higher concentrations of female characters more compelling---no, I can't comprehend it, either.)

But, for shizzles, let's imagine a similar male test.

1) two or more male c.
2) who interact with each other.
8) about something other than a feminist lesbian woman.

The amount of films that would pass it? Quite substantially higher than that would the Bechdel test, even if we were to eliminate historical re-interpretations, Chuck-adaptations, evil-scientist tropers (looking at you, Dr. Horrible) and films that involve Tom Hanks hanging out on an island with a coconut.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Vaniver » Wed Oct 27, 2010 2:38 pm UTC

General_Norris wrote:For example, it includes Back to the Future III in the video. Back to the Future III is set on the Wild West making it really hard for women to appear in couples there running into historical problems. It includes Wall-E, where the cast is very reduced. It includes Austin Powers, which parodies everything about Spy movies, including the women in them and so can't pass the test. It includes Fight Club, where women being banned from the eponymous club is an important part of the plot. It includes a James Bond film, where the main character (male) is almost always alone and so two women talking to each other would be really rare. It also includes a Tomb Raider film that fails for the same reasons James Bond fails but in reverse.
If there is a good reason for it to be sexist, does that make it less sexist? Satirizing gender roles, for example, often helps perpetuate them. Remember the polls that show Colbert's conservative audience thinks he's a comedian that genuinely agrees with them.

I agree that it's problematic that the Bechdel test moved from "food for thought" to "evidence of sexism," and would add it's also problematic that the word "sexism" is so loaded.

mister k wrote:this is an issue, as it hardly seems likely that only 50% of the population have all the interesting stories.
Would it make sense for, say, the 50% of the population that's risk-loving to have many more interesting stories than the 50% of the population that's risk-averse?

Even if that's a partial mechanism, sexism could still be the root- men might be encouraged to be more risk-loving, and women encouraged to be more risk-averse- but that sort of thing seems hard to piece apart.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Jessica » Wed Oct 27, 2010 2:42 pm UTC

To be fair, the test isn't hard to pass. Including 2 female characters in your movie (which many movies fail right there) shouldn't be difficult. Then to have those women talk to each other (also most of the time when the test is posted, they don't put the alone part. In fact I'm pretty sure that's not part of the original test), shouldn't really be hard, and yet there are many movies where that isn't done. Two women talking to each other is enough to strike many movies from the list.

Then the last clause is just the kicker. When they do pass the bare minimum (having 2 women, that actually talk to each other) they often just talk about men.

The point of the test isn't about determining if a movie is sexist or not (though, many movies that fail the test are quite sexist). The point is to show that in hollywood the majority of movies marketed to everyone FAIL THIS TEST. A test which (when reversed genderwise) is trivially passed.

that's the point of the test. And for that it's useful.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Dark567 » Wed Oct 27, 2010 3:49 pm UTC

I heavily suspect that a large reason for the systematic sexism in movies and part of the IMDB list failing the test is the overwhelming ratio of male:female directors of said movies(There was one female directing credit within the top 100, and she co-directed with a man).

Jessica wrote:The point is to show that in hollywood the majority of movies marketed to everyone FAIL THIS TEST.


I suspect that this is only half the problem. The other half being that movies that fail the test, have a stronger tendency to become popular. If the population really wanted to see movies that were consistently passing the test, Hollywood would be making them.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby SecondTalon » Wed Oct 27, 2010 4:02 pm UTC

The Origin of "The Rule".

Yes, there are people who have taken it as a Rule, but.. it's more of a comedic thought. A kind of depressing notion on movies that have female characters who, when alone with each other, have nothing to discuss (at least nothing worth being filmed) other than the male characters. An even more cynical look would include conversation taboos such as men, makeup, shopping, shoes, clothing, or dieting. An even more cynical look...

Anyway, the intention of the Rule was humor, not serious examination. I'm not saying it doesn't make for a good thought experiment, but Passing or Failing to meet the three requirements ultimately indicates nothing about the content of the work. Still remains interesting, though. Especially if you flip it, and look for a movie that fails the inverse - aka a movie that when featuring two men alone, they only discuss women, particularly primary characters. No conversations of football, or where they learned whatever skills they have, or taunting one another, or what have you. Just discussing the female character(s).
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby mister k » Wed Oct 27, 2010 4:04 pm UTC

Dark567 wrote:I heavily suspect that a large reason for the systematic sexism in movies and part of the IMDB list failing the test is the overwhelming ratio of male:female directors of said movies(There was one female directing credit within the top 100, and she co-directed with a man).

