Bechdel Test tweak

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  • Bechdel Test tweak

    How many films that otherwise pass the Bechdel Test would instead fail if the third criterion were "3. who talk to each other about something besides people, including themselves"?

    I'm not even sure this matters. Just thinking back to a junior high teacher who admonished us gossipmongering kids with the adage, "Small minds discuss people, mediocre minds discuss events, great minds discuss ideas."

    But surely two females talking to each other about a man isn't any worse than two females talking to each other about that chick who wore hunter orange to the office.
    "You have idea 1, you're excited. It flops. You have idea 99, you're excited. It flops.
    Only a fool is excited by the 100th idea. Fools keep trying. God rewards fools." --Martin Hellman, paraphrased

  • #2
    Re: Bechdel Test tweak

    Does anyone realize that Silence of the Lambs doesn't pass? That's a movie about a woman succeeding in a predominantly male space.
    It's a great thought experiment, but I don't think diversity can be boiled down to a checklist.
    what the head makes cloudy the heart makes very clear

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    • #3
      Re: Bechdel Test tweak

      Originally posted by WaitForIt View Post
      But surely two females talking to each other about a man isn't any worse than two females talking to each other about that chick who wore hunter orange to the office.

      No one is claiming that two women having a conversation about romantically attracting a man is a bad thing. Unless I'm even more wildly off-base than usual, the criterion is stated as it is to avoid women whose personalities lack any self-definition or completeness apart from the ability to romantically attract a man.

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      • #4
        Re: Bechdel Test tweak

        What if my script doesn't need any women, or has no place for two women characters to interact, or all I need the women to do is discuss a man? Isn't every moment in my script there to advance the story or are we supposed to shoehorn in other stuff to make other people happy?

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        • #5
          Re: Bechdel Test tweak

          Originally posted by Steven R View Post
          What if my script doesn't need any women, or has no place for two women characters to interact, or all I need the women to do is discuss a man? Isn't every moment in my script there to advance the story or are we supposed to shoehorn in other stuff to make other people happy?
          Well, the only people you'd be making happy are people who judge all films by the Bechdel Test by using it in a way it wasn't meant to be used. It's a useful thought exercise and can perhaps lay bare some innocently thoughtless characterizations, and thus lead the writer to being more conscious of their choices. And it can prompt audiences to be more conscious of the choices they're watching in play.

          I think this tweak would lead to even deeper thought/analysis without complicating away the lovely simplicity that is the Bechdel Test. We think we want to see smart women on screen, right? It takes more than just writing women who talk to each other about the weather. Doesn't it?

          My initial feeling is that a similar tweak of the Reverse Bechdel Test (men instead of women, talking to each other about something other than people, including themselves) would probably still yield plenty of movies that pass. Just pondering.
          "You have idea 1, you're excited. It flops. You have idea 99, you're excited. It flops.
          Only a fool is excited by the 100th idea. Fools keep trying. God rewards fools." --Martin Hellman, paraphrased

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          • #6
            Bechdel Test

            Originally posted by WaitForIt View Post
            We think we want to see smart women on screen, right? It takes more than just writing women who talk to each other about the weather. Doesn't it?
            Let's see? Cooking, losing weight, shopping, arguments....

            A few of my screenplays do pass the test, and I hadn't really been trying!

            Rather than trying to dominate conversations with women, some male screenwriters might just sit quietly and listen to what some women will gossip about (when they don't think that the guy is actually listening to their every word).
            JEKYLL & CANADA (free .mp4 download @ Vimeo.com)

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            • #7
              Re: Bechdel Test tweak

              Originally posted by WaitForIt View Post
              How many films that otherwise pass the Bechdel Test would instead fail if the third criterion were "3. who talk to each other about something besides people, including themselves"?

              I'm not even sure this matters. Just thinking back to a junior high teacher who admonished us gossipmongering kids with the adage, "Small minds discuss people, mediocre minds discuss events, great minds discuss ideas."

              But surely two females talking to each other about a man isn't any worse than two females talking to each other about that chick who wore hunter orange to the office.
              The purpose of the Bechdel Test is to find films about women who are not defined by their relationship to the opposite sex, so that tweak would not help achieve the goal.

              Of course, that does not provide useful data in regards to the quality of an individual film, but it can effectively prove whether a large scope of the human condition has been underrepresented by the medium of film.

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              • #8
                Re: Bechdel Test tweak

                Originally posted by TheKeenGuy View Post
                The purpose of the Bechdel Test is to find films about women who are not defined by their relationship to the opposite sex, so that tweak would not help achieve the goal.
                I suppose I'm suggesting tweaking the goal, too -- are the women concerned mostly with other people, regardless of gender? Would it make them less shallow if they had something else to talk about or if they framed their conversations around ideas instead of people? Is a scene where two women talk about their male coworker really any less progressive than a scene where two women talk about their female coworker?

