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Author Topic: Bechdel test and other media analysis about discrimination  (Read 22717 times)


The "Bechdel test" was originally a joke in the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For  from the 1985:



Despite the satirical intent this test is actually used in media fiction industry to measure the gender discrimination... or so they say.

Of course there are a lot of inequality in the world, so there are other tests of this kind:
https://lifehacker.com/the-bechdel-test-and-other-media-representation-tests-1819324045
https://www.the-unedit.com/posts/2018/8/20/7-tests-that-arent-the-bechdel-test-that-measure-movies-for-gender-equality-and-representation

This stuff seems just sociobabbling (and sometime it is) but someone in Hollywoodland take it seriously.

Those tests could be applied for other media, so also for videogames.


Have you ever used this kind of analysis when you write games? Do you think those are useful at least for commercial videogames?

_

I have another test: if the game or movie is about space travel in the future, at least some of the characters should not be Americans (or at least have names which do not look like "common american name").

I mean, they could do it with Jean Luc Picard :).
... and also the woman politician from "Expanse" (whom I subjectively found the only likeable character in the series lol)
« Last Edit: 16 Jan 2021, 18:36 by Crimson Wizard »

I have another test: if the game or movie is about space travel in the future, at least some of the characters should not be Americans (or at least have names which do not look like "common american name").

I mean, they could do it with Jean Luc Picard :).
... and also the woman politician from "Expanse" (whom I subjectively found the only likeable character in the series lol)
That's a great point, especially when the space crew is supposed to be representing the population of Earth as a whole, it comes across as weird when everybody is coded as English/American.
...

Personally, while I think it's a useful starting point, I'm less concerned about making media pass the Bechdel test and more concerned about avoiding tropes like Women in Refrigerators, and just gratuitous scenes of female characters being tortured and killed in general. I actually got inspired to try and come up with a different test after seeing a particularly frustrating story where basically all the main female characters either got killed in a sadistic manner, sexually assaulted, or only existed for fanservice, and I just felt so tired and angry at not being able to just see an exciting story without constantly having to worry about seeing gross and nasty scenes of misogynistic violence, so I tried to draw a short comic expressing my feelings on the matter, that also served as a test similar to the Bechdel test with three basic criteria for me to want to see a film:
Spoiler: ShowHide
I will admit that I was pretty angry when I drew this a while ago, but I do still wish there were more films that passed the criteria I set up.  :-\


I have another test: if the game or movie is about space travel in the future, at least some of the characters should not be Americans (or at least have names which do not look like "common american name").

This is true also for european sci-fi movies, for example in Luc Besson's the characters are americans. Despite the fact that Europe have its Space Agency since 1975.
About videogames, I remember in Martian Gothic: Unification one of the main charachters is japanese, and also the crew is multietnic.

_

Danvzare

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Personally I see the Bechdel test as more of a rule of thumb for competence than equality or anything like that. Despite how other people may see it.
You see, a creative writer will have a wide variety of characters. A talentless hack will just write copies of themself and one-dimensional characters. Assuming the majority of writers are white males (a bold assumption, I know), that would mean that the majority of talentless hacks will have their works star nothing but white males, and the only characters that aren't a white male will only be made to fufill a one-dimensional stereotype needed for that story.

As a talentless hack myself, I feel that sums up all of my stuff quite well.

I just felt so tired and angry at not being able to just see an exciting story without constantly having to worry about seeing gross and nasty scenes of misogynistic violence

Weird, I don't remember ever having this issue. I feel like there have always been plenty of stories around where men get treated at least as badly as women. Maybe you watch too much anime? :)

I like George R. R. Martin's take: just write women as if they were people. Controversial, I know.

Weird, I don't remember ever having this issue. I feel like there have always been plenty of stories around where men get treated at least as badly as women. Maybe you watch too much anime? :)

I like George R. R. Martin's take: just write women as if they were people. Controversial, I know.
I really hope you didn't mean to come across as so arrogant as you sound like in your reply, but I've literally seen exactly the same arguments coming from different guys almost a hundred times by now, and it's galling to have to explain this over and over again.