Jessica wrote:The point is to show that in hollywood the majority of movies marketed to everyone FAIL THIS TEST.


I suspect that this is only half the problem. The other half being that movies that fail the test, have a stronger tendency to become popular. If the population really wanted to see movies that were consistently passing the test, Hollywood would be making them.


I am not convinced that this is the case. Market demand can be generated, but it involves risky behaviour- creating non-formula films is risky behaviour for studios that do not need to break formula to succeed. Its clear that predominately female films do sell, but apparently none of them are any bloody good (hiya, eat pray love and sex and the city 2!). The film industry is indicative of a certain vicious circle of behaviour- predominately male films are made by predominately male creative talents which encourages less women to create, which means there are more creative men, and so on.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Роберт » Wed Oct 27, 2010 4:08 pm UTC

Dark567 wrote:I suspect that this is only half the problem. The other half being that movies that fail the test, have a stronger tendency to become popular. If the population really wanted to see movies that were consistently passing the test, Hollywood would be making them.

Let's assume that quote is accurate. (I have no reason to assume it is.)

Is it ethical to base what your art is based on what sells best?

Let's say you were in a culture where having a dark skinned character play anything more important than the "magical Negro" role adversely affected profits, would it be ethical to be racist in your decision making, based on your profit predictions?
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Dark567 » Wed Oct 27, 2010 4:13 pm UTC

mister k wrote:I am not convinced that this is the case. Market demand can be generated, but it involves risky behaviour- creating non-formula films is risky behaviour for studios that do not need to break formula to succeed. Its clear that predominately female films do sell, but apparently none of them are any bloody good (hiya, eat pray love and sex and the city 2!). The film industry is indicative of a certain vicious circle of behaviour- predominately male films are made by predominately male creative talents which encourages less women to create, which means there are more creative men, and so on.

Right, which is why I said its half the problem. If there isn't demand for movies that pass the rule, and Hollywood tries to generate that demand and fails, they aren't going to continue trying, that would lose them lotsa money. Basically I am trying to point out that not only is the supply of films sexist, the demand for films is also sexist.


Po6ept wrote:Is it ethical to base what your art is based on what sells best?

Not necessarily, but Hollywood is competitive, the only studios that will survive are the ones that sell best. In the entertainment industry the tendency will always be to give people what they want, even if it is unethical. Thats to say that ethical studios that refuse to give in go under, while the unethical ones prosper. This continues until only the unethical studios remain.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Роберт » Wed Oct 27, 2010 4:26 pm UTC

Dark567 wrote:
mister k wrote:I Its clear that predominately female films do sell, but apparently none of them are any bloody good (hiya, eat pray love and sex and the city 2!).

Basically I am trying to point out that not only is the supply of films sexist, the demand for films is also sexist.

It seems to me that, if movies that pass the test do well even when they suck, demand is not the problem.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Dark567 » Wed Oct 27, 2010 5:21 pm UTC

Роберт wrote:
Dark567 wrote:
mister k wrote:I Its clear that predominately female films do sell, but apparently none of them are any bloody good (hiya, eat pray love and sex and the city 2!).

Basically I am trying to point out that not only is the supply of films sexist, the demand for films is also sexist.

It seems to me that, if movies that pass the test do well even when they suck, demand is not the problem.


There is some demand yes, but that doesn't mean there isn't more demand for movies that fail the test. Also one of the examples, Sex and the City 2, probably are only borderline passing the test(I haven't seen it, but I have seen episodes of the series, and the overwhelming topics of conversation are men and having sex with men).

Sexism isn't just something that filters down in movies from Hollywood, it filters up from society into the movies as well.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby *bird » Wed Oct 27, 2010 6:30 pm UTC

Jessica wrote:To be fair, the test isn't hard to pass. Including 2 female characters in your movie (which many movies fail right there) shouldn't be difficult. Then to have those women talk to each other (also most of the time when the test is posted, they don't put the alone part. In fact I'm pretty sure that's not part of the original test), shouldn't really be hard, and yet there are many movies where that isn't done. Two women talking to each other is enough to strike many movies from the list.

