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Oct 21 2010

Boy story

Advanced patriarchy blamers have already strapped into their handydyke utility belt of blaming techniques the Bechdel Test. But a little refresher can’t hurt, so check out the vid.

The Bechdel test dates back to the 80′s and Alison Bechdel’s iconic comic Dykes to Watch Out For. The test aims the Blistering Beacon of Blame at the infrequency with which female characters in film are represented as fully realized human beings.

To pass the test, a film (or, if you like, any other sort of arty or infotainment-y work*) has to have at least two female characters, the characters have to have names, and they have to have a conversation about something other than dudes.

These criteria are always burbling in the back of the my lobe as I ingest media from the various screens in my life. Constant scanning for representations of female characters that even vaguely nod at the truth makes the act of consuming entertainment absolutely exhausting. You more or less expect women to be characterized as dude accessories in pre-feminist movies, but the scarcity of more recently produced shows that pass the test continues to boggle the spinster mind. The other day during an episode of “Star Trek Voyager” I did the butt-dance when Janeway and Torres had a discussion about a warp core breach. Of course, they do that on every episode. I personally think the Bechdel test ought to exclude Janeway-Torres warp core breach discussions.

Let us not forget, however, that the Bechdel test only measures whether two female characters have a few lines of human dialogue. It doesn’t gauge whether the female characters in question are generally representative of female humanity, so it can’t really be used to award any feminist points. There may have been, for example, a few seconds here and there in “Sex and the City” where the women chit-chat about getting Brazilians instead of about getting laid, but the show’s overall unmitigated heteronormative misogyny pretty much cancels out any brief flirtation with the notion that women are human.

I don’t know if you have young nieces and therefore were compelled to see “Toy Story 3″ in a theater with about 4792 other kids, but I do and I was. (“Toy Story 3″ sort of borderline passes the Bechdel test on a sort of technicality, but definitely flunks it in spirit; there is one brief scene where two women, one of whom is named “Mom,” discuss giving toys away to charity). I won’t bore you with “Toy Story 3′s” yawn-o plot details, but it will not bowl you over to hear that the hero toy is a dude, the sidekick toy is a dude, most of the supporting character toys are dudes, and the kid who owns the toys is a dude. Oh, and one of the two or three female characters is a Barbie, and she is an airhead. Business as usual.

But check this out. Yesterday, while shoveling a buttload of horse manure into my Gator, I listened to a recent “Fresh Air” podcast wherein Terry Gross interviews two Hollywood dudes who had something to do with making “Toy Story 3.” The Hollywood dudes start talking about “getting to the emotional truth of the characters.” I have, with my usual painstaking attention to detail, transcribed the portion of the interview in which they reveal how they went about getting to the “emotional truth” of a Ken doll character.

Hollywood Dude #1: I don’t know if you had any Ken dolls when you were growing up; I certainly didn’t. But my friends’ little sisters did and we made endless fun of Ken. Ken’s just a-a-a whipping boy [...] We thought, well what does it feel like to be a guy who’s a girl’s toy? You’re a guy, but you’re only played with by little girls. And then further, he’s just an accessory to Barbie. You know he doesn’t carry equal weight to, with Barbie, he’s really no more important than a pair of shoes or a belt or a purse to her, and we knew that he would have to have a complex.

Hollywood Dude #2: Yeah, no, I mean, that’s one of the things that’s such a pleasure working on a film like this is that you go, OK, what, you know, what are gonna be the issues of a character like Ken, like what’s gonna be the thing that like keeps him awake at night, you know, and, so, you know, immediately you come into the fact that maybe he’s a little bit insecure about the fact that-that-that he’s-he’s, you know, a girl’s toy and maybe he’s in denial of that.”

Immediately one is struck by the empathy shown poor Ken by the Hollywood dudes. Through his degraded status as a “whipping boy” toy whose lot in life is to be “only” played with by little girls, Ken accrues pathos. The subtext — that little girls are low prestige toy owners and confer shame upon any “male” toy forced to associate with them — reveals that the Hollywood dudes have thoroughly assimilated the message that female children are of lower status than male children, and actually do have cooties.

Another hilarious facet of Hollywood dudes’ remarks is their cogent assessment of the condition of existing solely as an accessory. It is obvious to them that relegating a sentient being to the role of one-dimensional second banana degrades that sentient being, which sentient being would then logically suffer psychological damage as a result (Ken’s “complex”). Yet it eludes them that this is precisely the condition they have imposed on the female characters in their own film, much less that it’s the condition overwhelmingly imposed on female characters in most other films, as well as the condition imposed on all actual live women. Does Mrs Potato Head lie awake at night pondering the horror of existing only as an afterthought to, and entirely in terms of, Mr Potato Head? Not in “Toy Story 3!”

In other words, the Hollywood dudes have perfectly illustrated the point of view of the entitled default human: men are men, and women are toys.

__________________________
* Is it just me, or does even Terry Gross seem to interview way more dudes than dudesses?

[YouTube link courtesy of Veganrampage]

80 comments

6 pings

  1. Blamer formerly known as "someone"

    Once again, a nice piece of blame. Unfortunately it does seem like some of the most egregious marginalization of female people occurs in KIDS’ films, making sure that we get the lesson into young girls and boys stat.

