I am probably the last person on Earth to find out about this. I may look like I’m all hip and groovy or whatever hip and groovy people call themselves this year, but in fact, I am slow in picking up on memes and I fear passing along something as a great new concept about a month after your grandmother has sent you the link.
Anyway, the video above, which I discovered through Sociological Images, explains the simple concept behind the Bechdel test for gender bias in films. Here are the rules. To pass the test a film has to have:
- at least two named female characters
- who talk to each other,
- about something besides a man.
I applied this test to my novel Angel and it fails miserably. There are really only two main characters, both men. There are a number of named minor female characters but I can not think of any scenes in which they speak to each other without a male character present. (As the viewpoint character is male, it would actually be impossible. If he didn’t see it, it wouldn’t be in the book, so therefore a male is always present.) Even with this excuse, though, most of the conversation with Paul present in a group of predominantly female characters, deal with their infatuation with the handsome young Ian. One scene, with four characters, two male and two female is ostensibly a conversation about a blood drive, but it revolves around the reasons Ian is not giving blood. So Angel fails the Bechdel test.
Interestingly, the novel I have been trying to sell for the past six months or so actually fails the reverse Bechdel test! There are two female viewpoint characters. They have conversations about boys and relationships but also music, school politics, their career goals and interests. They also interact with two supporting characters who are female friends and the story also deals with the relationship between one of the female characters and her mother. There are two significant male characters. They do not interact with each other and one is really only significant in his relationship to one of the female characters. It is set in a school and most of the authority figures are female.
I’ve had a few close calls with this novel. (We like it but…) I find myself vaguely wondering if being a reverse Bechnel failure has anything to do with its perceived lack of commercial potential?
So I don’t know. Am I part of the problem?