First, lets give credit where credit is very much due: the idea for this came from a post on Ink Out Loud, another great blog about writing and how it makes us, the writers, feel. Go check it out, and follow.
As for the post in question, I found it waiting for me this morning, a short discussion of The Bechdel Test, and whether your current WiP passes. If you are somewhat remiss in having not heard about The Bechdel Test, you can find a primer here. When you’re finished there, you can go check out the movies that don’t pass. Go ahead, look: I’ll be right here . . .
All done? Great. Let’s move on.
The Test came about because, lets face it, most novels and movies end up being sausage fests. Look at some of the books that don’t pass The Test: Lord of the Ring trilogy, eighty percent of Sherlock Holmes and James Bond stories, a lot of the Golden Age science fiction I have on my book shelves, damn hear all of the Dirk Pitt stories . . . and on and on.
When you get into movies: forget about it. The original Star Wars trilogy fails like a boss. Fight Club–are you kidding? Since the LotR novels failed, it’s a given the movies failed. And when you’re speaking of the most popular movie of the summer of 2012, you have to put a big “F” on The Avengers because when did you ever see the named women speaking to each other? (Though I have to laugh when it’s pointed out that Hawkeye has the least screen time, gets brainwashed by the Big Bad and is in need of rescuing, shows the most skin–evening doing a butt and boobs pose in official promo material–and runs like hell when shit is about to get serious–therefore making him the Strong Female Character of the movie.)
Well, then . . . what about the stories you’re working on?
Reading the above post today started me thinking about my current NaNo Novel, Kolor Ijo. Actually it got me thinking about all my work, but since I’m cranking away on this novel at the moment, it came to mind. I began looking at the story, and the characters, started thinking about who says what, and came to the conclusion–
Why does it fail? Well, lets look. One, I do have more than one named female character. Two, there is a conversation between two of the women–in fact, the entire chapter I worked on last night was all about Indri and Sari having a conversation.
However, when I get to Number Three, that’s where things get shaky. See, the conversation is about a murderous spirit, and the why for these murders goes back to something one of the women’s father did when they were in the military twenty years before. Since they are marginally speaking about a man, it sort of fails.
Then again, they were speaking about killing ghosts and the whatnot as well, so I can score a plus–yeah?
I’m not worried about it, because given the places this story goes–and considering the characters–the few times I can get a couple of women together to discuss something besides the XY’s they know isn’t easy. Then again, I seem to do pretty well on my stories:
When I look back at what I’ve written in the last year–or twenty–I’ve been very good about having female characters in my stories. Transporting have seven named female character and two male, and the women talk about things like saving a planet, making love in a sub-dimension of reality, and showing a person what their planet looks like from orbit while Rocket Man plays in the background.
Echoes and Diners at the Memory’s End use many of the same characters from Transporting–as well at a couple of added ones, all women–and their discussions tend to be about things other than women. In Echoes, in fact, you have something along the reverse of The Bechdel Test, where I have two men talking for a long time about a woman.
What of the others? Couples Dance almost fails until the very end. Captivate and Control fails, only because there are two characters in the story, a man an a woman–and they’re talking about some stuff that you may not think of as romance, but whatever works, right?
Her Demonic Majesty: six named women, three named men, several secondary characters of both genders–and at one point I have four women talking about gargoyles and how to blow up a building. Yeah, that sucker passes by with eyes straight. And when there is a discussion going on about relationship, it’s between two of the women about their relationship. No boys allowed, ’cause it’s icky.
And two shorter stories I wrote for the Storytime Trysts blog are very female-centric. Gotta love those ladies.
Some people may wonder if something like the The Bechdel Test is needed. If I look at my current story Kolor Ijo, and then got back to the story that first featured these characters, Kuntilanak, I see that The Test is pretty much dead. Does that make either stories bad? No. And if I want to push it, Kuntilanak did have more than one named character, and in a way two of those characters did speak about something other than guys, so–there win there.
But I’ll tell you why something like this needs to be looked at. It’s because you still have pantie stains like Frank Parlato, Jr., an editor for the Niagara Falls Reporter, who told his film critic Michael Calleri of his feelings for being a manly man, and how he wouldn’t have ever let his sons see any movie that had Strong Vagina as a lead. (By the way, when I create a band, I’m calling it Strong Vagina. Taken.) It’s because you still have people who believe that movie goers won’t watch a film unless it had “two white male leads”. It’s because there are a lot of people around who think Don Draper is the man because he’s a true believer of “Two C’s in a K“.
It’s because it’s the second decade of the 21st Century, and a writer reduces women to a stereotype in their stories at their own risk.
As for me? I just write what I know. And I know women are amazing.
Just ask. We’re more than willing to tell you.