    Since you mentioned Bechdel though and we just finished the previous season of “Eureka” on Netflix, I’m pretty sure it passes…I hadn’t had the test in mind while watching, but it’s populated by quite a few genius women scientists (even if most of the science is fanciful), who are treated like complete, normal people (and not “cold” or unattractive as goes the stereotype). Moreover, the men are just as concerned about personal relationships and what women think of them as the other way around.

    I wouldn’t have a problem encouraging any niece to watch that show, in which the final episode of season 3.5 has not only the main girl character recruited to Harvard, but has her boyfriend doing a project to get into MIT specifically so he doesn’t have to be separated from her. And nobody would even think of making fun of him for that; on the contrary, it’s seen as an absolutely logical motivation.

  2. Jill

    I’ve watched a bit of “Eureka” myself, and although you are right that there are a few non-airhead female characters, I cannot specifically recall any scenes where two of them are sitting around shooting the shit about something other than the handsome action-man sheriff or some other love interest. I also don’t see the feminist implications of the Harvard girl contriving to remain unseparated from her man.

    By the way “someone” is an illegal login. So I changed it.

  3. Barbara P

    Of all things, I find that a lot of anime passes the Bechdel test. “Azumanga Daioh” is an example. (Though I’m sure there are many problems with it from a feminist perspective, there are barely any male characters at all, and I think only one that has a name.)

  4. KH

    Given that Toy Story 3 came out around father’s day, and lots of fathers of my acquaintance were talking about how great it was to take your kid(s) to, I doubted it early on as a girl-positive film. The fact that it was made by Pixar meant that I already knew they are hardly a girl-positive studio (Miyazaki makes his own films, they just distribute them and do the English voices, so his films don’t count as positives for them as authors). That the film Up was their previous effort, and featured a non-speaking role, as a memory, for a deceased woman as pretty much the only woman’s role (maybe the only one?–don’t know–haven’t seen it) means that they hit my personal threshold of will-not-supportitude. [And no, I don't care how 'good' a story it is, Up-lovers! It's a male-centric fiction, which is just too much fiction for me. Come to think of it, that little girl in Monsters, Inc. doesn't speak either, not really, and the other woman monsters fill the role of office bitch or girlfriend. And in The Incredibles, Violet blossoms into confidence in order to protect her family and her brother, and the culminating hurrah of that confidence is that she asks a boy out.]

    I was not surprised to hear your recounting of the film dudes having spent so much time grokking Ken’s lot while yet seeming to be oblivious to the inverse parallel that is women characters’ lot. I am disappointed, but not at all surprised to hear that Terry Gross did not query them on such a glaring cluelessness.

    As usual, it seems you’re doing blaming work a lot of other folks should/could be doing. Thanks again. I think it’s time to bump some Voyager up in the queue.

  5. OVERLADY

    THose Dudes forgot to mention one of the most PERTINENT points: the Ken doll often serves as a REPRESENTATIVE of maleness, otherwise known as “the Patriarchy”, and FREQUENTLY figures in little girls’ play as an outlet for the RAGE they feel at their own marginalization.

    I remember very FEW Ken dolls who were not obvious recipients of little Girls’ RAGE.

  6. Zygar

    I, too, was going to mention anime in general as a genre which passes the Bechdel test but fails in spirit.

  7. Cheryl

    It drives me crazy that for a little boy (or grown boy) to empathize with female characters is considered gay and lame. If Toy Story 3 passed the Bechdel test in spirit and practice, I’m sure the studio suits would sit around worrying that it wouldn’t appeal to boys. But girls are expected to see it and like it.

  8. ambivalent academic

    It would have been so fucking awesome if Hollywood Dude #2′s contribution had been followed by a (Hollywood or non-) Un-dude saying something along the lines of:

    “So, in referencing Ken’s crisis-of-being as it pertains to being merely an accessory, you mean, PRETTY MUCH WHAT FEMALE CHARACTERS AND EVEN REAL WOMEN GO THROUGH THEIR ENTIRE FUCKING LIVES!??!?!?”

    Too much to hope for. The whole universe might explode. Your Mrs. Potato Head analogy is right on.

  9. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Every time I’m made privy to Hollywood Dude discussions, I quit wondering why movies are such steaming piles of excrement. With flies and wavy stink-lines.

  10. Blamer formerly known as "Someone"

    Ohhhh…I used to be able to post under this name…but thanks for changing that. I’ll think of something else!

    I also can’t *specifically* recall if the show passed Bechdel because I wasn’t looking for it, but I’m pretty sure it does…I’ll have to go back and see.

    And no…it was not the Harvard girl that contrived not to be separated, it was the GUY. Hence my mention of it…but I can see, my bad writing didn’t get that across! I meant that the SHOW had the boyfriend taking steps, she herself had nothing to do with that. Oops.

  11. Jenny

    I love your brain. That is all.

  12. Jane Q. Public

    Yes. Wavy stink lines and a green noxious cloud of stank surrounding the entire pile.

    It was just a few years ago that I was still able to enjoy movies. The bad old days. Happily, there’s no going back. Of course, I still watch nine out of ten movies that come my way. Mostly so I can roll my eyes and point out their inadequacies to the person who has the misfortune of watching them with me.

