Passing the Bechdel Test

Have you given anything a Bechdel test? Have you ever heard of the Bechdel Test?
I’d never heard of it either (and I went to a women’s college!) until it popped up on an internet group I belong to, and I had to look it up.

The Bechdel test (or Bechdel-Wallace test) is a measure of representation of women in fiction. It first appeared in Allison Bechdel’s 1985 cartoon strip, Dykes to Watch Out For (I didn’t name it) commenting on films, brought on by a quote from Virginia Woolf, in that women in fiction might sometimes be mother and daughter, but rarely are two women friends in literature. Almost always, women were viewed by their relationship to men – wanting a man, chasing a man, depending on a man, chasing off a man, etc. (Hence Jane Austen, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”). Real women in real life talk to other women about more than just men (even if it’s only about their cat or dog).

Therefore, Bechdel gave three commandments for films to be considered women-friendly (and by default, TV and books):

  1. It must have at least two women in it (preferably with names)
  2. Who talk to each other (preferably for at least 60 seconds)
  3. About something besides a man

And the off-hand comment in a sarcastic lesbian cartoon strip surged until it’s become an almost a standard metric for the industry.

Seems pretty simple, right?

Various groups have researched more than 8000 films, and concluded that 42-50% of films cannot pass the test, and half of those that do pass do so only because two women are discussing marriage or babies. Being a female-oriented show about women does not mean the film or program can pass the test. Even female-cast TV shows such as Sex in the City don’t pass, because almost all the discussion is about men. Big-budget female-lead action films such as Lucy or Atomic Blonde or Salt fail, because the secondary characters are almost always men – there are no other women. Star Trek, which broke many TV taboos, can’t pass the test – there are many women, and they talk quite a bit, but almost never to each other. Lost in Space had three women trapped in a tin can together, and they almost never spoke to each other for more than one or two lines, occasionally. Firefly, for its very brief run, hits the mark more often than not. Okay, I Love Lucy wins for most realistic female friends ever, as does Gone With the Wind, thanks to Miss Melly, so time period is not a decisive factor. We haven’t necessarily gotten better with age, despite feminism.

Various groups have researched more than 8000 films, and concluded that 42-50% of films cannot pass the test, and half of those that do pass do so only because two women are discussing marriage or babies. Being a female-oriented show about women does not mean the film or program can pass the test. Even female-cast TV shows such as Sex in the City don’t pass, because almost all the discussion is about men. Big-budget female-lead action films such as Lucy or Atomic Blonde or Salt fail, because the secondary characters are almost always men – there are no other women. Star Trek, which broke many TV taboos, can’t pass the test – there are many women, and they talk quite a bit, but almost never to each other. Lost in Space had three women trapped in a tin can together, and they almost never spoke to each other for more than one or two lines, occasionally. Firefly, for its very brief run, hits the mark more often than not. Okay, I Love Lucy wins for most realistic female friends ever, as does Gone With the Wind, thanks to Miss Melly, so time period is not a decisive factor. We haven’t necessarily gotten better with age, despite feminism.

Not passing the Bechdel test does NOT make a film bad, nor does it make it not worth watching. Not every movie is going to center around women – Dunkirk, for example, a splendid movie about a specific battle in World War II. Women were just not involved in that. Stand By Me – a magnificent story of four young boys on a quest. Girls aren’t in the story, and if you skip this movie because of that, then you’re missing one of the best American movies. Nor is every film required to pass the Bechdel test. Casino passes two of the three qualifications, but women are mistreated throughout the film. Inclusion is just that – inclusion, not a judgment of how women are treated by the story, not a judgment of female competence, not a judgment of feminism (Gravity, with a female astronaut who saves the day, can’t pass the test, though The Martian, with a male lead, does). A woman may love a movie that can’t pass the test, and a man can certainly love a film that does. Movies of every genre pass or fail; there is no specific type of film to look for.

All the Bechdel test does, really, is point out films in which women – a full 50% of the population – are a larger focus of the story, and even if they aren’t, they’re portrayed as real, well-rounded people who speak to each other about real subjects, even if it’s about burning a roast, not just love-starved buttercups who are nothing without a man. So, if you’re on the lookout for films that show women – important or background characters – in a more realistic light, here are 15 various films that do pass the Bechdel test:

The Finest Hours

Little Miss Sunshine

Wonder Woman

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Last Jedi

Girl, Interrupted

Hidden Figures

Kill Bill

Thelma and Louise

The Exorcist

Chicago

Frozen

Birds of Prey

Bill and Ted Face the Music

Knives Out

May is Mental Health Month

One in every five people in the US carry some sort of “mental Illness” diagnosis – 20% – making it almost twice as common as killer heart disease, yet people hear the term “mental illness” and pictures of unshaven, alcohol-soaked homeless men and babbling old women with uncombed hair and too many cats come to mind (Don’t judge me!).

