Tuesday, October 22, 2013
The Bechdel Test
Here, in a nutshell, is the Bechdell test:
The Bechdel test is applied to movies, which are then graded accordingly. Many fail.
There are variations as well. There may be more than two women. They may talk about things other than a man. But those things may be weddings and babies. So that's a fail as well.
The test can be applied to literature as well as movies, of course, although the scope is slightly different. I can think of a lot of YA or NA books that feature female lead characters. That should be an automatic pass, right? Except how often do those characters still obsess about boys?
And make no mistake that this only happens in romance. Take The Hunger Games. Katniss was starting a revolution, but still dealing with that tricky love triangle thing as well. And in no way do I intend this as a criticism of The Hunger Games, because I loved those books, and I love that romance took a back seat to the action. But weirdly, most of the online discussions about the book centred around which boy Katniss would end up with.
And maybe that's because of the target audience.
And maybe that's because the result was a given -- we didn't know how she'd do it, but we knew she'd be victorious against the Capitol -- and therefore readers enjoyed speculating more about the romance.
And maybe it's because, for whatever reason, it feels like every YA book that comes out has to have a damn love triangle.
Which, to hijack another geometrical term, almost brings us full circle. With so many YA books out there with female lead characters, are we going to need a Bechel test for male characters soon?
1. Are there are least two boys?
2. Do they do anything except compete for the heroine's affections?
3. Could they be replaced with cardboard cut outs and nobody would notice?
At the moment, I can't think of too many YA books where the gazetted love interest is actually allowed to develop as a character, whether male or female. If you guys have any recommendations, I'd love to hear them.
And I'm not anti-romance in YA. I'm just anti-Romance-is-EVERYTHING!!!! I want characters who live and breathe, and are motivated by more than the fluttery feelings in their stomachs.
Note: a variation of the Bechdel test is the Russo test, which examines similar issues for LGBT characters.