  13. yttik

    The patriarchy really screws boys up. Ken spends his whole childhood developing a complex because he is only played with by girls, but once he hits puberty, his entire existence is supposed to be about getting girls to play with him.

  14. wiggles

    What seriously pissed me off about Toy Story 3 was they made it Ken’s Dream House.

    Ken’s Dream House!

    The rarest of pop-cultural corners where a female entity is centralized and has her own stuff and these douchebags convolute the whole deal to take it away and hand it all over to Ken and make Barbie second fiddle. Because god forbid a disposed-of Ken ooo and ah over what’s been universally known since the dawn of pink plastic crap to be Barbie’s digs.

    In the first place, a superfluous Ken doll would have been much more likely to be disposed of than a mint condition Barbie. So these dudes really went out of their way to fuck everything up with their idiot gender norms. And in the second place, when the shit goes down, Barbie disappears without so much as a peep. There’s no explanation and none of the other characters even notice.

    It apparently never occurred to these Hollywood dudes that any little girls, some 90% of whom are intimately associated with Barbie, would see their stupid girl-hating movie.

    ——————————————–
    I pretty much copy-pasted this rant over at the Fresh Air site. My blamey senses predict by the time I click the “Blame” button here, there will be an army of commenters over there helpfully informing me that it’s just a movie and I should not take these things so seriously.

  15. kate

    I’ve made this complaint, but not organized it into three points, for years. This is why I can’t stand popular culture films, most television and have a growing inability to even trudge through my classic fiction/’high lit’ goal, because everything is centered around the male.

    Which I am sure is why, as a young child, I hated being female. I lived in a world constructed by men, with no female roles around me at all. Who wouldn’t?

    Disney is probably one of the most offensive of the entire group of popular film producers, churning out offenses to the feminist sensibility as if it were their sole mission.

    I don’t know what the solution is anymore except to refuse to cooperate with any of it.

  16. wiggles

    @kate – There’s all kinds of “high lit” written by women, it just never ends up on any “essential” reading lists. If the makers of such lists are feeling especially generous, they might humor the ladies by tacking on one lesser Virginia Woolf novel, but usually Ayn Rand’s the token lady-writer.

  17. justpassingthrough

    The first thought that came to my mind was, “Whoever said Barbie/Ken are girls’ toys?” Hollywood dudes should’ve visited my childhood, where my Barbies interacted harmoniously with my brother’s Barbies. It is true that Ken had a minor role in our pink-themed dramas; even little bro could appreciate the fact that Barbie’s wardrobe, hair and accessories were infinitely more fun to play with. Honestly, give a little boy a Barbie and he’s a happy camper (though I have misgivings about giving any child a Barbie).

    Speaking of SYFY shows, Warehouse 13 passes the Bechdel test with flying colors, with the unfortunate side-effect that gender stereotypes are fully exploited, namely the impetuous man-child and his solicitous mommy figure partner. If Claudia ever becomes a fully fledged agent, I’ll take back anything negative I’ve ever said about W13. Eureka does a far better job of subverting gender stereotypes, and for that reason alone I’m a fan.

  18. nakedthoughts

    Feminist Frequency is great. It is a patriarchy blaming 101, which gives access to these issues to novice blamers.

    I second ambivalent academic’s comment. I let out a hearty sarcastic “ha!” at the irony of the dudes’ perception.

  19. ruby

    My husband is a big Star Trek fan and although it has taken a long time for me to actually like this soap opera in space, it is one of the better choices for my three kids. My son think Janeway is the best Captain and though Seven of Nine is a typical vavoom femme, at least they explain her physical perfection by the fact that she is part robot whereas ib typical media it is just a given that everyione looks the same. Plus there’s that other female who is aggressive by female media standards. Anyhow, I sound like a nerd. ASSIMILATE patriarchs!

  20. eilish

    Are they ignorant of the profound disrespect they have for women, or are they celebrating it?

    Do they know any women? Do they ever experience a cognitive dissonance? Worse, has the misogynist culture of Hollywood meant that all the women submit to the doctrine that good women are foot-bound concubines; and reality reinforces their attitudes?

    I went to ‘Feminist Frequency’. I’m Australian, and haven’t ever seen those ads. Implementation of the S.C.U.M manifesto seems the only responsible action to take, for the good of society.

  21. bludot

    When I babysit my niece and nephew, they each pick out a movie. My niece usually picks a Barbie movie. They are not as bad as you would think, if you can stomach the Valley-Girl talk. And they are often quite empowering.

    The main characters are all female (sometimes a token male is thrown in), and the plot usually involves Barbie rescuing someone or going on a quest. In Barbie and the Three Musketeers, after Barbie and her three (female) friends become Musketeers, the prince asks Barbie out, but she says, sorry, we just got a call to rescue someone, bye! HAHAHAHA!

  22. Sarah

    Including Hollywood Dudes’ stammering and reliance on verbal crutches in your faithful transcription is a testament to your commitment to the journalistic values of a bygone era that probably ever only existed in theory anyway. Kudos to your Undeniable Awesomeness.

