Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

I'm back! And reading! And maybe even blogging! No promises!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Bechdel Test

I've been thinking lately about the Bechdel test and why I think it tends to be overused as a form of feminist critique.

If you don't know what it is, the Bechdel test is explained here. A character says she'll only watch a movie that has two women who talk to each other about something other than a man.

On one hand, I really do appreciate the sentiment. It's often frustrating to me when male characters are the default, and the female characters are just there to be defined by their relationship to men. I definitely won't judge someone on their personal criteria for watching movies, since life is short and why waste at least an hour and a half on something that you're not going to enjoy?

But as a form of feminist critique, I think it is overused.

As an example, one of the critiques I've seen of the Dark Knight was that it failed the Bechdel test in a big way (particularly in the scene where Bruce, Rachel, Harvey and Bruce's ballerina date have dinner and Rachel and the ballerina barely say two words to each other, and what they do say is about Batman.)

And yes. It did fail the Bechdel test. But, and it's possible that I'm being a bad feminist for saying this, it's a Batman movie. I'm paying money to see a Batman movie. Batman (or a monniker affiliated with Batman) is the title of the movie. And when you stop and think about it, even very long movies like Titanic, or the Lord of the Rings movies are only what? three hours? It's a long time to sit in a theatre, sure, but it's not really that long to get all the character and plot development that needs to be in there. (Compare it to a weekly tv-show, which can have like twenty hours a season!) And while I'm sure an intelligent woman like Rachel Dawes could have many an interesting conversation with a professional ballerina... I would rather not waste the finite minutes of a movie about Batman on something that's not related to Batman.

It's a personal taste thing, really. And while I don't judge someone for deciding that "hey, this isn't the sort of movie I want to see", I really don't think it's fair to make it a part of a feminist critique of a movie. (Tangentially, I personally found the movie and Rachel Dawes in particular fairly satisfying from my own feminist perspective. Your mileage may vary, naturally.)

Just because something is a movie about men doesn't make it anti-feminist. It just makes it a movie about men.

But sometimes even in an ensemble movie, I think the Bechdel test is used as an unfair basis of feminist critique.

Take, for example, the new Star Trek movie. There's been a fair bit of feminist discussion about that movie online, resulting from Uhura's more significant role in the movie. (One particularly interesting debate is whether the fact that Uhura's significant role includes a love interest component is a step forward or a step backwards in terms of feminist progress. Personally, I liked the change, but there's some good argument on either side.)

But I've seen the Bechdel rule brought up there too. Specifically for the scene with Gaila and Uhura. Though Uhura talks about the plot significant transmissions, Gaila is talking about a man/an experience with a man. Which, okay. If you're looking at it objectively, it probably doesn't pass the Bechdel rule.

But can I be blunt for a moment?

I'm a twenty-seven year old woman. I spent a considerable portion of the last ten years in a college type environment in frequent company with other twenty-something women. And while I'll caveat that this is based on my experience and is not necessarily true for every one, I have to say...

Young straight women? Tend to talk about men and sex a LOT. In fact, I'd suggest that within a certain age group, men and sex make up a pretty large chunk of the conversation topics. Sure, we talk about other things too, but the conversation will usually inevitably veer back to that subject. (I'd imagine the opposite is true for many young straight men.)

So the fact that two young twenty-something presumably straight (or bisexual) women in a college-type environment are talking and one keeps veering the conversation back to men? Seems pretty true to life to me.

Personally, I think a better feminist critique of that scene has to do with the fact that a fairly important piece of dialogue establishing Uhura's importance to the greater plot at hand has to happen in a set up that basically is just there for Kirk/the audience to see an attractive woman in her underwear. But that's a different kettle of fish.

There are situations when I do think the Bechdel test makes a good situation for feminist critique however. One of these is in weekly television shows.

In the case of a weekly television show, it doesn't matter if it's centered around a male character because there is almost inevitably going to be some kind of ensemble cast. And while I wouldn't say every single episode needs to pass the Bechdel test, if you have twenty some odd hours in a season? You can make room for at least ONE conversation between women that's not about a man.

Likewise, even if the main female characters in the cast are college age and of the sort that 75%-80% of their conversations would have to do with men and sex, you have time to insert SOME conversation that fits in that last 20% area.

In the case of a seasonal television show, there really is no excuse for creators not to put SOMETHING there. Preferably more than once, but once at least shows that there's been some effort to define the female characters beyond their interaction with men.

The same is true, I think, for monthly ongoing comic books (with the caveat that it's a bit harder to determine an appropriate interval. With television shows, you can base it by a season or half-season. But it's harder to figure that out for a comic. Maybe once a story arc?)

That said though, I still think that, in general, the Bechdel test works better as a personal taste gauge than a feminist critique.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I'm still a bit perplexed on why the Namor comic is a tie-in to the whole vampire stuff. I admit that one of the things I really loved about the whole Utopia arc to begin with was how it started to incorporate Namor into the whole mutant premise. I really enjoy the interplay between Cyclops and Namor, considering the latter has not only been active much longer but also rules a good chunk of the planet in his own right. It takes a particular kind of skill to get a guy like Namor on your side (even nominally) and work with him without too many power struggles or accidently causing a war or something.

