The Bechdel test

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guenther
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby guenther » Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:24 pm UTC

That doesn't answer why it's against women. And I don't have a problem with the fact that movies, media, and advertising are part of the process for setting our expectations about the world. We shape culture and culture shapes us. However, when that shaping process produces something unhealthy, then it's problematic. Like when women feel they need to not eat to be beautiful or when they hit barriers in entering the workforce. If movies are helping to propagate these issues, then that's a problem.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby podbaydoor » Sat Sep 10, 2011 3:15 pm UTC

guenther wrote:Like when women feel they need to not eat to be beautiful or when they hit barriers in entering the workforce. If movies are helping to propagate these issues, then that's a problem.

There's no "if" here.

My last post assumed you'd make the connection between movie trends influencing children and why that's harmful to women precisely because of the content that is promoted. (This content, by the way, is the ENTIRE POINT of this thread. I'm disappointed that you continue to insist on explanations for basic, elementary things over and over with each post.)

The content that is promoted includes things like:

-Women can't be successful in life or love unless you're skilled AND beautiful
(blatant in the Judd Apatow school of movies, and also sitcoms, where pasty chubby guys routinely wind up with conventionally hot girlfriends, but the reverse is never true. Another example is Transformers, where a fat man is an acceptable sympathetic character because he's a genius-level hacker, but his female counterpart must be blonde, hot, and wear stiletto heels in order to also play a genius-level hacker. Also, look at male superhero costumes vs. female superhero costumes - who is required to be form-fitting and show more skin? Where does the camera linger and what poses do they put them in?)

-Women can't find satisfaction in life unless they find a man
(many romantic comedies, and to some extent action movies - male action stars can take or leave the love interest, and can end the movie still alone, but female action stars must feel "something is missing" or act far more devastated over the love interest than a male counterpart might.)

-Women's standards of beauty are confined to a narrow range of convention
(leggy, heart-shaped face, small nose - primarily Western skin and bone structure - shapely, limited age range, even if you're 60 you have to look 40, like Streep, Mirren et. al. Whereas the lineup of male actors considered attractive ranges from Tommy Lee Jones to Adrien Brody to Daniel Craig, and, as mentioned before, they can range from underweight to overweight and still get starring roles. Comparison of a google search of "woman's face" and "man's face.")

-Women are passive, men are active
(even in movies with enlarged roles for women, quite often they're having things done to them, being shaped by the people and environment around them, whereas men take active roles in changing the people and environment around them - see the explosion of the Frat Pack movies, where women are always wives, girlfriends, and sex objects instead of primary movers in their world.)

-Sexual violence against women is acceptable subject matter, sexual violence against men is not
(See movies that are considered masterful arty "classics" - How many of them use the graphic sexual violation or torment of a woman's body as an acceptable edgy subject matter, versus the same done to men? On that particular list, I count 7 movies framed around extended graphic sexual scenes against women, versus 1 against a man. Even when a movie plot does include male rape, the camera will often fade to black or only hint at it - see American History X - whereas it is considered acceptable to film in graphic detail, even visually fetishizing, the violence against a woman.)

What if men everywhere had to conform to beauty standards set by women?
We sure spend a lot of time talking about ideal female beauty—and why women spend so much time obsessing about it. But what if we lived in a world where women had always been the kings, the presidents, the bosses (and, thus, the arbiters of beauty)? Perhaps we’d call it a “Gynocracy”—a place where superficial women would set the standards for attractiveness, and men would have to conform to them. It would be a place where ugly men would have a hard time getting a date or a promotion, and the women would burn off steam over beers at a restaurant called Hunks, where all the waiters must have 30-inch waists and grapefruit-sized biceps.

You certainly wouldn’t see many paunchy, balding, older guys on TV. Sitcoms would feature couples where the men are tall, muscular, and hot, while the wives are chubby and witty. Salons, cosmetic-surgery offices and Weight Watchers meetings would be filled with men who spend a fortune trying to get that iconic masculine “V” shape women crave. And the maintenance—ah, the maintenance!—would shock men in our world. Think if you took a random group of men from your office and told them that they had to conform to the standard grooming norms of the Gynocracy. The rules might look something like this:

Spoiler:
1. Weekly Forearm Waxing

No hairy arms or knuckles. It’s a crazy fashion thing that just sort of evolved—like the way women had to start shaving their legs a hundred years ago. To keep up with the beauty ideal in the Gynocracy, men have to wax or shave their forearms. To avoid it, some men just keep their sleeves rolled down—even in the summer. But if they want to wear short sleeves, or get a date with a woman, they absolutely have to be smooth and shaven from the elbow down. Sure, they could rebel, and show up to work hairy, but it’d be like a woman in our world sitting in a meeting with thick black hair on her legs. It’d be a STATEMENT.

2. For the Short Guy: Heels or Leg Extenders

Any guy shorter than 5 feet 10 feels uncomfortable in the Gynocracy—magazines are filled with tall men, as are the boardrooms. So, most short men wear big wedge heels. Once again, a guy could choose not to conform, but it might be tough when all the other men are wearing heels. Plus, lots of guys like the way they look with longer legs.

3. Hair Replacement

Being bald or even having thinning hair is just as unacceptable in the Gynocracy. Sure, some guys go natural, but they tend to be Men’s Studies professors at liberal universities. So guys who are unlucky enough to be losing their hair usually wear hats, or get hair replacement. Even the ones with thinning hair get extensions—and the salons are just full of men trying to get that fashionable, thick, wavy hair women like so much. Some say they’re doing it for themselves.