    Also: You deserve at least plus-ten nerd points for the following: “I personally think the Bechdel test ought to exclude Janeway-Torres warp core breach discussions.” Agreed. Your Official Nerd Scout Patch would so be in the mail were I in charge of such things.

  23. humanbein

    All hollywood dudes live in a magical place where throngs of women are literally begging and dying to become marginalized sex toys in the service of the patriarchal cultural juggernaut. So of course they think women must just like being sex toys, since they want it so badly.

    Whenever you hear a dude exclaiming loudly that he just doesn’t understand them crazy women, this is one of the cognitive disconnections they cannot fathom. They don’t have the rational capacity to realize how brainwashed women are, in that compliance with the beauty mandate and man-pleasing are both self-denigrating activities that women sometimes comply with in order to try to appease the cultural forces of the patriarchy.

    We all know how hard it is to try to live in harmony with even the most basic feminist truths, despite being advanced blamers. Imagine living in a world populated by ambitious anti-feminist women fighting to become the least feminist sexbot they can be. These are the people DEFINING our culture!

  24. Mare_Island

    @humanbein: I had a whole ‘nother rant prepped and ready to post, but: You said it. Your last two sentences basically describe LA and the Hollywood system as it pertains to women. And your post nicely sums up the reasons why I never watch TV or go to the theater anymore. The women on those big screens and little screens don’t represent me in the slightest. Why do they have so much power??

    Oh all right, here’s my rant. The other night I watched “Tank Girl” for the first time (1995, Lori Petty and Naomi Watts). It’s on a par with classics like “Ice Pirates” and “Buckaroo Banzai,” but it passed the Bechdel test with room to spare. Nevertheless, my dream is to see a story where there is a grown woman protagonist, and her sidekicks or allies include grown men. (Scarecrows, lions, robots and furry animals are not allowed.) Does anyone have an example? Maybe “Alien,” but I can’t think of any others. Ha, and if it wasn’t in the genre of SF or fantasy, that would be a plus. You know–as if it could happen in real life.

  25. niki

    My childhood pal Elly and I used to draw elaborate comics involving My Little Ponies solving intricate problems and fighting complicated battles.

    My brother and I used to make Ken and Barbie hump.

    A lot.

  26. Sylvie

    Steady on chaps, I’ve immediately come into the fact that you’re both have a complex about your secret desire to be a toy for girls and are in denial about it. Or some such.

  27. Citizen Jane

    I love the Bechdel Test! It’s also fun to play with it and see what comes out. Try substituting any other tokenized group for women.

    How many stories have two named People of Colour who talk to each other about something other than the White characters? They don’t have to be the same ethnicity, just any two PoC. Lost, for all its flaws, passes with flying colours. A funny thing I’ve been noticing is that there are many shows which are praised for their diverse cast, but they don’t seem to pass this test. Glee is one with very few episodes that pass this test, although it is starting to more often now that the East Asian characters are dating each other.

    Try it with LGBTs, disabled people, or the elderly.

    Also fun is to reverse it. How many stories don’t have two named male characters who talk to each other about something other than a woman? I’ve only been able to find two examples: The Women and Sally Field’s Beautiful.

    If you want to help encourage writers to subscribe to the Bechdel Test, and help other people find works that do, then please tag movies, shows, and books with “Bechdel Test” or “Passes Bechdel Test” on Amazon, IMDB (under plot keywords), and any other sites that allow works to be tagged.

    Also, have you seen the Female Character Flowchart?

  28. Jill

    Citizen Jane
    October 22, 2010 at 5:39 am

    If you want to help encourage writers to subscribe to the Bechdel Test, and help other people find works that do, then please tag movies, shows, and books with “Bechdel Test” or “Passes Bechdel Test” on Amazon, IMDB (under plot keywords), and any other sites that allow works to be tagged.

    There’s a website that does this (there’s a website that does everything). But it would be way better if, as you suggest, mainstream Internet media depots included it, too. Good idea.

  29. speedbudget

    I just have to come in here and link this scene from Thelma and Louise because that line about having a knack for this shit is so amazing. And while they do spend an awful lot of time talking about men, these two are saying things that needed to be said, and I like any excuse to watch that movie anyway.

  30. Vibrating_Liz

    Moving beyond the Bechdel Test, my dream is to find a film, novel, or other infotainment-y work where the appearance of female characters is not germane to the plot.

  31. wiggles

    Citizen Jane – “Also fun is to reverse it. How many stories don’t have two named male characters who talk to each other about something other than a woman? I’ve only been able to find two examples: The Women and Sally Field’s Beautiful.

    The Sex in the City movies probably qualify. I suffered through the first one and I don’t remember any dudes talking to each other at all.
    The Hand That Rocks The Cradle I remember some interdude conversing, but I think it was all about the wives, the girl kid, and the hot new nanny.

  32. Jezebella

    Liz, I just read “The Bondwoman’s Narrative”, the first novel written by an African-American woman born into slavery. It’s a slightly fictionalized account of her life and her escape from slavery. As I recall, it passes the Bechdel test, and the appearance of most of the female characters is NOT germane. Only in two instances – where being light-skinned allows them to “pass” for white people while on the run – is appearance germane.

