I recently just heard about the Bechdel test. As someone who is all about equality, I am surprised I’m the last to know about this examination. I heard about this test when I was in a debate about whether Frozen was a feminist movie or not. I was told, “At least the movie passed the Bechdel test”.
The Bechdel Test was a short, three-step test designed in the 1980’s by cartoonist and feminist Alison Bechdel. She had a character in her comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For, that presented the idea. The character said she would not go to the movies if the movies were missing certain standards. These were the following requirements:
1) It has to have at least two women in it who…
2) Talk to Each Other About…
3) Something Besides a Man
Later someone added a fourth requirement:
4) The women must be named characters
I know, the requirements are amusing, but very well-thought out. It’s a good start, considering the ideas were formed over 20 years ago. This three-step standard seems to have become the deciding factor over whether a work of fiction is female-suitable, and thus whether the fiction makes it “feminist”-friendly.
Again, while I think the standard is a good start, I think the test is too simple and is flawed. Critics have pointed out the flaws. While I think it was an amusing strip, and good for a short read, I don’t think it’s thorough enough for people to go off of full-throttle. Here are a list of flaws:
1) While it mentions that a movie should have at least two main characters, it doesn’t specify whether those two females should be important to the story or influential (which the Mako Mori test covers, more on this later).
2) It doesn’t cover content. While there may be females in a movie, the content could be very sexist or very stereotypical in nature.
3) The idea of whether a man is included in a story conflicts with true feminism. Feminism is the idea that the genders are equal. The exclusion of male roles would not be fair or equal. It would also not make a woman’s movie equal that of a man’s because every “male-oriented” movie includes a woman in it. The extent to how much a man should be mentioned isn’t specified. Does this mean that a woman can’t even mention one man at all with another female? Does this mean that she can talk about a man, but not exclusively? Does this mean the content should exclude a relationship between a man and woman? Could a woman have a romantic interest that’s male, but still not talk to another woman about that love interest? There are too many blurred lines here…
So, if we only let the Bechdel test alone decide feminist content, we would be glossing over greater fictional issues.
The second test that comes after the Bechdel Test is the Mako Mori Test. The standards for this test is as follows:
1) At least one female character…
2) Who gets her own narrative arc…
3) That is not about supporting a man’s story
I think Law and Order: SVU passes both tests…
This broadens the requirements a bit more, but still fails to cover content or gender equality. We are in the depths of the 21st Century. It’s time to bump up the requirements.
It seems extra strenuous to tack on more requirements. Even meeting these requirements is challenging. One of the reasons it’s so challenging is because there are not enough women influencing entertainment beyond being an entertainer. Though women have influenced literature, there are hardly any women producing music, music videos, or movies. One in six directors, writers, and producers are actually women. I’ll bet the greatest number of females are singing, dancing, or modeling…Being an image for the camera rather than behind it…
Another reason this is all so challenging is because it’s easier for male-oriented movies to appeal to both genders, but it’s harder for female-oriented movies to do so. Many times, female-oriented movies have to cave some of these requirements in order to get box office hits. Let’s face it: Men will not support a woman if she’s not attractive. Men make up viewer numbers, and if they don’t watch it, it will have a harder time being bigger than a male-oriented movie that gets viewership from both males and females.
The third issue is whether the standards match reality. The reality is that some women themselves are only interested in movies that deal with men and/or traditional feminine interests. Look at the success of the Twilight series. Look who wrote the series: A woman. In order to meet these standards, there needs to be a complete re-working in the mentality of the next generation.
To add, there are women who audition for stereotypical roles in movies, write about stereotypical lifestyles, and present stereotypical images in music videos all the time. If they support it, the issue will persist. As long as up-coming actresses settle for any female role, even if that role is stereotypical in nature, directors will continue to represent women the way they want to. The real question is: How does the modern female see herself, and will these views conflict with another female’s idea of “equal”?
Read my article: Feminism Today: Is it Real or Overrated?
The fourth issue is the true goal of all women. Is the Bechdel Test designed to promote a feminist agenda or some other form of female empowerment? We have to remember that female chauvinism and misandry still exist…Do women really want a movie that is equal to a man’s? Or do they want a movie that exclusively represents women and her glory? Women are not all united in what they want, so pleasing women on a universal level is difficult.
