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greensleeves

[No Spoilers] Is the third season now 2-0 on the Bechdel Test?

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It's okay. The thread ended up being posted many hours after I had originally submitted it. I'm sorry I wasn't there to keep it from getting so derailed. If I had realized that so many people would misunderstand the purpose of the test I would have included an explanation. Don't feel obligated to go out and research, just know that what you were originally told about the purpose of the Bechdel test is wrong.

I want to be angry at you for so flagrantly stating I'm wrong, but you're so damn nice and polite about it. :P

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This is extraordinarily stupid, because in fiction your characters talk about the other characters - especially in one that's bread and butter is intrigue. There are more male characters (typical in an epic about a patriarchal society), so of course the female characters are going to talk about male characters.

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Why should the inevitable presence of trolls prevent discussion of gender in media? I wish they had posted the thread earlier; then I might have been able to correct protar's complete misrepresentation of the test and actually steered this towards something meaningful.

Protar's view of what the purpose of the test is what 95% of people believe the test measures. Its rarely if ever used in conversation NOT pertaining to how women are portrayed in a film or show from a feminist standpoint as far as I've seen.

Its a leading conversation, and its bound to start more trouble and conversation that has zero to do with asoiaf.

Its not at all like posting an anti dany or stannis thread that is sure to break out into asoiaf based trolling/warfare.

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It's okay. The thread ended up being posted many hours after I had originally submitted it. I'm sorry I wasn't there to keep it from getting so derailed. If I had realized that so many people would misunderstand the purpose of the test I would have included an explanation. Don't feel obligated to go out and research, just know that what you were originally told about the purpose of the Bechdel test is wrong.

All the posts in tge game of thrones media section require mod approval unfortunately. Threads in the book sections go up immediately.

I do appreciate your explanationsI was just commenting on what I've seen and where I thought the thread would lead (and where it went). At least the thread served to educate a few of us!

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This is extraordinarily stupid, because in fiction your characters talk about the other characters - especially in one that's bread and butter is intrigue. There are more male characters (typical in an epic about a patriarchal society), so of course the female characters are going to talk about male characters.

Well, yeah. And I don't think anyone would dispute that it is a rather brutal patriarchal society in which most of the action centers around men. So....what's the point? We should have less GoT's, and more, uh, Lifetime? I'm not a fan of any form of pressure -- which is the ultimate purpose of all this -- to have fiilmakers consciously change their stories to meet the expectations of interest groups, particularly when that pressure is likely to produce things of less interest to me personally. And it is particularly likely to have distortive effects on historical drama/fiction.

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The bechdel test is supposed to determine if a work of fiction portrays women well or not. Basically a piece of fiction must have a scene in which two women have an entire conversation without mentioning men.

Of course it's a ridiculous measure of the presence, or lack of sexism in a work. Two women in one series could pass the bechdel test by talking about how wonderful cleaning, cooking and shopping is. Another pair of women in another series could fail because their business discussion just happened to mention Pete from work.

This. I'm not saying our society is not sexist. It is, a lot. However, if you say the conversation can not even mention men at all, the test becomes very biased. Because considering a cast were 50% men and 50% women, most conversation between two members of the same sex will naturally at least mention one member of the other sex. Characters tend to talk about other characters, you know?

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Misinterpreted or not, I don't really see why you need a test to springboard a conversation about the amount of women and/or female elements of a piece of fiction...Just start talking about it. Bringing up the Bechdel test, especially on the Internet, just defeats the purpose because 98% of people mis-interpret it in the first place. That, and every single time Ive read about a work passing/failing the Bechdel test, the conversation always spirals out of control like this and the original intent of the convo--discussing the actual work--is wasted on arguing about the damn test.

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Because considering a cast were 50% men and 50% women, most conversation between two members of the same sex will naturally at least mention one member of the other sex. Characters tend to talk about other characters, you know?

And yet, as others have said before me, we have plenty of scenes where male characters never mention female characters at all.

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Sorry, I had to go and actually work. :frown5:

You deserve a proper answer, and by Gods, you shall have one :). It`s not obligation, those are manners, and beside that I want to. I thought that Bechdel test was about importance of female characters to the story and that their appearance at the big screen is essential. That was where I was heading with my first reply.

Mladen, you are, as always, a gentleman that I highly respect. Please never doubt that. Given what this thread has become, I recommend you go on to other things.

