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2013-05-15: Bechdel Test
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Geareye



Joined: 21 Mar 2013
Posts: 257

PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 11:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Leohan wrote:
For a long time wondered about something...

In the Bechdel Test, there must be no conversation between women and about a man, or does at least one have to meet the requirement? I've seen both interpretations.


According to tvtropes.org:
In order to pass the story must meet the following criteria:

1)It includes at least two women,
2)who have at least one conversation,
3)about something other than a man or men.
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Ronald



Joined: 17 Sep 2007
Posts: 3109

PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 12:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Annnnnnnnnnd we're left with no clue whatsoever as to the circumstances under which Slick[-Prime] escaped the mirror world in which he was last seen cowering:

http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=4618

I so called that.

(His appearances in The Masculinist Movement Presents: Douche Walk and Patriarchal Cop Show seemed to me to be non-continuity.)
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jrdelirio



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PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 12:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very Happy
Of course the deal is that the "Bechdel Test" by itself is an artificial parameter. Contriving to insert that non-man-centric conversation that adds nothing to the characters or story, wither among established female characters or characters created just for that scene, does not exonerate the author from primarily using the female characters as foils for the men. (And one can have a story in which legitimately there is no reason for that conversation to be a part of it. Not every single story has to be inclusive of all of humanity.)

And Slick continues to just go around trying to fill a checklist in order to get his cookie without really getting the point about the change that's needed.


Last edited by jrdelirio on Wed May 15, 2013 12:45 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Hekateras



Joined: 31 May 2012
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PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 12:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Arthain wrote:


Also is there a male version of the Bechdel test? Because there is the very real possibility that some stories don't have any male to male conversations that have nothing to do with females.


I'm sorry, but...

*falls over laughing*

There's a POC version. There's an LGBT+ version. There's a female version.

There is no version for white, cishet, and male. You know why?

Because, while there there are no doubt stories that are as you describe, they are not so overwhelmingly prevalent that it becomes a culture-wide problematic trend and issue with representation.

I imagine a lot of what is considered "girly" movies and works do not, in fact, feature males talking about something other than females. But, see, that's the disparity of it: Men are not expected to watch girly movies. In fact, it is specifically expected that they won't watch girly movies, or movies that even appear girly, often against logic. (Hence Disney renaming 'Rapunzel' to 'Tangled' and 'Ice Queen' to 'Frozen' and emphasising the presence of male characters in publicity. And remember how "Brave" is essentially about a mother-daughter relationship but the trailers made it look like an action adventure?).

Women/POC/LBGT people are considered a target audience for works that fail to give more than lip service to the idea of them as people with stories who make up a healthy chunk of the population, but straight white cishet men are not considered a target audience for stories about women/POC/LBGT people. That's the systemic injustice here, and that is why the Bechdel Test exists.

Additionally, the Bechdel test's criteria are somewhat fluid and depend on the medium. For example, the criteria in the comic are what's generally used for movies and specific episodes of TV shows. Some variations of the test require the conversation between the female characters to last at least 30 seconds, or at least 60 seconds, or require the characters to be named.

If we're talking about a written, several-hundred-page story, I would use criteria a HELL lot more strict than that. If you're writing a story, forget the Bechdel test. Look at whether you have female characters who do things and have their own character arcs that aren't tied solely to men and impact the plot in significant ways.
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Hekateras



Joined: 31 May 2012
Posts: 60

PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 12:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jrdelirio wrote:
Very Happy
Of course the deal is that the "Bechdel Test" by itself is an artificial parameter. Contriving to insert that non-man-centric conversation that adds nothing to the characters or story, wither among established female characters or characters created just for that scene, does not exonerate the author from primarily using the female characters as foils for the men. (And one can have a story in which legitimately there is no reason for that conversation to be a part of it. Not every single story has to be inclusive of all of humanity.)

And Slick continues to just go around trying to fill a checklist in order to get his cookie without really getting the point about the change that's needed.