In reality, that’s far from the common truth. The umbrella term of “mental illness” includes everyone from your depressed cousin, your churning anxiety over political situations, and Uncle Louie, who served in Iraq and spends most days with his friend Jack Daniels. It includes the teen with autism who works down at the laundromat (don’t jump on me; a strong majority of autism includes OCD and anxiety, with phobias topping the list at 30%), the hoarder you drive past on your way to work, that girl on the cheerleading team who wears a baggy size 0, and that guy at work who stays four hours later than anyone else and talks so fast you can’t follow him. It includes celebrities, like Robin Williams, Margot Kidder, Robert Downey Jr, Brittney Spears, Carrie Fisher, Brooke Shields, and so many more.

“Mental Illness” is more common than COVID.

While some introverts have fared well through the pandemic and quarantines, many people have not. Rates of depression in adults went from 8% pre-pandemic to 28% – almost one in three – after. For those who lived alone, the rates approach 40%. Isolation, job loss, poverty, loss of loved ones, anxiety, and long-haul COVID symptoms all play their part in feeling crushed by a microbe. Among children, who can’t always understand the details of what’s going on, rates of depression and anxiety straddled 40%.

Unfortunately, our image of “mental illness” is tainted by historic images of schizophrenia, the king of all mental illnesses, and often the most resistant to treatment. We watch movies such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, while not remembering that these movies depict mental illness treatment from as much as 70 years ago, when diagnoses were vague, medications were ineffective and dangerous, people believed in insulin comas and the disaster of lobotomies, and there were no PET or MRI scans to show exactly what the problem was. There was a time not very long ago when the number one treatment for syphilis was mercury. Times have changed, and chances are there’s actual help for that now.

How can something affecting 30% of the population be abnormal? Here’s a fact: it’s not, but our refusal to admit it keeps people feeling ashamed and afraid to seek treatment. If you feel down, if the social distancing and anxieties are getting to you, if your child is fearful and withdrawn and having trouble sleeping, reach out! Help is just a phone call away. No insurance? No worries. There are places to help you get medical coverage, and places that work on a sliding scale. There IS help, for everyone. Don’t be afraid to ask.

If you feel like life is overwhelming you, if you are worried about a loved one, if you are struggling with just getting through your day, CALL the CT ACTION line (Adult Crisis Telephone Intervention and Options Network). It’s available 24 hours a day, because the worst thoughts usually happen during the night.  1-800-467-3135,  or just call 211, which is the general help line for state services.

Don’t want to feel like you’re the only one on the planet feeling down? Check out these popular books and films on people having difficulties. Chances are, yours aren’t that bad.

Wick-ed Action

I love a good action film. In going over lists of various film genres, I discovered I’ve seen the majority of the “best” action films, though I don’t always agree with what is considered an “action” film. I expect an action film to have – well, action: a lot of movement of characters or equipment, such as vehicles. It could be modern reality based – James Bond or Air Force One, or futuristic, such as Terminator, Alien, or Serenity, comic book heroes, or war-type films such as Commando or Rambo (my grandmother made me take her to every Stallone and Schwartzeneggar film that came out). There should be suspense, perhaps mystery, a vehicle chase, and almost always a good fight scene. Body counts are expected, but graphic violence isn’t required – Suicide Squad had a high bullet count, but little gore. History of Violence had a lower bullet count, but extremely graphic depictions. I don’t mind gore, but I won’t watch cruelty or sadism – I shut off Killing Season because it was focused on torture, not action.

I adored John Wick, an action movie with Keanu Reeves as an assassin who tries to retire but is sucked back into the business against his will. It was just about everything I could want in a film – the script is good, the acting is good, the cast is excellent and the action is awesome. It’s just a good all-around film. I saw John Wick 2 on opening day (the DVD was released June 13) and – it was good, but not quite as great as the first. The action is impeccable – perhaps the best actual hand combat choreography I’ve ever seen (especially compared to the farce of Batman v. Superman). The script is good. But Wick’s lines, so eloquent before, are cut to choppy, often one-word sentences, which Reeves is not good at. It’s got a high bullet count, a high body count, and realistically graphic splatter from a man who was known for killing four people with a pencil.

