The Bechdel Test & An Animal-Friendly Film List

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Update, 3/18/10: I will see you an animal-friendly film list and raise you television, music, literature and theater. All this and more at POP! goes The Vegan.

Recently, Lindsay at Female Impersonator was struck with the notion to compile a list of films that pass the Bechdel Test. In researching the issue, she found several existing sites which essentially offer the same service, and served them up in a mini link roundup. This all got me thinking about pop culture, female representation, feminist flicks – and, from there, the non-human animal equivalents.

For those who have never heard of the Bechdel Test, it’s pretty simple. The “test” is a set of criteria which a movie must meet or exceed in order to “pass,” namely:

1. There [are] at least two named female characters who
2. talk to each other
3. about something besides a man.

The Bechdel Test – also called the Mo Movie Measure or Dykes to Watch Out For – was popularized by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, in a 1985 strip of the comic Dykes to Watch Out For called “The Rule.”

Like I said, pretty simple; and yet, precious few films pass (and many of these, just barely). For example, check out the Bechdel Test Movie List, a sort of user-generated database that rates films on each of the three criteria. It’s not a super-long list, and only about half of the icons are smiling with approval.

Feminist blogs are just as prone to misogynist trolls as animal rights blogs are to those of the speciesist variety; pop culture criticism, in particular, seems to bring the anti-feminist trolls out in droves. (Dudes do not like it when women try to encroach on “their” pop culture, I tell you what.) The mere mention of the “Bechdel Test” is enough to elicit a self-righteous wave of privileged male backlash – despite the rather low bar set by said “test.”

In defending my review of Vantage Point (which passed the test, but barely), I observed,

Rather than being “bullshit,” the Bechdel test is the minimum fucking standard that (most) movies should be held to. It’s pretty simple: two women, who utter at least two sentences to one another during the course of 90+ minutes, about something other than teh menses. Like, seriously: two women, two sentences, not revolving around men. That’s a low bar, especially when you consider that almost every damn movie ever made in the history of the world features two+ men, talking to each other, about something other than women. And yet, somehow it’s a huge fucking ordeal for Hollywood to make a film that features two women whose lives do not revolve around men.

I say “most” because, obviously, there will be the odd exception; movies set in all-male spaces, such as an all-male school or such, can be excused for not featuring (m)any female characters, just as movies set in all-female spaces may not have equal male representation.

Okay, so I was a wee bit angry, given that I was responding to a (now-banished) troll, but you get the idea.

To this, I’d also like to add that fans of the Bechdel Test, by and large, don’t expect every film, without exception, to pass; this would be unrealistic. Films set in all-male spaces, or that focus on men’s relationships with one another, are obviously less likely to pass, and with good reason. The problem lies not in any individual film, but in the overwhelming number of movies that fail the test – it’s collective. Likewise, there are very few films that predominantly feature women (so much so that the film would fail a male version of the Bechdel Test – the “reverse Bechdel,” if you will); and those that do are more often than not dismissed as “chick flicks” (whereas movies featuring a preponderance of men are simply “flicks”). Add it all up, and Hollywood, we have a problem.

(More below the fold…)

somebody kill me please

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Just a quick note to let y’all know why I’ve been absent from the blog for a few days, and probably will be for a few more.

Saturday the Mr. and I spent the day thinning out the juniper saplings behind our house, before they sprout into big Mr. and Mrs. Juniper Trees (and we have to pay the pros to chainsaw ’em down), and – well, it never even occurred to me that I might be allergic to the damn things, even though possibility should have at least crossed my mind, seeing as my skin is allergic to everything. So I broke out in a massive red, blistery rash on Sunday, and have been hopped up (down, rather) on Benadryl and Melatonin ever since. Only, even with enough downers in my system to knock out my 200-pound husband for a night, I can’t sleep but four hours without waking up with a horrid case of the itchies. I’d say about 30% of my body is covered in what I can only describe as a weird mix of poison ivy rashes, road burns and chemical burns, no lie. Google for pics of “poison ivy rash,” and maybe the worst picture you find will remotely resemble what I currently look like. Maybe.

I finally sucked it up and went to see my local RN today, and I’m happy to report that that lovely bitch is Not. Fucking. Around. She gave me a shot of steroids in my hiney, and put me on a 12-day course of oral prednisone, and prescribed a huge tube (with refills!) of topical steroids, and gave me a 5-day scrip for hardcore rx antihistamines, the kind used to treat anxiety and induce sleep. Considering the many contact dermatitis rashes I’ve suffered over the past ten years, I’m no stranger to any of this, but…no doctor has ever given me both a shot of steroids and an oral course. Dog bless that sweet, sweet woman.

Until I get back, I leave you with this Adam Sandler song from The Wedding Singer, which I’ve been playing on a mental loop whilst drifting in and out of consciousness all week. Only, substitute “Mother Nature, poison ivy and juniper trees” for “Linda.”