I call Perfect Solution Fallacy on this. Yes, it is by no means a perfect parameter or one guaranteed to indicate good female representation or good writing of female characters. However, it is still very useful to analyse basic trends. Works that fail the Bechdel test are more likely, though not guaranteed, to be misogynist in other ways, and wroks that pass the Bechdel test are more likely, though not guaranteed, to be otherwise decent with writing females.

It's not perfect, but as as an extremely rough indicator of female representation, when applied to the industry as a whole, it is very useful indeed.

Quote:
(And one can have a story in which legitimately there is no reason for that conversation to be a part of it. Not every single story has to be inclusive of all of humanity.)


You're missing the point. Do you realise women make up 50% of the world's population? A work should not have to go "out of its way" like that to "include" females. The reason that's a problem is that there's a default perception/tendency to use (white, cishet) male characters as the DEFAULT characters for roles that are gender-neutral, and female characters only for roles that have to be specifically female.

(For example, I see exactly zero reason why Khan, of the recent Star Trek movie, couldn't have been female - the original series and its choices aside. Nothing about his backstory or the way he was written required him to be male. But he was simply male, because... that's the default gender for characters whose story does not center on their gender or orientation. And no, I don't mean 'make him into a sexy femme fatale women'. Just... keep the badassittude, keep the spoileriffic motivations that are tied to his backstory, keep the intelligence. But cast a woman. Because why not?)
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Arthain



Joined: 09 Feb 2013
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PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 1:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hekateras wrote:
Quote:
(And one can have a story in which legitimately there is no reason for that conversation to be a part of it. Not every single story has to be inclusive of all of humanity.)


You're missing the point. Do you realise women make up 50% of the world's population? A work should not have to go "out of its way" like that to "include" females. The reason that's a problem is that there's a default perception/tendency to use (white, cishet) male characters as the DEFAULT characters for roles that are gender-neutral, and female characters only for roles that have to be specifically female.


This is actually a very good reason why the Bachdel Test should be considered more a guide line than an actual test. A good story shouldn't have an exclusive female conversation/arc, but neither should it have an exclusively male one either. If you need to have an exclusively female conversation or arc then it probably means you're over-representing the male gender somewhere and that should be fixed as opposed to inserting a random female element.

If a story has equal representation of both male and female in all aspects of the story, it's still a good story because no one gender is playing the dominate role. If there is both a male and female lead, and they are both equally important in most if not all aspects of the story, how is that a bad thing? I personally think writing females and males equally into the story is the best way to do it.

Edit: Of course that's easier said than done. Females in general like to write about females in the main role and males in the secondary and vice-versa for male writers.

Unless we go into fan fiction then it's usually females writing two straight men into a gay relationship. All you need to do is browse through fanfiction.net to see THAT proof.
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stripeypants



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PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 1:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Bechdel Test only tests whether a story has women characters who are written as actual people. It may surprise you, but in real life? Women have conversations where they don't discuss men. In films, women rarely have conversations that are not about men. It isn't that discussing men is bad, but rather that portraying women only ever talking about men shows they have no life or interests outside en - while men get to have conversations about anything under the sun.

You don't have to know how to write women well to pass the Bechdel test, as Slock proves here. You just have to be capable of writing a scene where two women talk about something other than a man.

Make the scene short if you are incapable - and yes, the whole conversation has to be about something other than a man. The test is that simple.

And there is no male equivalent because men are written as people with their own interests.
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Yinello



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PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 2:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's a terrifying amount of books, movies, games and hell maybe even radioshows where women are only written so to enhance the (often main character) man's personality. How many action movies have you see where you instantly know the only woman in the plot is instantly the love interest of the protagonist?

Especially harem anime are notorious for having everything centered around the main guy like he's the fucking sun - and it instantly makes me want to throw him off of a cliff.
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Arthain



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PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 3:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My biggest issue with the Bechdel Test is that I don't believe in absolutes. There's no such thing as guaranteed or impossible or always or never. They're just words used by the ignorant to justify their actions.

Likewise I don't believe that the Bechdel Test is required to make a female seem real. Do I believe that satisfying the Bechdel Test help to make a female feel more real? Yes, but is it a requirement?