  33. copykatparis

    Somewhere someone (I’d really, really do a link if I could ever remember where I saw this — no really) suggested a corollary to the Bechdel test: Does the film have a named, sentient female character who at the end of the film is
    (a) alive,
    (b) happy and
    (c) un-coupled?

    Interestingly, “Sunshine Cleaning” passes this even harder test, as does “Frozen River.” Yeah, real mainstream films. Anyone got any others? And how about a link if anyone knows where this extra test came from?

    Now back to my regularly scheduled lurking.

  34. thatgrrl

    I’m teaching a college feminist film studies course right now, and I showed them this Bechdel Test video on the first day of class. A lot of students expected that we would be watching a whole passel of feminist films, or at least films that pass the Bechdel Test for class, but guess what? There just ain’t that many around!
    My #1 goal for the class is that by the end of it, at least half the students will have a hard time watching any film or TV for at least a month without a nagging voice in their heads yammering on about how poorly women, PoC, LGBT people, non-rich people, and non-American people are depicted. Baby steps…

  35. K.A.

    The misogyny of that precious exchange just blew my mind. Men hate women so much—even when they’re children. And they’re just so open about it too.

    I move that you add a category: “All new movies suck.”

  36. K.A.

    There should be a Super-Bechdel Test, wherein the female characters also have to spend three times as long talking about non-males as they do about males. And they have to have as much on-screen time as the males. Pfffft, what movie is THAT?

  37. iiii

    “Nevertheless, my dream is to see a story where there is a grown woman protagonist, and her sidekicks or allies include grown men. (Scarecrows, lions, robots and furry animals are not allowed.) Does anyone have an example?”

    Off the top of my head:

    Saving Grace (TV)
    In Plain Sight (TV)
    The Closer (TV)
    Dark Angel (TV)
    Modesty Blaise (series of comics, graphic novels, and novels)
    Dana Stabenow’s Second Star, An Handful of Stars, and Red Planet Run (SF novels)
    N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (SF novel)
    anything by Margaret Maron (mystery novels)
    most by Donna Andrews (mystery novels)
    - Some of Donna Andrews’ books have a female AI as the protagonist, and I’m not sure she qulaifies as a “grown woman.”

    I’m not necessarily recommending any of these to you. Few will hold up under close Blaming. Modesty Blaise and The Closer don’t even pass the Bechdel Test on a regular basis. Dark Angel just plain wasn’t well written, and the rest will not be to all tastes.

    They do all have grown women protagonists with grown men as sidekicks and allies, though.

  38. tinfoil hattie

    I saw a movie tonight that passes the Bechdel Test. Unfortunately, it was a movie about zombie children who kill and eat people because they (the zombies) were left to die in a mine accident a hundred years earlier. The main characters were a woman and her two daughters, as well as the zombie children (about 18 boys and one girl, of course). I swear I enjoyed it only because it passed the test. The actual movie itself was pretty stupid. It’s called “Wicked Little Things.”

  39. Aileen Wuornos

    copykatparis

    “Somewhere someone (I’d really, really do a link if I could ever remember where I saw this — no really) suggested a corollary to the Bechdel test: Does the film have a named, sentient female character who at the end of the film is
    (a) alive,
    (b) happy and
    (c) un-coupled?

    Interestingly, “Sunshine Cleaning” passes this even harder test, as does “Frozen River.” Yeah, real mainstream films. Anyone got any others? And how about a link if anyone knows where this extra test came from?

    Now back to my regularly scheduled lurking.”

    Surprisingly, the latest Resident Evil movie passes both the Bechedel test and this one. I’m pretty sure the other three in the series at least pass the Bechedel test.

    Tinfoil Hattie,

    Wicked Little Things is a strange movie no? I could never work out if they were really pissed off ghosts, or zombies. I wouldn’t say zombies though, cos none of their vicims came back as them.

    Toy Story 3 shat me off to no end. Goodbye love of childhood 90′s movie.

  40. speedbudget

    I picked Kindred for my book club, and everyone loved it. Female protagonist with two male sidekicks. Kinda.

    Great story. Even my mom, who has never liked science fiction, liked this book.

  41. phio gistic

    I saw Toy Story 3 and was stuck by how the writers dealt with Ken by making him gay or almost gay. Because being around girls will obviously make a man gay. And then they got to have lots of gay panic jokes about him. OMG he has beautiful handwriting!

    Also didn’t they rip off the lady potato head’s lips again? And her hubby said something like “I’m the only one allowed to do that”? Or am I dreaming that part?

  42. Bushfire

    I swear I enjoyed it only because it passed the test. The actual movie itself was pretty stupid.

    You’ve just summed up why I watch all the shows I watch.

  43. yttik

    As to kid’s movies, I really liked “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.” The girl’s are strong and independent and the movie dealt with some difficult issues is a creative way, disability, domestic violence, dyslexia.

    The SyFy movie “Alice” was also pretty good. Kathy Bates plays the Queen of Hearts and Alice has a black belt.

    http://www.syfy.com/alice/

    They’re both a little scary, so probably geared more towards adults and older kids.

