Dear Journalists, Film Critics, and Feminist bloggers,
Please stop making tests. Please, for the love of God, stop making up tests. I understand, your intentions are good. You’ve noticed that women don’t get the kind of representation men get onscreen. You find this unfair. You want women to get a better deal. You want more stories about women, more stories where women are important, more stories where women do more than love some guy or get loved by some guy.
But you are not helping anyone with these tests.
Listen, the problem isn’t that any one movie doesn’t pass any test. The Bechdel Test is interesting not because any one movie fails it, but because 3/4 of movies fail it. And, really, it doesn’t matter if a movie passes the Bechdel Test. It can still be a misogynist piece of shit if it passes. It can still be a brilliant, feminist work if it fails. The actual test tells us nothing but a movie. It tells us something about the film industry. It tells us something about the big picture.
And, you, dear journalists, no doubt realized this. You are overeducated and underemployed, no doubt. So you create a new test, a test that WILL tell us if women are properly represented in a film. But such a test is pointless, because movies are not products, and they do not need to fit into some Consumer Reports checklist. Movies are works of art and they are meant to be interpreted emotionally. They cannot be broken into yes or no criteria. They have to be looked at as a whole. They have to be considered in their genre, and as part of a larger culture. And, really, it really, really doesn’t matter if ONE movie fails any one, or twenty tests.
The Bechdel Test works to open eyes because it is simple and obvious, because it seems easy to pass, because you don’t even notice how many movies fai. But focusing on The Bechdel Test makes people think about the test. It makes people think of excuses and exceptions, instead of considering that maybe, just maybe, there is a problem with only allowing women to occupy certain kinds of stories, with only allowing women to be the main character of a story for women. Because the problem isn’t that The Shawshank Redemption fails the Bechdel Test. The problem is that all the heros of all the movies are dudes, and their goals are the only interest of the female sidekicks/love interests.
Stop focusing on the test. Making up tests is a fine way to pass the time, but it passes for productivity. Making up tests does nothing to help the role of women in film. It helps journalists write about films. It helps blogs get clicks. It makes people feel like good, productive feminists while doing absolutely nothing.
If you want more women in movies, say you want more women in movies. Don’t make up a test to point out that women are not in movies. WE HAVE ALREADY ESTABLISHED THAT. Tell me something meaningful. Tell me why we don’t value women as characters, and how that means we don’t value them as people. Tell me about how people write off The Hunger Games while praising Harry Potter. Tell me something meaningful. Don’t recite a list of rules. Rules will never tell you if a movie is good. Rules will never tell you if a movie supports women. Rules will never tell you if a movie is feminist.
Listen, let’s not be shy. Let’s not act like we will be appeased by a movie passing some test that is meant to be a bare minimum. Let’s be loud. Let’s demand more stories about women’s lives–their jobs, their lovers, their friends, their goals, their kids, their family, their status as the chosen ones.
Because, when I write my films and books about women and their relationships to love and sex, I don’t give a fuck if I pass any tests. I give a fuck about telling an interesting story about a real, 3-dimensional character. I give a fuck about what she wants, and, no, I don’t care if she wants a man. Because there is nothing wrong with wanting a member of whatever gender you are attracted to. There is nothing wrong with a woman talking about a man. There is nothing wrong with a story about heterosexual romance.
We all have relationships–romantic, platonic, familial–with members of the opposite sex. That’s okay. That’s great! There’s nothing wrong with women having relationships with men. There is something wrong with 2-dimensional, women-like creations caring about nothing other than the MALE PROTAGONIST.
So, please, stop making up tests and tell me something that actually means something.