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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What makes a film “female-friendly”?

Sigourney Weaver Carrie Henn Aliens

One of the links I posted recently, about how cinema is still a boys’ club, prompted one of my Twitter followers to object to something in the article. @stoneagelove:

I’m not convinced by Bechdel’s claims that a film has to be centered around women to be ‘female-friendly’

“Bechdel” refers to the Bechdel Test, which cartoonist Alison Bechdel did not create to determine which movies are “female-friendly” — that’s a misinterpretation by the writer of the linked article — but how women are depicted onscreen.

The Bechdel Test is simple and easy. To pass, a movie must:

1. Have at least two [named] women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man

(It has been recently suggested that a No. 4 be added: “For longer than 30 seconds.”)
An astonishing number of movies fail this test. Like, typically, the vast majority of films playing in wide release in North America at any given time, including movies that are supposed to be “for women.” (Check out Bechdel Test Movie List for a look at how some current and classic films fare.) The only point of the Bechdel Test is to highlight how poorly, in the aggregate, women are treated by The Movies, in that women are almost always depicted as little more than adjuncts to men who think about nothing but men and do nothing but pursue romance with men. The Test does not decide which films are or are not “female-friendly.” A film that passes the test is not necessarily feminist, and one that fails is not necessary unfeminist. The Test does not condemn any individual film for failing the test, nor does it suggest that there is no room in the world for movies that do not pass the test.

All that said, in our current entertainment environment, in which most films fail this test, I think measuring a film against the Bechdel Test is the beginning of a good way to determine if a film is “female-friendly.” Because, you know, once in a damn while, I like to see women doing the cool shit and saving the world and catching the villain instead of just standing around watching a male hero adoringly from the sidelines.

What do you think? What makes a film “female-friendly”? Bonus points if you can figure out why no one worries about films being “male-friendly.”

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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