Then the last clause is just the kicker. When they do pass the bare minimum (having 2 women, that actually talk to each other) they often just talk about men.

The point of the test isn't about determining if a movie is sexist or not (though, many movies that fail the test are quite sexist). The point is to show that in hollywood the majority of movies marketed to everyone FAIL THIS TEST. A test which (when reversed genderwise) is trivially passed.

that's the point of the test. And for that it's useful.


http://thehathorlegacy.com/why-film-schools-teach-screenwriters-not-to-pass-the-bechdel-test/

One film writer's experiences in film school seems to indicate that the problem is systemic because the professors are so hardened against the idea of women being people (and then blaming it on the "audience") that they inevitably produce lots of film writers that do the same thing.

The main problem is that there seems to be an appallingly small proportion of roles for women that are fleshed out. Bechdel test tries to roughly measure that (and it's easy because it's simple and you don't have to have a film critique degree to use it). It's not a gavel to judge whether a particular film is sexist. Films can pass the Bechdel test and still be sexist.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby eugene » Wed Oct 27, 2010 8:19 pm UTC

Jessica wrote:The point of the test isn't about determining if a movie is sexist or not (though, many movies that fail the test are quite sexist). The point is to show that in hollywood the majority of movies marketed to everyone FAIL THIS TEST. A test which (when reversed genderwise) is trivially passed.

that's the point of the test. And for that it's useful.

But how is that useful if you say the test doesn't actually determine whether a movie is sexist? After all, you can come up with hundreds of tests that the majority of hollywood movies will fail. But if the test is arbitrary, what's the use of that?

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Роберт » Wed Oct 27, 2010 8:31 pm UTC

eugene wrote:But how is that useful if you say the test doesn't actually determine whether a movie is sexist? After all, you can come up with hundreds of tests that the majority of hollywood movies will fail. But if the test is arbitrary, what's the use of that?
...

Use your head. It doesn't prove sexism in a particular movie, but it indicates an alarming trend of most movies fail it, but not the version with genders switched.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby eugene » Wed Oct 27, 2010 8:36 pm UTC

Роберт wrote:It doesn't prove sexism in a particular movie, but it indicates an alarming trend of most movies fail it, but not the version with genders switched.

But again, if the test doesn't indicate sexism, then why is that trend alarming?

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Jessica » Wed Oct 27, 2010 8:37 pm UTC

eugene wrote:
Jessica wrote:The point of the test isn't about determining if a movie is sexist or not (though, many movies that fail the test are quite sexist). The point is to show that in hollywood the majority of movies marketed to everyone FAIL THIS TEST. A test which (when reversed genderwise) is trivially passed.

that's the point of the test. And for that it's useful.
But how is that useful if you say the test doesn't actually determine whether a movie is sexist? After all, you can come up with hundreds of tests that the majority of hollywood movies will fail. But if the test is arbitrary, what's the use of that?
It indicates sexism in hollywood, not in an individual movie.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Роберт » Wed Oct 27, 2010 8:39 pm UTC

eugene wrote:
Роберт wrote:It doesn't prove sexism in a particular movie, but it indicates an alarming trend of most movies fail it, but not the version with genders switched.

But again, if the test doesn't indicate sexism, then why is that trend alarming?

Use your head. Who said it can't indicate the existence of sexism on a large scale?
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Azrael » Wed Oct 27, 2010 8:43 pm UTC

eugene wrote:But again, if the test doesn't indicate sexism, then why is that trend alarming?

If I measure the temperature today, I don't really know very much about the weather. If I measure the temperature over a whole bunch of days, I can derive meaningful information.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby JayDee » Wed Oct 27, 2010 9:56 pm UTC

Jessica wrote:Then the last clause is just the kicker. When they do pass the bare minimum (having 2 women, that actually talk to each other) they often just talk about men.
I suspect there are many movies that fail for having a male main character, no matter how many female characters in the cast. Most converations involve the central protagonist (either as participant or subject).

