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Tag-Archive for "The West Wing"

Bechdel, not Bechamel* Jul 29

I’m intrigued by the Bechdel test, as highlighted by Mat and Jennie. It’s a measure of the realistic portrayal of female characters in fiction, defined thusly:

  1. It has to have at least two women in it,
  2. Who talk to each other,
  3. About something besides a man.

It’s a bit shocking now I try to apply that (admittedly based on recollection rather than a scientific approach) how much TV seems to fail, or at least fail for much of its screen time. (Mat directs us here for an episode-by-episode Bechdel assesment of Doctor Who.)

I’ve just finished watching the first season of The Wire. It’s a fantastic, clever, sometimes Shakespearian (sorry, that sounds hackneyed) show. But, dominated as it is by male characters, it would struggle to pass the test. I can think of one notable scene – one out of 13 episodes – that does, but it’s helped to meet (3) by being a lesbian night out.

Even The West Wing, my favourite drama series Of All Time, could probably have done better. It’s by no means a Bechdel failure, but a large proportion of the meaty scenes I can think of that feature two female characters end up being about men.

Perhaps the shows most likely to pass the test are slightly dumb action series where characters tend to get on with the plot of the week are not talk about Feelings. The so far rather poor Bonekickers and it’s superior spiritual predecessor Bugs spring to mind.

*Apologies for the cheesy pun.