"Shudders"

I'm happy just being someone who displays common human decency thank you :P there's far to much baggage associated with the word feminist and the lack of a solid definition is part of the reason I think it's kind of pointless - there's no direction and eventually the more extremist groups simply tear the more reasonable groups apart.

Interestingly GRRM used to identify as a feminist until some in the feminism movement (I'm guessing when 2nd wave was at it's peak?... I'm not an expert on these things) decided that only women could define what feminism is, and he then thought that the more respectful thing to do would be to stop self-identifying himself that way.

I think this is flawed because a patriarchal society hurts men as well as women. For me, the very name is in some ways flawed because at first glance it can seem to exclude men. I can't think of a good alternative term though. :dunno:

Racism doesn't have an equivalent term for example...

Well fair enough. I mean I don't think that it can be used as a measure of sexism, so really we've been on the same side on that matter the entire time. But as I like to say, people are always entitled to their incorrect opinions so if people want to use it like that I'm not going to stop them, though I will disagree with them.

I would go with the option that the bechdel test is simply a bit off. Female interactions regarding men can be meaningful. To imply otherwise is to imply that men automatically make a conversation not meaningful which of course is wrong.

But surely, if the bechdel test is used to determine that the entire industry is sexist, it must be implicating that some of the works which fail are sexist right? But not all, and as you say we must look at each individual film on it's own merits to determine which. And we also have to do that to determine if there is a meaningful female presence, and if the work is female centric. So if each work must be analysed in depth before we can say anything about the female presence for an individual film, what's the point of the test?

When we apply the Bechdel test and the reverse Bechdel test to widely released movies in any given year we see a predictable outcome: almost all of them will pass the reverse Bechdel test and a much larger number of them fail the original Bechdel test. The fact that this result is consistent year after year means that the Bechdel test (and its reverse) are measuring *something* (If it were random the trend wouldn't be so consistent).

It's not all that unusual for a measure to be useful to study trends in larger groups but not at the individual level. The most well known example I can think of right now is BMI (body mass index). (Note that I am not a health professional.) From what I have heard, BMI is not good at classifying at the individual level (the anecdote I've heard tossed around is that it classifies George Clooney as obese). However, BMI is useful at looking at trends across large populations. Why is it used in place of methods that might be more accurate for individuals? Because it's easy and cheap; it would be prohibitively expensive to use other measures on large populations.

If you are a doctor, however, you shouldn't classify a patient as obese based solely on BMI. It might be a warning flag, but you should take a closer look (or even just a casual look).

A similar logic justifies the Bechdel Test. It would be nice to do a thorough analysis of gender in all movies and then condense that into understandable trends, but it's completely impractical. (Also any results would be accused of being 'made-up' or 'biased'). The Bechdel Test and its reverse are relatively easy measurements to take.

The consistency of the results of the Bechdel test and the reverse Bechdel test mean they are definitely capturing something in the wider industry. What is that something? I don't think it's much of a stretch to call it the meaningful presence of women in movies.

I want to be angry at you for so flagrantly stating I'm wrong, but you're so damn nice and polite about it. :P

It's all part of my evil plan. :lol:

All the posts in tge game of thrones media section require mod approval unfortunately. Threads in the book sections go up immediately.

I do appreciate your explanationsI was just commenting on what I've seen and where I thought the thread would lead (and where it went). At least the thread served to educate a few of us!

Yes, I think I might have started a thread in this section last year, but I had completely forgotten about the wait. I don't think I'll forget again.

I didn't mean for this thread to be a debate on gender issues or even a debate on the value of the Bechdel Test. I honestly just wanted opinions from those more knowledgable than me on some details of application. I'm pretty lenient with my interpretation and think that an exchange should count even if it is part of a larger conversation (I think this is the only consistent way because a short exchange could happen outside of the context of a larger conversation and pass the third condition... yet both cases would seem to be equally valid).

I just wanted to know about the whether this episode passed. There is a large contingent of people who hang out on this board that I think could give me good answers. Some of them posted for which I am grateful.

In the long summer of my youth (last night) I forgot that you can't discuss anything even tangentially related to gender issues on the internet.

For the trolls that gave a one sentence post calling either the thread or the Bechdel test stupid (or pointless etc...) without trying to engage in any meaningful discourse, I will now honor you with an appropriate response:

Nana nana boo boo; stick your head in doo doo

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The Bechdel test is not a very good metric for judging the portrayal of women in a piece of fiction. Female characters could pass the Bechdel test by talking about how much they love to clean their homes with lemon scented Lysol, or conversely they could fail by having an intelligent conversation about an esteemed author or public figure.