It is trivially easy to pass the test, though, if a movie were trying. Even the most testosterone dripping action film could have a scene with a number of women talking, and then zoom out for the goodies and baddies interrupting it all with a shoot out. Easy I wonder if there are any filmmakers out there who do insert scenes purely to pass this test?

I'm also curious, has anyone seen analysis of this sort of thing (the Bechdel test, or analysis more like Randall's male / female lead numbers for instance) that compared Hollywood films to films from other countries. It occurs to me that the Australian and European films I've seen this year have generally had female protagonists, and the Hollywood films male. A sample that small is useless, but it would be interesting to know how (or if) the gender ratios in film varies much from industry to industry.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby General_Norris » Wed Oct 27, 2010 10:12 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:If there is a good reason for it to be sexist, does that make it less sexist?

By definition there can't be a good reason for something to be sexist since it would no longuer be sexist.

What I mean is that portraying sexism is not sexist.

Satirizing gender roles, for example, often helps perpetuate them. Remember the polls that show Colbert's conservative audience thinks he's a comedian that genuinely agrees with them.

I think that basing the moral worth of a work on the response of people that do not understand it is not a good idea.


Jessica wrote:It indicates sexism in hollywood, not in an individual movie.

Here is where I disagree.

First of all, who is Hollywood? The producers? The audience? The writer or the director? All of them? Who is Hollywood?

The problem is that thinking that the only explanation for movies not passing the Betchdel test is sexism on the creator's part is wrong. That noy only assumes that the test is meaningful, something I argue against due it's methodological flaws, but it assumes that the only reason the test is not pased is the creator's fault.

Even if the test we feed the test hand-picked examples so as to ignore historical problems (Something problematic as we are living such history) it only tells us that there has been sexism but doesn't tell us why or where. Most creators being male explains a lot, and I think that gender roles leading to job choices are much more important in such discussion than blatant, concious sexism. It's important to take every possible cause into account.

I would be more eloquent but my head hurts. Sorry about that.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby mister k » Wed Oct 27, 2010 10:21 pm UTC

Norris, what you are failing to comprehend is the notion, clear in feminism, that sexism isn't an individual action, although it can be, and instead is a problem as a societal action. That is, the way society is set up is inherently sexist, which leads to inherent sexism in our cultural products. The point is that if most films are failing this test (and they are), then theres a systematic issue at play, and if we care about a equal society at all, we should probably work to fix it. This test does not point at the causes, it does not point at the fixes, it merely indicates that there is a problem at the start.

No-one is suggesting that Shindlers List or the Godfather or The Good the Bad and the Ugly are necessarily sexist, but that they are products of a culture in which male is the default. Male roles in films seem standard, female roles are the exception. The proposal made by most feminists is that this is a bad thing.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby TheAmazingRando » Wed Oct 27, 2010 10:33 pm UTC

eugene wrote:But again, if the test doesn't indicate sexism, then why is that trend alarming?
For the same reason that, while it isn't racist to have a black antagonist in your film, it would be a disturbing and racist trend if 90% of all Hollywood films had black antagonists.

General_Norris wrote:The problem is that thinking that the only explanation for movies not passing the Betchdel test is sexism on the creator's part is wrong.
Who is doing this? There's a difference between calling something sexist and calling its creator sexist. There are a million reasons for falling into a sexist paradigm that don't involve personal sexist views. That doesn't make it less of a problem.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Роберт » Wed Oct 27, 2010 10:43 pm UTC

General_Norris wrote:The problem is that thinking that the only explanation for movies not passing the Betchdel test is sexism on the creator's part is wrong.

Except nobody thinks that. We said individual movies may well fail the test and not be sexist, or pass the test and still be sexist.

We also said that if significantly more films fail the test for women than do for men, that indicates a problem. If you don't agree, that's fine, but I think you'll find that hard to argue against.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Mavketl » Wed Oct 27, 2010 11:32 pm UTC

General_Norris wrote:Even if the test we feed the test hand-picked examples so as to ignore historical problems (Something problematic as we are living such history) it only tells us that there has been sexism but doesn't tell us why or where. Most creators being male explains a lot, and I think that gender roles leading to job choices are much more important in such discussion than blatant, concious sexism.
Why does it have to be conscious to be sexism?

