Author Topic: Kyle Smith totally misses the point of the Bechdel test  (Read 979 times)

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Offline superdave

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Kyle Smith totally misses the point of the Bechdel test
« on: July 17, 2017, 07:00:17 AM »
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/449544/bechdel-test-feminism-stupid-no-retraction-double-down

Basically he says that the test is dumb because lots of great movies fail the test, many of them movies that women like, and besides wonder woman was a hit so the sexism problem in hollywood, which probably never even existed, has been solved.

his argument reminds me of the people who said that we don't need family movies with female heroes because women like male heroes but men don't like female heroes.


Now, there are certainly issues with using the Bechdel test to determine quality of a film but I think it's wrong to use it to judge any particular film. It's only useful as a way to look at the industry as a whole.  The vast majority of films fail this test despite it being relatively straightforward and quite a low bar.  And the reason they fail is because many movies have way more female than male characters, and their plots are usually driven by things concerning men.  Even many movies that feature women often have romantic plots that feature men.


« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 07:05:02 AM by superdave »
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Offline Rai

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Re: Kyle Smith totally misses the point of the Bechdel test
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2017, 07:31:33 AM »
Wow, did this guy learn journalism at the Mansplainers Academy of Mansplaining?

He starts out with a #notallmen-esque argument, that just because the test does fails certain great movies (though complex female characters in LOTR? give me a break), it is stupid, and sweeps the argument under the table that this is about a general malaise in a film industry that completely fails to represent anyone who is not a heterosexual white male.

He then declares that movies should not represent reality, they are there for fun. Though he fails to even consider that this is completely beside the point, because it's not like escapist movies require a heterosexual white male protagonist, but this is still the standard, without any reason whatsoever. I also love it how he refers to meaningful female characterisation as "feminist baggage", something that only hinders the movie.

After all this bullshit, he pulls out the market fundamentalist card, saying that the market just selects the best and unfortunately, female representation is just not cutting it.

Meanwhile, in the real world, representation does matter a LOT. Seeing characters on screen that you can identify with is REALLY important, especially in a world where most people are not heterosexual white men in their 60s with a girlfriend who could be their granddaughter.

Offline D4M10N

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Re: Kyle Smith totally misses the point of the Bechdel test
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2017, 09:05:41 AM »
...sweeps the argument under the table that this is about a general malaise in a film industry that completely fails to represent anyone who is not a heterosexual white male.

Surely "completely fails" is a bit of an overreach.


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Offline Rai

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Re: Kyle Smith totally misses the point of the Bechdel test
« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2017, 09:12:50 AM »
...sweeps the argument under the table that this is about a general malaise in a film industry that completely fails to represent anyone who is not a heterosexual white male.

Surely "completely fails" is a bit of an overreach.


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Just a bit :)

Even though there are exceptions, the overwhelming majority of movies is still about heterosexual white males, by heterosexual white males, for heterosexual white males.

Offline D4M10N

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Re: Kyle Smith totally misses the point of the Bechdel test
« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2017, 09:38:22 AM »
...sweeps the argument under the table that this is about a general malaise in a film industry that completely fails to represent anyone who is not a heterosexual white male.

Surely "completely fails" is a bit of an overreach.


Just a bit :)

Even though there are exceptions, the overwhelming majority of movies is still about heterosexual white males, by heterosexual white males, for heterosexual white males.

That may well be so. Has anyone run the numbers?

Just looking at what is showing right now, I'd say Baby Driver and Spider-Man are both straightforward HWM coming-of-age fantasies. The Big Sick features a non-white heterosexual male lead, Wonder Woman features an Israeli woman portraying a demigod. Wish Upon looks to be a good mix of genders, based on a script authored by a woman, which passes the Bechdel test. Don't know much about Jagga Jasoos, but it doesn't appear to be about white folks. Paris Can Wait appears to be designed to appeal to heterosexual white females, but not in a particularly feminist way. Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 passes the Bechdel test and features at least two powerful women characters, though it does tend to center around a HWM in the lead role. That leaves the Planet of the Apes and Transformers movies, which most likely cater to HWM, though I cannot really be arsed to really look into mindless action flicks.