4. Hair Coloring for Him

There simply aren’t gray-haired men. Women can let themselves go gray, or even have white hair—people think they look smarter, hotter, more “distinguished.” But men? Never. So guys of a certain age who don’t want to look like they’ve passed their “use-by” date are always running off at lunchtime to get their roots done.

5. Tummy Tucks and Ab Work

Because the style for men in the Gynocracy is to wear skin-tight T shirts, men are obsessed with having a flat stomach. Older guys with the intractable paunches that sometimes come with middle age have a very hard time with these fashions. They either look sad in their tight shirts with belly rolls, or they cover up with frumpy “Chico’s for Men” shirts that make them look old and dated. And of course female bosses are always paying more attention to the young guys in the tight shirts, so just for economic survival, some guys have resorted to wearing full torso girdles called Manx—which is murder in the summer.


Now, yes, content that is harmful to women is not the only harmful content that movies and advertising promote - there is an entire bucketful of harmful content to men (often bound up as the double edge of the harmful content to women). The "beauty rules" in the Newsweek piece are already followed by some men. However, that is not the focus of this thread, and in addition, I would argue that harmful content to men takes place in a different context: the pressures on men, while they exist, still take place in a society where women were systematically subjugated to their equivalent male counterparts, once you control for class and race. All women everywhere are under the pressure to follow those beauty rules, whereas men can get away with not following them and still have a larger opportunity to gain power and influence. This is, again, reflected in the way movies portray successful men versus successful women. Just look at the lists of A-list aging female actors versus aging male actors.

As for yours and Tomo's advancement of the notion that movie execs are only responding to "what audiences want":
If audiences don’t want women as leads, why did Aliens succeed?
One of the counter-arguments I always offered was: then how come Alien (Sigourney Weaver) not only succeeded, but spawned a highly successful franchise, complete with merchandising?

It was a fluke, came the answer. This was a deflection, not a response. As the link details, any “fluke” in which a male-led movie makes more money than expected gets scrutinized so filmmakers can figure out how to replicate its success. This never happened with Alien.


Besides Aliens, I also gave you the example of Bridesmaids earlier. Movies that star women who don't conform to one or the other standards that I listed above, have succeeded before. And fabulously succeeded. Most of the time, their success is written off as a fluke, whereas success of male-centric movies is attributed to "what audiences want." That's inconsistent and an example of confirmation bias at work in the industry.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Tomo » Sun Sep 11, 2011 4:22 am UTC

Firstly, to the main points:

-Women can't be successful in life or love unless you're skilled AND beautiful - This is a fantasy about fantasy characters. Why wouldn't you want to watch someone skilled AND beautiful?
-Women can't find satisfaction in life unless they find a man - A lot of women (and men!) - I daresay a majority although I don't have evidence on that, will be more satisfied with a partner. I don't see this as an issue. Both male and female characters who disregard love are in a huge minority in fiction.
-Women's standards of beauty are confined to a narrow range of convention - Quick searching over the wiki for human attractiveness suggests that this is simply the majority preference. Fit, healthy, symmetric women of the majority race are considered the most attractive. I don't see this as a problem, and I don't see anything different happening for men. You linked a pointed and biased article about female faces and male faces, but try googling hot man - hint, every one has six pack and short hair, or attractive man - hint, every one has a strong jaw, similar face, shaved-slight stubble, dark short hair.
-Women are passive, men are active - I don't know, I quite like the idea of a strong man doing everything for me. If a guy tried that irl... but in a movie, I don't regard that as sexist, it's a fantasy.
-Sexual violence against women is acceptable subject matter, sexual violence against men is not - The only point that is something of an issue, but when you really get down to it, men have the physical advantage. Sexual violence against women is hugely more common, and films reflect that.

podbaydoor wrote:As for yours and Tomo's advancement of the notion that movie execs are only responding to "what audiences want":
If audiences don’t want women as leads, why did Aliens succeed?


Because Alien was a great movie, and stood on its own merits without pandering fanservice to the masses? Just because something succeeds despite an audience preference in a different direction, doesn't mean the preference isn't there.

Spoiler for semi-OT rant about podbaydoors post.
Spoiler:
podbaydoor wrote:What if men everywhere had to conform to beauty standards set by women?We sure spend a lot of time talking about ideal female beauty—and why women spend so much time obsessing about it. But what if we lived in a world where women had always been the kings, the presidents, the bosses (and, thus, the arbiters of beauty)? Perhaps we’d call it a “Gynocracy”—a place where superficial women would set the standards for attractiveness, and men would have to conform to them. It would be a place where ugly men would have a hard time getting a date or a promotion, and the women would burn off steam over beers at a restaurant called Hunks, where all the waiters must have 30-inch waists and grapefruit-sized biceps.

You certainly wouldn’t see many paunchy, balding, older guys on TV. Sitcoms would feature couples where the men are tall, muscular, and hot, while the wives are chubby and witty. Salons, cosmetic-surgery offices and Weight Watchers meetings would be filled with men who spend a fortune trying to get that iconic masculine “V” shape women crave. And the maintenance—ah, the maintenance!—would shock men in our world. Think if you took a random group of men from your office and told them that they had to conform to the standard grooming norms of the Gynocracy. The rules might look something like this:
1. Weekly Forearm Waxing

No hairy arms or knuckles. It’s a crazy fashion thing that just sort of evolved—like the way women had to start shaving their legs a hundred years ago. To keep up with the beauty ideal in the Gynocracy, men have to wax or shave their forearms. To avoid it, some men just keep their sleeves rolled down—even in the summer. But if they want to wear short sleeves, or get a date with a woman, they absolutely have to be smooth and shaven from the elbow down. Sure, they could rebel, and show up to work hairy, but it’d be like a woman in our world sitting in a meeting with thick black hair on her legs. It’d be a STATEMENT.

