Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Beschel test

I posted a link to this, with the Beschel test, which asks

1. Are there at least two women characters in the film?
2. Who talk to each other?
3. About something other than a man?

So out of curiosity, I decided to apply this to imdb. In interest of fairness, I shall apply this to both men and women. (note that this is done from memory, so mistakes may be made)

[note: I started writing this list a while ago, so places have shifted slightly. In particular, 25-50 were done about two weeks after 1-25]

1.The Shawshank Redemption. Does not feature any female roles.
2.The Godfather. Does have female roles, but they rarely converse with each other, and if they do, its talking about men
3.Inception. Does have some strong female roles. When Adriane and Mal chat, however, they are only talking about Cobb
4.Godfather part 2. Same issues as the godfather.
5.The Good the Bad and the Ugly. Been a while since I've seen this, but i'm not sure there are any female roles at all in this film.
6.Pulp Fiction. Lots of female roles, but they are often passive. And none of them talk to each other.
7. Schindler's List. Not much for women to do in this film. I think it technically passes from certain scenes in the film.
8. 12 angry men. Faiiiils.
9. One Flew over the cookoo's nest. a strong female role (although a villain) in Ratchet isn't enough to pass. A couple of girls do join in later on, but I don't think they have a terrific amount to say to each other.
10. Toy Story 3. I'm going to say a sort of pass here. There are lots of female roles, and they do talk to each other a bit at least.
11.Star Wars Episode V. Fail. Unless we count C3PO as a woman.
12.The Dark Knight. Nope. Only one woman here, move along please.
13.LoTR: Return of the King. No. Definitely not. The women get more lines than they do in the book, but that is not hard.
14.Star Wars, a New Hope. With Lukes foster parents, the film does manage two women at least, but they are rather geographically seperated.
15.Seven samurai. Nope. There is a romance subplot, but nothing much else of women in this film.
16.Casablanca. No.. This is beginning to get depressing. Certainly there is an excellent role for a woman here, but theres only one of her.
17.Goodfellas. Mostly men. There are several women, and good roles, but once again they don't really talk to each other.
18.Fight Club. Once again, men men men. A big female role, but she's got no-one to speak to.
19.City of God. Fairly small roles for women... and they're talking to the men.
20.lord of the rings, fellowship of the ring.Fail
21.Rear Window. I thiink this passes. Its been a while since I've watched this, but thanks to his nurse and Grace Kelly being in the film, I think it makes it. There are very few roles in this film anyway. It comes close to failing for both men and women (note, this would be the first film that would have failed for men. It didn't).
22.Raiders of the Lost ark. Nope. One main female role.
23.Psycho. This does fail, but again almost fails for men as well. There are some strong female roles in here, to be fair.
24.The Usual Suspects. Biiig fail.
25.Once upon a time in the West. Yet to see it.
26.The Silence of the Lambs. Been a while since I've seen it, it fails for women, but does have an extremely strong female lead
27.The Matrix. This pretty much fails. Theres a snippet of conversation between Trinity and the other one, but its very, very brief.
28.Se7en. About two guys on the hunt of a killer. Does have Brad Pitt's wife, but shes got no-one to speak to
29.Memento. Fail. Christopher Nolan tends to fail this consistently. Theres a reasonaly large female role here, but meh.
30. Its a wonderful life. Its been a long time since I've watched this, but seeing as the entire film is about George Bailey, I suspect it'll probably fail. There may be snippets of conversation between female characters along the way I suppose.
31.The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Fail fail fail.
32.Sunset Boulevard. I really need to get up on the films of Billy Wilder.
33. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb . Distressingly there are no female roles at all here.
34.Leon. Well this fails for both men and women, seeing as theres really only a female and a male role. I think a double failure can usually count as a success.
35.North by Northwest. Fail.
36.Forrest Gump. Fail
37.Citizen Kane. Fail. The females in this film do not get much of a look in
38.Apocalypse Now. To my shame, not a film I have seen. I'm gonna guess failure, but obviously won't count it.
39.American History X. This just about passes, but really, the conversations between the mother and Ed Norton's girlfriend don't really count.
40.American Beauty. This passes, although most of the conversations the female leads have are about boys.
41. Taxi Driver. A fail here
42.Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Faaaaaail.
43.Vertigo. I... can't remember if this passes or not now. I don't think the two females are congruent at any point here.
44.Alien. Major pass. Alien was written genderless, and is one of the few on this list that manages an excellent female character. Ripley becomes more feminine as the series continues- Aliens is about motherhood to some extent.
45. Saving Private Ryan. Guess what. A faiiiil!
46. Lawrence of Arabia. Haven't seen it.
47. Amelie . Pass. This is the first pass with a male fail on the list here, I think.
48.WALL-E. While Wall-E can be viewed as male, thanks to the voices, if you actually go in without expectations you can view the reverse as true. I'm gonna let this past.
49.The Shining. Faaaaail
50.A Clockwork Orange. Guess what... fail!

So lets see, of 50 films we have

SIX passes. And thats including Leon, which really doesn't count
I haven't seen 4 films on the list.
Its also worth nothing that we can divide films into ensemble films, or films driven by a strong lead. There are 17 films that are pretty much all about their male lead. There are 2 about their female lead.

Seriously. Thats really a bit depressing. To be fair, I suspect imdb is a male dominated data base- look at the number of sci fi/fantasy films that manage it in to the top 50, but there are a LOT of classic films here that just fail that test.

Look, theres no reason to think that we must have a male lead- Alien is the case in point, Sigourney Weaver wasn't unique, she was just given a good script. I'm not saying EVERY film needs to meet this test, but I am saying that it really sucks that there are less leading roles out there for women then there are for men. There are a lot of reasons this happens, and I don't think anyone goes into making a film hating women, but we go in with preconceptions, and these shape our culture. This is what frustrates me when people say women have it fine- our culture simply does not reflect that, and women are simply not at parity at men. Theres work to be done here.

The most striking point for me is not only that this fails for women, but it barely ever fails for men. I thought I'd see both a lot more, but it just doesn't occur.

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At 10:04 pm, Blogger hzglauren said...

I enjoyed reading this post, and I agree--much work to be done.


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