It is better to ask a series of analytical questions to judge the purpose of the character within the story and the author's intent.

For example:

Is the character flawed?

Is the character only meant to represent an ideal?

Is the character multidimensional or a stereotype?

Most, if not all, of the female characters in ASoIaF will prove to be well written, strong and realistic. That is not so surprising seeing that when asked how he writes female characters, Martin said something like that he writes them as people because that is what they are. There's the only test that matters.

The show definitely fails when judged on its own because it has a bunch of invented characters whose only dimensions are T&A. Most of the well written female characters from the source material remain intact, but that is a credit to the books more than their on screen adaptation.

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For all that people want to just dismiss it as useless, I'd agree with the point made above about establishing trends vs using it to examine individual cases.

I also think that by the strict definition this episode does fail, although I'm with you that there is a decent chunk to both the garden scene and Cat/Talisa that would pass until later. I think a more meaningful way (or perhaps just alternative) to look at it is rather than looking at whether a man is mentioned, it should instead examine whether the scene is furthering the characterisation of or is about a man or something else. Under this criteria I think all of the scenes in question would be passes.

The Catelyn scene is very much about Cat, if anything baby Jon in that scene is being referred to just as a proper to further the characterisation of Cat. The garden scene was similarly about Sansa and her opening up and admitting out loud what Joff is, with a secondary aspect being the reactions of the other two. The scenes are furthering the female characters, not just serving as off screen characterisation of males which another important thing to look at. Are the female characters in this story fleshed out, realised characters. Of course through that lens all of GoT gets a resounding pass.

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The bechdel test is supposed to determine if a work of fiction portrays women well or not. Basically a piece of fiction must have a scene in which two women have an entire conversation without mentioning men.

Is there a name for a paralleled test? Such as males not talking about females?

Cause I'd like to make some guys I have to deal with adhere to it.

Jokes aside, I think context is exceptionally more important than 'if men are mentioned.' Context meaning, did the content portray patriarchy or pro-male sexism?

That said, this scene (Margery, Queen of Thorns, and Sansa) does deal with a patriarchal element, making it not pass the Bechdel Test, but /crap no spoilers/ it leads to Pro-Margery and Queen of Thorns events.

A better (and non-spoiler), if contrived, example is if Danny and her Unsullied decided to start making their male enemies eunuchs. This certainly wouldn't support patriarchy, but if they mentioned any of the men whom they cut, it would not pass the Bechdel Test.

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I find it odd that some posters are saying that the test is not about how feminist or non-feminist a movie or show is but to show how "women-centric" the industry is.

What is the overall goal of the test then? Surely by pointing out the lack of women-centric entertaintain you are bringing to light how non-feminist it is?

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Jokes aside, I think context is exceptionally more important than 'if men are mentioned.' Context meaning, did the content portray patriarchy or pro-male sexism?

In my opinion, even that is too broad to be meaningful. All of Western society is a patriarchy and the feudalistic setting of GoT is even more so. Female characters could have a conversation about that fact and fail the Bechdel test. Maybe you meant that if the content of the conversation supports patriarchy it should count as a failure.

I agree that the proportion of male characters whom converse without discussing women compared to the reverse says something, but it's nothing of substance. It would be more useful to count the number of male to male conversations which mention women without sexualizing them. Or, as karaddin said, counting female conversations which mention males for some reason other than to provide the male with free off-screen characterization.

Seeing that women can have a conversation about a man that doesn't serve some kind of sexist trope, but can also have conversations that aren't about men but which are stereotypical, the Bechdel test is not very useful. Since we do live in a patriarchal society with gender inequality it is totally logical that women should talk about men more than the reverse, even if it isn't the kind of meaningless conversation you might see in a romantic comedy. Men hold more power in society and thus are more likely to be the topic of conversation. The context means nothing because the context is the cause. What really matters is the content.

You could make a case that men speak less of women in fiction because we don't take women as seriously in our society, but I would argue that the best result would be more portrayals of that instead of less women talking about men. The amount of conversational real estate that a person or group inhabits is indicative of its status and power, so what we want is for women to be a larger part of dialogue, and for the content of dialogue to be equally multidimensional for both sexes. As such, it means little that women speak more often of men now because they are unfortunately taken less seriously as a whole, and to change that the answer is NOT to limit what women in fiction can respectably talk about, but to broaden it.