2. For the Short Guy: Heels or Leg Extenders

Any guy shorter than 5 feet 10 feels uncomfortable in the Gynocracy—magazines are filled with tall men, as are the boardrooms. So, most short men wear big wedge heels. Once again, a guy could choose not to conform, but it might be tough when all the other men are wearing heels. Plus, lots of guys like the way they look with longer legs.

3. Hair Replacement

Being bald or even having thinning hair is just as unacceptable in the Gynocracy. Sure, some guys go natural, but they tend to be Men’s Studies professors at liberal universities. So guys who are unlucky enough to be losing their hair usually wear hats, or get hair replacement. Even the ones with thinning hair get extensions—and the salons are just full of men trying to get that fashionable, thick, wavy hair women like so much. Some say they’re doing it for themselves.

4. Hair Coloring for Him

There simply aren’t gray-haired men. Women can let themselves go gray, or even have white hair—people think they look smarter, hotter, more “distinguished.” But men? Never. So guys of a certain age who don’t want to look like they’ve passed their “use-by” date are always running off at lunchtime to get their roots done.

5. Tummy Tucks and Ab Work

Because the style for men in the Gynocracy is to wear skin-tight T shirts, men are obsessed with having a flat stomach. Older guys with the intractable paunches that sometimes come with middle age have a very hard time with these fashions. They either look sad in their tight shirts with belly rolls, or they cover up with frumpy “Chico’s for Men” shirts that make them look old and dated. And of course female bosses are always paying more attention to the young guys in the tight shirts, so just for economic survival, some guys have resorted to wearing full torso girdles called Manx—which is murder in the summer.


Now, yes, content that is harmful to women is not the only harmful content that movies and advertising promote - there is an entire bucketful of harmful content to men (often bound up as the double edge of the harmful content to women). The "beauty rules" in the Newsweek piece are already followed by some men. However, that is not the focus of this thread, and in addition, I would argue that harmful content to men takes place in a different context: the pressures on men, while they exist, still take place in a society where women were systematically subjugated to their equivalent male counterparts, once you control for class and race. All women everywhere are under the pressure to follow those beauty rules, whereas men can get away with not following them and still have a larger opportunity to gain power and influence. This is, again, reflected in the way movies portray successful men versus successful women. Just look at the lists of A-list aging female actors versus aging male actors.


I'm not really sure how to reply to this ... post, but here we go;
Firstly, I bet most guys reading are thinking "those rules sound absolutely fantastic". Simply looking pretty would be a hell of a lot easier than the crazy standards males currently have to jump to to get recognised in this society. Any reasonably attractive male does all of this and much much more already. If anything, the gender that loses out via hollywood stereotyping is men, not women. Secondly, statements like "All women everywhere are under the pressure to follow those beauty rules, whereas men can get away with not following them and still have a larger opportunity to gain power and influence." Really? You're seriously saying that? Have you seen the way men are fetishised in just about any moderately popular TV show about male-female dating? Every single one is not only gorgeous, but successful, funny, charming, intelligent, strong, powerful - the list goes on. Men have to save the world, the kid, the family, earn all the money, make all the jokes, etc. having to shave our legs every so often is nothing by comparison.

Furthermore, none of these "pressures" matter at all in modern day society. Yes, you require a perfect ten figure and a certain face type to get into hollywood as a female actress, and maybe that's sexist. Then again, maybe it isn't, if that's what the audience wants to see, who are we to argue. Maybe that is just what the average person finds most attractive, shock-horror that a fit and healthy person of the majority race would be found sexy by the majority race. Hey, I'd like a boyfriend who was a 7 foot world saving space marine who sparkled in sunlight. But, that's not reality. You sure as hell don't need to shave your legs to get into a well paid job, and there's no "pressure" over "all women everywhere" to follow these rules, other than that they create through their own vanity. "men can get away with not following them and still have a larger opportunity to gain power and influence."? Women can too.

Unless your entire point was just that it's sexist that women continue to find men attractive to a later age than men find women attractive... But I think that would be rather silly.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby omgryebread » Sun Sep 11, 2011 6:21 am UTC

Tomo wrote:This is a fantasy about fantasy characters. Why wouldn't you want to watch someone skilled AND beautiful?
Because people are okay with watching movies with men who are just skilled. I can't really think of a movie in which a skilled and successful woman isn't insanely hot. (The female ADAs in Law and Order were all very attractive. The men were pretty average. Just one example.)

A lot of women (and men!) - I daresay a majority although I don't have evidence on that, will be more satisfied with a partner. I don't see this as an issue. Both male and female characters who disregard love are in a huge minority in fiction.
Except the majority of the time, women's pursuit of men is a much larger part of the movies they star in. James Bond can be an international super spy, and just fuck a few chicks on the side. Sam Witwicky can hang with giant transforming robots, save the world a bunch of times, and his relationship to the girl is not the main point. There are not nearly as many movies in which women have some goal, and the romance plot is not there, or not as important.


Quick searching over the wiki for human attractiveness suggests that this is simply the majority preference. Fit, healthy, symmetric women of the majority race are considered the most attractive. I don't see this as a problem, and I don't see anything different happening for men. You linked a pointed and biased article about female faces and male faces, but try googling hot man - hint, every one has six pack and short hair, or attractive man - hint, every one has a strong jaw, similar face, shaved-slight stubble, dark short hair.
I'm a little more inclined to see your point here. But still, men are allowed more bulk. Men considered attractive range from rather skinny to pretty bulky. They are allowed to be older. Helen Mirren is "beautiful," if that, and Harrison Ford still gets "sexy."

