The Bechdel test

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General_Norris
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby General_Norris » Thu Oct 28, 2010 9:21 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:
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.

I beg your pardon?

I think that sexism is the "irrational belief that a sex is inferior to the other". Since no sex is inferior to the other, there can't be a good reason to be sexist beacuse a good reason is not irrational.

Portraying sexism is not bad. That's my whole point. I mean, if you want to have a morally correct history you can go ahead but it's lying.

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.

If interpretations of art are inherently subjective then this topic is absurd as we are talking about art. I mean, what's your point? That we can never know what a work means? Then how are we going to judge if it's sexist? It's impossible!

I think that we can't judge

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

Because sexism is irrational and logic is the basis of morality. I don't know where you are getting at Vaniver.

@Silknor

I think you are spot on.

However the test and the inverse test still produce false results in many situations. For example, if there are only 3 characters or if A meets B and C but B and C never meet.

@Mavketl

Gender roles are sexism. I never said that it was contradictory, what I said is that gender roles leading to most writers being male is a bigger driver than blatant, concious sexism. (In other words "blatant, concious sexism" is a kind of sexism not how all sexism is).

As long as most writers are male, the test will be failed no matter how progressive such writers are.


BTW, the test I wrote is not the original one (I took it from another page). Should I remove the "alone" part?

On other order of things. The director of a movie doesn't choose who acts or not, that's chosen by the casting director and (normally) they have no weight in the matter.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby GoC » Thu Oct 28, 2010 11:06 am UTC

General_Norris wrote:I think that sexism is the "irrational belief that a sex is inferior to the other". Since no sex is inferior to the other, there can't be a good reason to be sexist beacuse a good reason is not irrational.

Unfortunately that depends on how exactly you would judge superiority. There are still some people in the world who think physical strength and the ability to hurt others is the criteria for superiority...
Hence, what you consider an irrational belief may actually be rational depending on how people judge things.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Silknor » Thu Oct 28, 2010 12:17 pm UTC

As long as most writers are male, the test will be failed no matter how progressive such writers are.


Well, males are just as capable of writing movies that pass the test as women. But more importantly, there's a lot of other reasons why many movies might fail the test:
Writers draw on previous films, explicitly or implicitly, and so movies failing the test is self-perpetuating even in the absence of sexism.
Writers irrationally believe they are more likely to be successful writing movies that fail the test
Executives tend to be more likely to pick movies that fail the test because they are biased
Executives tend to be more likely to pick movies that fail the test because they wrongly believe that is what the audience wants
Executives tend to be more likely to pick movies that fail the test because they are risk-adverse and perceive less formulaic/more gender equal films as riskier, and so play it safe
Audiences tend to go more to movies that fail the test, even if that's not based in a genuine preference
Audiences (or some significant portion thereof) genuinely prefer movies that portray either: typical gender roles, or male characters since they identify easier with males, or fit their expectation of what a movie should be (see 1). This can be true even excluding war movies, sports movies, etc.

It's not likely to be any one factor alone, many of them are reinforcing. That's why I think it tends to be a complicated issue, and probably can't be explained by the gender-balance of writers, film-execs, or moviegoers alone. Or even solely by those gender-balance combined.

"irrational belief that a sex is inferior to the other"


Interestingly that seems to exclude a lot of things people claim are sexist (some may be arguable or only partially):
Women being charged higher health insurance premiums
Women earning less than men
He/him/-man being used as a gender-neutral default

The first two I would exclude because they don't require a belief, irrational or not. How much you are paid or charged for a product is not a statement of your worth or value (at least in the sense that someone who earns more isn't better or more equal than others). It's a factor of supply and demand.

The third I exclude because if that way of speaking is self-perpetuating (and it'd be hard to argue it isn't at least partially so), then one/a society need not be sexist to use that language, the only requirement is for it to have become normal in a sexist society some time ago.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Azrael » Thu Oct 28, 2010 12:59 pm UTC

General_Norris wrote:I think that sexism is the "irrational belief that a sex is inferior to the other". Since no sex is inferior to the other, there can't be a good reason to be sexist beacuse a good reason is not irrational.