  44. ZoZo

    Specific application question- what kinds of mentions of men make the test invalid? Specifically, I’m assisting a (male) friend with a writing project. There’s one scene between two named (and significant) female characters, A and B. They discuss the mistreatment of one of A’s subordinates by one of B’s co-workers, in the the context of both of their careers. A’s attempt to end this mistreatment is one of three main storylines in the piece, and her goal in the scene is to gain B’s assistance. However, both A’s subordinate and B’s co-worker are male. Yes, this is the only qualifying scene. Pass, or fail?

  45. sam

    tinfoil hattie, you reminded me of a 2008 UK horror movie called “The Children.” Not only are a mom and her teen daughter the two lead protagonists, but the two scariest kids are the girls. There was no nudity and no hint of sexual assault. If you’re into horror you would probably enjoy it.

  46. sargassosea

    “* Is it just me, or does even Terry Gross seem to interview way more dudes than dudesses?”

    It’s not just you.

    And Hollywood dudes are the next-to-lowest form of *entertainment* pond scum there is. Perhaps we should look into cultivating them as the next Green bio-fuel raw-material source?

  47. Cyberwulf

    The Ghost in the Shell movies and the series, Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, feature a grown woman as the commander of a special police task force, with all male sidekicks/underlings. None of the guys challenge her authority or resent having to answer to a woman – it’s a complete non-issue. Her gruff, manly lieutenant quietly carries a torch for her, but she thinks of him as a friend and nothing more. In addition, she’s never raped and never ends up in a relationship (or bed) with any of her coworkers.

  48. orlando

    @Yttik: I fondly hope a feminist got hold of the screenplay of Percy Jackson and made some major changes, because the books are a castration anxiety in a dustjacket. I was given one to review, and I swear every female character was either a Good Girl who falls in love with Our Hero, or a monster out to crush him. Vampire cheerleaders? Why not just stamp “I want the world to share my woman issues” on the front cover?
    Also, there was a black winged horse called “Blackjack” who said “Yo!” a lot, and called Our White Hero “boss”. I wish I was making this up.

  49. Honora

    I would love to know what percent of films pass the ‘Reverse Bechdel test”? There probably isn’t a movie that does not have two male characters that talk to each other about something other than women.

  50. tinfoil hattie

    Thanks, Sam. I’m not that into horror, I’m just out in the WV hills for awhile, with Netflix.com instant movies as my main wired entertainment! Slim pickins for sure!

  51. Jill

    tinfoil hattie
    October 23, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    [...] with Netflix.com instant movies as my main wired entertainment! Slim pickins for sure!

    Ain’t it the truth. I think I’ve watched “Man On Wire” about 42 times. It’s about the Glory of a dude, so its chief attribute is the relative paucity of rape scenes.

  52. Speedbudget

    Honora there is more to the Bechdel test than that. In fact, that’s step three of three. The first two must apply as well.

    What is up with the rampant patriarchy apologists suddenly?

  53. Citizen Jane

    Since people are talking about anime, I would like to mention something. A few years back I dated a rather progressive second generation immigrant from Japan and he explained to me why it is that such a patriarchal country as Japan produces so many stories with strong female characters. He told me that the strong female characters in animes are actually considered part of the fantasy world. They are not meant to be characters that could ever possibly exist. When you see a strong independent female in a leadership position in an anime, that is just as much a part of the magical fantasyland as the catgirls.

    @wiggles, thanks for the recommendation. I will check out The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. I think I can live a rich and fulfilling life without ever having seen Sex and the City, though.

    @Speedbudget, could you explain, please? I thought Honora’s post was pretty blamey. How were they being a patriarchy apologist?

  54. Fictional Queen

    That is such a pity about anime!Is it just me or whenever (okay,often) there IS a strong female character it’s something like that,or the (often male) creators just have a sexual fantasy about female domination and things like that?Like Wonder Woman.
    Also a bit irrelavant but I hate dudes who lurk in feminist blogs because they have a female superiority sexual fantasy.It’s insincere and problematic!Glad IBTP doesn’t allow those…things around here.

  55. yttik

    I think we’ve entered a whole new dimension just since the Bechdel Test was conceived. It’s seems almost innocent to be measuring films by those 3 standards. Today I rate movies and shows by how many sexually suggestive female corpses are portrayed. Women have always been dehumanized in film, but we’ve taken it a step farther, they’re pretty much going to be punished simply for being female. The formula has gotten so predictable, even in Avatar I knew immediately that the two strong female characters were going to have to be croaked in retaliation for having an independent thought and for not being somebody’s girlfriend.

  56. tinfoil hattie

    In The Hand That Rocks the Cradle the only African American character, eminently qualified to be the nanny, is mysteriously killed just befroe the parents hire her. When I saw the movie in a theater about 20 years ago, a man shouted from somewhere in the back: “That black girl’s gonna get killed!” as she rode her bike along a beautiful roadway. HA.

    Also, I think it’s a particularly sucky movie. And actually, I’m wrong. There was one more African American character.

    He’s mentally retarded, of course.

