Not signed in (Sign In)
    •  
      CommentAuthorVornaskotti
    • CommentTimeDec 4th 2010 edited
     (9262.1)
    Uh, okay - this is interesting. The article is a couple of years old, but I didn't run into it until now.

    When I started taking film classes at UCLA, I was quickly informed I had what it took to go all the way in film. I was a damn good writer, but more importantly (yeah, you didn’t think good writing was a main prerequisite in this industry, did you?) I understood the process of rewriting to cope with budget (and other) limitations. I didn’t hesitate to rip out my most beloved scenes when necessary. I also did a lot of research and taught myself how to write well-paced action/adventure films that would be remarkably cheap to film – that was pure gold.

    There was just one little problem.

    I had to understand that the audience only wanted white, straight, male leads. I was assured that as long as I made the white, straight men in my scripts prominent, I could still offer groundbreaking characters of other descriptions (fascinating, significant women, men of color, etc.) – as long as they didn’t distract the audience from the white men they really paid their money to see.


    http://thehathorlegacy.com/why-film-schools-teach-screenwriters-not-to-pass-the-bechdel-test/
  1.  (9262.2)
    Before we go all wobbly on this, let's bear in mind that the Bechdel Test is not an actual test.

    Secondly: how is this actual news to anyone?
  2.  (9262.3)
    That article is far less interesting, and far less eye-opening than This Film is Not Yet Rated. I hope everyone's seen it by now, it's about five years old, but definitely made me angry at what a small, close-minded group decides what kind of movies "the people" are willing to watch.
    •  
      CommentAuthorDarthmoga
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2010 edited
     (9262.4)
    ...Aren't Will Smith and Angelina Jolie the most bankable movie stars in the world or something?
    •  
      CommentAuthorJon Wake
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2010
     (9262.5)
    Also, some overzealous lovers of the 'Betchel Test' forget that in fiction there is such a thing as a supporting character, whose personality exists only to enhance the lead character's role in the story. Because fiction is not real life, and fictional characters are not real people.
    • CommentAuthorSteadyUP
    • CommentTimeDec 12th 2010 edited
     (9262.6)
    let's bear in mind that the Bechdel Test is not an actual test.

    An actual test according to what? It has questions, whose answers determine a thing's merits according to a predetermined metric. I'd be interested in hearing any professional writer present serious critiques of the Bechdel Test's assertions, of which I'm sure there are a handful, but "it's not an actual test" seems kind of glib.
  3.  (9262.7)
    MASTER AND COMMANDER fails the Bechdel Test. Examine why.






    Yes, I'm having a little fun with you. But the Bechdel Test is a (useful and interesting) tool of activism and awareness, nothing more. The predetermined metric doesn't consider whether the scene serves the story. Which, frankly, is the only metric to be considered. If I need two women to be talking about a man because it activates a bit of plot in the most elegant way, then that's what's going to happen.
    •  
      CommentAuthorFinagle
    • CommentTimeDec 12th 2010 edited
     (9262.8)
    A useful contrast and supporting example to the above (/Master and Commander/) is to look at the evolution of the /Star Trek/ franchise. I've just been rewatching the /Voyager/ series, and the amount of "Bechdel test" moments in the show is pretty staggeringly impressive - and it makes sense to the plot and setting.

    Now, my wife had never seen old /Trek/ until first having seen the newer serieses. Trying to go back and watch first gen /Trek/ and appreciate it was a bit difficult in comparison. The nature of an imagined future makes it fairly ridiculous by comparison to have miniskirt-wearing blonde bridge officers running around, and so forth.

    The critical difference between old /Trek/ and /Master and Commander/ is of course that one is appropriate and self-consistent to the imagined setting, and one isn't, which is what really makes the difference stand out pretty starkly.
    •  
      CommentAuthorYskaya
    • CommentTimeDec 12th 2010
     (9262.9)
    Answer: we were busy washing our hair while you men were out playing pin the donkey at sea.

    @Warren: how do you always know when I'm drinking coffee? do you lie in wait to make me snort hydrated caffeine?



    I grew up on adventures aimed at boys/men. A lack of women in leading roles didn't lessen my enjoyment. Guess who I identified with? The Idiot that exclaimed; 'hey let's see what lies over that hill, yonder.' 'no, we don't need supplies' 'its only a short walk' 'ack monsters' let's grab my boomstick chop em to bits/plow my jaguar in their face'.
    In the end the hero (minus some group members) is the reader. A story uses what ever it needs to insert itself in your mind.
  4.  (9262.10)
    It has questions, whose answers determine a thing's merits according to a predetermined metric. I'd be interested in hearing any professional writer present serious critiques of the Bechdel Test's assertions, of which I'm sure there are a handful, but "it's not an actual test" seems kind of glib.