Welcome to the Club for Redefining Common Concepts To Suit Your Current Mood:

Dictionary.com wrote:sex·ism

1. attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles.
2. discrimination or devaluation based on a person's sex, as in restricted job opportunities; esp., such discrimination directed against women.


There is no requirement of either belief (intent) or inferiority.

Maybe this is why you find yourself in constant conflict with the concepts of sexism.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Mavketl » Thu Oct 28, 2010 1:10 pm UTC

Silknor wrote:
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.
That's a fair point - especially the historical movies. On the other hand, there are quite a lot of women in both history and sports - we just don't seem to care about their stories as much. As such, I think they only have a half-excuse.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Jessica » Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:46 pm UTC

Sure, there are reasons why the test fails. Film makers would have a hard time convincing each other they're progressive if there weren't reasons. Be it money (white male protagonists sell, and no one wants to listen to "woman talk"), be it historical (throughout history, women never talked to each other, and often there was only one of them around...) or sports (women can't play sports, or when they can they're just not as interesting...) or action movies (no one would watch a movie with a female protagonist. no one.)

Really, it's not hard to justify the actions. That's part of the point. If it weren't justifiable, people would have a harder time doing it. But, coming up with an excuse (before or after) doesn't make it not a problem. Also, the point isn't to just have the test passed - because it's not a good test in that instance. It was a joke which also happened to describe the simple fact that women rarely have important roles in movies, and are generally just window dressing for the men in the film to do their thing.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Oct 28, 2010 3:57 pm UTC

Charlie! wrote:
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.


Why "maybe"? If you want equality, then you can't arbitrarily remove a large segment of the population from a large number of roles just because it might make people squeamish to consider it.

As for realism, I'm assuming then you would be against any movie with a female president? Or, until recently, a black president? As for female, non-white dictators, I'd suggest starting
here for some historical examples.

Jessica wrote:Sure, there are reasons why the test fails. Film makers would have a hard time convincing each other they're progressive if there weren't reasons. Be it money (white male protagonists sell, and no one wants to listen to "woman talk"), be it historical (throughout history, women never talked to each other, and often there was only one of them around...) or sports (women can't play sports, or when they can they're just not as interesting...) or action movies (no one would watch a movie with a female protagonist. no one.)


Would those movies pass the test? I think the first Terminator movie would, but not any of the others. I don't know the Aliens movies well enough to really comment on them, but I don't recall any other major female characters than Ripley (and, I guess, the Alien itself... lots of interesting feminist commentary on that series, incidentally).

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby mister k » Thu Oct 28, 2010 4:56 pm UTC

Aliens and Alien does, I suspect 3 does not. Note that the original Alien was explicitly written gender neutral, giving the director freedom to choose the gender of the roles.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Jessica » Thu Oct 28, 2010 5:22 pm UTC

I think alien 4 does too. Alien 3 doesn't because she's the only woman there. Yay penal colony.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Patch » Thu Oct 28, 2010 8:02 pm UTC

... and so movies failing the test is self-perpetuating even in the absence of sexism.


The problem that the Bechdel test highlights is not, in the main, caused by conscious sexism. In general, problems that women face in society are not caused by conscious (leering, mustache twirling) sexism. Explicit sexism has largely died in our society; the problems that remain are more subtle.

The reasons why there are so few movies that pass the Bechdel test are many: historical "acurracy"*, cultural norms, male writers writing "what they know". None of this is going to be fixed unless we acknowledge that subtle, endemic, pervasive, unconscious sexism is still a problem. We all (male and female) participate in it. We all perpetuate it. And we all have a responsibility to fix it, in whatever ways we can.

