The Bechdel Test backlash is definitely one of the weirdest things I’ve seen on Tumblr in the last few days.
I mean, how many of the people criticizing it realize who Alison Bechdel is (and that the ‘test’ is named after this woman)? Do you know the test came from a comic called Dykes to Watch Out For? Specifically, this comic and was originally called “The Rule”?
The test was never meant to judge if a piece of work was perfect, or even perfectly feminist. It just meant to say that women talk to each other. That our lives - social, romantic - do not always circle around men. That we can have conversations without thinking about men. That we shouldn’t be The Woman because there are many women! That no one woman can be taken as the representative of all women.
Some really great works don’t pass the test. Some really awful pieces do. But in the future, I’d like all works to pass the test and I think striving for that is important.
Yes! It is not he end all be all of guidelines to judge a story on. Just one of many. Because noting in life is ever simple and whoever tells you it is, is lying.
the thing is about the Bechdel Test
it only looks at ONE thing. and that one thing is a very very basic indicator. It rates films based on the criteria of containing at least two female characters who talk to each other about something besides a man. A film passes the test if there is only one conversation not about men, even if the two women talk about nothing but men for the rest of the movie.
How is that our perfect indicator of quality? All that indicates is that two female characters are capable of having a single conversation about something other than men. It doesn’t mean that those characters are written well.
I would much rather see a bunch of movies where the female lead is written like Mako Mori, where she never speaks to another female character, than see a bunch of them where the female leads get to interact but are nothing but The Love Interests.
The thing about the Bechdel test is that it is a very very basic indicator of female representation and yet a shockingly high number of movies don’t pass it.
It is supposed to be simple, you’re right - which is why we’re supposed to be shocked that so many movies fail. That’s the tragedy and the entire point. It doesn’t mean the movie is perfect. In “The Rule” the character mentions the last movie she was able to see was “Alien” (the joke being the comic was published in 1985, while “Alien” came out in 1979).
In 2009, only two out of nine pictures nominated for the Oscars Best Picture passed the test. In 2010 (where there was a glut of female-led stories) - six out of 10 pictures passed. In 2011 two out of nine pictures nominated passed. In 2012 out of eight pictures, three passed.
This is about systematically women failing to exist. The Bechdel test also measures the very thing you’re worried about - women have to exist outside of men and talk about things besides men. They can’t just be the Love Interest or the Mother or the Sister. They exist outside of their relationships with men.
Does this mean that the movies the passed are “more feminist” than those that failed? Not necessarily.
But just because the test doesn’t accomplish everything doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. It isn’t meant to do anything but see the fact that there are so few female characters in Hollywood who exist outside of their relationships to men. That women don’t even get to talk to each other because, why would they? Female relationships are obviously less interesting than male friendships.
Seeing the test as something that’s trying to be “all or nothing” is where Tumblr fails. It isn’t.