If it wasn't clear enough in the comic I posted, I'm not saying I'm against women in fiction suffering any trauma ever, what I'm specifically railing against are gratuitous scenes of sexual violence, rape, and women being tortured just because they are women, and this phenomenon is very much not seen in male characters in any mainstream media, and the few times the rape of a man is shown, the work quickly becomes infamous for showing something so horrific to male viewers. I ask, would you feel comfortable watching the scene where Ned Beatty is violated by the villains in Deliverance? And even if you personally would be, would you expect the broad majority of other men to be ok with having to watch such scenes?

And I've virtually avoided all anime, but it's not like it's easy to avoid this stuff in other media. According to the site Unconsenting media, only about 26% of TV-series doesn't feature rape or sexual assault.

And while there are worse authors at writing women, George R. R. Martin is a terrible example to bring up in this discussion considering how criticized he's been for not only including several hundred instances of female characters being raped, often in a manner that bears little to no matter to the plot, victims reduced to "background flavor" so to speak, he's also been criticized for describing female character's bodies in a voyeuristic manner even when they're meant to be through the perspective of the woman the body belongs to. I'm seriously perplexed you managed to miss this whole discussion when the TV-series aired, and I could easily link to dozens of essays written on the subject, but I'll limit myself to one, you can read it here.

I don't have infinite time and energy to explain why this matters so much, not just to me but to so many other women as well, so I hope you can forgive me if I'd rather link to a blog post that explains all this pretty well.
Here is a link, I hope you can take the time to read it.


I really hope you didn't mean to come across as so arrogant as you sound like in your reply, but I've literally seen exactly the same arguments coming from different guys almost a hundred times by now, and it's galling to have to explain this over and over again.

Yeah, I see how that could have come across as arrogant - and it was a little bit, but towards anime fans (sorry! ;)). I genuinely tried to recall any misogynistic rape/torture scenes I've seen and struggled to do so, while scenes of people (mostly men) being murdered in various ways popped up in my head one after another, and so I felt you were exaggerating. Although to be fair, it's pretty much always men committing the violence, regardless of the gender of the victim. Which mirrors real-world statistics I'm afraid.

In any case, I could be wrong. If you want, I can try to list the last 10 movies / TV shows I've watched and you point out the violence against women that you see in those. I'm not saying rape scenes aren't nasty, and yes, when they are there, women are almost exclusively the victims - we can discuss why that is. They just don't seem nearly as ever-present to me... except for anime ;). And dark crime dramas. And... ok, maybe I'm starting to see your point :).

As for Martin, do you disagree with the idea that universal personality traits are more important than the character being male or female? That was my main point. About the other issues with his writing, I read the essay you linked and I'm afraid I can't contribute anything that hasn't been said a thousand times already (objections that came to mind while reading were often mentioned in the following sentence), so I'll spare you further frustration :). Maybe just one question: is the implication supposed to be that Martin is a misogynist?

EDIT: This might be hard to believe, but I didn't realize you were a woman until your last post - for some reason, "Blondbraid" made me think of a Viking beard or something :). So here's a question: is it wrong if that changes how I read your posts on this topic? Because I have to admit it does a bit, which makes my whole "gender isn't important" spiel sound somewhat hypocritical ;). I'm conflicted!
« Last Edit: 18 Jan 2021, 06:30 by Honza »