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Offline aleks335

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Re: Kyle Smith totally misses the point of the Bechdel test
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2017, 08:16:45 PM »
The main problem with this guy I think is his primitive understanding of the place and role of cinema in culture and society.
His arguments are basically a slightly convoluted version of "it's just trivial entertainment" and we have to move past that at this point.
The Bechdel test was a joke in a comic (that he misinterprets in my view)  and not a research based classification/evaluation tool. There must be a huge literature of peer reviewed media studies stuff that thoroughly document these issues by now.
On the question of how movies impact society the debate becomes more difficult - that is the nature of social science. 
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Online John Albert

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Re: Kyle Smith totally misses the point of the Bechdel test
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2017, 08:51:03 PM »
I think he's just looking for a premise to pooh-pooh a feminist's observation of institutional patriarchy.

He's a columnist for the National Review. What do you expect?

Offline RGU

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Re: Kyle Smith totally misses the point of the Bechdel test
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2017, 01:23:50 PM »
Wow, did this guy learn journalism at the Mansplainers Academy of Mansplaining?

He starts out with a #notallmen-esque argument, that just because the test does fails certain great movies (though complex female characters in LOTR? give me a break), it is stupid, and sweeps the argument under the table that this is about a general malaise in a film industry that completely fails to represent anyone who is not a heterosexual white male.

He then declares that movies should not represent reality, they are there for fun. Though he fails to even consider that this is completely beside the point, because it's not like escapist movies require a heterosexual white male protagonist, but this is still the standard, without any reason whatsoever. I also love it how he refers to meaningful female characterisation as "feminist baggage", something that only hinders the movie.

After all this bullshit, he pulls out the market fundamentalist card, saying that the market just selects the best and unfortunately, female representation is just not cutting it.

Meanwhile, in the real world, representation does matter a LOT. Seeing characters on screen that you can identify with is REALLY important, especially in a world where most people are not heterosexual white men in their 60s with a girlfriend who could be their granddaughter.

First, I serious hate the term Mansplaining, and Womansplaining as well - Why use a term that accuses 1/2 the world.

Anyway - do you feel that his point regarding women and the movies they write, direct, act in, and watch was valid? Or do you feel that women should be able to continue doing what they want and men should change? Or is that you think they are being told "no"?

For me, I have never cared if a lead was male or female as long as it was good (disclaimer... good=fun). As for blockbusters, imho, are mostly action adventure which is predominately male - could there be more female action movies, sure.. but someone has to write, direct and star in them. I think it might be because there are not as many believable female action leads, although when they are made, guys like them and watch them. *Can't wait for Atomic Blonde*. Is there less believable female action leads because of a lack of actors or stories. I do not know.

I can tell you for it to be believable, if it is not fantasy (ie WonderWoman) then whatever woman is cast in an action role needs to be believable, as in yes they look strong enough, or skilled enough to do what they are doing. I hate some older action movies with women who beat up men and do not get scratched and somehow overpower men 2x their weight. The woman should win through speed, skill, and intelligence. And get tossed around like a rag doll if the big bad guy gets his hands on her. Tulip from the show Preacher is a good example of this, she can kick ass as long as she stays on her feet, but gets tossed around like a woman who is 115lbs. Sorry - I am rambling now.

BTW
20 Most Anticipated Films By and About Women of 2017
https://blog.womenandhollywood.com/20-most-anticipated-films-by-and-about-women-of-2017-dd2bc37950a4

17 Highest-Grossing Movies Directed by Women
http://www.thewrap.com/17-highest-grossing-movies-directed-by-women/23/

I didn't check, but I wonder how many would pass the test?

Offline superdave

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Re: Kyle Smith totally misses the point of the Bechdel test
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2017, 02:40:36 PM »
the thing is that he is judging whether or not the test has any meaning based on his personal movie tastes.  That alone totally invalidates his argument.

But the bigger point is not whether or not a movie that passes the test is a good movie, or that a movie that fails the test is sexist, it's that on the whole, the test is a low bar that shockingly few movies pass. 

Even many movies that pass, barely pass. There might be 30 seconds in the whole movie that gets it to limp over the line. 

