The Next Bechdel-Wallace Test
December 21, 2017 3:22 PM   Subscribe

"Still, 30 years on, we’re not exactly sitting on a superior answer for measuring the movie industry’s gender imbalance. What does the next Bechdel Test look like? The time is ripe for a successor. Is there a short, punchy test we can apply? One that, if movies start passing it, would indicate that the industry is actually becoming better for both the women who make movies and the people who watch them? Is there a new test that could pull the modern film business in the right direction? And if there is, where on earth do we find it?" We pitted 50 movies against 12 new ways of measuring Hollywood’s gender imbalance.

They categorize the 12 tests as:
  • Tests that look behind the camera
  • Tests that look beyond white women
  • Tests that look at female protagonists
  • Tests that look at the supporting cast
  • posted by not_the_water (57 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
     
    There's an interesting difference in these tests: they seem to fall into the categories of "minimal but significant showing and it passes" and "50 percent of [something] is women and it passes."

    Which makes me think, why not a sliding scale? This would recognize the increments of improvement, which balances both of these thresholds. Still, it's clear that some of the "one is enough" thresholds are still not achieved (specifically, the Villalobos Test, which only asks that The film has a Latina lead, And the lead or another Latina character is shown as professional or college educated, speaks in unaccented English, and is not sexualized)
    posted by filthy light thief at 3:36 PM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


    Just to help spread the word: Alison Bechdel has asked that people refer to it as the "Bechdel-Wallace" test to give credit to Liz Wallace, from whom Alison got the concept.
    posted by rmd1023 at 3:40 PM on December 21, 2017 [67 favorites]


    Which makes me think, why not a sliding scale?

    Because in the year 2017, parity should be the norm. The fact that it isn't is a black mark on our society.
    posted by NoxAeternum at 3:41 PM on December 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


    Maybe as well as scoring individual films, we should be scoring studios. Hey Disney, were 50% of the films you released this year directed by women? Did you at least do better this year than last year? Did you do better or worse than Warner Bros and Universal?
    posted by Bloxworth Snout at 3:41 PM on December 21, 2017 [20 favorites]


    Just to help spread the word: Alison Bechdel has asked that people refer to it as the "Bechdel-Wallace" test to give credit to Liz Wallace, from whom Alison got the concept.

    Mods can we adjust the title to reflect that?
    posted by not_the_water at 3:43 PM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


    It says something about how embedded I am in this sexist culture that the idea of some of these tests blows my mind. Like, a film crew that's evenly split between men and women? Madness! How could that even be??
    posted by rmd1023 at 3:45 PM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


    [Title updated!]
    posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:47 PM on December 21, 2017 [8 favorites]


    The thing about the Bechdel-Wallace test is that for the longest time, I thought Bechdel was a man.
    posted by aniola at 3:52 PM on December 21, 2017 [7 favorites]


    Also, re; the Landau test: Between the authorial need to have women go through rape and pregnancy and breast cancer on screen, and the casting reality that a lot of shows have only one or two women, there are so many properties where THE ONE WOMAN (or one of the only women) ends up going through ALL OF THESE. And women in media seeming always get breast cancer - never, like, ovarian cancer or throat cancer, or cancer of the sweat gland on the fingertip or something.

    I can see how it happens... Someone walks into the writers room for some random show and says 'CORPORATE SAYS WE NEED TO DO A BREAST CANCER EPISODE' and so the woman supporting character (who's also had an episode about harassment in the workplace when they had to do that or whatever, and probably been pregnant and if it's a cop show then at some point it turned out that she became a cop because she was raped), GETS TO DO THAT, TOO. I'm tired of cheap backstories, I'm tired of rape as a plot device, I'm tired of one or two women having to carry the load of an entire half the population's issues because they have to get shoehorned in around men with daddy issues (I am SO done with stories about men with daddy issues - some of them are good and all but there's SO FUCKING MANY OF THEM). And, of course, I am ABSOLUTELY FUCKING DONE with women's trauma being just a motivator for men and all the focus being on the dude's experience being "guy who's wife was raped" or "guy who's daughter was harassed and assaulted" or whatever.
    posted by rmd1023 at 3:55 PM on December 21, 2017 [60 favorites]