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The Bechdel test is not a very good metric for judging the portrayal of women in a piece of fiction. Female characters could pass the Bechdel test by talking about how much they love to clean their homes with lemon scented Lysol, or conversely they could fail by having an intelligent conversation about an esteemed author or public figure.

I don't think that would fail the Bechdel test. I think the men have to be characters in the work. So two women talking about the works of Charles Dickens would not fail the bechdel test. However, two women talking about Charles Dickens in a biopic of Charles Dickens would fail. And would also make sense for that work.

I think the point of the bechdel is that if two women's only conversation is about the male characters then they're not proper characters in their own right, they're just there to reflect back on the male characters. But it's not a perfect measure, it's only a rule of thumb.

In my opinion, even that is too broad to be meaningful. All of Western society is a patriarchy and the feudalistic setting of GoT is even more so. Female characters could have a conversation about that fact and fail the Bechdel test. Maybe you meant that if the content of the conversation supports patriarchy it should count as a failure.

I agree that the proportion of male characters whom converse without discussing women compared to the reverse says something, but it's nothing of substance. It would be more useful to count the number of male to male conversations which mention women without sexualizing them. Or, as karaddin said, counting female conversations which mention males for some reason other than to provide the male with free off-screen characterization.

Seeing that women can have a conversation about a man that doesn't serve some kind of sexist trope, but can also have conversations that aren't about men but which are stereotypical, the Bechdel test is not very useful. Since we do live in a patriarchal society with gender inequality it is totally logical that women should talk about men more than the reverse, even if it isn't the kind of meaningless conversation you might see in a romantic comedy. Men hold more power in society and thus are more likely to be the topic of conversation. The context means nothing because the context is the cause. What really matters is the content.

You could make a case that men speak less of women in fiction because we don't take women as seriously in our society, but I would argue that the best result would be more portrayals of that instead of less women talking about men. The amount of conversational real estate that a person or group inhabits is indicative of its status and power, so what we want is for women to be a larger part of dialogue, and for the content of dialogue to be equally multidimensional for both sexes. As such, it means little that women speak more often of men now because they are unfortunately taken less seriously as a whole, and to change that the answer is NOT to limit what women in fiction can respectably talk about, but to broaden it.

The Bechdel is not about limiting anything, just pointing out the limited female roles in Hollywood films generally. Pointing out ways to modify the test to make it really measure sexism/feminism is missing the point. While the test is a feminist test, it is not a test for feminism. Not for individual films. It is meant only to flag a general problem with female presence in movies.

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The Bechdel test is not meant to be a be-all-end-all measure of sexism or lack thereof in a piece of fiction. All it claims to be is one measure of the sophistication with which a movie or show handles female characters.

Fiction tends to prize male-male and male-female relationships over female-female ones. The the presence of a male character is what's supposed to make a scene, a relationship, etc, important and valuable, worth the screentime, worth our attention. The Bechdel test encourages a break with that value assignment.

Game of Thrones does pass the Bechdel test. Its addition of Shae and Sansa's relationship has been a success in my opinion. Sansa and the Tyrell women were a good example of the books themselves letting female characters have interactions, and the show enhances this because they have made Margaery more prominent than she was in the books, thus making her interactions with Sansa more prominent too. Talisa and Cat really haven't gotten to the point where their interaction was anything more than exposition, but that could change.

(BUT just because the show is somewhat good about giving female characters interactions with each other (and they have an uphill battle here given the source material and its inspirations) doesn't mean they don't have other problems. A piece of fiction can be "feminist" in one way and sexist in another at the same time. It's perfectly possible that Game of Thrones has given us more legitimate female-female interactions than what we had in the books and that they have given is shitty sexposition scenes have at least on a few occasions used female-female interactions as mere titillation. That goes back to the Bechdel test being just one of many tools.)

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Fiction tends to prize male-male and male-female relationships over female-female ones. The the presence of a male character is what's supposed to make a scene, a relationship, etc, important and valuable, worth the screentime, worth our attention. The Bechdel test encourages a break with that value assignment.

Why is that a normatively good result? I suppose I could understand someone wanting to apply that test to fiction set in the modern Western world, but if you're doing historical fiction, military fiction, or fantasy fiction set in a more medieval setting, or fiction set in a patriarchal culture of another nation, aren't you essentially arguing for the subjugation of realism to ideology?

