gender in media

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Efficacy of the Bechdel Test

A work of fiction is considered to have passed the Bechdel test if it features two women who talk about something other than a man. In many cases, it also requires that the women have names. Nearly half of films meet this requirement. Does this test truly examine the portrayal of gender in media?

  • Maybe an additional question you could also ask is, what kind of insight does applying the Bechdel Test on films give us about particular filmmakers (and give some examples) and has the introduction of the Bechdel Test changed the industry at all? – Kevin 1 year ago
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  • I think another important question might be, does a film that fails the Bechdel Test always portray gender negatively? Does a film that passes the Bechdel Test always portray gender positively?If not, what does the Bechdel Test truly show us? – C8lin 1 year ago
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  • You probably already know this, but there are a lot of films, such as Showgirls or films by Russ Meyer, that pass the Bechdel Test despite the fact that they are FAR from positive portrayals of women. – jsanoff 1 year ago
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  • This could open up a really interesting argument into how low the bar is set for feminist media these days. If so many meet the requirements, are the requirements strict enough? Are they asking for enough? What would be a better test? – Mariel 1 year ago
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  • It's important to recognize that the Bechdel Test is a bare minimum of what should be required for female representation in media, not a be all end all. – Laura Andrea 1 year ago
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  • Good topic, because in my opinion, the Bechdel test sets the bar too low. Just because two female characters are named and have conversations unrelated to men, does not make them strong or memorable people. Films aimed at girls and women are particularly guilty, from Disney princess movies to Jane Austen adaptations to modernized "chick flicks." – Stephanie M. 8 months ago
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  • I've always wondered what the Bechdel test is trying to achieve. Is it trying to divide the genders, or empower females? Star Wars failed the Bechdel test, but Leia Organa is a stronger character than anything in the Ghostbusters remake.It also limits roles for women. If a women is playing a devoted parent, if her child is female, she passes; if her child is male, she fails. Surely that character would have the same level of strength regardless of the gender of her offspring. – AGMacdonald 5 months ago
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  • Maybe you could also look at other tests that measure equal representation in film and media (but it would be a good starting point!). – AnastasiaS 5 months ago
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The Future is Female?

Currently, there has been a trend in female protagonists taking over multiple different franchises (e.g. Star Wars, Avatar, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, etc.), do you think there is hope that this trend will steadily continue or have an impending decline?

  • A lot of times we are seeing quantity over quality. Leia may have been the only women in the original Star Wars, but she was much stronger than Rey because she had flaws. The main problem with The Force Awakens is that while I enjoyed Rey's character and love Daisy Ridley, Rey never really struggled. Disney was so afraid of their female characters being labelled weak that they made her good at everything.If there is going to be a decline it will be because people are too afraid to have female characters that suffer and have flaws (like Sansa in Game of Thrones) due to backlash on said characters. We should treat female characters no different than the males: sometimes strong; sometimes stupid; sometimes downright maniacal. There's an array of characters out there, and strength doesn't necessarily come from being the best. – AGMacdonald 5 months ago
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  • There's potential with this question to address an often-missed issue with the upsurge in female representation, which is that women aren't "taking over" - the gender ratio is just leveling out. If the number of female characters were to decline, media wouldn't be going back to normal - it would just be going back to a male majority. This is bearing in mind that we aren't even at equal numbers yet - to take Marvel as an example, every single movie title except for one is male, and the separate teams have a male-female ratio of around 6-2. Two other important points would be to acknowledge the bizarrely venomous backlash to female characters (Rey, Ghostbusters etc), as well as the significant expectations placed upon female characters - if they aren't perfect, they're lambasted as slutty/bitchy/manipulative/whiny/etc, and if they are perfect, they're Mary-Sues. – Cat 5 months ago
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