~ Patch

* Note on historical "accuracy": women make up more than 50% of the population. While they lacked explicit political power through much of history, they were still present, alive, and acting in the ways that they could. Think beyond Jeanne d'Arc or Cleopatra or Elizabeth -- think of all the wives and mothers and grandmothers and aunts of the "great" men. Did those women really have no influence? Are their stories really all dull and uninteresting?

Example: Do you know the story of what happened when the Roman senate tried to pass legislation removing the right of a woman to inherit property? The wives of the senators each threatened to kill their first born child if the legislation passed. It didn't.
Last edited by Patch on Thu Oct 28, 2010 9:57 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Oct 28, 2010 8:27 pm UTC

Patch wrote:* Note on historical "accuracy": women make up more than 50% of the population. While they lacked explicit political power through much of history, they were still present, alive, and acting in the ways that they could. Think beyond Jeanne d'Arc or Cleopatra or Elizabeth -- think of all the wives and mothers and grandmothers and aunts of the "great" men. Did those women really have no influence? Are their stories really all dull and uninteresting?


I think the better question here would be: how many of these stories were written down? Do we actually have records that we can piece together what their lives were like?

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Patch » Thu Oct 28, 2010 9:26 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
Patch wrote:* Note on historical "accuracy": women make up more than 50% of the population. While they lacked explicit political power through much of history, they were still present, alive, and acting in the ways that they could. Think beyond Jeanne d'Arc or Cleopatra or Elizabeth -- think of all the wives and mothers and grandmothers and aunts of the "great" men. Did those women really have no influence? Are their stories really all dull and uninteresting?


I think the better question here would be: how many of these stories were written down? Do we actually have records that we can piece together what their lives were like?


Even better question: for any given historical Hollywood movie, how much does it matter that stuff was written down ;-)

Writers seem to feel themselves free to improvise. Women's stories are almost better in that there are fewer facts to get in the way of a good yarn.

~ Patch

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Jessica » Thu Oct 28, 2010 9:30 pm UTC

Patch wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:
Patch wrote:* Note on historical "accuracy": women make up more than 50% of the population. While they lacked explicit political power through much of history, they were still present, alive, and acting in the ways that they could. Think beyond Jeanne d'Arc or Cleopatra or Elizabeth -- think of all the wives and mothers and grandmothers and aunts of the "great" men. Did those women really have no influence? Are their stories really all dull and uninteresting?
I think the better question here would be: how many of these stories were written down? Do we actually have records that we can piece together what their lives were like?
Even better question: for any given historical Hollywood movie, how much does it matter that stuff was written down ;-)

Writers seem to feel themselves free to improvise. Women's stories are almost better in that there are fewer facts to get in the way of a good yarn.

~ Patch
Indeed. Historical fiction is still fiction.
Even adaptations change with each subsequent iteration.
Just because it's set in history doesn't mean it's at all factual.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby BlackSails » Thu Oct 28, 2010 9:48 pm UTC

I really dont understand this test. If I have a movie say, all about a woman struggling to escape from some harsh environment, its a sexist movie? Or a movie about genderless robots is sexist?

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Azrael » Thu Oct 28, 2010 9:51 pm UTC

BlackSails wrote:... all about a woman struggling to escape from some harsh environment, its a sexist movie?

... have you read even a single response in the thread?

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby sophyturtle » Thu Oct 28, 2010 10:13 pm UTC

Reading is for wimps.

sorry
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Роберт » Thu Oct 28, 2010 10:14 pm UTC

Reading is rule #9.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby *bird » Fri Oct 29, 2010 12:28 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:Would those movies pass the test? I think the first Terminator movie would, but not any of the others. I don't know the Aliens movies well enough to really comment on them, but I don't recall any other major female characters than Ripley (and, I guess, the Alien itself... lots of interesting feminist commentary on that series, incidentally).