  57. Zuzu

    My attention span is flea-like, so I’m only paying attention to commercials. For example, in commercials, the bosses in the new economy are African American men and the women are still the ones sitting at a non-power position at the conference table smiling when they have mini orgasms over whatever is being sold and the action figures are the young white men. That commercial with the car (which is that being sold) and the guy crashing through the doughnut shop window to get the pink box and then doing a slo-mo matrixy thingy through a not-empty office. In reality nearly all offices are half-empty and the ones in charge are women. We’re also driving around trying to avoid pink slips, not crashing through windows to pick up pink boxes. It dawned on me yesterday as I soldiered my way out of a mid-term on finance and budgeting for the public sector that tax deductions for offspring is a nasty patrimonial bullshit thing, rewarding sperm dispersal. Also that I will never buy one of those cars they are advertising if I can just remember which one it is. The commercial pisses me off so much, I blank out on the product. Shut up. The end.

  58. Mrs. G.

    I credit part of my childhood enlightenment to being raised by a single mom for large chunks of time. In my young mind, male toys had no power–yawn. I was obsessed with Cher and, some Christmas or other, a relative gave me a Sonny doll. Within weeks, I threw him in the wastebasket. It was so crystal clear to me that Cher didn’t need him.

    Sadly, I can barely watch movies without taking inventory on how female characters are presented. Don’t waste your money on “Social Network”.

  59. rajmahall

    Fairly positive Stage Door qualifies. Good film, too– the director apparently let many of the actresses ad lib, a technique which is given away by so many of the conversations seeming to take place between human beings. And Ginger Rogers and Katharine Hepburn get to be friends at the end! And continue on unmarried straight through the credits! How completely strange, right?

  60. Sewist

    The dudes are animators, animators are men by VAST majority, men who grew up in comicbook stores. Their exposure to women is limited to moms, sisters and porn. Their highest acclaim of a female character is Princess Leila in a gold bikini – a once capable and strong character reduced to bondage to a giant slug. Shocking as their complete lack of awareness is, I’m not in the least surprised.

  61. speedbudget

    Citizen Jane, because most movies are about men, for men, with named male characters who talk to each other about everything from bombs and guns to cars and jobs and whose sole purpose in the movie isn’t to be a vehicle for some chick’s revenge fantasy.

    I read that comment as one of those “What about the men” things. I might be touchy due to the huge amount of antifeminist crap and backlash that’s happened this week, but I seriously did not read that as any kind of blame.

  62. tinfoil hattie

    speedbudget, I read that comment as: “You wouldn’t see movie after movie after movie after movie in which two dudes talk only about women.”

  63. wiggles

    @Citizen Jane, Tinfoil Hattie – Yeah The Hand That Rocks the Cradle is a pretty shitty movie. I just threw it out there because it occurred to me that it passed the reverse-Bechdel test.

    Personally I find that movie entertainingly shitty, because I’m weird like that. It does have some gender-flipping going on though. The protagonist’s husband character is the stereotypical supportive wife/girlfriend who must be rescued/avenged in dude form.

  64. Shelby

    Oh jesus Toy Story 3 was a dark, hateful movie. What about the sociopath teddy bear who had his personality disorder blamed on his owner – a girl of course – who left him behind at a picnic. If only she had treasured him and treated him like a dudely dude bear should be treated by a female, he never would have turned to a life of toy torture and murder.

  65. tinfoil hattie

    I could never work out if they were really pissed off ghosts, or zombies.

    It was a puzzler. And what happened after they got The Bad Dude? They stopped experiencing their constant hunger for flesh? It was stupid AND intriguing. If that makes sense.

    Shelby, I FORGOT that the Teddy Bear is a sociopath BECAUSE OF HIS MOTHER! Isn’t that the constant refrain? Mothers: all of the blame, none of the credit.

  66. LS

    awesome to see Anita on this blog!

  67. LS

    Oh and yes, as a commenter above noted, Azumanga Diaoh passes — because it’s a show made by a man, for men, entirely ABOUT high school girls. There’s a whole category of anime like this, and one thing it isn’t is feminist. So there’s that.

  68. buttercup

    If I recall correctly, Single White Female passes Bechdel.

    Quite depressing, we watch a lot of movies around Buttercupia, and damn few of them pass.

  69. Jill

    Shelby
    October 25, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Oh jesus Toy Story 3 was a dark, hateful movie. What about the sociopath teddy bear who had his personality disorder blamed on his owner – a girl of course – who left him behind at a picnic. If only she had treasured him and treated him like a dudely dude bear should be treated by a female, he never would have turned to a life of toy torture and murder.

    Nice catch, Shelby! That tired old blame-his-mother excuse in every psychokiller drama totally chaps my entire hide.

  70. Occasional Lurker

    @Mare_Island. It’s funny that there’s only been one film based on Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski novels, and none so far on Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series. Both feature woman protagonists with grown male sidekicks. Interestingly, though, both are elderly men. Apparently it’s hard to imagine a younger man being willing to stay in the sidekick role. IBTP.

  71. yoyoboy

    I also think the Bechdel test is well-meaning but stupid and reductive. Any test of feminist, female-friendly writing in which The Silence of the Lambs fails (seriously, think about it…even when women talk to each other in that movie, it’s about Buffalo Bill and Lecter–men!) but Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill! passes has a pretty big problem.

  72. pandechion

    @copykatparis: I have a weird feeling that may have been me, spouting off somewhere or another. My favorite example of an alive, happy, and alone heroine is Janet Frame in An Angel at My Table. She goes through hell to get there, but does end up with a room of her own.

