SDCC and gender: Bechdel Testing Comic-Con

Dave writes, "This year, for its annual Comic-Con issue, San Diego Citybeat views the convention through the lens of the Bechdel Test. The altweekly is free on stands throughout the city."


The Bechdel Test comes from Alison Bechdel's amazing Dykes to Watch Out For strip, and has become a touchstone for understanding the implicit gender bias in narrative.

Bechdel herself is among the first to point out her eponymous test’s limitations.

“You can have a feminist movie that doesn’t meet the criteria,” she says. “And you can have a movie that meets the criteria and isn’t feminist. So, it’s not scientific or anything. It was meant as a joke, but I still think it’s a very useful joke…. It’s a bit surprising what does and doesn’t pass.”

CityBeat likes a good joke, which is why we decided to look at this year’s Comic-Con and the culture it celebrates through the lens of the Bechdel Test. Seth Combs talked to a local male comic artist about why he continues to depict women as sexy and idealized. Ryan Bradford watched trailers for some of this summer’s blockbuster films and added a new test. Susan Myrland rounded up the best of this year’s offsite events geared toward the Comic-Con crowd and highlighted the ones including women. And over there to the right, we looked at this year’s schedule and found the panels to which Bechdel herself might give an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

Comic-Con vs. the Bechdel Test [Kinsee Morlan/SD City Beat]

Notable Replies

  1. I seem to remember seeing a website out in the wild that does the test on movies. And,

    “You can have a feminist movie that doesn’t meet the criteria,” she says. “And you can have a movie that meets the criteria and isn’t feminist. So, it’s not scientific or anything. It was meant as a joke, but I still think it’s a very useful joke…. It’s a bit surprising what does and doesn’t pass.”

    It's pretty evident early on that its usefulness has limitations. The Iron Man movies pass the test. I wonder if Jack McDevitt's books about Priscilla Hutchins pass.

    Please don't pile on me for that; I'm just reaffirming that, hey, it's a joke; it might be a thought-provoking one, but it's a joke. We should be talking about what would make a better test, not blasting people for pointing out that it's not a perfect test.

    While we're at it, can we talk about how it fails so often because secondary characters are talking about the protagonist? And instead of arguing about whether that's true, can we discuss why that's true? Wouldn't it be more productive to discuss why on earth protagonists tend to be overwhelimingly male?

  2. It's not particularly useful at telling you whether an individual film or comic is good, or even necessarily if it's feminist. But as an aggregate tool it tells us a lot about the role of women in films and comics, especially when you consider how hard it is to find media that would fail a reverse Bechdel test.

  3. I was hoping this test would involve going around Comic-Con to see if there were at least two female attendees who weren't sexy window dressing and were talking with each other.

  4. Let's get this out of the way:

    http://www.16bitsirens.com/consent/

    If attendees want to show up looking like their favorite character, and their favorite character looks like "sexy window dressing", that's their own damn business.

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