Actually, in Bechdel's original comic Alien was the actual example used.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Dark567 » Fri Oct 29, 2010 1:31 am UTC

According to one website the breakdown of 954 movies(the tests are user submitted, so it should be taken with a grain of salt, and could be prone to selection bias):

Spoiler:
Image



I would really like to see the stats on the test reversed on men, than a good comparison could be made.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby LaserGuy » Fri Oct 29, 2010 3:18 am UTC

Is that passes or fails? 50% of movies passing all 3 tests seems quite shockingly high to me.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Dark567 » Fri Oct 29, 2010 3:58 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:Is that passes or fails? 50% of movies passing all 3 tests seems quite shockingly high to me.


50% Passes. I was somewhat surprised too, although I think it is of the weaker version(two women need to be talking to each other about something other than a man, but not necessarily alone). Most of the movies are relatively recent though, so that probably also helps.

The list of movies an each individual rating is here:http://bechdeltest.com/



I cross listed the list with the IMDB top 250, to see how good they did. There were 148 movies on both lists.

46/148(31%) passed all three criterion.
21/148(14%) passed two of three.
47/148(32%) passed one of three.
34/148(23%) failed all.

A couple quick observations. It seems that a lot of documentaries also seem to fail. Also looking at the list, the ones that failed all the tests tend to be war movies(WW2, Vietnam) or other historical things(i.e. Gladiator), upon a quick overview it almost seems that the movies passing just one of the tests are actually the ones that seem the most likely to be sexist.(i.e. they put women in the movie, just to be used as a romance for a man etc.)
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby CorruptUser » Fri Oct 29, 2010 5:30 am UTC

quantumcat42 wrote:
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.



Oh, sorry, my mistake. Believing is seeing and all, talking about movies and everything. As for Dictators, try Catherine the Great, that Chinese emperor in Civ V, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria, a couple Egyptian Pharaohs, Isabella. A short list, I know, but again, they do exist. I count absolute monarchs as dictators, as there is no real difference.

For non-white, try every emperor in Asia, ever, or any African king/pharoah, ever. Don't know too much about pre-Columbian American, but I'm quite sure the Aztecs were pretty brutal.

If you meant modern, does middle eastern count as non-white? If so, well, take your pick. If not, there is always Mao, Pol Pot, that murderer in charge of Myanmar, Kim Jong Il, Mugabe, that "Scottish" Ugandan guy, and so forth. If you count Hispanic as nonwhite, half of the rulers of Latin America were pretty much dictators.

Don't know of any modern female dictators though.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Thesh » Fri Oct 29, 2010 6:42 am UTC

The thing is, if the script is written by a man, well he is going to know more about what guys talk about and it is difficult to write about the conversations women have. Women are a mystery, and we don't know what you talk about in private... My guess is it's mostly talking about your weight, haircuts, makeup, clothing, and men, as well as gossiping about people you know and celebrities, but I have no way of knowing for sure.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby *bird » Fri Oct 29, 2010 10:39 am UTC

Thesh wrote:The thing is, if the script is written by a man, well he is going to know more about what guys talk about and it is difficult to write about the conversations women have. Women are a mystery, and we don't know what you talk about in private... My guess is it's mostly talking about your weight, haircuts, makeup, clothing, and men, as well as gossiping about people you know and celebrities, but I have no way of knowing for sure.


One wonders how scriptwriters write war stories, about famous historical people, about people in different countries, in different socioeconomic circumstances...

Oh right, they do research. I'm pretty sure there has to be at least one male writer that has written decent representations of women over the years.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Belial » Fri Oct 29, 2010 12:47 pm UTC

Thesh wrote:Women are a mystery


...

Not really.
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They/them

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby smw543 » Fri Oct 29, 2010 12:58 pm UTC

*bird wrote:
Thesh wrote:The thing is, if the script is written by a man, well he is going to know more about what guys talk about and it is difficult to write about the conversations women have. Women are a mystery, and we don't know what you talk about in private... My guess is it's mostly talking about your weight, haircuts, makeup, clothing, and men, as well as gossiping about people you know and celebrities, but I have no way of knowing for sure.
One wonders how scriptwriters write war stories, about famous historical people, about people in different countries, in different socioeconomic circumstances...