Yeah, I see how that could have come across as arrogant - and it was a little bit, but towards anime fans (sorry! ;)). I genuinely tried to recall any misogynistic rape/torture scenes I've seen and struggled to do so, while scenes of people (mostly men) being murdered in various ways popped up in my head one after another, and so I felt you were exaggerating. Although to be fair, it's pretty much always men committing the violence, regardless of the gender of the victim. Which mirrors real-world statistics I'm afraid.
Yeah, I'm really not surprised, like I've said before, lot's of men don't get it, and I've seen dozens of other guys do exactly the same mistake before. Men being killed in action scenes is not the same as a helpless victim being raped, I know several men who are perfectly fine watching James Bond movies and films like Saving Private Ryan but visibly recoil at the mere suggestion of watching Pulp fiction or Deliverance, not because they are more violent, but because they show men being raped, and it's frustrating how many men get this when it comes to male viewers but can't understand women feel the same on depictions of female characters. Like, I'm fine watching Lara Croft and similar female action heroes get shot at, risk death in ancient death traps, and fight female opponents, but this article pissed me off.
In any case, I could be wrong. If you want, I can try to list the last 10 movies / TV shows I've watched and you point out the violence against women that you see in those.
Well, I think searching their titles on Unconsenting Media might be a better idea. Granted, not all movies and TV-series has been added to their database, but most mainstream works can be found there. From my experience, their statistics are a pretty good representation of mainstream TV.
Maybe just one question: is the implication supposed to be that Martin is a misogynist?
Personally, no, I don't think Martin intended to be misogynistic, however, I think he makes a common mistake lots of male writers do in thinking that merely showing tons of gruesome violent acts against women counts as a good criticism of misogyny and woman-hating. However, firstly, many men fail to understand that sexual violence isn't the same as fantasy violence, as author Chuck Wendig puts it;
Quote
If I were to sit in a room full of 100 people, how many of them do you think have been beheaded, cock-chopped, throat-slit, war-murdered, skull-asploded, and so on, and so forth?
Probably none.
Except Gary. Poor Gary.
But how many do you think might’ve undergone sexual assault or rape?
That’s a higher number, innit?
Secondly, more often than not, throwing in scenes of sexual violence normalizes it to the viewers, and rather than thinking it's wrong, many viewers start thinking it's normal, and looking at the Game of Thrones discourse, I've seen an alarming number of people defend the rape scenes using similar arguments used against real-life victims! There have even been scientific studies showing rather disturbing connections between watching films with sexist violence on screen, and increased victim-blaming in the audience.
EDIT: This might be hard to believe, but I didn't realize you were a woman until your last post - for some reason, "Blondbraid" made me think of a Viking beard or something :). So here's a question: is it wrong if that changes how I read your posts on this topic? Because I have to admit it does a bit, which makes my whole "gender isn't important" spiel sound somewhat hypocritical ;). I'm conflicted!
Okay, this is actually the first thing you've written here that did surprise me! Years ago, when I first discussed different ideas for a username with my mom, she told me "Blondbraid" was rather feminine and it might risk getting associated with bimbo /barbie stereotypes, so I didn't think of it that way. As for your question, I'd say it's complicated because as much as I'd like to be judged as a person rather than being judged for my gender, I think it's wrong to deny one's sex and gender strongly colors one's experiences and outlook on the world, because I certainly read your replies seeing you as a man and with the perspective that many men never have to think about such matters unless someone brings it up to them, and while I think that the advice to write women as people isn't wrong per sé, I've seen plenty of male writers fall into the trap of writing women like men who just look like women, because in their eyes, a well-rounded human being = man. It's similar to video games where you can choose the gender of the hero, but if you choose to play as a woman you get a female hero who visits strip clubs, participates in all-male sports tournaments, and has a bunch of female NPCs otherwise portrayed as straight suddenly fawn over her, none of which is particularly relatable to most women.  :-\


Quote
Years ago, when I first discussed different ideas for a username with my mom, she told me "Blondbraid" was rather feminine and it might risk getting associated with bimbo /barbie stereotypes, so I didn't think of it that way.

Yeah, it seems pretty obvious in hindsight. But I swear, that "arrogant" post, that was you being treated like a man ;). I guess because it rhymes with Bluebeard? It's a captain's name!