Nobody is arguing that (most of the) directors think to themselves "hey, I really hate women, let's try to keep them out of my movie". The point is that if a huge amount of movies does not pass the Bechdel test (and most of them do pass the same test for men), it shows that women are underrepresented in movies. There are a lot of causes for that, which the test does not address. The gender roles you mention are an example of one such cause. I'm not sure why you see them as contradictory to sexism - what creates those gender roles, if not sexism in society?
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby GoC » Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:11 am UTC

General_Norris wrote:1) It includes at least two women
2) ...who have at least one conversation alone...
3) ...about something other than a man or men.

About that last one... whenever I listen in on conversations I find the ones that guys have with guys to be far more interesting than girls with girls (guys with girls halfway between the two but leaning towards the former). If this level of interest is typical (is it????) and girls don't have an equally significant preference towards the kind of conversations girls have with girls then that could explain a fraction of the lack of 3) in ordinary (as in: everyday) scenes.

Hmm... could it also have something to do with the fact that girls have a stronger preference (cultural? genetic?) towards being rescued be a guy than guys have of being rescued by a girl? Combine that with the fact that we want attractive actors (so no girls bulging with muscles and thus you get suspension of disbelief problems if your hero is a none supernatural female. combined with the lack of powerful females in the real world this also prevents female villains) and that's a decent chunk of the action/adventure/heroic type genres there.

Once you rule out all the action films, all the films where the test applied to men also fails, and the history based films, you'll probably find there's now a similar number of films where the female test passes and the male one does not, as there are films where the male test passes and the female one does not (anyone care to test this?). If the numbers are not similar then we have a serious problem with the media. If they are then we have a minor one that's more a symptom of present and past sexism.

btw: Is there a link between testosterone levels and ambition?

Роберт wrote:We also said that if significantly more films fail the test for women than do for men, that indicates a problem.

Does anyone else actually think this? Despite all the things that are skewing the test?

EDIT: Another hypothesis I've heard thrown about:
1) men get distracted by boobies.
2) ??? :P
3) lower numbers of interesting female characters.
Last edited by GoC on Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:33 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Mavketl » Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:23 am UTC

GoC wrote:
Роберт wrote:We also said that if significantly more films fail the test for women than do for men, that indicates a problem.

Does anyone else actually think this? Despite all the things that are skewing the test?
Yes.

Generally, people who "actually think this" consider the things that you perceive as "skewing the test" to be part of the problem.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Vaniver » Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:26 am UTC

JayDee wrote:It is trivially easy to pass the test, though, if a movie were trying. Even the most testosterone dripping action film could have a scene with a number of women talking, and then zoom out for the goodies and baddies interrupting it all with a shoot out. Easy I wonder if there are any filmmakers out there who do insert scenes purely to pass this test?
So, I didn't see it, but how many people here saw Death Proof?

Because, as I recall, one of them included a scene where a bunch of people (if I remember correctly, women) talked about something, and my friends that saw the movie hated that scene.

Now, for all I know they were talking about men- anyone able to supply my pointer with actual data?

General Norris wrote:By definition there can't be a good reason for something to be sexist since it would no longuer be sexist.
My argument is that's a poor definition of sexist, since now it needs to display property A and not an infinite host of other properties for us to call it A. It's much easier to think if you believe A is A.

General Norris wrote:I think that basing the moral worth of a work on the response of people that do not understand it is not a good idea.
What makes you think that you understand it? Colbert could very easily be a meta-contrarian who knows that pretending to be a liberal mocking conservatives will get both liberals and conservatives to like him.

Again, "moral worth" is a horribly defined and loaded term. Why can't something be sexist and morally valuable?
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Dark567 » Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:35 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:
JayDee wrote:It is trivially easy to pass the test, though, if a movie were trying. Even the most testosterone dripping action film could have a scene with a number of women talking, and then zoom out for the goodies and baddies interrupting it all with a shoot out. Easy I wonder if there are any filmmakers out there who do insert scenes purely to pass this test?
So, I didn't see it, but how many people here saw Death Proof?