Oh right, they do research. I'm pretty sure there has to be at least one male writer that has written decent representations of women over the years.

I think that post was meant to be sarcastic. I hope...

Also, there certainly are a lot of writers who are bad at writing characters that differ from themselves. It just so happens that this group has a large overlap with the group of writers who are bad at writing.

Because writers don't need to understand how men think or how women think; they need to understand how people think. The rest, like in life, is just a matter of arbitrary labels. (I've written numerous stories for which changing the protagonist's gender would be as simple as switching out some pronouns, and I've never had people say "John reads more like a female character" or vice versa (sometimes I would leave out the name and pronouns altogether, and see who thought the protagonist was which gender, then quietly judge them).)
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Capt. Obvious » Fri Oct 29, 2010 4:37 pm UTC

First, just a point on possibly the off-topic, but one that has been pervasive throughout the thread;
CorruptUser wrote:
Charlie! wrote:Name a dictator who isn't white or male, that sort of thing.


As for Dictators, try Catherine the Great, that Chinese emperor in Civ V, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria, a couple Egyptian Pharaohs, Isabella.

For non-white, try every emperor in Asia, ever, or any African king/pharoah, ever. Don't know too much about pre-Columbian American, but I'm quite sure the Aztecs were pretty brutal.

... there is always Mao, Pol Pot, that murderer in charge of Myanmar, Kim Jong Il, Mugabe, that "Scottish" Ugandan guy, and so forth.

Isn't white or male -> is (not white) and (not male). This is especially obvious in context, when the challenge was laid down after a clarification about neither white nor male antagonists. So your list is paired down to: that Chinese emperor in Civ V and a couple of Egyptian Pharaohs. Not exactly the most compelling list.

The numbers people have been quoting have been everywhere from "very few movies pass" to "the majority of movies pass". And the numbers for the reverse test never really got stated.

I'd like to hear more about movies that failed the Bechdel test, but passed the reverse. Most movies I can think of that fail the Bechdel test but pass the reverse are:

a) About a war. Really, I cannot see any non-pandering way to get more women in the movie.
b) About a sports team. While womens sports teams exist, mens teams have far better turnout. So, obviously it will be about a mens team. Since those are the main characters, it pushes women into supporting roles. I mean, The Replacements had stripper-cheerleaders who talked to each other about something other than men. How to bump and grind, sure. But not men. So, great blow for feminism there.
c) Populated by a 3 person named cast. They all may interact on equal footing, but since there are 2 guys and 1 girl...

Further, Back to the Future I, II and III shouldn't count as three movies. Protagonists don't talk about minor characters, minor characters talk about protagonists. So, once the decision was made that the protagonists would be male, that one decision made BttF I fail, and thus all BttF movies. Especially given BttF's "Bill is always the antagonist" decision early on.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Vaniver » Fri Oct 29, 2010 4:45 pm UTC

Dark567 wrote: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.
I believe they were fans of Tarantino's other works, but as I do not ascribe high importance to that information I may be misremembering it.

LaserGuy wrote:or an Asian guy playing the Joker, for example.
This doesn't make sense in the context of your objection. You said "neither white nor male"- if you break that into its constituent parts, I think you'll find there are many non-white villains (even more if you accept metaphors- "the Buggers are Chinamen!"), and few female villains. Because there are lots of movies with male asian villains.

General_Norris wrote:I think that sexism is the "irrational belief that a sex is inferior to the other". Since no sex is inferior to the other, there can't be a good reason to be sexist beacuse a good reason is not irrational.
This is totally circular. Believing A is irrational, since I have defined A to be irrational. Your foundation is the belief that the sexes are not inferior, not that you can measure things about the sexes. If you can measure reality, then it is clear that you can have good reasons to believe one sex is inferior, and thus it is rational to be sexist if you use your definition of sexist without the word "irrational."