The Bechdel Test hasn’t done enough to put men and women on the same level. This depends on if this is really what women want…
The Bly Test
Because of the above issues, there needs to be stronger, firmer lines and boundaries. I decided to write an amendment to the Bechdel Test. I decided to create my own modern, 21st Century test called the “Bly Test”. These requirements are for the ULTIMATE feminist movie. If you readers agree with my test, then you can set it as your standard. If you don’t, feel free to comment on my draft. I will always consider possible flaws in this draft, but I at least want to begin somewhere new.
Why the name “Bly”? I am inspired from Nellie Bly, a daring female reporter who invented Investigative Reporting. She went undercover as a mentally insane person and wrote about her experiences in an asylum. She also traveled around the world in 72 days! That female dared to do what no female before or after her would do and she broke ground in the reporting industry. This new test I’m thinking of is made to break new ground in fiction. If Nellie Bly can dare to be a different sort of writer, why can’t women dare to be something different in writing? Nellie Bly wrote about exciting stories with herself as the main character! And her stories would probably pass both the Bechdel Test AND the Mako Mori Test, if ever someone gets around to writing her story or creating her live-action movie. I’m really surprised there are no movies on this woman…
That aside, I have my own standards. So, here I go.
1) The fiction has to have a female lead character…
2) With her own Story Arc…
3) That should not be supporting a Man…
Very similar to the Mako Mori Test. Sure, there are plenty of female lead characters in movies today. So, keep it rolling. We need more women playing the lead and not the lead love interest…I will keep it moving…
4) There should at least be one or more female supporting characters…
Yes, this bothers me. There are a lot of lead female characters, but I notice that all the other supporting characters tend to be male, especially in animated movies. For instance, in Mulan, Mulan was a strong female heroine, but she was the only one. All of the other supporting characters were male. Princess and the Frog had one female supporting character that provided comic relief, but the rest were male (Yes, I’m including the alligator and firefly). In male movies, most of their supporting characters are male, with one female love interest. Sadly, women only choose males for most of their support, too. It’s okay to have a love interest, but one work of fiction should still include more female characters as support. Even Hunger Games had more male supporting roles than female. Divergent took a risk and ended up having more female supporting characters, but the lead support was a male love interest…Not that this makes the movie different from a male-directed movie.
5) If it has elements of comedy, Main Female Character and/or Female Supporting Characters Must Provide Comic Relief and Personality…
Many females do not get respect for being funny. More male comedians get respect than females. I was very pleased when Terk from Tarzan and Dory from Finding Nemo provided comedy. Both female supporting characters did not turn out to be love interests. I was very grateful. Even Thor had one female comic character. I wish that more movies made women entertaining, and not dry and serious all the time.
And main female characters are usually even more boring, moral, and serious. Women seem irritated and defensive about everything. I don’t think that’s how they should be represented. Even Katniss Everdeen, Tris, and Hermoine seemed overtly serious and focused.
I find because women lack “personality”, they lack entertainment value. They are so serious, so focused, determined, defensive, and ambitious, they are too serious. We need some recklessness, some drama to the character, some humor from her.
6) All Female characters Must Be Named.
As was added to the Bechdel Test, it will also be added to the Bly Test.
7) The Female Must Have a Goal, Dreams, or Aspirations…
I shouldn’t even have to mention this, but I will. Just in case.
8) And the Female’s MAIN GOALS In life Must Not Lean Toward Fashion, Romance, Social Status, Singing, or Dancing.
We are missing a strong group of females in the sci-fi or technology genre. Most lead females, especially in fiction geared to children, focus on fashion, social status (like Material Girls or Mean Girls), romance, and music, like dancing and/or singing. The problem are these goals focus a heavy lot on appearances and the body. We need more characters that aspire to be rulers, adventurers, or even women who discover something or invent something. I would love a female to lead a story like Atlantis the Lost Empire. I’m not saying there should be no fashion, social status, singing, romance, or dancing AT ALL. BUT I feel women need to move away from these hobbies and goals just a tad bit more. It would do some good to have variety. Women should show the world that they have various interests and that they are capable of intelligence.