I don't know, I quite like the idea of a strong man doing everything for me. If a guy tried that irl... but in a movie, I don't regard that as sexist, it's a fantasy.
What. I'm not sure how you don't regard that as sexist? That women should want to just wait up in their tower while Prince Charming comes to rescue them? Fuck that, if I'm watching a fantasy, I want my princess to stab some motherfuckers, claim the crown herself, then invade the prince's kingdom and sleep with his sister.

The only point that is something of an issue, but when you really get down to it, men have the physical advantage. Sexual violence against women is hugely more common, and films reflect that.
It's more the way it's portrayed. Movies with sexual assault on women often linger on it and sexualize it (including women on women). Sexual violence against men is usually passed over. I can think of Deliverance in which it's not, but even then, it's certainly not portrayed as sensual in any manner. (Not that all movies that portray violence against women display it grossly sexually.)

Because Alien was a great movie, and stood on its own merits without pandering fanservice to the masses? Just because something succeeds despite an audience preference in a different direction, doesn't mean the preference isn't there.
That's exactly the point? Tons of people care about good movies, not the gender of the lead?



I'm not really sure how to reply to this ... post, but here we go;
Firstly, I bet most guys reading are thinking "those rules sound absolutely fantastic". Simply looking pretty would be a hell of a lot easier than the crazy standards males currently have to jump to to get recognised in this society. Any reasonably attractive male does all of this and much much more already. If anything, the gender that loses out via hollywood stereotyping is men, not women. Secondly, statements like "All women everywhere are under the pressure to follow those beauty rules, whereas men can get away with not following them and still have a larger opportunity to gain power and influence." Really? You're seriously saying that? Have you seen the way men are fetishised in just about any moderately popular TV show about male-female dating? Every single one is not only gorgeous, but successful, funny, charming, intelligent, strong, powerful - the list goes on. Men have to save the world, the kid, the family, earn all the money, make all the jokes, etc. having to shave our legs every so often is nothing by comparison.
Oh. Wow. That's... Fuck that. I don't want to be "just gorgeous." I want to be gorgeous, successful, funny, charming, intelligent, strong, powerful, and then some. I don't want to just shave my legs. When I watch a movie, I want my heroine to save the world, the kid, the family, earn all the money, and make all the jokes. I want a movie in which a badass, moderately attractive woman in her late 50s has to save her husband and kids from the terrorists. Fuck your notions that I, and other women, want to watch our heroines sit around and figure out how to get dick. And if that's truly what other women want to watch that's an extremely serious problem.

Furthermore, none of these "pressures" matter at all in modern day society. Yes, you require a perfect ten figure and a certain face type to get into hollywood as a female actress, and maybe that's sexist. Then again, maybe it isn't, if that's what the audience wants to see, who are we to argue. Maybe that is just what the average person finds most attractive, shock-horror that a fit and healthy person of the majority race would be found sexy by the majority race. Hey, I'd like a boyfriend who was a 7 foot world saving space marine who sparkled in sunlight. But, that's not reality. You sure as hell don't need to shave your legs to get into a well paid job, and there's no "pressure" over "all women everywhere" to follow these rules, other than that they create through their own vanity. "men can get away with not following them and still have a larger opportunity to gain power and influence."? Women can too.
High school. I wore short skirts, I had extremely nice dirty blond hair, a cute face, great legs, and a nice stomach. My friend was a much nicer person, much smarter, would never have cheated on a boyfriend, and pretty much was a better person, and would have been a much better girlfriend. But she was a little overweight and frizzy brown hair. Guess who got the guys and was more popular with girls? Wasn't the one who deserved it.

Unless your entire point was just that it's sexist that women continue to find men attractive to a later age than men find women attractive... But I think that would be rather silly.
Why?
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Sep 11, 2011 6:43 am UTC

omgryebread wrote:if I'm watching a fantasy, I want my princess to stab some motherfuckers, claim the crown herself, then invade the prince's kingdom and sleep with his sister.
Fuck what other audiences allegedly want. I want to see this movie.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby The Mighty Thesaurus » Sun Sep 11, 2011 6:48 am UTC

Tomo presumably believes Jud Süß wasn't racist, since that was also a fantasy.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Princess Marzipan » Sun Sep 11, 2011 7:55 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
omgryebread wrote:if I'm watching a fantasy, I want my princess to stab some motherfuckers, claim the crown herself, then invade the prince's kingdom and sleep with his sister.
Fuck what other audiences allegedly want. I want to see this movie.
Dude, for serious.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Vash » Sun Sep 11, 2011 8:12 am UTC

Princess Marzipan wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
omgryebread wrote:if I'm watching a fantasy, I want my princess to stab some motherfuckers, claim the crown herself, then invade the prince's kingdom and sleep with his sister.
Fuck what other audiences allegedly want. I want to see this movie.
Dude, for serious.


Would be a fucking awesome movie.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Tomo » Sun Sep 11, 2011 9:39 am UTC

omgryebread wrote:Oh. Wow. That's... Fuck that. I don't want to be "just gorgeous." I want to be gorgeous, successful, funny, charming, intelligent, strong, powerful, and then some. I don't want to just shave my legs. When I watch a movie, I want my heroine to save the world, the kid, the family, earn all the money, and make all the jokes. I want a movie in which a badass, moderately attractive woman in her late 50s has to save her husband and kids from the terrorists. Fuck your notions that I, and other women, want to watch our heroines sit around and figure out how to get dick. And if that's truly what other women want to watch that's an extremely serious problem.


