The Bechdel Test:
- [The film / game] has to have at least two [named] women in it
- Who talk to each other
- About something besides a man
It’s amazing how few films and games pass this simple test, even things that you think would, like most Wes Anderson films for example, usually fail on point 2. There are definitely occasions where this isn’t a sign of anything, plenty of trashy films starring female characters would pass, but could barely be described as woman-friendly story telling.
Games have always been a chief culprit of negative gender stereotypes, but we already knew that, and much as I would claim to be a feminist I don’t actually care about this at all. If people want to play through a teenage power fantasy full of half-naked girls, fine. I won’t play it, but I don’t care that it exists either.
What bothers me is the lack of women and female-centric story in media that we perceive to be mature. How often have you watched a scene, especially in a game, where two women talk to each other in a room? Just that. Honestly I struggle to think of a mainstream example where this happens.
We seem to have a short-circuit that just stops us from creating female characters unless there’s a specific reason to. take a film like Ratatouille. How many chefs are there in the restaurant where the film takes place? Quite a few. And how many are female? One, the love interest. Many of the characters in these films or games could be female, there is absolutely no need for them all to be men. If they are, they are the exceptions. Lara croft is a woman in a world of men, Colette from Ratatouille is, again, in a man’s world. Yes in Monsters Inc the only women are a simpering receptionist, a little girl in need of protection and a woman who, for all intents and purposes, works in HR. But this seemingly more extreme gender-stereotyping is more obvious and more easily addressed. It is the subtler and far deeper problem that bothers me the most, one that I wasn’t even aware of until I really started thinking about point number 2 on the Bechdel Test.
It’s not a question of making more women-oriented stories, or getting rid of adolescent sex objects, it’s far simpler - why aren’t more of our characters women?