    If you can get past Madonna’s stilted style, Desperately Seeking Susan qualifies as a reverse Bechdel of sorts: when the male characters talk to each other, they talk about nothing but the women, if I recall correctly.

  73. Beth Partin

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I had a problem with Up! for that very reason. The female character was SO much more deserving of an adventure than the male character, but her adventure was to be a housewife! Yeah, that’s what I dream of every day.

  74. Hermionemone

    What do you think would happen if someone applied the modern movie-making apparatus to some epic feminist science fiction? We’ve already had Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1990). Is it time for Joanna Russ’s The Female Man?

    Joanna’s 1975-era “present day” segment could be rewritten for 2010 (and maybe open some firmly closed eyes of those might not think patriarchy still operates that way). Jael’s futuristic war between the sexes could be done with full apocalyptic robotic bio-warfare wasteland special effects a la Terminator. The writers from Mad Men could give us a perpetual 1950s-era Jeanine’s world. And Janet’s intriguing all-women’s peaceful post-gendercidal utopian world “Whileaway” would be possible to create with demonstrator green technology and permaculture based planned communities, special effects, and bicycles.

    Wouldn’t you like to see a serious visual SF treatment of the idea of total women’s revolution?

    How many chances would this film have of getting made in Hollywood? Would the dudes that be, be too scared to let it loose?

  75. Miss Andrist

    Wow. I predict this interview will be immortalized as a landmark ushering us into a whole new dimension of dudely dudetastic peencentric solidarity.

    Funny thing, the producer, Lee Unkrich (Hollywood Dude #2) is all up on some Twitter.

    @leeunkrich Your empathy with Ken’s 2nd-class, accessory status is ironic, you were okay reducing ALL the female characters to exactly that.

    Think I’ll get a reply? ^_^

    -Miss Andrist
    Lover of Men

  76. Xena

    They tried to unload that pile of ‘poor accessory boy’ shite on us to explain Paul Bernardo’s behaviour too. And our taxes keep that idiot alive. Our government should have done with him what the Americans did to Ted Bundy. Who gives a rat’s ass about a good looking frat boy sociopath who does fake pathos well.

    Maybe I’ll invent a doll-sized version of Old Smokey just for Ken and some executioners’ costumes for Barbie. I mean, since we’re doing self-fulfilling prophecies, anyway…

  77. wasp-o-rama

    Hey my first introduction to The Bechdel Test was from a (dude) movie blogger who devoted the month of Sept 2010′s entries to movies that actually *do* pass the Bechdel Test:

    http://thisdistractedglobe.com/2010/09/

  78. chicago dyke

    see, Jill, i do it the other way. i take my nieces and nephews to see “Alien 2″ and “Scarface.” their mothers shriek with horror! “how can you expose my little angel to such filth and horror?” they cry. and i say, “do you really think this is any more damaging than Toy Story XXVIII?” and that shuts them up for about six seconds.

    most corporate media product makes me vomit automatically, and not only for Blamers’ favorite reasons. the racism and homophobia don’t sit so well with me either, but really it is the banality of the consumerism that makes me most insane. if i’m going to waste some time, i’ll blog or watch a foreign film. it’s interesting at least to compare various methods in cultures with slightly different patriarchies, at least.

  79. Blue Penguin

    The prevalence of male characters everywhere is infuriating. And just unnecessary. The characters could just so easily be changed into females, especially in children’s movies, because the characterization is often pretty simple anyway. I saw Toy Story 3 with my sons, and it really bothered me about the default setting of male, there is no need for it. I think they changed a male to a female for the updated Battlestar Gallactica, there could be more of this.

  80. addto

    What about Matilda the movie based on Roald Dahl’s book? Correct me if I’m wrong as it’s been over a decade or so since I’ve seen it, but I remember it being about a little girl who used her wits and special powers to not only manage to save herself from her horrible family but also her friend/teacher from her own and they both lived together happily ever after. The only male characters are her father and brother who are clear represented as misogynistic pigs that even privileged men can see it though they may fail to see it as a representation of the patriarchal oppression. The greater value placed on men over women in the patriarchal society we live is represented in the family dynamics where skill and abilities in a women are easily overlooked for a man with lesser ability because he is a man like the man who came before him and believed in the male supremacy like the man who came before that man and so on. However, the movie is flawed in that the other aggressor is a strong, single woman in a position of power (principal), perpetrating the patriarchal view of these as unnatural, undesirable female characteristics. A single, childless woman portrayed as an abuser of children, is evident of the author’s (it was based on a book) patriarchal influence. Dammit, is there no children’s movie that doesn’t condition them into such patriarchal BS!? At least the protagonist was also a strong protagonist that little girls could see themselves to be? Well she was probably the character I could relate to because she and Sailor Moon were the only options as a girl for me. Who do little girls pretend to be these days, tell me ‘Bratz’ is not the only option for them? I wish parents could see how damaging this such socialisation can be from so early on.
    Are there any other kids’ films that at least pass the Bechdel test, let alone not furthering the patriarchal agenda? Maybe Mulan if being berated by her grandmother/mother counts as a conversation?

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