But on the face of it, that's absurd.  The bar is so low.  Two named female characters have a conversation about something that isn't a man.  A woman can ask another woman what she had for lunch, and that's all it takes to pass!  But many films that have women driven stories are still usually stories that revolve around men. 
« Last Edit: July 18, 2017, 02:44:22 PM by superdave »
I disavow anyone in the movement involved in any illegal,unethical, sexist, or racist behavior. However, I don't have the energy or time to investigate each person and case, and a lack of individual disavowals for each incident should not be construed as condoning such behavior.

Offline Drunken Idaho

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Re: Kyle Smith totally misses the point of the Bechdel test
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2017, 02:51:00 PM »
I think Bechdel is a useful observation on the state of things, but doesn't comment on the quality of any specific movie (the big mistake the author in the OP seems to be making).

Movies have been marketed toward males (especially white males) because they've historically been the money-spenders--but as times change, it's helpful to call out institutions like Hollywood when they stay in the same old ruts, and the Bechdel test helps us notice that rut.
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Offline RGU

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Re: Kyle Smith totally misses the point of the Bechdel test
« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2017, 03:24:15 PM »
So does the article have a point about, if women want more movies as they describe then should they not be writing, producing, directing, acting in, and watching more of them?

Offline superdave

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Re: Kyle Smith totally misses the point of the Bechdel test
« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2017, 04:02:33 PM »
So does the article have a point about, if women want more movies as they describe then should they not be writing, producing, directing, acting in, and watching more of them?

do you think this is a result of lack of trying?
I disavow anyone in the movement involved in any illegal,unethical, sexist, or racist behavior. However, I don't have the energy or time to investigate each person and case, and a lack of individual disavowals for each incident should not be construed as condoning such behavior.

Offline Drunken Idaho

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Re: Kyle Smith totally misses the point of the Bechdel test
« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2017, 04:08:22 PM »
So does the article have a point about, if women want more movies as they describe then should they not be writing, producing, directing, acting in, and watching more of them?

No, I honestly can't even follow that logic. The whole thing seems like piles of assumptions built upon other assumptions.
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Offline RGU

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Re: Kyle Smith totally misses the point of the Bechdel test
« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2017, 05:00:24 PM »
So does the article have a point about, if women want more movies as they describe then should they not be writing, producing, directing, acting in, and watching more of them?

do you think this is a result of lack of trying?

I do not know.
The Hunger Games was produced by a woman and it had a female lead
Inception was produced by a woman and the chose not use a woman. I do not know why not
Zero Dark Thirty was produced by a woman, why they chose this story instead of one about women I also do not know.

Here are ten female producers that produced how many movies that do not pass the test?
http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2013/01/10-female-movie-producers-you-need-to-know/nina-jacobson
Producers pick the movies and pay for them, why did they choose these over movies that did pass?
There has to be other reasons they wanted to do these movies. They were not forced to select them over female led movies who talk to other females.
I am not saying there is anything wrong with a movie that does that, just that they aren't being made by women as often as some women would like. Why?



Online janine.b

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Re: Kyle Smith totally misses the point of the Bechdel test
« Reply #14 on: July 18, 2017, 05:17:52 PM »
So does the article have a point about, if women want more movies as they describe then should they not be writing, producing, directing, acting in, and watching more of them?

do you think this is a result of lack of trying?

I do not know.
The Hunger Games was produced by a woman and it had a female lead
Inception was produced by a woman and the chose not use a woman. I do not know why not
Zero Dark Thirty was produced by a woman, why they chose this story instead of one about women I also do not know.

Here are ten female producers that produced how many movies that do not pass the test?
http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2013/01/10-female-movie-producers-you-need-to-know/nina-jacobson
Producers pick the movies and pay for them, why did they choose these over movies that did pass?
There has to be other reasons they wanted to do these movies. They were not forced to select them over female led movies who talk to other females.
I am not saying there is anything wrong with a movie that does that, just that they aren't being made by women as often as some women would like. Why?

I don't think movie producers often pay for movies themselves. As I understand it they can hold many roles from finding a novel to adapt to the marketing and loads of stuff in between, including raising the money from other sources. It could be that these other sources then dictate who they think the stars should be. You can't assume because a woman is doing the producing that they get the final say on who the star is.

 

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