    It doesn't actually test anything because what it tests for (well-rounded female characters as opposed to puppets who only exist in relation to men) is neither proven nor disproven by its method of determination.

    Moreover, it faults an individual work for the tendencies of the whole. You're only responsible for your own creation, not an industry's. The answer to the real problem it recognizes is not to pass every other story through its standard, but to go out and write a comic or a movie about two women who converse with each other about something besides a man. Bechdel did, and there was an audience for it.

    Our host has for 20 years now respected his female characters in a medium not exactly renowned for it, but unless I'm forgetting a scene, Transmet and Planetary get scratched off a Bechdel list, despite the solid characterization of Yelena and Jakita.

    So what's it really testing?
  5.  (9262.11)
    I'd maintain that the Bechdel Test can actually be a proper analytical tool, but not in the way it tends to be used in conversation (i.e. to ridicule a particular film). It's far more cutting as a question used to gather statistics on the way women are portrayed in the film industry at large, and as far as I can tell that's how it was originally intended?

    So, certainly not a "proper" test for a single screenplay, but definitely one for many many screenplays.
  6.  (9262.12)
    A useful contrast and supporting example to the above (/Master and Commander/) is to look at the evolution of the /Star Trek/ franchise. I've just been rewatching the /Voyager/ series, and the amount of "Bechdel test" moments in the show is pretty staggeringly impressive - and it makes sense to the plot and setting.

    And yet, VOYAGER was unmitigated shit.

    @Warren: how do you always know when I'm drinking coffee? do you lie in wait to make me snort hydrated caffeine?


    I was hoping it'd make someone laugh....

    It's far more cutting as a question used to gather statistics on the way women are portrayed in the film industry at large, and as far as I can tell that's how it was originally intended?

    Yes.
    • CommentAuthorSteadyUP
    • CommentTimeDec 12th 2010
     (9262.13)
    I wonder how many issues of Y would stand up to the Bechdel. Despite its plethora of female characters, everyone was always talking about Yorick for some reason.
    •  
      CommentAuthorPaladine
    • CommentTimeDec 12th 2010
     (9262.14)
    Yeah, the Bechdel test is illustrative of trends, not of specific media. And passing the test doesn't mean your work isn't bad, or maybe even sexist, just like not passing doesn't mean you can't have a good thing going. If you treat it that way, "bechdel test" can be a good shorthand, but use it with caution. I mean, Twilight passes the Bechdel test, and it's horrible. And Master and Commander is awesome.

    Vormaskotti: I hope you stick around on hathor legacy, I'm a frequent commenter there.
    • CommentAuthorPhranky
    • CommentTimeDec 12th 2010
     (9262.15)
    When I write I try to be as economical as possible which basically means that I try to avoid including miscellaneous shit that has absolutely no bearing on the plot or character development.

    I am not going to write a scene where two women chat about something other than a man just because someone tells me that it is not politically correct. Besides, if I'm not mistaken didn't women turn out in droves to see a group of ageing women chat about fucking men in Sex In The City? Not self-respecting heterosexual man chose to see that crap.

    It seems to me that she's writing movies that she wants to see and when they're rejected she concocts an elaborate conspiracy theory and claims that Hollywood executives will only make movies they want to see. I will admit there is a certain "male gaze" that penetrates the Hollywood system but they are not the only place that makes movies.

    There are many movies that pass the Bechdel test and they range from incredibly shit to pretty good. However the author should probably get her head out of Hollywood's arse and look toward the independent market if she was serious about her work.

    Hollywood is the land of multi-billion dollar deals so naturally they will be cautious about financing what is essentially an experiment. If you want to disrupt the status quo then you've got to put in the hard graft to show the big bad executives that these movies are things that people want to see. It is a business after all.
    •  
      CommentAuthoreDave
    • CommentTimeDec 13th 2010
     (9262.16)
    i'm interested that people seem to talk as if a scene in which 'two women talk about something other than a man' would have to be bolted on to a film. Is it so unlikely that such a scene could arise from the needs of the plot? In most of the 'alien' series the female and male characters have equal weight and most conversations are about anything but 'a man', for instance. No one wants another steel magnolias.
    •  
      CommentAuthorrazrangel
    • CommentTimeDec 13th 2010
     (9262.17)
    So...here's a half formed thought I'm mulling but too impatient to put off writing while I mull; it's really kind of half assed but you're getting it anyway:

    I'm reading a write up on Shigeru Miyamoto in the New Yorker and I'm taking my sweet time with it because it's bloody long. And I'm thinking, damn did every early video game have a narrative where the "hero" had to save his girlfriend from the bad guy? And the answer is of course, no, because the games that came before Miyamoto's has no real narrative at all. But Donkey Kong, Mario Bros, Zelda etc did because they were simple, straightforward hero stories that gave players a reason to see things through to the end.