Because, as I recall, one of them included a scene where a bunch of people (if I remember correctly, women) talked about something, and my friends that saw the movie hated that scene.

Now, for all I know they were talking about men- anyone able to supply my pointer with actual data?


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxAIWLEy ... re=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlkuwTsP9Tg
Definitely, not talking about men. Tarentino actually was the first director to come to my mind as someone who would often pass the tests. He always has a number of women and shit tons of dialog, I thought it very unlikely his movies wouldn't have had scenes that pass. I happen to know that there are scenes in Kill Bill that also pass. Of course, many of his scenes involve women talking to each other directly before being violent to each other...

Also, Tarentino isn't for everyone, my friends hate the long dialog scenes he directs even when all the participants are male. I am not surprised your friends hated a stereotypical Tarentino ultra long dialog scene, it may have not had to do with the female participants in the dialog.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Silknor » Thu Oct 28, 2010 3:32 am UTC

Mavketl wrote:
GoC wrote:
Роберт wrote:We also said that if significantly more films fail the test for women than do for men, that indicates a problem.

Does anyone else actually think this? Despite all the things that are skewing the test?
Yes.

Generally, people who "actually think this" consider the things that you perceive as "skewing the test" to be part of the problem.


Some of the skews might be part of a problem. Some seem not to be though. If historical movies reflect historical sexism, that need not say anything about modern sexism. Likewise, there need be no sexism in society (and I'm not saying there's not) for most baseball/football/hockey movies to fail the test.

I think a lot of movies that fail the test* would still fail even if we lived in a perfectly non-sexist and equal society.

I also don't think a large swath of eligible movies failing the test tells you much on its own about what the problem is. There's plenty of possible explanations, and even if all are twinged with sexism, it makes a big difference of what type and on whose part.

*I think the proper test shouldn't be the Bechdel test itself, but rather a fail if and only if the movie fails the Bechdel test while passing the test with men and women swapped. This prevents considering some modes of storytelling as failing simply because of the number of characters, as others have mentioned. It also prevents a movie principally about relationships from failing just because, unsurprisingly, people are talking about relationships/members of the sex they're attracted to.

Random aside: The Bechdel test makes much more sense in a predominantly heteronormative society than a more equal one.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Oct 28, 2010 3:48 am UTC

Dark567 wrote:Definitely, not talking about men. Tarentino actually was the first director to come to my mind as someone who would often pass the tests. He always has a number of women and shit tons of dialog, I thought it very unlikely his movies wouldn't have had scenes that pass. I happen to know that there are scenes in Kill Bill that also pass. Of course, many of his scenes involve women talking to each other directly before being violent to each other...


I was actually thinking of Kill Bill earlier today as a counterexample to this. I'm not positive the first movie passes--are there many scenes where there are women talking with no men around? I think the end scene where the Bride fights Lucy Liu's character is the only one, and I'm not sure that they don't talk about Bill in that scene. The second does, in the flashback scene when the Bride faces off with the assassin with the shotgun, and a couple scenes near the end where Uma and B.B. are together alone. I think both films fail the male test, incidentally.

TheAmazingRando wrote:For the same reason that, while it isn't racist to have a black antagonist in your film, it would be a disturbing and racist trend if 90% of all Hollywood films had black antagonists.


You mean like how 90% (probably higher, honestly) of all antagonists are white males? Just for fun, how many films can you name where the main antagonist is human, but neither white nor male?

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Dark567 » Thu Oct 28, 2010 4:05 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:I was actually thinking of Kill Bill earlier today as a counterexample to this. I'm not positive the first movie passes--are there many scenes where there are women talking with no men around? I think the end scene where the Bride fights Lucy Liu's character is the only one, and I'm not sure that they don't talk about Bill in that scene. The second does, in the flashback scene when the Bride faces off with the assassin with the shotgun, and a couple scenes near the end where Uma and B.B. are together alone. I think both films fail the male test, incidentally.


That might be indicative of something else, namely, the number of movies with a male lead. If movies with female leads(like Kill Bill) also tend to fail the reverse version of the test, it could indicate that movies are almost always centered on one single character and that conversations never happen without the central character or without talking about the central character. Which would mean the test is just a proxy for the vast number of male leads in movies.

