The Bechdel Test and why I’m an asshole

I went to Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens yesterday and for many reasons, I am very interested in strong female characters in film and fiction. A big one on the top of my mind is the imminent arrival of my daughter(due date of December 27th). I want her to have strong female characters to identify with. I think Star Wars qualifies, but after the movie was over I found myself running the scenes back through my mind against the Bechdel Test and surprisingly I think it fails. In no scene in the movie does a female character speak to another female character about something other than a man. Crazy, right? A very large part of the movie centers around a badass female character named Rey. So that got me thinking about my own fiction. If this doesn’t pass, does my own fiction?

I finished my first novel Made Safe several months ago, admittedly I was completely unaware of the Bechdel Test while I was writing it and sadly I think my novel fails the test. There is arguably one scene that might allow it to pass, but in my mind, it is a stretch.

The more I thought about it the worse I felt. I’m an asshole. Why should it even be close? It is an amazingly simple test.

A female, preferably named, speaks to another preferably named female character about something other than a man.

Sadly my novel does not pass that incredibly low bar.

Which brings me to a quote I read from Joss Whedon:

Reporter – “So, why do you always write these strong women characters?”

Joss Whedon – “Because you’re still asking me that question.”

Sums it up nicely doesn’t it?

While I’ve been beating myself up about Made Safe I return to Star Wars VII The Force Awakens. This story also fails the Bechdel Test, but is that ok? I think it is, the story revolves around Rey who is a strong and independent female lead. Not to give away any spoilers of my own novel Made Safe, but it also has a few badass women.

Over the last year, I’ve written two short stories, both with female main characters. My next novel-length work has several female characters that have already spoken to each other about things other than a man.

I’m an asshole, but I’m getting better. I want my daughter to have many strong female characters to relate to on the screen and in the pages of her books. I realize that the Bechdel Test is designed to spark a larger conversation on the equality and treatment of women in fiction, but it sucks to feel like part of the problem. So I’m not going to be. Made Safe is not finished. It still has an editorial process to go through over the next year. In that time, I will fix the problem. I am mostly there. I already have written strong female characters. They have voices. Why shouldn’t they talk to each other?



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