Tag Archives: Bridesmaids

Feminist Friday: The Bechdel Test

In my Communication Research and Methods class, I unwittingly utilized the Bechdel Test. For my final project, I conducted a content analysis of the conversations between the women of Bridesmaids. I was interested in the media’s depiction of female friendships and thought that the dialogue between female characters would be the best indicator of their bonds. (For those of you interested in my amateur study, here it is: my final research paper.)

While my goal was to dissect women’s relationships in film, I actually ended up conducting a category-specific Bechdel Test. For the record, Alison Bechdel–author of Fun Home and Are You My Mother?–first featured the rule of thumb in her long-running comic, Dykes to Watch Out For.

As Mo explains, there are a precious few movies that feature a.) at least two women that b.) talk to each other about c.) something other than a man. They’re three simple guidelines, but you would be shocked at how few texts meet them. And I’m not talking about meeting them throughout the entire movie; sometimes there isn’t even one scene where a couple of ladies talk about politics or books or work or their families. That’s pretty fucking scary.

Even movies that seemingly depict women coming together to rid themselves of patriarchy sometimes reveal themselves to be complete bullshit. Not to rain on everyone’s The Fault in Our Stars parade (okay, maybe I want to), but I have to disagree with non-feminist Shailene Woodley‘s stance on The Other Woman. She says, “[It] looks really good because I think it’s really neat that it shows women coming together and supporting each other and creating a sisterhood of support for one another versus hating each other for something that somebody else created.” Yes, it is so refreshing to see a movie where three blonde, white, privileged women band together to destroy an idiot guy. Especially when taking revenge by, oh, I don’t know, succeeding in life is so boring and sensible.

Even though I am biased because I think that the film looks like total garbage, I do have some evidence to back me up:  “‘The Other Woman’: When Terrible Movies Happen to Funny Actresses” by NPR’s Linda Holmes. Despite Woodley’s assertion (which we should all listen to) that this movie is all about the sisterhood, Holmes found that these three sisters aren’t doing it for themselves; the movie failed the Bechdel Test.

I can’t say it better than Holmes, so I won’t. She writes, “Yyyyyyyup. That’s right. The Other Woman is 109 minutes long, and at no time do any of these women — including Carly and her secretary, who only know each other from work — pause for a discussion, even for a moment, of anything other than a series of dudes: Mark, Kate’s brother, Carly’s father, the secretary’s husband, Carly’s other boyfriends. It is truly, no fooling, all they talk about for 109 minutes.”

Let’s all pause for a moment and weep about the current state of feminism in the media, for Cameron Diaz’s and Leslie Mann’s terrible agents, and for the fact that someone thought it would be okay to let Kate Upton act.

Now, a call to action. Please take some time and watch films or television series where there are two women. Who talk to each other. About something other than a man. We can do it!

Here are a few suggestions:

Have a productive weekend!

(Image #1 courtesy of strategylab.ca; #2 courtesy of rookiemag.com; #3 and #5 courtesy of dykestowatchoutfor.com; #4 courtesy of theotherwomanmovie.com)

Oh! Darling

“At first, I did not know it was your diary. I thought it was a very sad, handwritten book.”

Brynn (Rebel Wilson) in Bridesmaids

When you were in high school, did you ever read a book and think Finally. Someone gets it.? Well, I did.  Megan McCafferty is the author of a book series (deemed–ugh I hate this term–chick lit) featuring protagonist/narrator Jessica Darling. Or as her father nicknamed her, Notso. As in Jessica-not-so-darling. Throughout the five novels about Jess, the reader experiences her evolution from annoyed, angst-ridden high school student to successful twenty-something. Since Jess tells her story through diary entries in Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings, I had the amazing experience to feel Jess’s anger, frustration and rare joy right along with her. And her life–during high school, at least–was a series of acid-tongued observations from the outside.

Like many of the Outside Girls, Jess’s story begins with her being separated from her best friend, Hope. After her brother ODs, Hope’s family decides to start over in another community. Unsurprisingly, Jess is crushed. As she explains in Sloppy Firsts,  “I told my parents not to even dare throwing me a Sweet Sixteen party. The very thought of ice-cream cake and pink crepe paper makes me want to hurl. Not to mention the fact that I can’t even imagine who would be on the guest list since I hate all of my other friends. I know my parents think I’m being ridiculous. But if the one person I want to be there can’t be there, I’d rather just stay home. And mope. Or sleep.”

This is not an admission that you are likely to witness in many teen-themed narratives. Jess is supposed to want to go to  parties, make other friends, and enjoy what is left of high school. Instead, she would rather be miserable and alone than be miserable and forced to socialize. I think the reason we can understand Jess’s intentional distance from her other friends and her biting opinions about them is because we see from her vantage point.  For example, take this selection of Jess’s peers and her predictions about them:

Scotty Glazer: from Most Athletic to Most Middle-Aged Yet Totally Immature

Bridget Milhokovich: from Best Looking to Best Bet She’ll Peak Too Soon

Manda Powers: from Biggest Flirt to Most Likely to End Up on Jerry Springer

Sara D’Abruzzi: from Class Motormouth to Future Double Agent Who Would Betray Her Country for Liposuction

Reading Jess’s thoughts about her classmates’ future allows us to be much more empathetic than we would be hearing those words aloud. She would just sound bitter and cruel. But reading her diary means gaining access to her thoughts, perceptions and reactions. Since we have only Jess’s writing to go on, we see Scotty as a jock wasting his brain and Bridget, Manda, and Sara as a highlighted/lip glossed trio straight out of hell. Jess’s writing allows us to relate to her motivation as an Outside Girl and shows her in a sympathetic light (even when she is at her most volatile).

And this is not out of the norm. While analyzing the writing patterns of students in their book Fashioning the Feminine: Girls, Popular Culture and Schooling, Pam Gilbert and Sandra Taylor found that “female writers more frequently assigned emotional states to their characters,” while male writers were defined by their verbally/physically abusive characters. One could argue that McCafferty’s books are not action-packed. And that’s not inaccurate. But it is also what makes them unique and interesting. As much as I love to see Veronica Mars and the upcoming Buffy Summers explore their outside status while kicking ass, it is also nice to encounter a more internalized story. The action in the books are our proximity to Jess’s emotions and observations of the world around her. The reader doesn’t get to inhabit Scotty, Bridget, Manda, or Sara’s head. We have to trust Jess and her version of the story. But that means we also can understand every decision that she makes.

(Image #1 courtesy of gaudyalternative.blogspot.com; #2 courtesy of ellabeereads.blogspot.com; #3 kariannalysis.com)