Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Writer's Block Wednesday: The Bechdel Test

Of all the things that have come up in conversation with my good friend Mike, the "Bechdel test" is probably one of the most random...at least in terms of what the two of us usually talk about.

It's funny, though...I'd honestly never heard of the Bechdel test before he mentioned it. Even more interesting is the fact that since we talked about it, I swear it's being mentioned everywhere! (Or maybe I'm just noticing it being mentioned where I wouldn't before? You know how these things work.)

So the long and the short of it is that in order to pass the Bechdel test, a book/film/show must include at least one conversation between at least two females...that is not about a man or men.

The thing is, the test doesn't simply mean that the women would only be talking about romantic partners - to truly pass, their conversation can't be about any men. At all. In considering my actual life and the conversations I have with my female friends, I can often have long conversations in which not a single man is mentioned at all...or for instance, if one is, it's as the conversation is dying, sort of as a footnote (for example, my best friend Jenna will often - but not always - ask about Steve, and if she does so it's only after we've discussed work, money, cars, pets, and God knows what else).

Unfortunately, it's not quite that easy to find such conversations in works of fiction - which, as the Bechdel Test page on the TV tropes website points out, seem to think that "women aren't worth portraying except in relation to men". Sadly, many of my favorite books, films, and shows do not pass this test (though notably, my all-time favorites Gone with the Wind and Jurassic Park do)...but what really matters to me is whether my own writings do. I'm fairly certain that anything I write that has at least a few conversations between two or more women does, but it's honestly hard to recall off the top of my head...especially when, come to think of it, I haven't written very many stories that feature conversations between women and only women.

Weird. (To think that much of what I write features few women at all, and almost no all-female interaction. Hmm.)

Anyway, I was also interested to stumble upon an an article in the Disney blog about animated Disney/Disney-Pixar flicks that do or do not pass the Bechdel Test. While it's not surprising that plenty of them don't, I was pleased to see how many that do...including Beauty and the Beast, The Emperor's New Groove, Lilo & Stitch, and Tangled :)

Yes, I know that this "test" has been around for a while. I guess my point in writing this is that I'm curious as to whether people have more recently decided that it's almost necessary for a piece of fiction - be it in writing or on the screen or even on the stage - pass? (Outside of the obvious stories that couldn't logically pass, i.e. one that takes place entirely on an armed submarine during World War II.) Of course people say that whether or not a work of fiction passes this test does not determine how good it is, or whether or not it is misogynistic...but I don't know. Wouldn't it be nice to have more books, movies, and shows that feature female characters on their own merit, rather than to constantly remind us of how they relate to men? Pin It

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