Let's say, for example, that I decide to measure people's height. Is it sexist to notice that the male height distribution is much, much taller than the female height distribution? If I decide that means males are better for some application (like, say, reaching things on the top shelf), where is the irrationality? I must believe either that it is irrational to judge heights by measuring them, or that it is irrational to consider height relevant for reaching things on the top shelf, or that it is rational to consider women as inferior at reaching things on the top shelf. Now, I'm not saying that you should judge whether or not a person can reach the top shelf by looking at their sex instead of at their height, but that their sex gives you information about their height.

People don't have a generalized metric that you measure them by, so the statement "neither sex is inferior" has null meaning until you define inferior. It should be clear that statement is not true for all definitions of inferior.

General_Norris wrote:Portraying sexism is not bad. That's my whole point.
Is an irrational belief that a sex is inferior to the other bad? If portraying such a belief causes that belief to be held, is that bad? If so, how is portraying sexism not bad?

General_Norris wrote:That we can never know what a work means? Then how are we going to judge if it's sexist? It's impossible!
Only if you require a sexist action to have sexist intentions. If you look at effects or methodology instead of thoughts (how were you measuring those, by the way?), then you can talk about sexism in an objective way with limited information. If someone uses a slur, I don't need to know whether or not they're rationally justified in believing that slur applies to situation they're in. I just need to know what impact that slur will have, and I can discuss that negative impact independent of the rationality of the person who uttered it.

I should be clear, here, that rationality is not holding progressive values. The foundation of rationality is not the equality of individuals- the foundation of rationality is how to determine beliefs are true and then believing only true beliefs.

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Also, note, Cleopatra was Greek. We're down to Nefertiti and Hatshetput as famous ones, and then there are possibly 10 others over the course of ~3000 years.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Роберт » Fri Oct 29, 2010 5:52 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:
General_Norris wrote:Portraying sexism is not bad. That's my whole point.
Is an irrational belief that a sex is inferior to the other bad? If portraying such a belief causes that belief to be held, is that bad? If so, how is portraying sexism not bad?

Portraying genocide is not bad.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Dark567 » Fri Oct 29, 2010 6:01 pm UTC

Роберт wrote:
Vaniver wrote:
General_Norris wrote:Portraying sexism is not bad. That's my whole point.
Is an irrational belief that a sex is inferior to the other bad? If portraying such a belief causes that belief to be held, is that bad? If so, how is portraying sexism not bad?

Portraying genocide is not bad.

If portraying genocide leads to genocide, is that bad?

....I am gonna take a guess that most people are going to say yes.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Jessica » Fri Oct 29, 2010 6:02 pm UTC

Роберт wrote:
Vaniver wrote:
General_Norris wrote:Portraying sexism is not bad. That's my whole point.
Is an irrational belief that a sex is inferior to the other bad? If portraying such a belief causes that belief to be held, is that bad? If so, how is portraying sexism not bad?
Portraying genocide is not bad.
When genocide is portrayed, it's usually considered to be universally bad. The point of portraying it is to show that it's bad. There are very few movies which have genocide as a good thing. Sexism in movies generally isn't overtly brought up, and is invisible. Rarely is it explicit that it's not good, and often can be explicitly good. Also, there's a difference between portraying the sexist roles in the past, and portraying the past in a sexist way.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Роберт » Fri Oct 29, 2010 6:47 pm UTC

True. Portraying sexism or genocide can be bad, but it isn't inherently bad to do so.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Charlie! » Fri Oct 29, 2010 6:55 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:
quantumcat42 wrote:
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.



