Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Bechdel Book Test

So my work has decided to be extra nice this week and give me two days off because of the massive blizzard. Woohoo! Except now I’m getting a major sense of claustrophobia…not woohoo. What to do about it? Blog post time!

Has anyone here heard of the Bechdel Test for movies? Well essentially it’s a checklist of three important factors to look out for in movies in regards to women (and you’d be surprised how few times the goal is met).

And the checklist goes:
1. It has to have at least 2 women in it (and the women have to be named);
2. Who talk to each other; and
3. About something besides a man.

Now this checklist seems simple enough but really once you start thinking about the popular movies out now it becomes surprisingly difficult to check off all three of these. Just take a look at the link I provided up above! Although, I must say, I looked at this list about a year ago and it is looking better…

Anyway, I figured, on this lovely snowy day, that I’d try to apply this to the last 6 books I’ve read and reviewed. Just for a fun little test.

Persuasion by Jane Austen
1. Does it have at least 2 women in it?
Most certainly yes. Many many female characters.
2. Do they talk to each other?
3. About something besides a man?
While they do talk a lot about men, they also talk about other things, such as Mary’s crabbing about not being able to go to dinner because her son is sick and then shoving him off on Anne. And of course Anne and Mrs. Smith’s conversations.

So Persuasion, I would say, passes the Test with flying colors. Next!

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
1. Does it have at least 2 women in it?
That's a negative! At least not named women to my recollection

Whomp whomp. Failed right out of the gate. Next!

Fever Dream by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
1. Does it have at least 2 women in it?
Yes. But not too many.
2. Do they talk to each other?
Not to my recollection. You know what that means…

Failed on the second question! Next!

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
1. Does it have at least 2 women in it?
I think it ONLY has two women in it. Maybe three.
2. Do they talk to each other?
Again, no.

And again I’m out at question two. Next!

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
1. Does it have at least 2 women in it?
Here we go. YES!!
2. Do they talk to each other?
All the time, like the entire book.
3. About something besides a man?
It’s hardly ever about a man actually. Refreshing. I thought I was going to keep failing these books.

But a passing score with flying colors, even more so than Persuasion. And finally…

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
1. Does it have at least 2 women in it?
2. Do they talk to each other?
The only scene I really remember with two women talking to each other was when Sibyl Vane was talking to her mother. So yes.
3. About something besides a man?
Hmmm, this is tricky. I think that scene was mostly about “Prince Charming” as Sibyl called Dorian. But I think it might have briefly touched on the theatre as well. But since it all revolved around her love for Dorian and her mother’s concern over that I think I’m going to have to fail it, well maybe I'll give it a middle grade, since I might have missed during a dinner party where two women HAPPENED to converse monmentarily.

Too bad.

So, out of my last 6 book reviews I can only give passing grades to 2 of them (because I think I‘m really cheating on that last one). Wow, that was surprising. Now, I’m not saying that means those other books were against women or anything but it kind of makes you think, doesn’t it? Who thought it would be so hard?


Anonymous said...

This is an awesome idea! I love it.

Oh please do Rebecca now. Wait--have you read it?

llevinso said...

I have read Rebecca and LOVE it. I think this is actually going to become a meme of mine so look out for it :) Like maybe Bechdel Test Tuesdays. I'm also starting a new meme tomorrow...

EnglishRose said...

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llevinso said...

Thanks EnglishRose! Off to check yours out...

Rachel Bowman said...

I'm reading Dorian Gray currently and looking at the Sibyl and Mrs. Vane conversation, even when they talk about theater Mrs. Vane says, "I am only happy, Sibyl, when I see you act. You must not think of anything but your acting. Mr. Isaacs has been very good to us, and we owe him money." (p.44) (Mr.Isaacs is the theater owner). The only other place I found two named women talking to each other about something other than men is at a dinner party where Lady Narborough says to Lady Ruxton, two women who have no other plot or appearances in the book besides this dinner party scene, "'A thousand pardons, my dear lady Ruxton,' she added, 'I didn't see you hadn't finished your cigarette.'" and Lady Ruxton replies, "Never mind, Lady Narborough. I smoke a great deal too much. I am going to limit myself, for the future." I was wondering if you thought his counted as passing the Bechdel Test? I'm not sure, because they are at a table with men and women and Lord Henry says something to them the next line, so does it count if it's not a conversation solely between two women? I just don't know. Any opinions?