But that's the point, there's nothing stopping you doing all of that. If society has a preference for movies in which men are the leads rather than women, or just sit around and figure out how to get dick, that's not necessarily sexist, just a preference in what people prefer to watch. If we start telling women they can only be gorgeous irl, then that starts being a problem. (Which is a sexist notion that these movies may propagate, but I don't think it makes the movies inherently sexist. The movie may be sexist of course, but not necessarily. Either way, I certainly don't think teams of executives sit around discussing how to keep women down in society, simply that they try to find something the majority of people will watch to make the most money. The fact that those movies tend to fail the test mayt be indicative of a sexist problem within society, but it also may not.) R.E. Aliens, yes, if you make a fantastic movie then people will watch it regardless. But if you don't have the time, money or skill for that, knocking out something established is a valid way to go.

High school. I wore short skirts, I had extremely nice dirty blond hair, a cute face, great legs, and a nice stomach. My friend was a much nicer person, much smarter, would never have cheated on a boyfriend, and pretty much was a better person, and would have been a much better girlfriend. But she was a little overweight and frizzy brown hair. Guess who got the guys and was more popular with girls? Wasn't the one who deserved it.


How is that even an argument?
Spoiler:
High school. I wore tight T-shirts, I had extremely nice dirty blond hair, a cute face, great legs, and a nice abs. My friend was a much nicer person, much smarter, would never have cheated on a girlfriend, and pretty much was a better person, and would have been a much better boyfriend. But he was a little overweight and frizzy brown hair. Guess who got the girls and was more popular with guys? Wasn't the one who deserved it.
Well yes, high school sucks. It sucks for a ton of people all over the sexual, gender and social spectrum. There's very little sexist about it, turns out whn a group of horny teenagers of both sexes are brought together, they're likely to be nicer to attractive people. It's pretty equal. Men get ripped on exactly the same if they're ugly instead of attractive, genius hackers or not.

Unless your entire point was just that it's sexist that women continue to find men attractive to a later age than men find women attractive... But I think that would be rather silly.
Why?


It strikes me that that would A) be down to an evolutionary preference in the way sexual organs age, and B) that the effects of aging tend to be less obvious on males. I'm not really sure I agree with calling people out as sexist for a preference in attractiveness though.

The Mighty Thesaurus wrote:Tomo presumably believes Jud Süß wasn't racist, since that was also a fantasy.
Because that film was made to appease the largest number of people possible and generate profit, right? No.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Amarantha » Sun Sep 11, 2011 12:55 pm UTC

omgryebread wrote:...if I'm watching a fantasy, I want my princess to stab some motherfuckers, claim the crown herself, then invade the prince's kingdom and sleep with his sister.
Sig'd for pure distilled awesome.
omgryebread wrote:...if I'm watching a fantasy, I want my princess to stab some motherfuckers, claim the crown herself, then invade the prince's kingdom and sleep with his sister.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby nitePhyyre » Sun Sep 11, 2011 1:17 pm UTC

Vash wrote:
Princess Marzipan wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
omgryebread wrote:if I'm watching a fantasy, I want my princess to stab some motherfuckers, claim the crown herself, then invade the prince's kingdom and sleep with his sister.
Fuck what other audiences allegedly want. I want to see this movie.
Dude, for serious.
Would be a fucking awesome movie.
But it still wouldn't pass the test.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Dark567 » Sun Sep 11, 2011 1:26 pm UTC

podbaydoor wrote:As for yours and Tomo's advancement of the notion that movie execs are only responding to "what audiences want":
If audiences don’t want women as leads, why did Aliens succeed?
See if I asked "if society is sexist against female politicians, how did Blanche Lincoln/Lisa Murkowski/Olympia Snowe succeed?" The answer isn't going to be that society isn't sexist, its going to be that society has a bias against women, but not so biased that they can't be successful. Movie audiences are probably much the same way. For that matter, if we really believe society is sexist(I believe most of us are in agreement here), then why wouldn't we think that sexism would have an effect on audiences wants? Are we really going to make an exception here?
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Sep 11, 2011 3:00 pm UTC

nitePhyyre wrote:
Vash wrote:
Princess Marzipan wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
omgryebread wrote:if I'm watching a fantasy, I want my princess to stab some motherfuckers, claim the crown herself, then invade the prince's kingdom and sleep with his sister.
Fuck what other audiences allegedly want. I want to see this movie.
Dude, for serious.
Would be a fucking awesome movie.
But it still wouldn't pass the test.
So you think she and the prince's sister will be talking about dudes while they're fucking?

In any case, I suspect omgryebread intended this to be only the briefest of plot summaries, and that there would in fact be some other things going on besides the stabbing of motherfuckers, ascending to the throne, invasion, and lesbian sex. And that any or all of those four mentioned things as well as any or all of the other things could potentially involve the princess talking to at least one other woman about something other than dudes.

Dark567 wrote:For that matter, if we really believe society is sexist(I believe most of us are in agreement here), then why wouldn't we think that sexism would have an effect on audiences wants? Are we really going to make an exception here?
There's no exception being made. We're claiming that, even granting sexist audience preferences, people are evidently far more likely to want and enjoy movies with strong female leads than most movie studios seem to think.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby podbaydoor » Sun Sep 11, 2011 5:48 pm UTC

@Tomo, google the existing lists of U.S legislators, Supreme Court Justices, Fortune 500 CEOs, and Presidential couples.

