Television Tuesday :: television and the Bechdel test, part one.

15 Apr

Since the beginning of the year, I have been keeping track of television shows and the Bechdel test (do two women talk for more than thirty seconds about something other than a man).  I’ve only been doing it with shows which had seasons that started after January 1 2014 (i.e. The Walking Dead and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are not part of the tally) because… I don’t know.  Statistics are comforting.  The people I watch the most television with are already getting tired of me talking about this.

I won’t be posting the entire summary until the end of 2014, because that’s how I designed the… not-quite-experiment… and I want to be very technical about it, but I will be routinely commenting on certain things that doing this teaches me, beginning with tonight.

Season five of Justified finished airing last week.  Now, I’ve liked Justified since the beginning (we came for Timothy Olyphant and I stayed for Rachel [Erica Tazel] and Tim [Jacob Pitts], among other things) but one of its biggest failings has always been the lack of Bechdel passing.  It’s always had good female characters (Rachel, Ava [Joelle Carter], Winona [Natalie Zea], Mags [Margo Martindale], Loretta [Kaitlyn Dever], etcetera) but there hasn’t been a lot of interaction between them, or in the case of Mags and Loretta they often (not always) were talking about men and anyway that was way back in season two.  I wasn’t expecting Justified to pass at all this season, since they rarely do, so imagine my surprise when they had a 66% pass rate by episode.

Why was this?  Why, Ava went to women’s prison.

It makes sense that women’s prison would involve talking to other women, and it makes sense that they’d talk about things other than men.  In large part this is just because there weren’t any men present, and sure, they did have conversations that mentioned men on the outside, but that was not the only thing that they discussed.  They had schemes of their own, friendships of their own, rivalries of their own, a women-centric religious circle of their own —

And it occurred to me a few episodes in how really sad it was that the only reason for this abundance of female stuff was that there were very, very few men physically present.  This couldn’t exist on the outside, apparently, the show had to physically remove the women (and do so in order to set up a scenario pertaining to Ava and her man, mind, I’m not forgetting that) from the male world.

Gosh, that’s a sobering thought.

–your fangirl heroine.

that's the approach you're taking

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