    (Aside: I don't play video games now but I gave Super Mario Bros a whirl as a little kid and never thought about the implications of going to save my "girlfriend." I was just hopping on mushrooms, catching stars and trying not to fall into pits. Pretty much the same story for my brothers.)

    So, since I don't play I can't really be sure of this but I have a suspicion that the stories of video games have gotten far more complex and accommodate if not give characters a greater variety of goals and objectives. And if that's so isn't it because video games first had to take the chance on storylines and mushy ideas like romance to propel them? And if that's so then hasn't the evolution been pushed along as much as the need to find new stories for the medium itself as for its consumers?

    Now, the video game industry has been chockful of it's own controversies, never mind extensive power plays, attempts at art, attacks on attempts at art, derision aimed at any idea that there could be art to it.... But it has evolved. Is evolving and will continue to evolve. Well... along its own rules. Just because I used the word "evolve" doesn't mean it will follow either strictly Darwinian or capitalistic rules for such. Even Mother nature or our practical economics don't, so...

    But my point is (or my half assed thought, anyway): so movies - or rather, the really popular stories, so I really mean the big budget, big return movies - have that center of the original idea that made it big from the beginning. They shoot for the apex of the bell curve because that will put more butts in seats and sell more tickets. Does it make it impossible for movies to evolve? I'm inclined to think not moreso that video games. Which might not be saying much (again, I know developers, I know it can be really hard to try new ideas).

    There are video games expressly made for girls. I know, I was horrified when someone gave my niece a "Barbie goes shopping" sort of game. So they do exist. And someone does play them. Just like someone watched Steel Magnolias. My feeling is, don't give up on an idea but build on it, clear out the failed bits and really (really, please!) support those adventurous ideas that do work. This comes from my former life as an employed person who was regularly going to see films staring people of alternate skin tone, sexuality and/or gender - at the art house theatre that ultimately flopped.

    I'm just sayin, no reason to sniff at the stuff you didn't like, particularly if you know someone else did. But that whole "this was maybe part of the mainstream but I really loved it and it made a zillion dollars" that's why the studios don't bother to evolve. Maybe it's a problem, maybe it's not.... I don't know if Princess Toadstool ever had a turn rescuing Mario, but if she did then it's only because of the original. Or maybe even more grand (maybe, but then I've never played) were the Tomb Raider games, which themselves couldn't have existed without Indiana Jones. Etc.

    sorry I'm babbling, I just couldn't keep reading the article with the above thought about the hero rescuing the maiden without thinking about this thread. In my defense, however, I'm really not sure what the central question is. Why do film schools teach their students to only create movies certain to be megahits? Uh... because film schools want to brag about their alumna and that's easier when they made a blockbuster than an indie that won first prize in the local film festival?
  7.  (9262.18)
    @razrangel,

    Consider the following games and their main storyline component: Braid, Ico, and Shadow Of The Colossus. The three are among the highest-valued arguments in the "games-as-art" camp, yet each of the three boils down to "save your girlfriend!"

    Also, Peach DID have a game to herself, the object of which was to save Mario (Super Princess Peach).
  8.  (9262.19)
    I think the Bechdel test is an anachronism, we all know that women like to talk about weddings, shopping and babies too. Obviously I'm kidding, but it does seem to me to a hangover from the late seventies when, let's face it, Hollywood aspired to stereotype and it was successful. I'm certain that sort of "tough white guy equal big bucks" thinking has not only been shown to be a fallacy time and time again, but in fact over the last 20 years at least has shown itself to be as tiresome and unoriginal as Bechdel's own generalisation. Since 1979 we've had Ripley, Sarah Conner, Clarice Starling and I'm sure (if I thought about it for a few seconds) many more strong iconic female leads, whereas Male action Heroes increasingly blended into a single cliched generic pastiche of the action hero idea and are more often than not instantly forgettable.

    In saying that, many people just want to be passively entertained, not have their ideological preconceptions on gender issues shattered, which is why things like Mamma Mia and Sex in the City do so well. Is it a problem? I'd say only if you want it to be.

    As for games, it is becoming increasingly the norm to have a choice whether you play a male or female character. That is one benefit of that medium that film does not and cannot have.
    • CommentAuthoradrian r
    • CommentTimeDec 14th 2010
     (9262.20)
    This is still a problem area. I read scripts professionally sometimes, and there are a number of times I've come across one particular description that's a shorthand, in the (male) writer's mind, for 'independent woman'. It crops up in sex scenes, and invariably it reads something very much like 'as the urgency of their lovemaking increases, she gets on top of him and arches her back'.

    The arching of the back is the recurrent signifier. Says, so thinks the writer, 'this is a woman in charge of her life and thus her sexuality, and the way we show that is to see her on top'. Never mind whether the sex scene in question is at all relevant to the story through advancing the plot. Sure, things are changing -- but there's a long way to go...

    youdothatvoodoo -- dissecting film for fun