Quote
Years ago, when I first discussed different ideas for a username with my mom, she told me "Blondbraid" was rather feminine and it might risk getting associated with bimbo /barbie stereotypes, so I didn't think of it that way.

Yeah, it seems pretty obvious in hindsight. But I swear, that "arrogant" post, that was you being treated like a man ;). I guess because it rhymes with Bluebeard? It's a captain's name!
Well, you proabably should think over how you treat men in that case!   :-\

But I gotta say that's a pretty awesome illustration!  8-0


Danvzare

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This might be hard to believe, but I didn't realize you were a woman until your last post - for some reason, "Blondbraid" made me think of a Viking beard or something :).
Heh, same here. I remember when I first figured out Blondbraid was a woman. (laugh)
The username really does make you think of a viking beard. Or maybe a viking ponytail.  (nod)

Also, I have a question somewhat based on this discussion.
Why do males have to be displayed as masculine and females have to be displayed as feminine, for it to count as those genders being properly represented?
Why can't a man be feminine and a woman be masculine? What even constitutes as being masculine and feminine anyway? Aren't those purely cultural concepts? Aren't we forcing genders into stereotypes by "properly" representing them in this way?

Also, why do people feel the need for a character to share either their gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation for them to be relatable? I can think of countless media where I relate to a character that's nothing like me, either because their personality is similar to mine, their goals, or the situations they've found themselves in. To be honest, I can't think of a single character that I've found relatable simply because he's a straight white male.

Lastly, why do people feel the need to relate to a character in order to enjoy them? Plenty of people seem to enjoy Kirby, yet I highly doubt anyone relates to Kirby.  (laugh)


Speaking of videogames, I think that the first game that could pass the test is Maniac Mansion:)



Well, also The Secret of Monkey Island but I'm not sure of this...  :-\
_

Babar

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Heh, same here. I remember when I first figured out Blondbraid was a woman. (laugh)
The username really does make you think of a viking beard. Or maybe a viking ponytail.  (nod)

Also, I have a question somewhat based on this discussion.
Why do males have to be displayed as masculine and females have to be displayed as feminine, for it to count as those genders being properly represented?
Why can't a man be feminine and a woman be masculine? What even constitutes as being masculine and feminine anyway? Aren't those purely cultural concepts? Aren't we forcing genders into stereotypes by "properly" representing them in this way?

Also, why do people feel the need for a character to share either their gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation for them to be relatable? I can think of countless media where I relate to a character that's nothing like me, either because their personality is similar to mine, their goals, or the situations they've found themselves in. To be honest, I can't think of a single character that I've found relatable simply because he's a straight white male.

Lastly, why do people feel the need to relate to a character in order to enjoy them? Plenty of people seem to enjoy Kirby, yet I highly doubt anyone relates to Kirby.  (laugh)

A while back, I tricked my brain into assuming everyone online was female unless mentioned otherwise. Only time that's run me afoul is when I interacted with trans men  :=

As for my relatively uneducated understanding of your questions:
Men don't HAVE to be displayed as masculine, as far as I've seen. You have people like Guybrush, you have people like Conan the Barbarian, you have people like Gordon Freeman, you have people like Ben from Full Throttle, you have Mario, Wario, Luigi and Waluigi.
But when you come to female characters, you have Princess Peach, or Princess Daisy. Or Pauline. Or Elaine. Or Lara Croft. Even in games lauded for having deep and well-rounded female characters, they don't seem to dare deviating from a certain femininity. I haven't played the game (and I doubt I will, I wasn't too fond of the first game's gameplay), but I read about how gamers went apoplectic about a beefy, butch female lead in The Last of Us 2.

And characters don't have to share my gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation, but the incredible lack of major characters that step outside of a very specific combination of those traits makes it somewhat notable. I feel it is more something to look up to- for example, sure, everyone can look up to and aspire to be Superman, but the incredible lack of black superheroes made it so that when one did come to the mainstream, it was a cultural touchstone (especially for black communities and black kids).