As a Cyclops fan, I thought the Namor stuff really highlighted his ability as a leader in a new way. We knew he could lead a team, but dealing with someone like Namor takes more political finesse and even diplomacy. Heck, even the fact that Namor's derisively referred to him as a "boy king" once or twice is something of an achievement. It's Namor!

So I'm pre-disposed to anything that ties Namor peripherally into the X-world, so long as he still gets to be Namor. (No turning Namor into generic disgruntled rebel tough-guy X-Man #236, thank you.)

But Vampires?

I mean, there are plenty of plots I can see as possibly affecting the ocean world in general or Namor in particular enough to warrant a tie-in. American persecution of mutants for example. Namor's a mutant himself, and leader of a non-human kingdom. It wouldn't necessarily be a stretch to assume that same persecution and paranoia could be directed to his kingdom as well.

Alien invasions are easy enough. Oceans are on Earth. Renegade mutants, sure, if they have powers that influence the oceans, master plans that use the oceans, hidden under-water bases, what-not.

But vampires? Really?

Of course, I say this not having read the comic. But on a whole, do vampires really concern themselves with oceans? Do vampires swim?

I can appreciate him maybe seeing an advantage to helping the X-Men out, sure. But is it really worth it's own tie-in comic, rather than just a quick appearance in X-Men?

To be fair, it could still be pretty interesting. But at the moment, I'm just a little bemused.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Actually reading stuff

I've actually started reading the Scott Pilgrim books. Well, the first two anyway. My friend loaned me the first four, because he's awesome that way. Also he puts up with me asking things like "So, why does change appear when he beats that guy?" "Do we ever find out WHY the shortcut goes through his brain?" "What kind of name is 'Knives' anyway?"

My poor friend.

It's pretty funny though. I think my favorite character is the gay roommate fellow. I like them dry and sarcastic.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I'm appreciating the casting quite a bit more now. :-)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I Actually Started Catching Up With Comics!

Okay, so while I'm still catching up on comics and have a ways to go, I DID sit down and start Emerald Warriors! (SallyP is very persuasive!)

And oh, yeah! It's good!


Cryptic videos!



And of course! Guy!

Totally awesome. And I especially dig that they're using the Red Lanterns. I find the Red Lanterns really kind of fascinating. Initially I wasn't very interested in them, until I realized how the Red Lantern rage in all the cases we'd seen appears to be fueled by trauma/pain.

It's interesting to look at in terms of the red lantern wielders as survivors of terrible experiences, because rage (directed inward and outward) is not uncommon as a response, but it has to be worked through in order for the survivor to truly recover. Otherwise, it could consume them. And we see that in the Red Lanterns to the point where the red lantern energy replaces their blood. (And there's probably a whole mess of interesting analysis in the image of the Red Lanterns throwing up their own blood.) It literally becomes all that sustains them. It's more tragic than it is scary. (Though don't get me wrong, it can be pretty scary too. But it's more interesting than say the Yellow Lanterns terrorism/bullying.)

Really, I think the Red Lanterns really really need a therapist. Or 100 of them.

But I dig Atrocitus's landscaping ideas. The man does have a knack for atmosphere.

I'm pretty hooked, I want to see what happens next!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Another post of no content!

So, yay me, I get to start volunteering tomorrow! It's not quite a paying job, but I get to keep in practice and do something I really enjoy!

Also, it's nearer to the comic shop so it increases the likelihood that I'll finally get to catch up. (SO BEHIND.)

On the plus side, I've found myself watching a lot of sci fi television. Such as Stargate Atlantis, which I'd loved, but stopped watching on account of no longer getting the Sci-Fi channel in college. I won't say the show doesn't have it's problems, but well...there's awesomeness too.

Also, the main character is pretty much an anime style princess. Like Sailor Moon. He keeps befriending people out of the pureness of his crazy, crazy heart. When he's not shooting them. That sort of thing makes me smile.

But yeah, work tomorrow! Yay!

Saturday, August 07, 2010


Ooo, apparently they're already planning two more Green Lantern movies.

I'm not going to lie. I kind of think this first one looks like it'll be terrible (god willing it'll be awesome-terrible, and not bland-terrible). But two more increase the odds of seeing my favorite Green Lantern on the silver screen, so yay!

On an unrelated note, David's Wildcats post led me to reread the few issues I have. Unfortunately, they're all v1, and not the fun Hadrian-as-CEO era. But I've been enjoying Spartan blowing himself up pretty much every issue. He's like Kenny from South Park.

I'm really easily amused.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Side thoughts

I've been watching the trailers for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (never read it, though I probably will eventually) and I've come to the realization that Michael Cera is a weird looking guy.

I feel kind of bad saying that because he's a kid, but yeah.

And suddenly I'm reminded that I never did get to see Jonah Hex. I remember thinking the posters looked cool, but I'm kind of afraid of Megan Fox. Was it any good?