                Possibly a separate issue -- say, two sisters talking about their sister. Is that really any better than two sisters talking about their brother? Does it matter that it's immediate family vs. a potential love interest or an unrelated authority figure? (It does, however, at least encourage examination of whether the genders are intentionally chosen by the writer, or whether different choices might yield a better [not necessarily just different] story.)
                "You have idea 1, you're excited. It flops. You have idea 99, you're excited. It flops.
                Only a fool is excited by the 100th idea. Fools keep trying. God rewards fools." --Martin Hellman, paraphrased

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                • #9
                  Re: Bechdel Test tweak

                  Zzzzzzzz... Just write your story, 'whatever' it is.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Bechdel Test tweak

                    Originally posted by nativeson View Post
                    Zzzzzzzz... Just write your story, 'whatever' it is.
                    Film section for a reason.
                    "You have idea 1, you're excited. It flops. You have idea 99, you're excited. It flops.
                    Only a fool is excited by the 100th idea. Fools keep trying. God rewards fools." --Martin Hellman, paraphrased

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Bechdel Test tweak

                      The Bechdel Test is pretty silly overall. It scans your work for a single concern and is in no way an indicator that you're writing women well, just makes sure you're not writing them like a guy who has no idea how to write women as anything more than a plot device and is this sentence convoluted enough.

                      You really want to know how well your female characters are written, you need to have a girlfriend who doesn't think much of you needing an ego.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Bechdel Test tweak

                        Originally posted by Steven R View Post
                        What if my script doesn't need any women, or has no place for two women characters to interact, or all I need the women to do is discuss a man? Isn't every moment in my script there to advance the story or are we supposed to shoehorn in other stuff to make other people happy?
                        +1

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Bechdel Test

                          Originally posted by TheKeenGuy View Post
                          The purpose of the Bechdel Test is to find films about women who are not defined by their relationship to the opposite sex, so that tweak would not help achieve the goal.
                          Rather, one of Hollywood's problems is the preponderance of films aimed at young males, written by male screenwriters with little concept as to how to write from a woman's perspective and a reluctance to put any women's conversations into the dialog, (besides talking about a man).

                          For a good example, I'd recommend Nikolaj Arcel's A ROYAL AFFAIR, (which is told from the viewpoint of Caroline Matilda), and passes the Bechdel Test, (tho the plot does concern itself with her relationships with her insane husband and their enlightened doctor).

                          Tho nominated in the category of Best Foreign Language Film, in 2012 for an Academy Award, it hasn't been listed at bechdeltest.com and has only been mentioned in the DD threads, once before.

                          A bit of a warning, tho. I waited to view this until I discovered that its Canadian DVD provided the original (mostly) Danish soundtrack and English subtitles, (rather than watch the dubbed French soundtrack with English subtitles). I much preferred the original Danish version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, (also directed by Arcel), over the Hollywood remake. YouTube trailer.
                          JEKYLL & CANADA (free .mp4 download @ Vimeo.com)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Bechdel Test

                            Originally posted by Fortean View Post
                            Rather, one of Hollywood's problems is the preponderance of films aimed at young males, written by male screenwriters with little concept as to how to write from a woman's perspective and a reluctance to put any women's conversations into the dialog, (besides talking about a man).

                            For a good example, I'd recommend Nikolaj Arcel's A ROYAL AFFAIR, (which is told from the viewpoint of Caroline Matilda), and passes the Bechdel Test, (tho the plot does concern itself with her relationships with her insane husband and their enlightened doctor).

                            Tho nominated in the category of Best Foreign Language Film, in 2012 for an Academy Award, it hasn't been listed at bechdeltest.com and has only been mentioned in the DD threads, once before.

                            A bit of a warning, tho. I waited to view this until I discovered that its Canadian DVD provided the original (mostly) Danish soundtrack and English subtitles, (rather than watch the dubbed French soundtrack with English subtitles). I much preferred the original Danish version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, (also directed by Arcel), over the Hollywood remake. YouTube trailer.
                            That's actually available to stream on Netflix and is already in my instant queue on a friend's recommendation. Guess it's time to make a date with it.
                            "You have idea 1, you're excited. It flops. You have idea 99, you're excited. It flops.
                            Only a fool is excited by the 100th idea. Fools keep trying. God rewards fools." --Martin Hellman, paraphrased

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Bechdel Test tweak

                              "Small minds discuss people, mediocre minds discuss events, great minds discuss ideas."
                              ... and great films do all three.

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