Arts, Television — August 16, 2012 9:00 am

The Bechdel Test

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The Annual comic convention Wizard World came to Chi-Town this weekend, and yours truly was a four-day attendee.  Over the weekend I had the opportunity to chat with some fellow television lovers as well as some television stars, and I’m really just dying to share the details… and to make you jealous.

On the last day of the convention I attended a panel of Buffy stars- with Juliet Landau (Drucilla), Jams Marsters (Spike), and Amber Benson (Tara), they were there to talk about themes of the show and answer questions from the audience.  The most memorable moment in the panel was when a fan asked the cast: “Some people say that Buffy the Vampire Slayer did for gender what Star Trek did for race.  How do you feel about that?”.  Whoa, right?!  Good question, bro!

For those of you unfamiliar, the social impact Star Trek had back in the 60s was staggering.  The show featured the first-ever interracial kiss to air on television, not to mention the crew of the Enterprise was composed of a multi-ethnic cast.  Racial equality was highly thought of as one of the show’s primary subtexts, and this was the first time the public was introduced to a show featuring these things but not making a big deal out of them.   It was kind of like, we’re diverse, NBD.

When Buffy first came out in the 90s, people had a very similar reaction to the presence of so many strong female roles in the cast.  Subversive roles for female leads were not the norm, and Joss Whedon created a world that had not only featured a main character who was smart, strong, and didn’t need anyone’s help solving her own problems, but she also took on the problems of others!  For season after season, she remarks literally and symbolically on having to fight the stereotypical role of the hero.  And she does it in heels.

All the women of Sunnydale are a strong influence on me.  Each of them represent something important- just one aspect of the female role in society that aims to break the cultural norm.  Buffy’s mother, her sister, Willow, Anya, even Faith are all women with something to say.  This idea is further solidified with male characters constantly becoming petty and eventually disappearing.

All of us women folk just take it for granted now that we are represented so fairly in the media… when just a few years ago, that wasn’t the case.  I have one last thought to leave you all with… it’s called the Bechdel Test.  It was named for a feminist comic creator Alison Bechdel, and in order for a film/show to pass the test, it must have a scene that includes two women who have at least one conversation about something other than a man.  Sounds simple, right?  Do a little experimenting and you’ll be surprised.   Have you ever done this test before?  Is it possible to have a movie that portrays women as being important roles (other than just supporting men) while still failing this test?  Comment!  Solidarity, sisters!

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