Showgirls (or how the Bechdel test does not always work)

Some months ago, I read an article about something Swedish cinemas might start doing soon in order to avoid an excess of man-only-oriented films and, instead, have more gender equality represented in the silver screen. Their criteria was the Bechdel test, established by comic author Alison Bechdel in the 1980's, and that has three easy-to-follow rules:

1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man
(more information here: http://bechdeltest.com/)


Easy, right? WRONG. If you click on the link above you will see how many movies fail these simple rules miserably. Good and bad films alike, so using the Bechdel test does not seem like the best criteria to me. And why, you might ask? Very simple...

"I like having nice tits" is an actual quote from this movie.



Showgirls is a 1995 movie that narrates the rise and fall of the stripper-turned-Vegas showgirl Nomi Malone. The amount of boobs, ass, and bad writing, especially where female characters are concerned, is difficult to top. And yes, my dears, this movie, which presents women in a degrading manner and as cardboard cut-outs and is an insult to feminism, passes the Bechdel test.

So, is the Bechdel test that important a statement for feminism? Why, yes. Even though Showgirls is badly written (and poorly acted, I might add), and even though it doesn't stop objectifying women as sexual objects, you can see that they tried to tell a story in which a woman is the main protagonist. I guess that decent writing and actual character development could have made Nomi and her rival Crystal good examples of that. 

Then again, maybe they did just want to show "tits and ass" and men saw it because it was a movie about a stripper. Ok. On the other side of the spectrum are romantic comedies. Most part of their audience are women (and their unwilling boyfriends, some of the time). Is it because they are feminist films? Uh... no. Do they pass the Bechdel test? Not as much as they should, taking into consideration that the main characters are usually women. The "fail" part is often that the main topic of all conversation is MEEEEEN.

We shouldn't confuse feminist movies (as in movies that clearly subscribe to said ideology) with the need of female characters in media that are not just wallflowers, which is what the Bechdel test is about. When movies start passing the Bechdel test more and more regularly, it will probably be a sign that something has changed in our society and our perception of women and their role(s) in it.


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