    Yes, yes, there are exceptions to all of the "always"/"never" statements I make. Whatever.
    posted by rmd1023 at 3:56 PM on December 21, 2017


    The 50% thresholds make sense for analyzing many movies in aggregate. With perfect gender equity, you'd expect to see around 50% of movies pass.
    posted by scose at 4:00 PM on December 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


    aniola, You should check out some Dykes to Watch Out For books. You won't regret it.
    posted by Bee'sWing at 4:02 PM on December 21, 2017 [14 favorites]


    “‘Zootopia,’ has Shakira, but her character is sexualized. How do you sexualize a deer?”
    There are some monkeys who'd like a word. Also, my very first crush was on Justin, a rat in The Secret of NIMH.

    I think that these tests are useful as a nudge to push studios and production companies in the right direction, but I think sometimes they fail to be revealing on an individual work. Like, does it make story sense for a historical like Hacksaw Ridge to have a bunch of fully-realized women characters in it? It's a movie set in the 40's about a pacifist who went to war. But even in cases like these, there's no excuse for the crew to be so male-dominated. Directors like Kathryn Bigelow have adequately demonstrated, imho, that women can make movies about anything, including war.

    I'd be really interested in more movies written in a gender-neutral fashion and cast accordingly. Ripley was just Ripley, probably a man, but it turns out that Ms. Weaver was the best Ripley they could find. Salt was originally written as a male part, but minor rewrites turned the character into a part for Angelina Jolie. Popular productions like Hamilton and tv shows like Grey's Anatomy have helped open some minds about who is right for certain types of parts, and I think it would be fun to cast a few Hacksaw Ridges and Gladiators and Tituses with good actors, regardless of sex, race, age, orientation, etc. etc.

    I like Bloxworth's idea about scoring studios, too. I could forgive a few 90% male productions if a studio tends to skew towards more parity in aggregate.
    posted by xyzzy at 4:32 PM on December 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


    The brilliance of Bechdel-Wallace is that you can be watching a film while being vaguely aware of it and then ‘notice’ the result when you are ready. It doesn’t require accounting or pulling yourself out of something you may be otherwise enjoing. Too many of these feel academic and like research rather than simple cultural observations. The Ko Test here comes closest to that brevity. Others seem like they’d be awfully hard to notice in passing.
    posted by meinvt at 5:10 PM on December 21, 2017 [21 favorites]


    As a mom, I would like a test for media that kids incorporate into their pretend play: after the kids pick a character for my daughter, my son, and my husband, is there a character left that I want to play? (The answer thus far has way too often been a resounding ‘no’. There’s usually a good female character for my daughter, but rarely a second one for me.)
    posted by telepanda at 6:09 PM on December 21, 2017 [37 favorites]


    This is the bleep test: A woman appears on screen, makes eye contact with the protagonist and you *can't* immediately tell if she's there to do it with the protagonist later. If I'm watching something and a female character appears on the screen and I say "They're gonna do it." and I'm wrong, the show passes. All tv shows and movies fail.
    posted by bleep at 6:18 PM on December 21, 2017 [21 favorites]


    Looks like we're going to need a bigger matrix.
    posted by blue_beetle at 6:44 PM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


    Yeah, I'm troubled by the ones with the 50% requirement. I mean for every movie to have exactly 50% would be a little odd, wouldn't it? Maybe something passes with a range between 40% and 60% I could get on board with. ALso, anything requiring that the lead protagonist be X/not do X etc. etc. is problematic. Presumably the goal would be to have all movies pass the test, but then we can't have any movie that isn't about a professional Latina woman, or any movie about a pregnant woman, or whatever.