One thing I noticed about John Wick 2, though not as obvious as it was in London Has Fallen, a C+ film with multiple script flaws: the impact of videogames on choreography of action sequences. JW 2 has a wonderful flight/fight scene through the ancient underground tunnels of Rome, but you can see the influence of popular games such as Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto. Run, stop, run, corner, shoot, shoot balcony. Man pops out of hall, bang. Run, stop, turn, shoot. It might fit the tone of the scene, but it’s very stiff and staged. London Has Fallen was much worse: the greatest action sequence of the film, the Big Rescue, and the movie looked as if you’d taken a clip from Call of Duty, overlayed it with actors, and CGI’d them together. Maybe it was my TV upgrading the blu-ray to 4K, but you could almost see pixelation in the edges of the graphics. You could have checked it off a list: guy pops up behind garbage can? Check. Drive-by shot through windshield? Check. Balcony? Check. It was so obvious that not only did it stand out, it was distracting, and you stopped watching the progression because you were so offset by the fakeness, a “Where-Have-I-Seen-This-Before?”

Is this the wave of the future? I hope not. Sure, you can look back at an early Bond film and see how cheesy the fight scenes are. You can almost hear them counting off in their heads: fist, block, step, kick, block, groin, throw, grab, twist… You can marvel at the slo-mo twists and turns of The Matrix sequences, but that’s not exactly reality, either. CGI is wonderful – it gave us Legolas sliding down oliphaunts , Avatar, and Inception. Almost all movies are made with a green-screen at this point, even comedies. But videogames are another empire – like trying to equate a romance film with porn: all the action, none of the reason. You can pop bullets all day, but why you’re doing it is a vague battle against “bad guys.” Relying on a videogame sequence kills the creativity needed. Think of the cliché of the good guy crouched down, pointing people what direction to go and then shooting at the target to cover them, or the stock western of a shootout on main street, with townsfolk peering through broken shutters. Action movies need to reinvent themselves by nature to keep themselves fresh and interesting.

Videogames are fun. Action films are fun. Sometimes movies based on a videogame are really fun (Warcraft, Tomb Raider, Mortal Kombat). But using videogame mentality in place of a more expensive or creative thought process – that’s cheating, and it doesn’t look nice.

Have you noticed the “videogame effect” in any other films?

What’s Happening at Cheshire Library in October

From Phantom to Scavenger Hunt to Halloween Fun, our programs have something for everyone this month!

screen-shot-2011-09-14-at-3-16-10-pmPhantom of the Opera

Saturday Oct 1, 2016, 1:00  –  4:00 PM

Celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first performance of Phantom of the Opera, the longest running musical on Broadway.  Watch a performance of Phantom filmed on stage at the Royal Albert Hall in London and starring Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess. No registration required.
Meet the Phantom!
Pose for pictures with the Phantom before and after the show!
Refreshments will be served.

41lfm8nymqlBreaking Bread: Is Gluten-Free For You?

Monday Oct 3, 2016, 6:30  –  8:00 PM

You’ve heard all this talk about the gluten-free diet. But what is it? And how do you know if you are one of the 30% of the population who should be on it? Heather Jacobsen, author of GOING GLUTEN-FREE: 7 Surprising Facts You Should Know if You Want to Achieve Dietary Success, will discuss just what the gluten-free diet is all about, and whether or not you might benefit from it. If you suffer from chronic symptoms of one kind or another, you might find some answers in her discussion. Registration required.

live_wellLearn How to Self-Manage Your Health

Wednesdays Oct 5, 12, 19, 26,  Nov 2, 9, 2016, 12:30  –  3:00 PM

Attend a FREE 6-week Live Well workshop and learn skills to understand and take control of your ongoing health condition.  Learn better ways of dealing with pain, fatigue, difficult emotions, anxiety and stress.  Learn easy exercises to help improve or maintain strength and energy.  Learn ways to improve your nutrition, appropriate use of medications, and more. Sponsored by the Western CT Area Agency on Aging, the State of CT Department of Aging, and the CT Department of Public Health. Please register for each workshop online.

lgsznxpcn1agybr5xprspoyzInternet Safety Seminar

2 sessions:

  • Wednesday Oct 5, 2016, 1:30  –  3:00 PM, or
  • Thursday Oct 6, 2016, 6:30  –  8:00 PM

Staff from Apex Technology Group will give a presentation on Internet safety, specifically the following topics:

  • Phishing
  • Ransomare
  • Malware
  • Passwords
  • Email safety
  • Good browsing habits

There will be an open forum for Q&A after the session, along with handouts with additional helpful information. Please register online.

tumblr_odiqnpwryl1rmidh1o1_540Town-Wide Instagram Scavenger Hunt

Saturday Oct 8, 2016,  9:30 AM  –  2:00 PM

Grab your family, friends, and mobile device for the second annual Town-Wide Scavenger Hunt! Form a team and assemble at the Library in the morning, then go all around Cheshire snapping photos of clues and posting them to Instagram. Later, meet back at the library for a party and prizes. Learn a little local history and have a lot of fun! Children and adults of all ages are welcome to participate. Teams must provide their own transportation and smartphone/tablet with data service and Instagram app. Registration required. (Registration opens September 1 and ends Friday, October 7.)

122008201420ct20farm20table20final20copyAuthor Talk: Tracey Medeiros

Wednesday Oct 12, 2016, 6:30  –  8:00 PM

Join cookbook author Tracey Medeiros for a discussion of her book, The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook, along with a cooking demo. The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook  brings home cooks a stellar collection of 150 delicious recipes from the Nutmeg State’s celebrated chefs and the dedicated farmers, fishers, ranchers, foragers, and cheese makers they partner with to create dynamic New American and New England fare.  Ms. Medeiros will sign copies of her book at the end of the program.  Purchase copies of her book in advance at your local bookstore or online. Registration required.

smylb9Tea and Food Pairings

Thursday Oct 13, 2016, 6:00 PM

Step out of the cold and enjoy some hot tea with Unionville’s own Culteavo! Owner Viviana Pinhasi will take you into the complex and fascinating world of teas, focusing on what foods pair best with different types of tea. Culteavo Tea Shop in Unionville is a local gourmet tea shop offering over 100 kinds of loose-leaf tea, including black, green, oolong and white teas, as well as herbal infusions and tea blends. Space is limited for this adult only program, please register early.

zumba-for-kids-2Zumba® for Kids

Friday Oct 14, 2016, 10:00  –  11:00 AM

Join us for an  hour filled with energy and exercise routines created to the latest music, like hip-hop, reggaeton and cumbia. Zumba® also increases focus and self-confidence, boosts metabolism, and improves coordination and balance. For all ages. [Parents and/or caregivers are welcome to participate with their children.] No Registration Required.

k16061577Halloween Donuts with Grownups

Saturday Oct 15, 2016, 11:00 AM  –  12:00 PM

Enjoy this Halloween-themed Donuts with Grownups.  Dress up to get in the spirit! Donuts with Grownups Storytime is designed especially for working families with children ages 2 and up who can’t make it to our weekday storytimes. Enjoy crafts, activities, music, stories, and of course Donuts as a family!  Each session will also have a literacy building station to help young ones start building necessary pre-literacy skills or enhance those skills for older children.  Dads are highly encouraged to attend! No registration required.

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-4-54-24-pmDocumentary Screening of Dark Side of the Full Moon

Monday Oct 17, 2016, 6:00 PM

Documentary Screening of Dark Side of the Full Moon (75 min), followed by Q&A Panel.  This film about postpartum mood disorders is both informative and a call to action.  If you are someone interested or concerned about the well-being of mothers, babies and families, please come. Light Refreshments Available. Please register online.

halloween-storytimeHalloween Read Aloud with FEA

Wednesday Oct 19, 2016, 3:30  –  4:15 PM

Come and read with the Future Educators of America (FEA) from Dodd Middle School! Dress up to get in the spirit. There will be stories, crafts, and a snack. For ages 3-6. Please register online.

 maxresdefaultConcert: Belle of the Fall

Saturday Oct 22, 2016, 2:00 PM

Belle of the Fall, an indie-rock vocal duo, will perform at 2:00 pm Saturday October 22 as part of the Cheshire Library’s week-long celebration of National Friends of Libraries Week (Oct. 16-22, 2016). Join us for a family-friendly concert and refreshments!  Belle of the Fall is a male/female vocal duo featuring upright bass and guitar. Think Simon and Garfunkel if Art Garfunkel were female! Lots of harmonies and storytelling can be expected. Free and open to the public, No registration required.

1e9wrmAnime Club Halloween Cosplay Extravaganza

Friday Oct 28, 2016, 3:00  –  4:30 PM

Dress up and act like your favorite character: anime or otherwise! Prizes will be awarded and Japanese refreshments will be provided—this is one event you won’t want to miss!! For grades 7—12, No registration required.

