Friday, September 19, 2014

Bechdel, Mako Mori, and Russo: Three Tests for Cinema.

I recently found out that on October 8th Alison Bechdel will be coming to Ithaca College. Bechdel is a cartoonist best known for her graphic memoir Fun Home,  comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, and The Bechdel Test.

     The Bechdel Test originated from the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For.
Basically the Bechdel Test is used to test female representation in movies. For a film to pass the Bechdel Test, it must have three things.

1. At least two named* female characters
2. who have a conversation
3. about something other than a man.

*not always part of the rule 

While it seems that it would be simple to pass, there are a huge number of films that fail the test. In fact, a large amount of films even fail the first rule.
Seen Here: Hollywood

There are, however, some problems with the Bechdel Test. For instance, the Bechdel Test does not test for how well the women are portrayed in the film. It is also not an indicater of wether a film is good or not. There are many fantastic films that fail the test while there are many terrible films that pass the test. One film that I personally believe is great, yet fails the Bechdel Test is Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim. The reason I mention this film is that there is another test named after the films lead, and only main, female character; Mako Mori.

Despite being the one of only female character in the film, Mako, who is played by actress Rinko Kikuchi, is a strong and well written character. Even with this great and well developed character, Pacific Rim fails the Bechdel Test. The Mako Mori test is another, and possibly better way to test and notice strong female characters in cinema. For a film to pass the Mako Mori Test it must have
1. At least one female character
2. Who has her own narrative arc
3. that is not about supporting a man's story. 

This test brings to light, not only the amount of females with lines, but how well written the females are and if their storylines are dependant on a man.

The third test is called the Russo Test, and as an openly gay male, the most important to me. The Russo Test measures LGBT+ portrayal in film. For a film to pass the Russo Test:

1. The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender.
2. That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity. I.E. they are made up of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight characters from one another.
3. The LGBT character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect. Meaning they are not there to simply provide colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or (perhaps most commonly) set up a punchline. The character should matter.

So basically we like our gay characters looking less like this

and more like this

From: The Way He Looks
Being "the future" of cinema it is important that we strive to include both well written female and LGBT+ characters. 

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