    These seem like people were more thinking "what is there too much of or too little of in movies/the movie industry" rather than "what would individual movies look like almost universally if the movie industry were equitable?" I think the next Bechdel-Wallace test (and it's not clear why we're getting rid of the old one), needs to be the answer to the second question.
    posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:03 PM on December 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


    I don't think anyone is seriously advocating that every single movie must pass every single test. That would be absurd, as you point out.

    But if you're in a situation where nearly every movie is failing nearly every test, that's still bad.
    posted by nebulawindphone at 7:14 PM on December 21, 2017 [5 favorites]


    Yeah, I'm troubled by the ones with the 50% requirement. I mean for every movie to have exactly 50% would be a little odd, wouldn't it?

    You don't need every movie to have exactly 50% women involved, BUT. If there was parity, then you would expect about half of those films to show over 50% "women, and about 50% to have fewer, meaning the average would be 50% or 25 films. That is basic statistics. Compare it to the actual figure.
    posted by happyroach at 7:42 PM on December 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


    Yeah, but the Bechdel-Wallace test (And so presumably any replacement) is meant to be applied to individual movies: A movie either passes and that's good or it fails and that's not good. I feel like a replacement test should work that same way. If we turn it into "what proportion of Latinas in film are portrayed as professional" or any other thing looking at the distribution of some thing (like the proportion of crew female) across the entire industry, that seems like a whole other different thing. It's not a bad thing. In fact, I would even say it's a good thing. But it's not what the Bechdel-Wallace test does so I don't think these are useful as analogs.
    posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:59 PM on December 21, 2017


    It's so confusing.
    posted by CheapB at 7:59 PM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


    Yeah, but the Bechdel-Wallace test (And so presumably any replacement) is meant to be applied to individual movies: A movie either passes and that's good or it fails and that's not good.

    I don't think that's necessarily true - the amazing thing about the test is that so few pass over that simple bar, in aggregate, that it speaks volumes about how women are perceived by the entertainment industry. I think there's certainly room for there to be movies that have predominantly male casts - it would be kind of odd if something like The Longest Day broke from its main subject just to pass the Bechdel-Wallace test, but not every movie needs to or should be The Longest Day.
    posted by LionIndex at 8:18 PM on December 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


    Yes, fair point that obviously not every single movie needs to pass and it's reasonable and not "bad" for some movies to fail, so there's a "what's the distribution?" aspect to that test, too.
    posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:27 PM on December 21, 2017


    Honestly, I love that they're trying to set the bar so high that it's actually equitable, but I'd be thrilled if we could just get to Bechdel-Wallace +1.

    3 or more women with names who have a conversation that's not about a man
    at least one of those women non-white
    and none of them dies

    I mean, that's a crazy low bar, and I can think of a large number of current B-W passing movies that can't pass it.

    Baby steps aren't enough, but you can't get to leaps without them. At least make it seem attainable.
    posted by Mchelly at 8:40 PM on December 21, 2017 [10 favorites]


    Movies would be a good start, but let's not stop there. Books, visual arts, music... honestly, sometimes it feels like "popular culture" is just emotional labour writ large.
    posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 8:51 PM on December 21, 2017 [5 favorites]


    My personal test (that I didn’t realize was a test until I thought about it but it does determine what I consume): a piece of media fails when there is a character or plot point that relies on an unsubstantiated or non-nuanced cultural stereotype, and extra fails when that stereotype is presented by an actor or character NOT of the culture.
    posted by divabat at 10:50 PM on December 21, 2017 [9 favorites]


    Yeah, I think the whole point of the B-W test was that it was such a very low bar to pass (and yet so few movies passed it).
    posted by trig at 11:51 PM on December 21, 2017 [10 favorites]


    These kinds of measures are great, not because they should fit every given movie and somehow thus "prove" any given one "isn't good", but because which movies get made and who makes them is of crucial importance. Pointing to movies that don't match the tests for whatever allegedly good reason misses the point that the choices over those movies being made instead of some other that might be more representative is significant in itself.