9) Female Lead Must Not Focus on Her Looks, Not even to Impress Love Interest, to Satisfy Herself, or to Impress Viewers/Readers.
Women in fiction focus entirely too much on fashion and pretty looks. Even Frozen‘s Elsa decided to dazzle the crowd with a glittery dress when she could’ve expressed her freedom with the clothes she had on. I have more to say on this on another article. A female must use her actions to impress the audience/reader, as well as any love interests or admirers. Is this so hard to ask? If women themselves focus so much on their own looks, how can anyone ever think women are anything more than pretty faces?
Surprisingly, Alice in Wonderland accomplishes this.
10) The Female Must Save the Day Without the Assistance of a Male.
The female must take down the final villain all on her own, with no assistance from a male. Mulan accomplished this.
11) If there is a female villain, She Must Be A Strong Female Villain and/or Rival, who isn’t evil because of her appearance or a broken heart. If he is male, he must still be a strong opponent, even if the hero is a female…
12) And they should have Female Minions
I’m so tired of these weak female villains who turn out to be victims. We need some seriously ferocious female villains. That’s what I appreciated about Divergent. Why must a woman only be evil or have ambition when a man is her motivation for wanting revenge or anything else in life? And I know a villain isn’t flattering, but sometimes a movie is as good as it’s villain. Look at the Joker from The Dark Knight? Even a good female anti-hero would suffice, one like Jack Sparrow. Women are too, well, stuck-in-the-mud with righteous views. Why can’t women be good super villains or confusing ani-heroines? Why should female heroes only have villains that are easy to take down? That was what was disappointing about Frozen. Aren’t women strong enough to be challenged in a a great way? Villains test the strength of main characters. Without a good antagonist, how can we admire the hero? And what better way to challenge a female heroine than with another strong female antagonist?
13) All female animal characters should not be defined with a bow or with the color pink.
As if all girls like pink. I hated pink as a child, and I still do. It’s my least favorite color. I’m the least attracted to characters in pink, which is why the Pink Ranger in Power Rangers was my least favorite Ranger…The bow thing just adds to much girlishness. This wouldn’t happen if #4 was exercised. Once you use the bow on one character, what will you use on the second female? Oh, maybe something pink. How frustrating. Again, this is why I liked Terk and Dory.
There is also a sad lack of female minions. The male minions even take center-stage over female minions.
Basically, if a movie meets these requirements, some of our feminist problems will be solved. There would leave no room for women to complain. We covered adventure and action because without fashion, performing arts, and romance, what is there left in genres? Sci-fi, action, adventure, or family drama is left! We covered women being a main character for once. We covered women having a shot at supporting other females, and we even covered villain equality. We covered content and goals. Everything else should be up to the creativity of the writer. If we put too many rules on this, it would actually be limiting.
The Socratic Test
While putting standards on a movie that is geared towards women with female leads is challenging enough, it’s really not enough to equalize the genders. There are still challenges. Really, to achieve a completely feminist movie experience, we have to alter our views of men in movies as well. Really, the reason many women are portrayed so stereotypical is because men are also portrayed as one-dimensional. The roles that our men play influences the roles that will be pinned on women and vice versa. If women have stereotypical views of men, how can they expect men to open their minds on women? If men have very rigid views of themselves, they will be rigid in the way they view women. For instance, if a woman expects a man to be the bread-winner in the household instead of stay-at-home dad, to be the brave one, and to suck up all of his emotions instead of crying, then who does she think should play those roles? It will fall back on her. It will have a reverse effect.
I remember reading the comments’ section on Youtube about the recent “Brony” movement. You know what was sad? There were women who said they wouldn’t date a man who liked ponies. Many of the girls had the nerve to say, “They want a manly man”. What, by chance ladies, is a manly man? If you think that a man should be a certain way, if you are that way, do you believe that is “acting like a man”?
Read article on Bronies: Brony Movement
Read up on the Feminist Frequency, as she talks about tropes dealing with men and women: A Real Feminist
Therefore, the next challenge rises.