LaserGuy wrote:You mean like how 90% (probably higher, honestly) of all antagonists are white males? Just for fun, how many films can you name where the main antagonist is human, but neither white nor male?

I can name a few...
The first 3 Rocky movies, The Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz(or any movie witch for that matter), the villain in Fatal Attraction, Eve in All About Eve, Bonnie in Bonnie and Clyde...
given the chance I would say I could name somewhere between 20-40. Alternatives to white males definitely seem larger than in the protagonists category.
Last edited by Dark567 on Thu Oct 28, 2010 4:16 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby TheAmazingRando » Thu Oct 28, 2010 4:09 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:You mean like how 90% (probably higher, honestly) of all antagonists are white males? Just for fun, how many films can you name where the main antagonist is human, but neither white nor male?
The vast majority of main characters, protagonist or antagonist, are white males, so their prevalence as antagonists isn't a sign of them being stereotyped as criminals, or anything other than "important."

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Glass Fractal » Thu Oct 28, 2010 4:25 am UTC

Since when is the two women being alone during the conversation an aspect of the test?

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Oct 28, 2010 5:14 am UTC

Dark567 wrote:[
LaserGuy wrote:You mean like how 90% (probably higher, honestly) of all antagonists are white males? Just for fun, how many films can you name where the main antagonist is human, but neither white nor male?

I can name a few...
The first 3 Rocky movies, The Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz(or any movie witch for that matter), the villain in Fatal Attraction, Eve in All About Eve, Bonnie in Bonnie and Clyde...
given the chance I would say I could name somewhere between 20-40. Alternatives to white males definitely seem larger than in the protagonists category.


Neither white nor male, I said. White females don't count. Black males don't count.

I'll elaborate a bit here at risk of coming off as a too much of a troll. The fact that the vast, vast majority of antagonists are white males is a problem for two reasons. First, because it perpetuates a cultural meme that only white males are truly capable of evil. Second, because it means that almost every cast of almost every movie, is going to have a disproportionate number of white males, because in the vast majority of films, the role of the antagonist cannot be played by anyone who isn't. Hence, part of placing everyone on an equal footing must mean that you have to be prepared to accept the possibility of a female version of Hannibal Lector, or an Asian guy playing the Joker, for example.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Dark567 » Thu Oct 28, 2010 5:27 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:Neither white nor male, I said. White females don't count. Black males don't count.

Yeah, I misread that. My bad.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Charlie! » Thu Oct 28, 2010 5:34 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote: Hence, part of placing everyone on an equal footing must mean that you have to be prepared to accept the possibility of a female version of Hannibal Lector, or an Asian guy playing the Joker, for example.

Well. In a more general sense, maybe sort of. But you should remember realism. Name a dictator who isn't white or male, that sort of thing.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Oct 28, 2010 6:18 am UTC

Charlie! wrote:Name a dictator who isn't white or male, that sort of thing.


Here is a nice list of female directors

Not saying they are as numerous/successful as their male counterparts, but they do exist. One managed to snag the Academy Award for Best Director last year.

Do Hispanic directors count as non-white? What about Jews? Plenty of Jewish directors, and a few Hispanic directors.

But yeah, I'll agree that Hollywood has some serious problems. I try to avoid getting my morals from anyone that decides to become a part of something known for sexism, sexual favors, prostitution, sexual harassment, age discrimination (especially against older women), racism, perpetuation of racial stereotypes, perpetuation of gender stereotypes, violation of minimum wage laws (unpaid interns), violation of labor safety laws, child labor, stalking, nepotism, illegal drug use, excessive legal drug use, violent crime, bribery and other forms of corruption, pollution, gas-guzzling (whatever you would call using private jets), over-extravagance, egomania, and any other number of offenses I can't think of right now.

I could let the posh parties and private jets and other extravagance related stuff slide, as it's their money, but when they tell me that I would be a monster if I drove a SUV? (I don't drive a SUV, for various reasons)

Oddly enough, or actually not that oddly, the list is the same for Politics.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby quantumcat42 » Thu Oct 28, 2010 7:46 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:
Charlie! wrote:Name a dictator who isn't white or male, that sort of thing.


Here is a nice list of female directors

Emphasis added for clarity.


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