The answer is no. As it is there are so many ways a story can fail the test but still have strong, fleshed out female characters that I can't just accept it as absolute.

Besides real life fails the Bechdel Test almost as much as the movies do. It's hard to go through life without talking about men or female to a large degree. After all the most interesting topics in life have always been and always will be about each other.

When you add to the fact that the Bechdel Test was meant to be a joke and was used in reference to why a girl wanted to see a movie (because it passed it) when in actuality the movie FAILED it is rather ironic. Plus there's the whole aspect of 'where does Transgender' fall under?

The Bechdel Test is flawed through and through and I just can't accept it as a true legitimate standardized test. It's a good start, but it definitely needs to be fixed up, redefined, and transformed into something that does work.


Last edited by Arthain on Wed May 15, 2013 3:31 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Felgraf



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PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 3:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

stripeypants wrote:
The Bechdel Test only tests whether a story has women characters who are written as actual people. It may surprise you, but in real life? Women have conversations where they don't discuss men. In films, women rarely have conversations that are not about men. It isn't that discussing men is bad, but rather that portraying women only ever talking about men shows they have no life or interests outside en - while men get to have conversations about anything under the sun.

You don't have to know how to write women well to pass the Bechdel test, as Slock proves here. You just have to be capable of writing a scene where two women talk about something other than a man.

Make the scene short if you are incapable - and yes, the whole conversation has to be about something other than a man. The test is that simple.

And there is no male equivalent because men are written as people with their own interests.


Hrm. It occurs to me, though, it IS possible to have a story that doesn't pass the Bechdel Test, but *does* still have women characters written as though they are actual people.

For instance, if a story is written in first-person perspective from a male's point of view: Most conversations that would pass the bechdel test (Since it seems to require a male not be a part of the conversation? Unless I'm misunderstanding?) would probably occur outside the main character's presence, and thus not be 'seen' by the reader.

(For instance: though I've only read a few chunks of it, The Dresden Files seems to have a number of actually fairly strong female characters, including Karen Murphy? But since it's told from Harry's perspective, I'm not sure it passes the bechdel test.)

I should note this is more me going "Hrm, I wonder if there are ways we can expand or improve the test to account for these scenarios?" rather than me going "TEST IS FLAWED SHOULD NEVER APPLY". I'm in analytical mode today (DAMNIT EXPERIMENT WHY U NO WORK) and it's difficult for me to shut off.
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Arthain



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PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 3:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yinello wrote:
Especially harem anime are notorious for having everything centered around the main guy like he's the fucking sun - and it instantly makes me want to throw him off of a cliff.


Those men are often completely unrealistic and retarded as well so that's not a very good argument. Harem anime as a whole genre is fundamentally flawed.

Take Sekirei for instance. Any guy in the position Minato is would have had his balls drained a hundred times over by this point in the story. The girls don't just love him, they're practically trying to bang him every night.

It's not only a very unrealistic portrayal of females, but a very unrealistic portrayal of men as well. Most harem anime don't care about realistic characters, it's all about tits and panties with about half of them having some form of violent physical retribution for accidental infringement.
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Hekateras



Joined: 31 May 2012
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PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 3:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Arthain wrote:
Hekateras wrote:
Quote:
(And one can have a story in which legitimately there is no reason for that conversation to be a part of it. Not every single story has to be inclusive of all of humanity.)


You're missing the point. Do you realise women make up 50% of the world's population? A work should not have to go "out of its way" like that to "include" females. The reason that's a problem is that there's a default perception/tendency to use (white, cishet) male characters as the DEFAULT characters for roles that are gender-neutral, and female characters only for roles that have to be specifically female.


This is actually a very good reason why the Bachdel Test should be considered more a guide line than an actual test. A good story shouldn't have an exclusive female conversation/arc, but neither should it have an exclusively male one either. If you need to have an exclusively female conversation or arc then it probably means you're over-representing the male gender somewhere and that should be fixed as opposed to inserting a random female element.

