Bechdel’s Bechdel (1997)

November 17, 2010

I have been following Alex Vesy’s “Bechdel Test Canon” at Feminist Music Geek. The Bechdel Test  seems to be going as viral as any lesbian thing ever could. I recently heard about it on NPR.

“The Bechdel Test, sometimes called the Mo Movie Measure or Bechdel Rule is a simple test which names the following three criteria: (1) it has to have at least two women in it, who (2) who talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man.”

bechdel-2
(This is a pdf of Alison Bechdel’s 1997 strip, “Dykes to Watch Out For,” can’t seem to get it on to the screen, sorry)

Couldn’t help but think about how I had passed the test years ago (as a producer of The Watermelon Woman, described in this comic that I’ve had on the bulletin board in my office since it was published in 1997, and which also mentions Alex Sichel’s 1997,  All Over Me and Disney’s 1997,  Hercules.)

I recently showed my latest Bechdel effort (Cheryl Dunye’s The Owls, 2010, which I produced collectively with the Owls Parliament, sixty or so queers who were moved to collectively make micro-cinema about our lives, community, and cinema). While the Bechdel Test is useful in reminding us how poorly we are served by mainstream media, it is always critical to include in the conversation the critical, community-sustaining, off-the-radar efforts within (post)identity-based counter-cultural (cinema) communities that have at their very hearts and souls an internalized Bechdel Rule which moved the makers to speak and make film in the first place and which move our micro-audiences to see and respond to us (like Bechdel above). The Owls only features women (save the cameos of three of our favorite gay male actors and one female character who presents gender-ambiguously) who talk and talk (in scripted narrative, improved narrative, and documentary talking heads, both in and of character) about everything but men: aging, murder, alcoholism, monogomy, children, violence, self-hatred,  the role of butch and trans in the lesbian community, the nature of queer community, the death of new queer cinema, the history of lesbian representation, AIDS and black queer activism, etc. 

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