Guess which gender is allowed to have a double chin and deep wrinkles while they're performing these positions of power and success?
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby somebody already took it » Sun Sep 11, 2011 5:53 pm UTC

Tomo wrote:Yes, you require a perfect ten figure and a certain face type to get into hollywood as a female actress, and maybe that's sexist. Then again, maybe it isn't, if that's what the audience wants to see, who are we to argue.

The film/entertainment industry profits from manufacturing desires, not from fulfilling them.
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Tomo wrote:B) that the effects of aging tend to be less obvious on males.

Why do you believe that? Males tend to loose more hair as they age than females, which to me seems to me like a pretty obvious effect of aging.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Tomo » Sun Sep 11, 2011 6:14 pm UTC

podbaydoor wrote:@Tomo, google the existing lists of U.S legislators, Supreme Court Justices, Fortune 500 CEOs, and Presidential couples.

Guess which gender is allowed to have a double chin and deep wrinkles while they're performing these positions of power and success?


What the? I guess both genders? Are you trolling? Or really that delusional?
Check out this group of lookers.

Spoiler:
Image


Most of them are overweight or unattractive, and all are aging. They're pretty far from beauty anyway. Didn't seem to stop them*.
Or this group:

Spoiler:
Image


To be fair, the males are probably slightly heavier set, but I very much doubt any of those of either gender in either picture obtained their jobs through their gorgeous looks. As an extra exercise, I googled "Female U.S. legislators", "Female Supreme Court Justices", and "Female Fortune 500 CEOs". None of the women in any of those results were anything close to traditional "hollywood attractive". I really have no idea what you were trying to get at here.

*Note, I'm not american, so if those aren't senators I apologise. Google seemed to think they were though.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby somebody already took it » Sun Sep 11, 2011 11:03 pm UTC

Podbaydoor's conjecture gave me an interesting idea. Wikipedia has a list of US senators ordered by age:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cu ... ors_by_age
I count 6 women in the oldest 50 vs. 12 in the youngest 50. Although it's a small sample, the difference is large enough to suggest that signs of age are more of a factor for female politicians. If anyone has some spare time on their hands it would be interesting to see this experiment extended to the house of representatives along with some age histograms...
And age distribution is really the least of the senates problems. Most members are extremely wealthy (see: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/ ... llionaire/), and notice that only 18% of its members are women.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Tomo » Sun Sep 11, 2011 11:18 pm UTC

somebody already took it wrote:Podbaydoor's conjecture gave me an interesting idea. Wikipedia has a list of US senators ordered by age:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cu ... ors_by_age
I count 6 women in the oldest 50 vs. 12 in the youngest 50. Although it's a small sample, the difference is large enough to suggest that signs of age are more of a factor for female politicians. If anyone has some spare time on their hands it would be interesting to see this experiment extended to the house of representatives along with some age histograms...
And age distribution is really the least of the senates problems. Most members are extremely wealthy (see: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/ ... llionaire/), and notice that only 18% of its members are women.


Well, an obvious explanation for the slight difference in ages you've posted is that when the oldest 50 were growing up, there was very little oppurtunity for women to go into politics. Western society as a whole is a lot better on that nowadays.

Following on from this as a slight clarification. There's a definite sexist bias against female politicians, (and against anything non- white, rich, straight, etc.) It's abhorrent and every step should be taken to see that it's straightened out. But I really don't think this is anything to do with hollywoods perception of beauty, or the way women are portrayed in films.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby somebody already took it » Sun Sep 11, 2011 11:55 pm UTC

Tomo wrote:Well, an obvious explanation for the slight difference in ages you've posted is that when the oldest 50 were growing up, there was very little oppurtunity for women to go into politics. Western society as a whole is a lot better on that nowadays.

It could very well be both past oppression and age bias against women. There's an experiment we can do to find out how much of a factor age bias is: compare the male-female average age difference of candidates who lose elections to that of those who win elections. However, this won't tell us how much of a factor age bias is in candidate selection.
Moreover, what information do you have on the number of women going into politics over the last 60 years?

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby sigsfried » Mon Sep 12, 2011 4:32 pm UTC

I'm a little more inclined to see your point here. But still, men are allowed more bulk. Men considered attractive range from rather skinny to pretty bulky. They are allowed to be older. Helen Mirren is "beautiful," if that, and Harrison Ford still gets "sexy."


I'm not sure it is necessarily useful to pin down all differences on attraction down to sexism. It is pretty obvious that some of the differences are innate, the extent is always arguable of course but I see no obvious reasons why the the concepts of an attractive man and an attractive woman should be particularly closely aligned.

It's more the way it's portrayed. Movies with sexual assault on women often linger on it and sexualize it (including women on women). Sexual violence against men is usually passed over. I can think of Deliverance in which it's not, but even then, it's certainly not portrayed as sensual in any manner. (Not that all movies that portray violence against women display it grossly sexually.)


Where as sexual assault on men is often portrayed as little more than a joke. Now I can't remember the film but last time I was persuaded to go watch a Rom Com, a while back now (it might have been Wedding Crashers really I clutching at straws here), I remember it containing at least one scene of sexual assault and one of rape. Neither were treated as particularly serious. In fact I think he ends up marrying the woman who raped him. I doubt that would ever happen with the genders reversed.

That said I don't think the film industry can be held solely responsible for this. Rape against men is rarely considered to have the same negative connotations so this may simply be the films reflecting societies values.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Sep 12, 2011 4:55 pm UTC

sigsfried wrote:That said I don't think the film industry can be held solely responsible for this.
No one is holding the film industry solely responsible for anything. What gets shown in films is a reflection of, symptom of, and reinforcement of things that pervade society as a whole, and no one is arguing anything different.