Oh, sorry, my mistake. Believing is seeing and all, talking about movies and everything. As for Dictators, try Catherine the Great, that Chinese emperor in Civ V, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria, a couple Egyptian Pharaohs, Isabella. A short list, I know, but again, they do exist. I count absolute monarchs as dictators, as there is no real difference.

For non-white, try every emperor in Asia, ever, or any African king/pharoah, ever. Don't know too much about pre-Columbian American, but I'm quite sure the Aztecs were pretty brutal.

If you meant modern, does middle eastern count as non-white? If so, well, take your pick. If not, there is always Mao, Pol Pot, that murderer in charge of Myanmar, Kim Jong Il, Mugabe, that "Scottish" Ugandan guy, and so forth. If you count Hispanic as nonwhite, half of the rulers of Latin America were pretty much dictators.

Don't know of any modern female dictators though.

White OR male. The same conditions that LaserGuy used to demonstrate that bad guys in films were overwhelmingly "white or male." That's why I made that statement, after all. *context for the win*
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby LaserGuy » Fri Oct 29, 2010 9:05 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:or an Asian guy playing the Joker, for example.
This doesn't make sense in the context of your objection. You said "neither white nor male"- if you break that into its constituent parts, I think you'll find there are many non-white villains (even more if you accept metaphors- "the Buggers are Chinamen!"), and few female villains. Because there are lots of movies with male asian villains.


True, Asian villains are more common than some other tropes (Asian protagonists, especially non-martial-arts protagonists, on the other hand...). I'm starting to wish I hadn't made that comment considering how badly it's started to derail the thread. My main objection is this one:

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.


In other words, if you only care about numerical equivalence, you have to be willing to accept that the minority group of your choice is going to have to play characters that are sociopaths, rapists, murderers, child abusers, dictators, etc. because that's what many roles in Hollywood are all about. You won't get equality in roles until you also shed the Basically Decent memes that people of certain minority groups aren't capable of villainy--or at least, not capable of the same level of villainy that white males are.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Jessica » Fri Oct 29, 2010 9:29 pm UTC

a) We still see the "terrorist" villain trope today. Those aren't white people.

b) While most villains in hollywood are white (because most actors are white), generally white villains aren't stereotyped. They can have back stories, and reasons for being villains. Minority villains are generally stereotypes.

If hollywood creates movies where the minority villains aren't just extreme stereotypes, then maybe we can talk about how they "have to be all white". Also, the fact that they are white doesn't paint white people as evil, any more than having them mostly be male paints men as evil. Being white or male in movies is considered a default. A white villain isn't just a "white villain" and that's their description. They can be russians, or government agents, or sociopaths, or any description under the sun. When they're asian, they've been generally depicted as fu man chu wearing evil people. when they're muslim, they're "terrorists" with no other descriptor.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Vaniver » Fri Oct 29, 2010 11:00 pm UTC

Jessica wrote:A white villain isn't just a "white villain" and that's their description. They can be russians, or government agents, or sociopaths, or any description under the sun. When they're asian, they've been generally depicted as fu man chu wearing evil people. when they're muslim, they're "terrorists" with no other descriptor.
Emphasis mine.

The problem with breaking it up into "white" and "non-white" is that I don't see Hollywood portrayals of Russian or Irish villains as that much less stereotyped than Hollywood portrayals of Asian villains. You might argue the stereotype is finer- "you can tell they're Russian, instead of not knowing whether they're Chinese or Vietnamese!"- but that doesn't necessary mean there's that much more information.

LaserGuy wrote:You won't get equality in roles until you also shed the Basically Decent memes that people of certain minority groups aren't capable of villainy--or at least, not capable of the same level of villainy that white males are.
Law and Order is particularly bad at this:
Wall Street Journal wrote:One way Mr. Wolf maintains this consistency is by making most of the victims wealthy white people, which he believes viewers are more interested in watching. He limits the number of shows containing minority victims, including blacks and Muslims, to four or five episodes a season out of 22 to 24.
Note that people are generally murdered by people like them (wealthy whites murder wealthy whites, poor blacks murder poor blacks), and so at least 77% of the crimes on L&O are committed against wealthy whites (probably by wealthy whites), when in reality whites as a whole are murder victims as often as blacks [source]; those are absolute numbers. If they limited themselves to murderers that were caught, one show out of five would feature a black murderer under 22.