5a1cae8afea21eeba2114615013541fbMonster Mayhem Storytime

Saturday Oct 29, 2016, 11:00 AM  –  12:00 PM

Bring your favorite little monsters to our Monster Maheym Storytime and “let the wild rumpus start!” We will read some monster stories (not too scary) and enjoy some fun activities that will be sure to make you roar.  Get ready to show your claws, gnash your teeth and stomp your feet! Costumes are welcome! Best suited for ages 2-6. Registration required.

 halloweenparty-300x209Halloween Family Fun

Monday Oct 31, 2016, 4:00 PM

Come celebrate Halloween with activities that are fun the whole family. We will have games, spooky science experiments, and treats from 4-5pm, followed by a family dance party. Wear your costume and bring a friend! Best suited for ages 3 and up. Registration required.

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What’s Happening at Cheshire Library in September

The kids are back to school, so this month let’s explore some of our programming for adults!

Movie Matinees

imageTuesdays,  Sep 6, 13, 20, 27 at 1:00 PM

“Back-to-school” is our theme for this month’s movies:

fbe25c05-5ed3-4656-a444-6decea206c9dHand Painted Tissue Paper Collage

Wednesday Sep 7, 2016,  6:30  –  8:15 PM

Artist Carol Ganick will present an educational program about hand painted tissue paper collage, featuring watercolors and abstracted designs. Presented by the Cheshire Art League.

Microsoft-Word-2013-Logo-WebIntroduction to Microsoft Word

A 3-part program:

Mondays Sep 12, 19, 23, 2:30 PM  –  4:00 PM  

This introduction to Microsoft Word is divided into three sessions. You will learn basic navigation skills to effectively use the Microsoft Word program; create a simple document; edit text; check spelling errors; format the document; adjust the page layout; preview; print; save; open flies; insert a picture; change font formatting and much more. Registration is required.

lunch-box-inspriation-ideas-750x420Cookbook Club – What’s for Lunch?

Wednesday Sep 14, 2016,  6:30  –  8:00 PM

Our newest (and most delicious) book club! Here’s how it works (register online):

  1. Check out a cookbook related to our September theme: “What’s For Lunch: Mid-Day Meals Your Kids (and Grownups) Will Eat”. (Visit our Cookbook Club display near the catalog computers in the lobby for cookbook suggestions.)  Let’s get out of that PB&J rut and get creative!
  2. Try one or more recipes at home.
  3. Come to Cookbook Club. Wednesday, September 14 at 6:30pm. REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. Ages 18 and up only.  By registering for this program, you acknowledge that you may choose to consume food that has not been prepared in a commercial kitchen.
  4. Share your thoughts (and dishes). Join Library Director Ramona Burkey and other CPL staffers to discuss your cookbook reviews and “all things culinary.”  Bring your cookbook, copies of your recipe, a prepared dish to share with the group, and (very important) some take-home containers for leftovers.  Bon Appetit!

11140269_574342509385891_2126848489443040348_n-e1446648369259Adult Knitting Night

Wednesdays, Sep 14 and 28, 6:30 PM

Adult knitters meet at CPL the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month. Come socialize, learn, and share your techniques with other knitters.  Experience the relaxing and calming effect of knitting.  Advanced adult knitters welcome, no supplies or instruction will be given.  Please bring your own supplies and talent.  This adult program has a required registration.

6z29ldDrop-in Tech Help

Monday Sep 12, 2016,  12:00  –  2:00 PM

Do you have questions about your computer, smartphone, or iPad? Do you need help navigating Facebook or downloading an ebook? Let our tech staff help! NOTE: Please be sure your device is fully charged beforehand. In the event your question or issue is more involved, we may ask you to schedule an appointment and come back for one-on-one help.

1postcard_12Remembering G. Fox & Co. in the 1950s

Saturday Sep 24, 2016,  2:00 PM

In the 1950s, just about every major city had a landmark department store. In Connecticut, it was G. Fox & Co. in Hartford! This presentation will bring you back in time to Fox’s heyday, as we go from floor to floor and recall the various departments. Please register online.

line-of-kids

Of course, we still have a full roster of children’s programs in September, including our new Little Lambs baby program, Wigglers & Crawlers for pre-walkers, Toddler Time for ages 1-3, Slime Time Storytime for ages 5-7, and  Afternoons of Awesome for older kids (8-12). There’s lots more on our Event calendar, check it out!