But while we can't hold them solely responsible, we can still hold them somewhat responsible, particularly for the reinforcing part. Sure, society as a whole views sexual assault of men as a less serious problem, so it's easier to get away with treating it as a joke. But that doesn't mean your movie should go ahead and treat it as a joke, too. Just like living in a racist society doesn't excuse making racist movies. (Movies about racist societies, it should be noted, are not necessarily racist movies.)
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby sigsfried » Mon Sep 12, 2011 6:23 pm UTC

But I don't think it should be films job to fix societal problems (assuming people accept that attitudes towards men being raped is a problem, I am not trying to argue the seriousness of it is comparable to that of women being raped).

The under-representation of women in films is very different though I don't think there is an attitude, these days, that can explain the problem. Simply it is lack of confidence in the film industry and an unwillingness to try anything different.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Azrael » Mon Sep 12, 2011 6:59 pm UTC

sigsfried wrote:But I don't think it should be films job to fix societal problems
Ok, but ...
The under-representation of women in films is very different though I don't think there is an attitude, these days, that can explain the problem. Simply it is lack of confidence in the film industry and an unwillingness to try anything different.
How about we hold them responsible to fix their own problems? Those ones right there that you just mentioned, which just so happen to be the ones that we've been arguing that they need to fix for the whole damn thread.

Interestingly enough, in your scenario (where you don't see sexism in the general world) the failings of the film industry are even worse. They can't hide behind, as you mention, 'fixing the world's problems'. They're just being lazy. That's not a very good excuse.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby bvih » Mon Sep 12, 2011 7:02 pm UTC

sigsfried wrote:But I don't think it should be films job to fix societal problems (assuming people accept that attitudes towards men being raped is a problem, I am not trying to argue the seriousness of it is comparable to that of women being raped).

The under-representation of women in films is very different though I don't think there is an attitude, these days, that can explain the problem. Simply it is lack of confidence in the film industry and an unwillingness to try anything different.


Why shouldn't we try to fix societal problems through film? Socially conscious (if not progressive) films aren't necessarily any less entertaining than those that reinforce stereotypes and biases.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby sigsfried » Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:00 pm UTC

How about we hold them responsible to fix their own problems? Those ones right there that you just mentioned, which just so happen to be the ones that we've been arguing that they need to fix for the whole damn thread.

Interestingly enough, in your scenario (where you don't see sexism in the general world) the failings of the film industry are even worse. They can't hide behind, as you mention, 'fixing the world's problems'. They're just being lazy. That's not a very good excuse.




Oh I agree about that, I was only actually responding to the argument made that the way violence against women is treated in films. It is bad but in general violence against women is treated better than violence against men in my opinion. I do see some level of sexism in the world in general (especially in American, Britain and Oriental countries) but not to the extent to which it is portrayed in films.

That said I'm not overly convinced this is a helpful test. I was watching an episode of buffy earlier with my sister. Whatever you can say about it, it doesn't exactly put only men in hero roles, even so the episode failed the test. I can't say much more than that about it, it could well be the only such episode.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:41 pm UTC

sigsfried wrote:That said I'm not overly convinced this is a helpful test. I was watching an episode of buffy earlier with my sister. Whatever you can say about it, it doesn't exactly put only men in hero roles, even so the episode failed the test. I can't say much more than that about it, it could well be the only such episode.
It would be neat if people bothered reading the thread, or even the last page or two of it, before sharing their opinions.

Because if you had read more than a few posts, you'd surely have come across one of the many where we painstakingly explain to people like you how we're not saying it's a useful test for whether a particular individual movie is sexist.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby sigsfried » Tue Sep 13, 2011 12:15 am UTC

Sorry about that, I had read the thread through but I suppose that makes it less acceptable anyway. It was because I had read it that I had started noticing it. My original point was going to be that I thought the entire thing was stronger in TV than film but the Buffy episode rather tore that to pieces that said I suppose that is even more damning. To have a show that had four out of five main characters yet still not manage to pass the test is hugely shows a huge failure on the part of the writers and producers.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Sep 13, 2011 3:26 am UTC

There are about 100 hours of Buffy, so maybe that one episode you saw shouldn't count for much?
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby guenther » Tue Sep 13, 2011 7:47 am UTC

Wow, what a weekend to miss!

podbaydoor wrote:There's no "if" here.

Can you provide a citation?

podbaydoor wrote:My last post assumed you'd make the connection between movie trends influencing children and why that's harmful to women precisely because of the content that is promoted. (This content, by the way, is the ENTIRE POINT of this thread. I'm disappointed that you continue to insist on explanations for basic, elementary things over and over with each post.)

I appreciate the effort you put into this post, and I respect the passion you and others have for this topic. I apologize for causing disappointment, and if it's caused by me questioning things you consider elementary, then I fear that it will continue. However, I am in all honesty not trying to be difficult, obnoxious, or obtuse. I am attempting to defend points that I think are strong and question those that I feel are weak. I apologize if I miss things that you feel are obvious, but I am trying my best!

Now on to your post:

First, you make a lot of is/ought assumptions. I.e. If the content contains a trend, then it is in fact promoting that the trend represents an imperative of what must be. But you don't really defend this besides citing some examples of the trend. This line of reasoning would lead us to conclude that since restaurants tend to have unhealthy food choices (big portion sizes and rich in sugar and fat), then it is promoting that food must be this way (as opposed to being more desirable this way).