    That these tests, as they gain in popularity and with the history of sexism and abuse in the industry increasingly in focus, help shift perception on what is accepted and what needs to change going forward. I don't care that better focus on movies with more diverse points of view and a wider range of filmmakers providing their visions might somehow allegedly deny us the next Raging Bull or Dunkirk or Lord of the Rings or whatever else since we've been denied movies that deal with the experience of women and minorities from their own perspectives for the entirety of movie history, so any alleged exchange would still be not only a net win but should be a necessity at this point.

    My personal belief is that movies, like the other arts which also need this sort of examination, can help open people to empathizing with the experiences of others as long as people actively engage with the works outside their own bubble of comfort. Having a Wonder Woman or Black Panther movie is great. Superhero movies, if they are made, should be representative, but if that's the only place you're looking for diversity then it isn't enough. Diversity has to come through differing points of view that go beyond the equivalent of different flavors of your favorite brand of ice cream, to embrace the broader differences that life entails.

    The weakness, such as it is, in these tests lies in them just being a measure people use to judge what is marketed to them as fitting popular standards. It's an outward test, a necessary one, but not fully adequate. These same tests should be applied to our own choices in consumption, turned inward to look at what we seek out as much as what is put before us. There are many movies made by women and people of color made each year that don't gain notice because they don't fit the model of consumption inculcated in the culture. A way to improve the scores of popular films reaching these minimal plateaus is to seek out those movies and make them more popular.

    It isn't enough to wait for Hollywood to make a movie that fits our already established demand for entertainment since that demand is as wanting for diversity as the production side. I'm not saying people shouldn't seek out what they enjoy, and demand more from it, but to look at broadening their own ideas of what can be enjoyed and what is found pleasurable as well.

    Familiarity in convention and nostalgia drive so much of the market for popular culture that it becomes a lodestone for the industry leaving it focused on the past. But the past itself is the problem we need to move away from which requires abandoning some of the familiar, ditching some of the old tropes, not just trying to gender or race switch them, and allowing newer ways of telling stories about characters different than those who've come before to shine. We've only scratched the barest surface of the kinds of art that can be made and the kinds of stories that can and should be told, but we ourselves have to take part in opening the door to allow entrance to the unfamiliar if we want to gain from what art can provide.
    posted by gusottertrout at 1:50 AM on December 22, 2017 [8 favorites]


    Re hacksaw ridge and ratios, I guess I'd say why are stories composed almost entirely of men still getting so much funding, attention, etc?

    Should we be focusing on telling stories almost exclusively about men when the equivalents for women are so uncommon and mostly frigging awful?

    Yes, the were a lot of men in wwii, but there were tonnes of women, too. Those stories don't get told anywhere near as often and it's because of chauvinism.
    posted by smoke at 2:46 AM on December 22, 2017 [16 favorites]


    If only I had a penguin...: "Yeah, but the Bechdel-Wallace test (And so presumably any replacement) is meant to be applied to individual movies: A movie either passes and that's good or it fails and that's not good."

    But even there you get outliers like Gravity that fail the very easy B-W test while still being a perfectly fine movie.

    The more specific you get in your requirements the more likely a perfectly fine, representative film is going to fail on a chance detail.
    posted by Mitheral at 6:15 AM on December 22, 2017


    Like, does it make story sense for a historical like Hacksaw Ridge to have a bunch of fully-realized women characters in it? It's a movie set in the 40's about a pacifist who went to war.

    Then for every Hacksaw Ridge, I want a story told with a female-led cast in a way that makes sense. Something like Hidden Figures, but you know... other stories! Ones I haven't heard of. Even the dark and depressing ones.

    Upon preview, what smoke said. More stories about women and minorities during major events in history!
    posted by PearlRose at 6:44 AM on December 22, 2017 [11 favorites]


    One January my New Year's resolution was to only read books written by people who identify as women, especially WOC (I allow myself to read essays, articles, etc. written by men). It's been a few years now and I'm not sure if I'll ever go back to reading male authored novels/long form non-fiction again, though I eventually added a clause that if my wife, or another woman, personally suggests that I read a book written by a man I can consider it. It's been a surprisingly visceral relief to read book after book where women's inner lives and experiences are centered and treated as important in their own right.