Try to imagine a world where almost every major character was a queer trans east-asian. Sure, you'd relate to characters in their motivations and their goals and their actions, but when the occasional (insert own combination of those traits) character showed up in mainstream media, especially if it was well done, you'd probably have a bit more of an affinity for that character.

Finally, I've never played a Kirby game for any extended period of time, but the one I have (on the Switch?) make it seem more like I am controlling the character rather than inhabiting it. Now if you ask about speedy blue hedgehogs, woah, yeah...I definitely relate to the need for speed weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee eeeeeh....spinspinspin....ringringring
*Babar hums the Green Hill Zone tune to himself
« Last Edit: 18 Jan 2021, 17:33 by Babar »
The ultimate Professional Amateur

Now, with his very own game: Alien Time Zone

This might be hard to believe, but I didn't realize you were a woman until your last post - for some reason, "Blondbraid" made me think of a Viking beard or something :).
Heh, same here. I remember when I first figured out Blondbraid was a woman. (laugh)
The username really does make you think of a viking beard. Or maybe a viking ponytail.  (nod)
Well, Mulan was my favourite Disney princess growing up.  (roll)
Quote
Also, I have a question somewhat based on this discussion.
Why do males have to be displayed as masculine and females have to be displayed as feminine, for it to count as those genders being properly represented?
Why can't a man be feminine and a woman be masculine? What even constitutes as being masculine and feminine anyway? Aren't those purely cultural concepts? Aren't we forcing genders into stereotypes by "properly" representing them in this way?
Well, I think there is a misunderstanding in this discussion because I certainly think you can write a female character without any surface trappings of femininity (like feminine clothes or doing feminine jobs) and still make her a believable character. I think the problem is that even if a woman chooses not to conform to femininity, you're still socialized as a woman and has a woman's body will approach several situations differently from a man. For example, when I was growing up, I was the only girl in my class who played video games, and even when I played alone in my room, I could feel weird for wanting to try Call of Duty, and only seeing men in that game, I constantly felt reminded that it wasn't made for me and I was some random anomaly for liking it, so even when I've done things not typically associated with femininity, I've still been aware that I'm a woman and that a man's experience of the same thing would be different.

If I could come with a non-gender example, imagine an American person writing about someone in Europe just as they would write an American, and have this European character do American stuff like thinking of politics in a Republican/Democrat divide, or tape their trashcan lid shut in order to prevent raccoons and opossums from digging into it, even if the American author tried to write the European as a well-rounded person and tried avoiding making them a national stereotype, it'd still feel weird if they didn't take these the differences between nationalities into account, right?
I hope this helps explain things, in addition to the good explanation Babar already gave.

Also, with Kirby, he's a weird pink blob, and I say people will have a lot more suspension of disbelief when it comes to non-human cartoon characters. But if you set out to create a character meant to be an average "everyman", and they are supposed to be somewhat realistic humans, people will expect them to be relatable to a higher degree. And I don't think characters have to be relatable in the sense that they have the same personality like me, but they do need to be relatable in the sense that you can tell why they are feeling the feelings they feel or take different actions throughout their story.


Danvzare

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It sounds like the overall answer to my questions, is that because some people are unable to see things from another person's perspective, they assume that others can't see things from their perspective.

Also, for the record, my sister also grew up with games, and I asked her, and she really didn't give a crap about the male orientation in them back then or even now.
I'm not sure whether my sister's experience or Blondbraid's experience is the norm. If I had to take a guess, probably Blondbraid's. But it's all anecdotal anyway.

That all being said, I can't help but feel as though there's something incorrect about this whole discussion.  :-\



One last thing:
And I don't think characters have to be relatable in the sense that they have the same personality like me, but they do need to be relatable in the sense that you can tell why they are feeling the feelings they feel or take different actions throughout their story.
I'm the same.  (nod)

It sounds like the overall answer to my questions, is that because some people are unable to see things from another person's perspective, they assume that others can't see things from their perspective.