Second, you haven't made a clear case for harm. If they do promote those sorts of imperatives from 1, then OK that's harmful. But if they merely provide pressure for what is more desirable (i.e. it's considered preferable for women to have a man), then more work has to be done to establish how this is actually harmful.

Third, much of this hasn't really been linked to the small number of Bechdel movies. One might think that if half of action stars are women, then viewers might be less inclined to think women are passive. But if the influence from movies is weak, then this may not be the case. In fact, the idea I've posited before is that you don't need a gender balance of roles, you just need enough counter examples that feel believable. Which means the negative impact here might be solved while still maintaining a huge gender imbalance.

Fourth, even if 1, 2, and 3 are true, you haven't built a good case that the movie making establishment is clearly biased against women. To reuse the earlier example, fast food chains clearly have a negative impact on our health, but they're not biased against their patrons. Tobacco companies aren't biased against smokers. When I think of someone having a clear bias against someone, I think of the likes of Glen Beck. Is this what the movie making establishment has against women? If they were taking positions against the rights of women, then maybe I'd agree, but I haven't witnessed that, at least not in the mass-movie market.

Lastly, the case with children is a separate issue. When the content is not appropriate for kids even though it's OK for adults, the fix would be dealing with how kids get ahold of this, not altering what is available for adults. For most of this conversation, I've been considering the impact of movies made for mass market (i.e. age 13+), not Disney films aimed at young children. And in particular, if the trajectory of harm is through childhood, then the gender balance of characters invading kingdoms and fucking princesses (i.e. R-rated content) shouldn't matter.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby sigsfried » Tue Sep 13, 2011 8:56 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:There are about 100 hours of Buffy, so maybe that one episode you saw shouldn't count for much?


Well I wouldn't know, it could just be coincidence, read this thread then start noticing it everywhere. That said I don't watch much TV and it did surprise me that every show I saw (a grand total of 4 things in the last week hardly a large sample) failed it.

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Azrael » Tue Sep 13, 2011 11:40 am UTC

I was watching an episode of buffy earlier with my sister ... even so the episode failed the test.
One data point. You can't do jack with one data point.

sigsfried wrote:... it did surprise me that every show I saw failed it.
Oh look, a data set! And a trend!

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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby Diadem » Tue Sep 13, 2011 11:54 am UTC

sigsfried wrote:Sorry about that, I had read the thread through but I suppose that makes it less acceptable anyway. It was because I had read it that I had started noticing it. My original point was going to be that I thought the entire thing was stronger in TV than film but the Buffy episode rather tore that to pieces that said I suppose that is even more damning. To have a show that had four out of five main characters yet still not manage to pass the test is hugely shows a huge failure on the part of the writers and producers.

I think most if not all Buffy episodes pass the test. Buffy has quite a lot of female characters, and they do a lot of talking that isn't about men. And remember, not every single episode has to pass the test. There's one episode that completely focuses on Xander for example, where we see everything through his eyes, and only see the other main characters as he interacts with them. Obviously that episode is gonna fail the test. That doesn't make it in any way sexist. The bechdel test is not there for individual movies, and certainly not for individual tv show episodes. It's there to detect patterns. And I don't see this pattern with buffy. I can for example also name at least one episode which fails the inverse test (that episode where buffy flees Sunnydale and works in a bar for a while, then ends up in hell). There's probably more.

When it comes to female characters Buffy is a pretty good show I think. Not only does it contain a lot of them, they are well developed and there's no sexploitation as far as I can see. But I won't exclude the possibility that i'm oblivious to some forms of bias, so I'm curious to hear what others think.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Sep 13, 2011 11:59 am UTC

Diadem wrote:I can for example also name at least one episode which fails the inverse test (that episode where buffy flees Sunnydale and works in a bar for a while, then ends up in hell). There's probably more.
That's the other thing: I think a lot of conversation on Buffy is about other characters, and so conversations between men will often have at least something to do with female characters, and vice versa. So I'd suspect that if there are lots of episodes that fail the test, there are probably a roughly equal amount that fail the reverse test.
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Re: The Bechdel test

Postby hawkinsssable » Wed Sep 14, 2011 9:23 am UTC

Since we're talking about Buffy, can I link to one of my favourite speeches of all time? It's Joss Whedon's acceptance speech of an Equality Now award in which he presents a whole string of answers to a question he's asked in almost every interview he does- "why do you always write these strong female characters?"

Here are some of his answers:

Joss Whedon wrote:But, these strong women characters…

Why are you even asking me this?! This is like interview number 50 in a row. How is it possible that this is even a question? Honestly, seriously, why are you -- why did you write that down? Why do you -- Why aren’t you asking a hundred other guys why they don’t write strong women characters? I believe that what I am doing should not be remarked upon, let alone honored and there are other people doing it. But, seriously, this question is ridiculous and you just gotta stop.

So, why do you write these strong women characters?

Because equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity, we need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and women who’s confronted with it. We need equality, kinda now.

So, why do you write these strong female characters?

Because you’re still asking me that question.


Buffy the Vampire Slayer is notable because so many of its episodes (and, I'd guess, every episode written by Joss Whedon) probably would pass the Bechdel test. Joss Whedon is notable because he writes strong female characters. And it sticks out- the very first scene of the entire show swaps gender roles by having the frightened teenage girl you expect to die off turn out to be the vampire who kills the boy, and the only reason the scene works is because it subverts your expectations. (I'd link to it, but searching for it on youtube just ended up showing a bunch of Buffy/Spike sex scenes, urgh) The whole concept of the show- a female vampire slayer- is about subverting expectations in a way that proves that the show doesn't suffer as a result.

Buffy is notable. So is Joss Whedon. And that's a problem.
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