    For me the hardest part (and maybe the most important) is explaining to friends and family why I am not going to read the book they are recommending. I often note that, as a 30 something cis-het white dude, even if I never read another word written by a man for the rest of my life I probably couldn't balance out all the Melvilles, DFWs, Clancys and Kings of my youth with an equal number of pages by women (I was a voracious reader through college and have definitely slowed down since).

    This post is very timely for me. Yesterday I was thinking about what my 2018 New Year's resolution could be, and the B-W test had crossed my mind as a good starting point. Maybe we get a jump on the New Year and rent Bad Moms tonight!
    posted by soy bean at 6:45 AM on December 22, 2017 [14 favorites]


    You guys I haven't seen Secret Life of Pets. v. important question does it fail because two female animals talking to each other about something other than a man does not count or does a stupid movie about pets literally not have a scene where two female animals talk to each other about something other than a male animal. The first option is pedantic the second is tragic.
    posted by edbles at 6:49 AM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


    I'm going to stick with the B-W test for now because most goddamn movies can't even clear that particular (abysmally low) bar. So.
    posted by lydhre at 6:50 AM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


    Then for every Hacksaw Ridge, I want a story told with a female-led cast in a way that makes sense.
    Absolutely. I'd much rather have that than, you know, a remake of a classic or even a recent hit, BUT WITH WOMEN! That just reduces movies featuring women to a punchline or a gimmick, and I find it highly irritating.
    posted by xyzzy at 7:11 AM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


    Then for every Hacksaw Ridge, I want a story told with a female-led cast in a way that makes sense.

    Yep, this. I remember sitting in the theater watching The Monuments Men and just not being able to enjoy it because it felt so inessential. Did we need another WWII movie about white American dudes with a single token woman? We did not. Call me when Nancy Wake gets a movie. Or Noor Inayat Khan. Or the Night Witches.
    posted by nonasuch at 7:41 AM on December 22, 2017 [8 favorites]


    I'd much rather have that than, you know, a remake of a classic or even a recent hit, BUT WITH WOMEN! That just reduces movies featuring women to a punchline or a gimmick, and I find it highly irritating.

    I totally agree that it would be great to see more original stories about women in the movies. I disagree, however, that remakes which gender swap characters are a negative trend or a 'gimmick'. My thinking is that remakes and cash-grabs are going to happen anyway, and featuring women in roles that were previously held by men gives more people the opportunity to see their identity reflected in the characters and stories they enjoy.
    posted by soy bean at 7:56 AM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


    As a man, I've always wondered why women are not angrier?
    posted by Kwadeng at 8:23 AM on December 22, 2017 [4 favorites]


    My thinking is that remakes and cash-grabs are going to happen anyway, and featuring women in roles that were previously held by men gives more people the opportunity to see their identity reflected in the characters and stories they enjoy.

    That's the theory, and I'm sure it's true to some degree, but it keeps men as the measure for women who must imitate the previous successes of white guys rather than get a chance to tell their own stories. It hamstrings the women by forcing comparison to men who were successful in stories generally written by and for men.

    How do women win in that? How does it advance anything to treat men and women as generic or uniform in their histories and wants? There are certainly some shared values between men and women, but as many that only appear so on the surface for being so embedded in convention that we can't see the differences.
    posted by gusottertrout at 8:41 AM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


    Or the Night Witches.

    Yesssssssss.
    posted by Squeak Attack at 8:53 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


    But even there you get outliers like Gravity that fail the very easy B-W test while still being a perfectly fine movie.

    This is a common misconception, and I’m not sure why. There’s a very brief exhange between Bullack and the shuttle’s captain just at the start of the movie. It’s two lines at best, but it passes.