If a story has equal representation of both male and female in all aspects of the story, it's still a good story because no one gender is playing the dominate role. If there is both a male and female lead, and they are both equally important in most if not all aspects of the story, how is that a bad thing? I personally think writing females and males equally into the story is the best way to do it.

Edit: Of course that's easier said than done. Females in general like to write about females in the main role and males in the secondary and vice-versa for male writers.

Unless we go into fan fiction then it's usually females writing two straight men into a gay relationship. All you need to do is browse through fanfiction.net to see THAT proof.


I don't quite agree. I think there's nothing wrong, BY ITSELF, with a story that is exclusively about men, or exclusively about women. There are some things and subjects and problems that are somewhat more gender-specific, and there's nothing wrong with telling stories about them. Even the fact of inequality in and of itself can be used to benefit the story - such as by having the unequal distribution present a problem or challenge or source of conflict in some way.

The problem is only where this unequal representation becomes a trend, making us wonder how to counteract this trend without overly compromising a writer's essential liberty to write the story they want to write.

As for fanfiction, it's actually pretty fascinating, because that trend dates back to the original Star Trek fandom and its covertly written and exchanged slash fiction zines. "Shipping" two (presumed but not always specified to be) straight men together provided an outlet for women's sexuality at a time when women's sexuality was strongly repressed, and still does.

Besides, a lot of it is simply wanting to see characterisation and relationship opportunities explored, often into romance, because romance is appealing. The fact that it's so frequently a case of shipping straight male characters is partly a side-effect of the very problem we're discussing here: that the majority of mainstream shows and movies are a sausage party. Take the Avengers, for example. With only one member of the team being female, is it any bloody wonder that the majority of Avengers fanfiction is m/m?


Last edited by Hekateras on Wed May 15, 2013 3:19 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Valerie



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PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 3:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

*snickers* A for effort, kid. Or maybe a B. Yeah, probably more like a B.
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Arthain



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PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hekateras wrote:
As for fanfiction, it's actually pretty fascinating, because that trend dates back to the original Star Trek fandom and its covertly written and exchanged slash fiction zines. "Shipping" two (presumed but not always specified to be) straight men together provided an outlet for women's sexuality at a time when women's sexuality was strongly repressed.

Besides, a lot of it is simply wanting to see characterisation and relationship opportunities explored, often into romance, because romance is appealing. The fact that it's so frequently a case of shipping straight male characters is partly a side-effect of the very problem we're discussing here: that the majority of mainstream shows and movies are a sausage party. Take the Avengers, for example. With only one member of the team being female, is it any bloody wonder that the majority of Avengers fanfiction is m/m?


Not surprised at all, my only real issue with M/M is I hate it when people completely destroy the characterization in the original work. When you take two people from a genre that were straight and make them gay just to have a relationship, you're ruining their character. Likewise I don't believe two straight females should be transformed into lesbians either. The gender preference of a character is something that should be preserved along with things such as core values and morals. Otherwise you might as well just slap a new name on the character and call it the dudes long lost twin or something.

This is just a pet-peeve of mine though. I'm a sucker for well done male/female romance relationships. It's why I love Clannad and Clannad After Story. That's a well done anime, man I balled my eyes out at the end of After Story. It's just so powerful and emotional, frig I'm tearing up just remembering it.
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Valerie



Joined: 02 Apr 2013
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PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 3:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Onimaru wrote:
As an amateur writer myself, I have to admit that a LOT of my first works suffered failing this test miserably. Actually, I'll readily admit that it's still hard at times to not make this mistake, as a man writing for female characters most times we identify them by how they interact with men, so having them act on their own or interact between themselves can be a challenge that needs to be taken seriously, or you'll fall into the trap of making uninteresting 2 dimensional female characters that only exist as a backboard to how your male characters interact with women.

That being said, Slick's 'short story' made me laugh a bit and be sad at the same time. Razz


I've heard that a good way to overcome this is to write all the characters as if they're male, then change the pronouns and names when you're finished.

It's... sort of problematic in its own way, but if a generation or two of writers can manage to do this and make it work, it should start to come naturally to the writers who come after.
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