I follow a blog which you might also find interesting, so here’s the link. This particular entry was about something called the Bechdel test. This was the first time I had heard of it and what it is about.
In short, this is a test about gender bias in fiction (books or movies). It’s a very simple test to perform. There are three questions that need to be answered:
- Are there at least two female characters in the story?
- Do they talk to each other?
- Do they talk to each other about something OTHER than men?
If all answers are “yes”, the movie passes the Bechdel test. If any of them are “no”, it fails.
Researching further, I found this TED talk where I learned that out of a 100 blockbuster movies done in 2011, only 11 of them passed this test.
Exactly, I could hardly believe it myself!
Women who are employed – talk about work issues.
Women who are mothers – talk about children.
Women who have female friends – talk about friends and life issues.
Women who are wives – still talk about something other than men.
How can it be that we don’t see this in the movies? Where are they hidden? Or – on the other hand – why don’t we see normal women in the movies that most of us enjoy watching?
And in the end: what kind of imprint does this make on us, the audience watching it? Does it make us behave accordingly?
Now, of course, after I read this blog, I went to dig through my two storylines I’m currently writing, to ask myself: am I doing the same thing? Mind you, both of these do have a love story in their midst, which might be difficult to make the Bechel pass.
However, I am proud to inform you that they both pass, even book nr. 2, which I just began to write.
Still, there is one thing that puzzles me: most of movies or books adored by women are not about strong, independent female characters, with little or no interference of men. Most of them are stories where a woman is in some kind of danger and a man is there to protect her (from hungry wolves, from criminals, from a van sliding on ice and is just about to crush her). Why? Why do we (women) like seeing that?
Digging back into my biological education, I would say it’s genetic: it is an intrinsic and instinctive choice of a prospective partner who is strong enough, reliable enough and able to defend the tribe/group/herd/family. Not very romantic, I know, but this instinct has been around for more than 100 thousand years, whereas our own newly found freedom and equality between genders is a bit more than 60 years old.
So, are characters that pass the Bechdel test and damsel-in-distress figures – opposites?
I actually don’t think so: these are realistic persons, female characters (I purposefully didn’t say “strong”) who are smart, have women friends and family they talk about more than just men, BUT who do follow the genetic imprint of finding a “mate” who is strong and protective of them and their planned families.
So, your turn: Please, list for me how many movies/books you have seen/read that tick these two boxes (Bechdel test pass AND genetic imprint of a strong and protective mate) apart from those that I’m writing and you haven’t read yet 😉 ?