    I think the fact that everyone wants to say Gravity fails the test says more about it than anything else. People want to pretend the B-W test is somehow meaningless. It isn’t. It’s an incredibly low bar, and the majority of movies with even very small casta ought to pass it.

    Once movies start passing it, then we can talk about replacements.
    posted by steady-state strawberry at 9:40 AM on December 22, 2017 [5 favorites]


    This is really interesting and worth reading and sharing. But, it seems to me the great power of the Bechdel-Wallace test is that (1) it's very simple and (2) many films pass, but fewer than you'd expect given how incredibly low the bar is.

    Most of these are either complicated and hard to apply or they exclude every film made. The former is interesting to think about, but I'd have a hard time remembering the scoring rules long enough to apply them to a new film. The later is useful in demonstrating just how skewed the industry is, but after you've gone through the exercise once there isn't much point in doing it again.

    The exception is the The Rees Davies test: "Every department has two or more women." That's as good a behind-the-camera analogue of the Bechtel-Wallace test as one could hope for. It's perfect.

    As someone who has nothing to do with the film industry, I'm also intrigued to realize that The Rees Davies test can also be applied, without editing, to academic institutions.
    posted by eotvos at 9:45 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


    My favorite Bechdel moment was when I was bored and sick enough I couldn't focus on reading or gaming or anything else, so I pulled up some awful movies to watch. And in Deathrace 2050 two of the named female characters meet up in a hotel bar to talk about something other than male characters. The bar had a sign proclaiming it was "The Bechdel Bar", so clearly the test has made an impact on filmmakers, even if only for its potential as a joke. Oddly enough, the movie had passed the Bechdel-Wallace test before that conversation.

    Mitheral But even there you get outliers like Gravity that fail the very easy B-W test while still being a perfectly fine movie.

    Never forget that Bechdel herself never claimed the test showed whether a movie was any good, or feminist, or anything else of the sort; nor that movies which failed it were bad. Her point was simply that on such a pathetically low bar most (almost all, really) movies, good, bad, feminist, or not, fail.
    posted by sotonohito at 9:47 AM on December 22, 2017 [10 favorites]


    To not abuse the edit window: and the reason most movies fail is because most movies are, ultimately, about men and have men as the primary characters. Watch any movie and see how often the secondary characters talk about something other than the primary characters or their problems.

    Since the primary characters are almost universally men, this necessarily puts women in the role of supporting character, and supporting characters talk about primary characters. And that's the real point of the test. We simply, flatly, don't make many movies about women.
    posted by sotonohito at 9:49 AM on December 22, 2017 [8 favorites]


    Most of these are either complicated and hard to apply or they exclude every film made.

    Many of them require insider knowledge; you can't watch a movie with your friends and figure out how whether half its crew members were women. It's good to have industry-based algorithms for spotting discrimination and/or progress, but those aren't useful tools for the public.

    I actively use the Bechdel-Wallace test when deciding what movies to see. I don't limit myself to only movies that pass, but I'm consciously aware of that. If I'm going to see a "bro show," my standards for meaningful dialogue drop, along with any hope of lasting emotional impact - I'm going to see it to be entertained for a couple of hours and that's all I expect. Sometimes, a move that fails the test is compelling and has lasting value to me, but that's rarer; I don't bother looking for those movies anymore.

    I can't use many of these tests to sort out where to spend my money or my time. Some involve info not easily available, like analyzing crowd scenes (you can tell if it's 80% guys; it's harder to spot if it's 60% guys); some involve complex interpretations. How do you decide if the "audience can empathize with or understand the female lead’s desires and actions?" That's going to vary by audience.

    I love the exploration of new methods of evaluating representation in films. All of these have value. I'll have to think a bit to sort out which ones I think I could use.
    posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:44 AM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


    I'm surprised no one has mentioned the Mako Mori test yet. It's been around for a few years, and passing requires that the movie have a) at least one female character b) who gets her own narrative arc c) that is not about supporting a man’s story.

