How the “Bechdel Test” is going to spoil every movie for me

 

Have you heard of the Bechdel Test? Read no further if you wish to enjoy your movies or books (stories) anymore. Why? Well, because of this peculiar rule, I’ll now have a mental checklist every time I watch a movie! The Bechdel Test is described as follows:

The Bechdel Test, credited to Liz Wallace, was introduced in Alison Bechdel’s comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. In a 1985 strip titled “The Rule,” an unnamed female character says that she only watches a movie if it satisfies the following requirements: (1) It has to have at least two women in it, (2) who talk to each other, (3) about something besides a man.

This blog post introduced me to this topic and opines that the above rule exists as a litmus test for Hollywood directors to check how much they cared for their female characters. I’m somewhat bothered by this. No offense to women but isn’t this somehow destroying the experience of a movie to every one? If a story does not permit having two women, will a director or story writer be forced to introduce unwanted characters for the sake of satisfying this rule?

That said, let’s break down the rule. Firstly, it says, the story must have two women in it. That isn’t asking much considering not many stories (or movies) exist without two women. (An extension of this idea is that both these women must be named characters – that is, it cannot be a random cleaning woman who would just appear on the screen). Secondly, these named characters must share a dialogue. This is where it gets a little tricky. You have your two women, right; now why should they be forced to speak to each other? Finally, this is where it gets confusing – now that they are talking, they should not talk about men?

I remember a story that I had read in my school days – Dusk by Saki (H H Munro). It has no female characters. But a great short story nevertheless. (Read it online) My story – The Cold Rain – also fails the test. Although it has two named female characters, there is no dialogue between them.

The only sane explanation that could have an “irritated woman” come up with this rule for herself, and by extension to every other person who feels the same way is that, in the 80’s there were an exceeding number of movies that ‘used’ women in unimportant roles and all male characters drove the story. Was it the case? I do not know. I haven’t watched many movies from the 80’s.

The question is, how relevant is this test in today’s cinema? Of course, Hollywood and Bollywood, the world’s two most money-raking franchises are male-dominated, with actors being heavily overpaid than actresses. In fact, the 2012’s list of 10 richest celebrities do not feature an actress at all.

On a lighter note, here’s the list of IMDb’s top 10 movies and whether they pass this test: **

Rank Rating Title Pass
Bechdel
Test?
1. 9.2 The Shawshank Redemption (1994) No
2. 9.2 The Godfather (1972) No
3. 9.0 The Godfather: Part II (1974) No
4. 8.9 Pulp Fiction (1994) Yes
5. 8.9 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) No*
6. 8.9 12 Angry Men (1957) No*
7. 8.9 Schindler’s List (1993) Yes
8. 8.8 The Dark Knight (2008) No
9. 8.8 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) No
10. 8.8 Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) No*

Notes: ** Tabulated from memory; may not be completely accurate. * Tabulated from sources; again, accuracy questionable. If you know of variations from the above, please leave a comment, I’ll fix it.

 

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A fascinating story; fascinating, not true!

I’m slowly coming to believe that not all email forwards are bad. This story – which Pele told me before – is another example:

I guess all of you have read the story of creation of Stanford University. Well, a story it is – albeit a false one! I recently got the information about it from Capri (Thanks for clarifying!). Sorry for publishing something unverified. In my defense, the story seemed very original. 😦 Anyhow, I’m back to my original stance – Never believe whatever you got as a forward in an email!

I’m leaving this post stay so that I could let others know that its not true.

A lady in a faded gingham dress and her husband,dressed in a homespun threadbare suit, stepped off the train in Boston, and walked timidly without an appointment into the president of Harvard’s outer office.

The secretary could tell in a moment that such backwoods, country hicks had no business at Harvard and probably didn’t even deserve to be in Cambridge.

She frowned. “We want to see the president,” the man said softly. “He’ll be busy all day,” the secretary snapped. “We’ll wait,” the lady replied. For hours, the secretary ignored them, hoping that the couple would finally become discouraged and go away.

They didn’t. And the secretary grew frustrated and finally decided to disturb the president, even though it was a chore she always regretted to do. “Maybe if they just see you for a few minutes, they’ll leave,” she told him.

And he sighed in exasperation and nodded. Someone of his importance obviously didn’t have the time to spend with them, but he detested gingham dresses and homespun suits cluttering up his outer office. The president, stern-faced with dignity, strutted toward the couple.

The lady told him, “We had a son that attended Harvard for one year. He loved Harvard. He was happy here. But about a year ago, he was accidentally killed. And my husband and I would like to erect a memorial to him, somewhere on campus.”

The president wasn’t touched, he was shocked. “Madam,” he said gruffly. “We can’t put up a statue for every person who attended Harvard and died. If we did, this place would look like a cemetery”. “Oh, no,” the lady explained quickly. “We don’t want to erect a statue.

