Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist pop culture media critic, presents a number of interesting assertions on the role of women in modern film in her video, The 2012 Oscars and The Bechdel Test , which is provided through her Youtube channel, Feminist Frequency. The test was ironically popularized by graphic novelist Alison Bechdel in her comic, Dykes to Watch Out For, in 1985.
As noted by Sarkeesian, the test serves as a
"a very basic gauge to measure women's relevance to a plot and genereally to assess female presense in Hollywood movies...In order to pass the test, the film just needs to fulfill these three very simple criteria: A movie has to have at least two or more women in it, who have names, who talk to eachother, about something besides a man. "Sarkeesian examines films that have been nominated for best picture in the 2011 Academy Awards, under these criteria.
Surprisingly (or not), the only films that clearly past the test are The Descendants and The Help. In Moneyball, two female characters never speak. Tree of Life, War Horse, The Artist, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close also fail the Bechdel test, while Midnight in Paris and Hugo both possess one line or short segment that deviates from speak of male characters. It is noted that in Midnight in Paris, the women's rights pioneer Gertrude Stein plays a role in the plot, but even her character is denied meaningful conversation with another woman. While The Artist is a silent film, title cards, mouthing words, facial expressions, physical gestures, and pantomime are considered. The Bechdel test certainly exploses the lack of relevant or meaningful movie roles for females.
Furthermore, Alaya Dawn Johnson examines race under a similar test. In an article titled "The Bechdel Test and Race in Popular Fiction," Johnson present three guidelines that would allow for meaningful and relevant movie roles for people of color.
1. It has to have two People of Color in it.Sarkeesian notes that the number of films that fulfill these guidelines are at an appallingly low number; even in The Help, in which people of color are some of the main characters, the women rarely speak about anything other than "white people." She includes a telling segment of Martha Southgate's "The Truth about the Civil Rights Era," asserting, "implicit in The Help and a number of other popular works that deal with the civil rights era is the notion that a white character is somehow crucial or even necessary to tell this particular tale of black liberation."
2. Who talk to each other.
3. About something other than a white person.
Upon examining such assertions, we are urged to re-consider how far media representations of gender and race have truly progressed.