The Gay Bechdel Test: Why Hollywood Needs to Expand Its Representation of LGBT Characters
For years, I’ve enjoyed putting popular films through the Bechdel Test. Named after cartoonist Alison Bechdel, the test was introduced in her long-running comic Dykes to Watch Out For. Named “The Rule,” what became known as the Bechdel Test had three requirements: a film had to feature two named female characters, those characters had to speak to each other, and the subject of conversation had to be about something other than a man. Sounds pretty simple, right? It’s pretty astonishing how many movies fail the pretty easy test — especially in 2013. (A website that keeps track of movie releases and whether they pass the test already lists at least 38 films from 2013; only 21 pass the Bechdel test.) It got me thinking: could there be a similar test about gay characters, and how many movies would actually pass it?
The Gay Test (which, regrettably, I will not call “The Coates Test” following Alison Bechdel’s lead), would have similarly few requirements, but they’re particularly tough to beat: to pass, a film must include two gay characters who interact in some way, do not offer sassy advice to the protagonist, and are not dead by the end credits. While the main plot of any film subjected to the test preferably would not be specifically “gay-themed,” I’ll allow it, if only because films described as such are pretty much the only ones that come close to passing.
Let’s do a quick run-through of this year’s eight Best Picture nominees. Any gay protagonists? Nope. (Sorry, Abraham Lincoln doesn’t count.) How about in 2012? No way. In 2011? Well, there was Black Swan, which featured a lesbian sex scene that was possibly a figment of the protagonist’s imagination (something must be said for the connection between her mental stability and her dabbling in lesbianism). In 2010? Not a chance. 2009? Bingo: Milk! Of course, the main character dies, but there are a handful of other gay guys (and women!) who actually do important things like fighting for equal rights rather than helping their gal-pals out with their dating advice, or dying.
But even going back ten years in Oscar history shows that only four other Best Pictures nominees featured gay protagonists, and only two could pass a test with the requirements mentioned above. In Brokeback Mountain, one of the two gay protagonists is murdered; in The Hours, the only gay male character kills himself before AIDS does it for him (although there are a few lesbians). Capote and Little Miss Sunshine both feature gay men as the protagonists, but they rarely have the opportunity to interact with other gay men. Five Best Picture-nominated films in the last ten years doesn’t speak highly of the most artistic cinematic efforts; it seems pretty pointless to search for gay characters among the highest-grossing films during the same period.
Of course, the notion that every movie must predominately feature LGBT characters is pretty silly. Since nearly every gay character suddenly becomes politicized, it’s difficult to imagine any summer blockbusters, seemingly providing escapist entertainment, featuring a politically correct treatment of minority groups. At the same time, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to see a little more representation, which is why the Bechdel test provides a good model for calling out the homogenous cinematic culture that privileges straight white males over all other audiences.
One strong argument for more positive and frequent representations of gay characters is the reduction of hate-fueled attacks on those in the LGBT communities. The inclusion of non-politicized characters in mainstream films can only further the notion that LGBT characters are members of society in the same way as their straight peers. One wonders if the recent string of hate-fueled attacks in New York City in recent weeks — two of which occurred blocks from where the 1969 Stonewall riots took place, one resulting in the death of a gay man — would be such a regular occurrence if non-heterosexuals were portrayed in a more sympathetic light in film and television.
It seems increasingly difficult to get straight people to pay attention to “gay-themed” media; that’s not just a broad qualifier, but a red flag to heterosexual audiences that seemingly reads, “This will not interest you.” To include more diversity in media that cater to broad audiences can’t possibly hurt, but until that shift happens, plenty of underrepresented communities will continue to struggle for basic equality and tolerance from those that represent the mainstream.
aw, i hope i didn’t give the impression i’d bite your head off for opening a discussion about it. :c i don’t mind discussing it, it can just get tiring because people are very rarely level-headed about john they are usually VERY ANGRY and that gets kind of exhausting to deal with
WOW THIS GOT REALLY LONG SORRY
jdfghjklkj anonnnnnnn ;///////;
this is so lovely of you i’m sorry i only got it when i got back from work!! i really don’t think i am in any way the nicest person on tumblr, i lose my temper a lot, but it means a lot that people think of me as nice even sometimes ;3; <33
They never really show it on the show but it’s clear John used to get pretty physical with Dean when he was pissed off. And I’m sick of people making excuses for him because it’s one thing to be strict with your kids to protect them and to teach them hunting because you know what’s out there, and another thing to make your child more scared of you than of all the other monsters.
abusive AND a cheating asshole just WOW
wait excuse me
when the fuck was john a cheating asshole
look i realise i am one of the apparently few people in this fandom who actually doesn’t hate john and gives a shit about him as a character with multiple shades of grey
i realise that thinking that this gifset does not indicate physical abuse and that actually the show gives us ample proof that john did not hit his kids is apparently the tiniest minority of an unpopular opinion in this fandom
believe me i’m aware of this and most of the time i have given up wading in on john’s behalf because i can’t stand the backlash
but if you’re going to say john’s a cheating asshole i’m going to have to ask you to show me the fucking receipts because the man loved mary so much that he completely collapsed as a person when she died and while we do see that they had a marriage occasionally riddled with arguments we also see that they both loved each other dearly and we have no indication that either of them would every have cheated on the other
if you’re referring to that phone conversation we hear in dark side of the moon, that’s hardly confirmation of cheating, all we know is that they fought about something and spent a few days apart before getting back together, apparently no worse for wear. my personal theory is that it was something to do with work, given how frantic john was about keeping his job in song remains the same. it could be anything.
if you’re referring to adam’s mother, they met when john was on a hunt and adam was conceived on that same hunt and this was in 1990 aka mary had been dead for seven fucking years
that’s not cheating, regardless of how broken up john still was about her or hung up on her he was, what the actual fuck
“On my honor as a Lannister,” the Imp said, “I will not touch you until you want me to.”
It took all the courage that was in her to look in those mismatched eyes and say, “And if I never want you to, my lord?”
His mouth jerked as if she had slapped him. “Never?”
Her neck was so tight she could scarcely nod.
“Why,” he said, “that is why the gods made whore for imps like me.” He closed his short blunt fingers into a fist, and climbed down off the bed.
If it helps at all, the guys made it very clear that they were making a statement about the military, as awful as it was. They probably wouldn’t have an interest in a civilian event like pride?
But yeah, it’s completely understandable to be afraid, and i’m so sorry. :c <333 It’s only when fear turns people into racist fucknuggets that it becomes an issue.
The way people react to shit like this is disgustingly racist, and I’m so, so sorry you’re having to bear the brunt of it.
For anyone who doesn’t know what happened in Woolwich yesterday, a couple of nutjobs attacked and killed a soldier and happily told people that they were doing it for Islam because of what soldiers were doing in Afganistan and Iraq. Muslim leaders have spoken out saying ‘what the fuck, this has nothing to do with islam and they’re totally batshit’ and the mayor of London was like ‘don’t be dicks to muslims about this’ but unfortunately england can be as fear-mongering and racist as America and so the usual MUSLIM TERRORISTS GONNA KILL US ALL COMING OVER HERE THREATENING US etc etc rhetoric is all coming out, it’s bullshit to the highest order.
The racist fuckwads don’t make up the whole country, anon. I’m so sorry. :c <333333 And it’s not silly at all; whatever helps you! For what it’s worth, if I was there, I’d definitely have punched all the dicks in the throat for being dicks to you over this.