Hollywood fails the Bechdel Test
The Bechdel Test in Film and Television panelists discussed the importance of the Bechdel Test and its implications for equality in film. The panel featured Jenny Krompel, Lola Brinkerd, Courtney Alameda, Danielle UberAlles, Kristal Starr and Susan Phelan.
The Bechdel Test consists of three questions:
Are there two or more named women in the show?
Do they talk to each other?
Do they talk to each other about something other than men? “A quality character speaks to other people about issues not just their relationships,” says Starr.
Using a video from Anita Sarkeesian to help get everyone on the same page, the panel talked about the strengths and failings of the Bechdel test.
“[The Bechdel Test] is a start,” says Phelan.
“It’s not a feminist thing,” says Starr. Some horror films pass the test but are not flattering in their portrayal of women.
“It’s a great way to promote a dialogue,” says Krompel. Female characters need to have more substance to them.
“The Bechdel Test is not a pass/fail system; it’s part of a dialogue,” says Brinkerd.
Alameda, the librarian in the group, put together a slide show with statistics, including a breakdown of films from 2013, and those that passed the Bechdel Test performed better than those that failed. Even though 51 percent of the movie going audience is made of women, only 15 percent of the starring roles and four percent of directors are female. Only 28 percent of the speaking roles in 2012 went to women.
“Everyone assumes that white male is the default that anyone could relate to,” says Brinkerd.
Good characters start with the writing according to Phelan.
Starr believes that when the story is good, it doesn’t matter who the lead is.
“Let’s create good characters,” says Starr.
One problem is when women become strong at the expense of their femininity says Brinkerd.
“People are people,” says Phelan. Women tend to be more nurturing, and men tend to be tougher, but those generalities do not necessarily apply to individuals.
Stories need a variety of characters across the spectrum of the human experience.
Rape in Stories
“It’s a copout,” says Alameda.
It breaks women down using their sexuality says UberAlles.
“It’s lazy writing,” says Starr.
Specific media representations of gender
Alameda had a friend who was reading The Hobbit to her daughter, and her daughter asked if Bilbo had to be a man. The friend finished reading the book as if Bilbo were a woman, and her daughter lit up.
UberAlles is also excited for the new female Thor because she’s not actually Thor. She is just someone who gets the power from Mjolinir.
While Pacific Rim fails the Bechdel Test, the character Mako Mori is a strong female character that is good for feminism.
“Maleficent was amazing,” says UberAlles. It is all about mashing the patriarchy.
The problem with How I Met Your Mother’s finale was that it destroyed all of its female characters says UberAlles.