Posts Tagged ‘Allison Bechdel’

Ok, I’m going off topic for a second, on a feminist ran unrelated to fitness or body image and fat acceptance stuff.

I was reminded today about an issue I have with the representation of women in tv shows and movies.

To clarify my title here, it’s not that I dislike strong female characters- it’s that they are not enough, in my opinion. And I’m sick of being told that token strong female characters should make up for the overall lack of representation of women.

I am still a fan of the Bechdel test. Which for those who don’t is a “test” that came Allison Bechdel’s comic Dykes to Watch Out For (btw, very cool comic). A character in the strip says she will not see any movie that does not have at least two women characters, who talk to each other, about something other than a man. The last movie she had seen in theaters was Alien in 1978. Since then many have expanded the test, to better represent the thought behind it, that the two women be named characters.

I don’t use the Bechdel test as the character in the comic did- I see movies in theaters that fail it, I watch movies and tv shows that fail it. I even enjoy movies and tv shows that fail it.

But I still think it’s useful in pointing out the utter crap that is representation of women.

One criticism I’ve seen of the test is that it fails to account for a film that fails it but still has an awesome, strong, female character.

But there is still something wrong when we are given these strong female characters who exist in a fictional universe that does not represent reality in a gendered sense. Approximately half the world’s population is female, and in many countries (including the US) we are actually a slight majority. There is no good reason that women should not also account for half of characters, including names characters, in television and films. And for all the women out there, when was the last time you talked to another woman about something other than a man? I’m guessing it was pretty recently. And happens fairly often in your life. I know it does for me. I have a sister I talk to about things other than men, a mother I talk to about things other than men, Aunts I talk to about things other than men, women classmates, colleagues, and professors who I talk to about things other than men, et cetera. To not meet these very basic requirements is to represent a huge break from reality when it comes to gender.

I love strong female characters, I just want them to exist in a fictional universe to accurately reflects that women exist as we do in reality. I don’t want strong female characters who exist in this vacuum devoid of any other women.

I mean, take for example Avengers. Black Widow is an awesome and badass character and that is awesome! And yet on a team of 6 superheroes we has one woman. And that’s par for the course for representation of women. Representation ranges 0-1. No one questions 5 superheroes who are men but if we reversed that ratio it would be a huge deal, it would probably be called out as some feminist attack on culture, and certainly would be deemed a film for women only. But 5 men and 1 woman? Totally a fair representation that has appeal to men and women.

And of course despite her awesomeness Black Widow has yet to get her own movie. Two Iron Man movies before the first avengers and no Black Widow movie. Three movies total for the asshole playboy character, and zero for the sole woman on the team.

And Black Widow isn’t even the only badass woman in the Avengers. Yet, while we get scenes of Agent Coulson and Steve Rogers talking about Captain America collectibles, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner talking about science, Tony Stark and Steve Rogers talking about Weapons, Tony Stark and Thor talking about Shakespeare, et cetera, et cetera, we don’t ever get Natasha Romanoff and Agent Hill talking about the tesseract, or fighting aliens, or how much it sucks being the only women in shield, or whatever else. How about anything to suggest that Black Widow exists in a world were she is not the only woman, and interacts with other women in the world as well?

Not that I think throwing in that just to “pass” a test is a good thing. In fact, the biggest problem I think with the Bechdel test is the idea that passing it is a big deal, or trying to pass on a technicality only. Rather passing should be standard and really films and tv shows should be far exceeding those minimalist “requirements” for representation of women.