    Like the B-W test, a disappointingly low number of movies manage to pass.
    posted by peppermind at 11:00 AM on December 22, 2017 [8 favorites]


    bleep: This is the bleep test: A woman appears on screen, makes eye contact with the protagonist and you *can't* immediately tell if she's there to do it with the protagonist later. If I'm watching something and a female character appears on the screen and I say "They're gonna do it." and I'm wrong, the show passes. All tv shows and movies fail.]

    This is pretty much why I almost exclusively watch TV shows/with a female lead. The minute that vibe starts, I have better things to do.

    I was so disappointed at the Villalobos test (Latina lead + lead or another Latina is educated,with unaccented English, and is not sexualized. That's an insanely low bar and no movie met it).

    I do love the Bechdel Wallace test for its simplicity and surface non-judginess. It's easier to say respresentation of women in the movie is terrible, and look it doesn't even pass the Bechtel test than get into the weeds about how and why its so grating.
    posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 12:16 PM on December 22, 2017 [5 favorites]


    Watch any movie and see how often the secondary characters talk about something other than the primary characters or their problems.


    Hardly ever! Which is efficient storytelling, but the better an artform is at defining our sense of reality, the sicker this is -- we learn that there are a few Protagonists and lots of NPCs who are about the Protagonists. What a terrible belief to map to the real world, even if we attained representative diversity in Protagonists.
    posted by clew at 12:35 PM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


    Just came here to plug The Bechdel Cast if any of you are as interested in this topic as I am.
    posted by complaina at 1:34 PM on December 22, 2017


    I'm surprised that none of the proposed tests and none of the comments here mention (non-hetero) sexuality or gender identity. Absolutely race and ethnicity are important and it would be fabulous to see better representation. But I would also love to see something like - has LGBTQ+ characters who are not comic relief, whose sexuality or gender identity is not a plot point and who are alive at the end of the film. If they are protagonists, to have their sexuality or gender identity not be the single most important thing about their character would be bloody fantastic (in addition to also being alive at the end of the film). Extra bonus points if they are POC and not stereotyped.

    Probably too much to ask, hey?
    posted by Athanassiel at 2:55 PM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


    Athanassiel: Towards the end of the article they specifically mention the lack of sexuality-related tests:
    And many of these tests are scaled-back versions of ones that we would have loved to run if we’d had perfect information: We can’t reasonably ascertain the sexual orientation or race of 50,000 crew members, but many of the people we spoke to pitched us tests that included that information as one of their criteria.
    posted by divabat at 3:21 PM on December 22, 2017


    Ah, thanks I missed that. That will teach me to read articles while waking up and before application of coffee! Still think that kind of test would be good though.
    posted by Athanassiel at 5:34 PM on December 22, 2017


    steady-state strawberry: "
    This is a common misconception, and I’m not sure why. There’s a very brief exhange between Bullack and the shuttle’s captain just at the start of the movie. It’s two lines at best, but it passes.


    Apparently there are two versions of the test; I was operating under the more restrictive version where the two female characters must be named.
    posted by Mitheral at 7:21 PM on December 22, 2017


    She’s actually named in the credits, so, given the context, I feel like it’s a full pass. Even if it’s a fail, it’s a very marginal one - not nearly as serious a fail as I’ve seen most people want it to be.
    posted by steady-state strawberry at 8:30 PM on December 22, 2017


    Maybe we get a jump on the New Year and rent Bad Moms tonight!

    Whoa there, you don’t have to watch a terrible movie just because it passes the Bechdel-Wallace test.

    Just tonight I watched Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. It is the most misogynistic movie I’ve seen in years. But it passes the Bechdel-Wallace test! I mention this to point out that not only is the B-W test a low bar that few movies manage to pass, but that passing it is no guarantee of feminist cred.
    posted by ejs at 11:02 PM on December 22, 2017


    The Bechdel-Wallace test boils down to, "Do the women in this movie ever think about something other than men?" or maybe just, "is this story all about the men?"

    Answering those in a way that indicates "it's not all about the men" doesn't mean the movie can't be horrible.
    posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:22 PM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


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