“We thought we would like to give a building to Harvard.” The president rolled his eyes. He glanced at the gingham dress and homespun suit, then exclaimed, “A building! Do you have any earthly idea how much a building costs? We have over seven and a half million dollars in the physical plant at Harvard.” For a moment the lady was silent.

The president was pleased. He could get rid of them now. And the lady turned to her husband and said quietly, “Is that all it costs to start a University? Why don’t we just start our own?” Her husband nodded.

The president’s face wilted in confusion and bewilderment. And Mr. And Mrs. Leland Stanford walked away, traveling to Palo Alto, California where they established the University that bears their name, a memorial to a son that Harvard no longer cared about.

Here is the lie-buster and the true story. Thanks again for the links Capri. 🙂

A word about wordpress

For those who have come to wordpress recently (post v2.5 release), I’m sure you found the design, interface, manageability, and the performance of wordpress a satisfying experience. However, for those who have been with wordpress since its early stages, it has been an extraordinary journey (at wordpress.com, also at wordpress.orgWhat’s the difference?) when looked back at it.

I have been associated with wordpress ever since the v1.5 release – which was instantly adopted by thousands of people. I was a n00b at Webdesigning and PHP back then (not much difference now), and was a mute spectator to the exponential increase of the popularity of wordpress. The response to the wordpress ‘blog’ tool was enormous and everyone wanted to be a part of it. And gradually, the wordpress community grew, the number of coders, testers and website managers. The list would never be complete without mentioning the thousands of theme and plugin designers who have made a world of difference to wordpress as it is.

Having said all this, it would be a crime not to mention Matt. Matt is the creator of WordPress, who nurtured it (and continues to do so) as his child. Hats off to you Matt, for giving us such a good blogging software (wordpress.org) and also a blogging platform (wordpress.com).

You can read the wordpress story from the people themselves here.

English – In my life

I love English for two reasons. One, because I can express myself better in it. And two, because its a funny language. Also, it is probably the only language whose speech accent changes every few hundred kilometers almost everywhere in the world. In India, it probably varies with every person!

I took to liking English early in my school days, when I was in the 4th Standard (about 10 years old). I have to thank my teachers for making the lessons that interesting to me. I remember my 4th Standard English teacher Mrs. Samyuktha Devi, who also taught us History in the 6th Standard. I have no clue where she is now. Only thing I know about her is that she moved to Australia. Then came Mrs. Shylaja; she was a very good teacher too. Taught us English in the 6th Standard. The real passion for writing developed in me when I was in the 9th Standard when Mrs. Chandrika Ravikumar was my teacher. She was amazing. She requested for a special hour every week from the then Headmistress (Mrs. Leelavathy Gururaj) called the creativity period. We got a chance to showcase our talents during that hour every week. A few sang songs, displayed paper craft and we even had a play that we performed within the classroom. Oh, that was a lot of fun!

I wrote poetry and stories and read it out loud to the class. The poem ‘The little soul‘ was the one I remember reading out to the class and getting praised for it. 😀 And then, the story was titled ‘Mysteries of Vreen’ – which was very much influenced by my reading of ‘Secrets of Droon’ by Tony Abbot. I used to write a little for every week and it was read out in the class. A few months later, (after my 9th Standard) I stopped writing it; I felt guilty of copying the idea from another story series. Anyways, it did help me write better.

I did write more poems; some silly ones. And when I was in my Pre-University college, I started the ‘Warriors of Might and Magic’ (title tentative) which is yet to be completed. There was also a few other short stories and essays I wrote – which I hope to put up on the blog sometime. And about the same time, I started this blog, which at first was a collection of jokes and e-mail forwards; so not much of creative writing involved. But since about 10 months (see archives), I have changed it to my personal blog. And ever since then, I’ve learned a lot about writing too.

And that’s the history of English in my life. If you have such histories, do share it in your blog, or comment here. I’m sure some of us who studied English as our secondary language would have. 🙂

Been a while

Its over a fortnight since I posted anything on my blog. 😦 Just that my ideas don’t get translated into writing and many times gets lost within my brain! Of late, there have been a lot of things that are keeping me busy.

  • Prosoft Studio and Free100MbHost: Both are ventures by a friend of mine and I’m helping him with what I can to make it a profitable success. 🙂
  • I’m now an administrator at DNTemple, which actually demands a lot of my time nowadays. Still like it; its owned by another friend, and he has invested a lot into it.
  • The newest additions to my addictions has been World of Warcraft, shortly, WoW. I play on a private server, ’cause I cannot afford $15 (especially, on a game) to play on the official server. The gameplay and graphics are amazing. The game as an enchanting ability to keep you hooked for a long time. 🙂
  • Besides, my semester exams are fast approaching with so much left to do. Project, internals, I’ll have to let go of my online-life for a while. 😦

I’m posting a new poem ‘The Lone Crusader‘. This was a poem which I wrote when there was a huge clash between my friends. I did lose a lot of friends that day (the poem subtly says a lot about it) and in a way I’m happy that happened; I got to sieve the true friends amongst the impostors. What happened then, I guess, is a different story for a different day. 🙂