Now, do you think if they went from their current setup to a realistic setup, people would be happy they're less racist than they were before (by catering to stories that interest wealthy whites / reflect poorly on wealthy whites)? Or do you think people would suggest they are more racist?
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby infernovia » Fri Oct 29, 2010 11:46 pm UTC

I've never had people say "John reads more like a female character" or vice versa (sometimes I would leave out the name and pronouns altogether, and see who thought the protagonist was which gender, then quietly judge them).)

I do this. Even if the writer says he has a penis, it still means that he has a lot of feminine characteristics.

Btw, movies usually over-represent colors. One movie that I thought was surprisingly race-neutral was Fight Club.I didn't like the portrayal of race in Shawshank redemption comparatively.

Along the same vein, one such movie that I thought was very woman empowering was the Graduate (because Mrs. Robinson is about the most interesting character in that movie). Anyway, its hard for me to get worked up about this statistic.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Capt. Obvious » Fri Oct 29, 2010 11:50 pm UTC

Jessica wrote:Be it money (white male protagonists sell, and no one wants to listen to "woman talk"), be it historical (throughout history, women never talked to each other, and often there was only one of them around...) or sports (women can't play sports, or when they can they're just not as interesting...) or action movies (no one would watch a movie with a female protagonist. no one.)

No one wants to hear women talk in movies, but then again no one likes to hear men talk either. It's the format. Show don't tell.
Also, the first and third Terminator movies fail to test, as does the third Alien movie. So even when the protagonist is a woman, it's 50/50. Which is the same percentage overall.
Jessica wrote: 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.

Do you really have any stats on this? Because, frankly, the only important conclusions you can draw is from movies that pass one test vs. movies that pass the other (vs. the baselines of movies that pass both vs. movies that pass neither).

Also, the third condition seems to lack a condition for when the topic of discussion is the plot McGuffin. Almost every line in the Bourne series was about Jason Bourne, so clearly those movies will fail, even when it shows two strong women having a conversation. Similarly for Braveheat in Braveheart. I'm calling out this usage because I feel it is common enough to warrant "rule reexamination" and not "exceptions to the rule".

Edited for clarity.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Dark567 » Sat Oct 30, 2010 12:06 am UTC

Capt. Obvious wrote:Also, the third condition seems to lack a condition for when the topic of discussion is the plot McGuffin. Almost every line in the Bourne series was about Jason Bourne, so clearly those movies will fail, even when it shows two strong women having a conversation. Similarly for Braveheat in Braveheart. I'm calling out this usage because I feel it is common enough to warrant "rule reexamination" and not "exceptions to the rule".

If that were true, it would make the test just a proxy for counting the number of female leads. The test failing all the time would show that there aren't very many female leads, which it definitely seems like there aren't.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Patch » Sat Oct 30, 2010 12:32 am UTC

Capt. Obvious wrote:Also, the third condition seems to lack a condition for when the topic of discussion is the plot McGuffin. Almost every line in the Bourne series was about Jason Bourne, so clearly those movies will fail, even when it shows two strong women having a conversation. Similarly for Braveheat in Braveheart. I'm calling out this usage because I feel it is common enough to warrant "rule reexamination" and not "exceptions to the rule".
Edited for clarity.


In action movies, there are often quiet moments where characters discuss something not immediately germane to the plot, or tell jokes. In Braveheart, you have the "it's my island!" moments, for example. These moments tell us about the characters' inner lives, and help us to connect to them as people, instead of as cogs in the plot. That the female characters are often not involved in these little moments is significant, and part of the problem.

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