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Only if you believe that it's unrealistic that women ever had important meaningful relationships with each other before the advent of modern feminism. I don't, and a lot of historians don't, rather they think that those relationships receive under-representation in literature because of the relative reservation of education for men exclusively. Since men were the ones who recorded things (both fiction and nonfiction) and since female-female relationships by definition exclude men, there is a real, missing history. It is thus a good result because it gives voice to the under-voiced (and incidentally poses no genuine threat to men, for all the resistance there is to the idea of its importance).

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Only if you believe that it's unrealistic that women ever had important meaningful relationships with each other before the advent of modern feminism. I don't, and a lot of historians don't, rather they think that those relationships receive under-representation in literature because of the relative reservation of education for men exclusively. Since they were the ones who recorded things (both fiction and nonfiction) and since female-female relationships by definition exclude men, there is a real, missing history

So what? If someone wants to make a film about the "missing history", which they'll largely be inventing because of the of the lack of records, that's fine. But the fact is that in those patriarchal societies, men are going to have been the primary movers of major events that people may find of the most interest. If you're doing a biopic of Hitler, then the focus should be on the factors that made him of historical import and interest. Whether the most important factors yo're going to address in the limited time available included conversations between women should be irrelevant to the making of that movie.

If you're going to make a movie on the Battle of Alesia, or the Chosin Reservoir campaign, then criticism of those films on the grounds that there aren't enough women represented misses the point of why the movie is of interest in the first place. You'd end up with tokenism to the exclusion of something actually relevant to the story.

It is thus a good result because it gives voice to the under-voiced....

Why is that a good result? If you're talking about something that is intended to be primarily educational, that's one thing. But generally, we're talking entertainment. And particularly in historical dramas, the less interesting/more mundane something is, the more under-voiced it is going to be. At least we hope. The daily lives of peasants, or weavers, or dye-makers,are all "under-voiced" historically, because the focus is generally on the nobility/military who drive major events. I want to hear Henry V's speech at Agincourt and see the battle, not listen to a farrior and blacksmith haggling, or every dye-maker and tanner bitching about their jobs. By the same token, I don't want to listen to Caesar's wife discuss what to set out for a banquet if it means missing a conversation with Cicero.

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First, I'd be cautious to bring in "realism" in regards to a TV show about a Fantasy World. Of course we don't want there to be a dissonance to "reality" (to put it simply, "humans" in the story need to be like the "humans" we are, otherwise there's little point in drawing comparisons), but to which one? Is the World of Game of Thrones like 15th century England? Are the Dothraki supposed to be Huns, Mongols or more like Comanche? So I'd be wary to bring in the realism argument to much. Also because of a second more important theme.

Every show is also a mirror of the producers and the public who watches it. It's fairly deeply anchored in the time we are living in. I'd almost guarantee you (if I could ;)) that in 20 years, such a pop culture success as Game of Thrones will be looked at as a mirror of our time now (namely the turn of the century when GRRM wrote it and the early 2010's in which the show aired) just as the Lord of the Rings is often tied to Tolkien's very questionable "white-centric" worldview (not overtly racist, but the undertones are what counts). [That's not supposed to be a critique, since it doesn't devalue his work].

Take for example the much more liberal view the show lets its characters takes on homosexuality. In the books, which are less of a mirror for pop culture and society today, the subject is much more contained and hidden. Many casual readers weren't even aware that Renly and Loras were supposed to be a pair. This 'context and era-appropriate' thing is very interesting, even if GRRM in the books bends it a little too 'liberal' as well. But in comparison to the show its nothing. Here we have common soldiers discussing it, Marg flinching when Joffrey wants the death sentence for Loras, Jaime talking of a Throne of Cocks and so on. My point is that I am fine with the show going the ahistorical way with homosexuality because it mirrors the fight in our society and the show is very much rooted in the popculture of 2013.

Going back to the original point, I think it's important that GoT doesn't depict the women only in the context of "how it would be realistic" (because we don't know how that would be in a fantasy setting), but uses it as well to mirror things from our contemporary society. (And I could further argue to complete the circle, that the show does that by contrasting Catelyn and Cersei and Brienne's approach to challenging the society).

But those are not the point of the Bechdel test. That one started in a freaking comic, so it's cleary not meant to be totally serious. It rathers just asks a question. So it's a starting point about all these discussions we are having f.e. in this thread. Failing the test doesn't mean anything for a single work and it'd be very unfair to do the test for a single episode of such a serialized drama. That's not what it was made for.

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