Also, for the record, my sister also grew up with games, and I asked her, and she really didn't give a crap about the male orientation in them back then or even now.
I'm not sure whether my sister's experience or Blondbraid's experience is the norm. If I had to take a guess, probably Blondbraid's. But it's all anecdotal anyway.

That all being said, I can't help but feel as though there's something incorrect about this whole discussion.  :-\
Well, I find this hard to explain too, but there is an entire subreddit dedicated to men writing women poorly. Not that there aren't bad female authors, but I've never heard of a female author who wrote okay female characters but struggled writing a believable male character, or skipped out on writing male characters altogether.

As for your sister, if there's any chance she grew up gaming together with you, chances are that having someone else to play male-geared games together with contributed to her not feeling left out in the same way I did, but if not, it'd be interesting to hear more of her perspective.


But I gotta say that's a pretty awesome illustration!  8-0

Then take it as a peace offering. I see your points, especially this is interesting:

There have even been scientific studies showing rather disturbing connections between watching films with sexist violence on screen, and increased victim-blaming in the audience.

Are there studies post 1984 replicating the results? Metastudies comparing it to the influence of other types of violence in media and desensitization to violence in general? I would never have imagined that a significant number of men (30%?!) get aroused by slashers of all things. I'd also assume that if rape is used for shock value or to make a villain particularly disgusting, it must be because it's seen as horrible, not that it makes it look less horrible.
« Last Edit: 18 Jan 2021, 23:53 by Honza »

But I gotta say that's a pretty awesome illustration!  8-0

Then take it as a peace offering. I see your points, especially this is interesting:
How nice of you, would it be OK if I put it in my banner?
Are there studies post 1984 replicating the results? Metastudies comparing it to the influence of other types of violence in media and desensitization to violence in general? I would never have imagined that a significant number of men (30%?!) get aroused by slashers of all things. I'd also assume that if rape is used for shock value or to make a villain particularly disgusting, it must be because it's seen as horrible, not that it makes it look less horrible. What the... ?!
I'm afraid I don't have any similar studies I've read in full on hand, but I do know one of the researchers conducting the study, Neil Malamuth, did a lot of reasearch in the same field after the 1980s study; https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=DJ7AWaoAAAAJ&hl=en

As for authors using it for shock value and show villains doing it, the sad fact is that even if the act is portrayed as evil, it's still normalizing it, and by treating it as a normal and logical consequence of male frustration, it makes it easier to blame victims for a danger people think they should have seen coming. It's similar to the quote "The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of a million is a statistic", if you've seen graphic depictions of something a dozen times, many people simply stop being shocked and disgusted by it.

And sadly, I'm not surprised so many men got aroused by Slashers, because in most such films, the victims are almost always played by conventionally attractive women and displayed in a sexual manner,
and there is a study showing objectified images of women makes it harder for viewers brains to differentiate between living people and objects>:(
It's a lengthy text, but there's a short video recapping the findings.


Ali

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I don't think you can compare rape with murder/violence. No one is traumatised by an Agatha Christie, or disturbed by a Jackie Chan film. Murder can be a subject for light-hearted, lurid fun in a way that sexual crimes can't (at least, responsibly). 

The argument that rape happens in real life, and fiction should reflect that could be more persuasive, except that the refrigerator trope isn't about realistic depictions of sexual violence. It's about using the abuse of a female character as a plot device to (e.g.) establish the villainy of the bad guy and provide the male protagonist with an impetus to action. Princess Leia's slave costume couldn't be a clearer example. I'm sure there are people of all sexes and genders who love the outfit, but it's obvious the scene is inviting the viewer to be aroused by Leia's peril at least as much as to empathise with her.

It's not that these tropes make any particular film bad. It's that they demonstrate a pattern in the stories we tell. Also, avoiding these tropes doesn't necessarily place subjects off-limits. The Netflix series Unbelievable is a compelling true story about rape, and the way womens' trauma can be compounded by the police.