The Socratic Test is named after the Greek philosopher who was the principal founder of many of the modern philosophies many westerners go by today. He believed that people should be concerned about the welfare of their family’s “souls”. He believed virtue could be taught, and that successful fathers did not necessarily make successful sons. He believed that each person had their own virtues separate from their upbringing, and he encouraged men to develop friendship and love among themselves. He believed that good virtues were more valuable than possessions. I believe he had the best idea on life for men.
The biggest problem is again, deciphering what is real and what is ideal. So, if any of you disagree with these standards, feel free to comment and explain why you do.
The problem with this test is that some men are very traditional and very rigid. In fact, men tend to be more closed-minded in this regard than women. Thus, men still admire the tropes that have actually been to the detriment and decline of men. It leaves men trapped in stereotypes and limits the options men have.
So, here are my standards for male and female-oriented movies:
1) The male protagonist must not have the main objective of winning a female love interest, she must not be the reason for his goals, neither must the Villain use her as leverage.
I can’t tell you how many male movies are like this. In fact, what male movie does not have a woman as his main objective? Most males seem to do everything to impress a woman. And worse, the villain always uses her to get under the main protagonist’s skin.
This goes for female-directed movies, too. Most of the men in these movies serve no other purpose than to be the love interest. Their goals in most media is geared towards women. Even in a music video, the men are portrayed as showing interest in the woman while she just shyly rejects him. His goal throughout the video is usually to obtain a WOMAN. This shows people that men live their lives through women, and without women, they don’t have a life.
In fact, if we omit the women out of every male-oriented movie, for many, there would be no story.
I’m not saying there should be NO women or no female love interests. But she should not be the main goal or a reason the villain finds the hero weak. If this stereotype is omitted, that would be the end of damsels-in-distress, therefore, fitting a feminist agenda as well as showing more sides to men.
Superman fails this so strongly. Pretty much, every super hero movie existing today does.
2) The Story must not be focused on Sports if the male is the main character.
I’m not saying that the male lead can’t have an interest in sports, however, I don’t think the movie should be sports-focused. There is a heavy load of men missing in other professions on the big screen. This is especially evident in the black community. Black men are only portrayed as successful when they are athletes. This limits their options. Even movies about famous historical figures center around African American athletes. What about Black inventors? Artists? Dancers? There are other famous historical black figures that are male.
Again, I’m not saying a male can’t be interested in sports. That’s unrealistic. But the main goal of the story should not be driven by a sport.
3) The lead male must be a good character with a clean background.
I’m tired of the bad-boys-gone-good tropes, especially in female-directed movies like Endless Love, Twilight, Divergent, and many others. Why can’t men, especially love interests, be portrayed as good guys? It’s no wonder boys have such pressure to act bad! The highest number of crimes in the world are committed by men. And it’s all attractive until someone gets hurt. We can do better than that.
Men are always associated with chaos. For once, I challenge a producer, director, and screen-writer to create a character who doesn’t commit a crime or doesn’t intentionally harm someone. I dare them to create a character without a “bad past”. These portrayals aren’t always realistic anyway (Twilight). They glamorize a life that is not real. I had one girl tell me she hopes to find a man like Edward from Twilight…A vampire, she said. Face palm time.
I’m including “playboys” and “pimps” in this category. I’m not including men from the slums or “the streets” if they did nothing wrong on those “streets”. This especially applies to black men. This is why people don’t respect black men. They are portrayed as thugs and men who don’t have any stability or money unless they are committing a crime or pimping off some women. I’m tired of these tropes.
I’m not including one minor mistake the main character makes. That’s passable.
4) Violence should not be encouraged as the only way the main male protagonist solves his problems.
In almost every single movie surrounding men, violence is usually the main theme. It’s as if men do not have more intelligent ways of solving their problems unless someone is dead. Perhaps they could use their brains? Perhaps he could use other tactics, just like in Atlantis the Lost Empire.
In fact, Atlantis the Lost Empire passes the Socratic Test. Drumline also passes the test.
So let me know what you think about my amendment! You think it would work? What other additions do you think I should add to the Bly Test and Socratic Test? Leave a comment and let me know.